I'm wondering about allowed non-alphabetic characters in English names, but the rules state that questions concerning names are off-topic. Would this question fall under that rule? And if so, is there an SE site I can post this, then? And why are these questions deemed off-topic?

(Yes, I'm asking this because of Bobby Tables)

  • 1
    People's names are considered off topic because they are general reference, lots of sites that cover them. But xkcd? That's where that started, and you're done. What's to ask?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 11:19
  • I want to know if the name referred in that xkcd is something you can actually name your child in English. I mean, English language allows hyphens and apostrophes to be used in names, and I believe there are certain native American tribes that have names with colons in them. However, I don't know about round brackets or semicolons.
    – Nzall
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 11:24
  • I think one can name your child most anything in the US (with apostrophes but not much else punctuation). But I think that is a legal matter (in Germany there is a legal restriction on the set of names you can use, I bet there is a US law but it is just less restrictive). As to whether you can ask on the main site, I feel like it won't be productive. But if you are explicit about what you are asking, and you ask in an answerable fashion, it might work. Hopefully someone else will give an opinion here.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 13:30
  • Related: meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/4617/…
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 14:59
  • Not especially related.
    – tchrist Mod
    Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 21:03

1 Answer 1


The primary reason naming questions are off-topic is because anything could theoretically be a name. Names don't follow the same rules or patterns that English uses and the rules that do exist are created by whatever government officially recognizes your child as existing.

As a specific example, your question would be on-topic for any particular US State since each state can set their own rules regarding names. Minnesota, for example, only allows the 26 letters of the alphabet, spaces and hyphens. This explicitly forbids the special punctuation from Bobby Tables. (Interestingly, they also explicitly forbid accented characters.)

But this restriction has nothing to do with the English language. It is a purely bureaucratic decision and, therefore, off-topic on ELU.

  • Pendantic note: punctuation is on-topic. I think the OP's question about names is off-topic, but I'm not sure the reason you gave is justification enough.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 17:27
  • 1
    @Mitch: Punctuation being on- or off-topic isn't really related to my justification... :/
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 17:30

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