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In the context of scientific articles and technical white papers, references to other publications typically include the author’s surname with, depending on the format of the specific publication, either their full first name or (most commonly) their initials.

In such cases, I sometimes see “Ph.” used instead of “P.” as initial for people named “Philip”. This does not seem linked to specific journal policies, but rather uncorrelated to the format of the references themselves. My questions are:

  • How common is it? Is it considered standard practice?
  • Are there other such examples in addition to “Ph.”?
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2  
I assume you are not confusing it with Ph.D? –  MrHen Jul 13 '11 at 13:42
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I have little doubt that those examples are from people whose native language is not English, and who use "Ph" as the abbreviation in their own language. –  Colin Fine Jul 13 '11 at 16:53
    
Except as a transliteration from another language where the two letters are written as one, I wouldn't call that an "initial" as I understand the term, but I agree with the other answers about abbreviations of names like "Wm", "Jos" and "Jas". I have never seen "Ph" for "Philip", but in context it could be understood. –  TecBrat Aug 22 '12 at 3:31
    
Because it has two letters not one, I wouldn’t say that “Ph.” counts as an initial in English; it would be called an abbreviation. On the other hand, if you wrote Philip as Φίλιππος, then you could just use “Φ.” as a first initial in someone’s full name. :) –  tchrist Feb 23 '13 at 1:14
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8 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Aside from the English examples, initials with multiple letters are seen when transliterating from Russian. For example, "Yu. Gagarin" is "Yuri Gagarin" (Юрий Гагарин) since the "Yu" corresponds to a single Russian letter.

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Or sometimes Hungarian (Gy.) –  Peter Shor Sep 2 '11 at 3:45
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The list so far includes:

  • Charles - Chas. or Ch.

  • George - Geo.

  • James - Jas.

  • Jonathan - Jon.

  • Philip - Ph.

  • William - Wm.

For a more comprehensive set, please see Wiktionary's list of abbreviations for English given names.

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Robert - Robt; Joseph - Jos. –  J.R. May 26 '12 at 21:15
    
I have also seen "Ch." as an abbrevation for "Christian" (the male name). –  user38085 Feb 22 '13 at 12:32
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But these are rarely used in modern times, and would not appear in place of initials. –  Nate Eldredge Feb 22 '13 at 14:31
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  • It isn't that common. It is definitely not standard; always preference.

  • Others include Wm. (for William, and I have seen this in use), and Geo. (for George, though this seems to be more archaic).

(Aside, I've never seen Ph. for Philip. That's something I'll tuck away.)

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I don't think I've ever seen what you describe for 'Philip', but I have seen

Charles abbreviated to Chas.

George abbreviated to Geo.

But this kind of thing is not in fashion any longer.

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"Charles" can be abbreviated to "Ch." as well. –  alexg Jul 13 '11 at 15:09
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There are also Jas. for James and Jno. for Jonathan. This sort of abbreviation is very uncommon in the outside world, but I imagine a small world like academe will always have problems if there are two people named " Dr J. Bloggs", and this is a useful way to distinguish.

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I think that's the key point, strangely not mentioned by any other answers. By and large, these 'extended initials' only exist to resolve actual or anticipated ambiguity in specialised contexts. To some extent the optional inclusion of a middle initial does the same job, notably in establishing what kind of book you're looking at, if it's by Iain (M) Banks –  FumbleFingers Jul 13 '11 at 16:50
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@Fumble: thanks for giving me an excuse to mention the US Army usage of 'J NMI Bloggs' for No Middle Initial. Is that right or wrong? No, it's Army. –  TimLymington Jul 14 '11 at 14:26
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Wiktionary's Appendix:Abbreviations for English given names lists Phil. as the abbreviation for Philip.

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I edit for a journal and for several book series, all in philosophy and religion. Our publications are published in Europe (Germany) but usually written in English.

In all three cases, the style guides require one to use Ph., Ch., and Th. as initials anytime a name begins with these pairings. It isn't specific to a particular name; for instance, both Charles and Chandler would get "Ch." as an initial. The same goes for any name that begin with Ph., and thus not only for Philip.

But this is a rule that would depend on specific journals or editorial guidelines. It is not a "standard" practice but neither is it incorrect or all that rare.

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This was much more common in Latin. There were very few praenomen (the nearest equivalent to modern English first names) in classical Latin, and they were routinely abbreviated:

  • C. = Gaius
  • Cn. = Gnaeus
  • M. = Marcus

etc.

The same technique was applied historically in English because of the relative scarcity of first names, but the combination of importing masses of names from other languages, many more neonyms and people being much more insistent on their preferred spelling (once, there was a correct way to spell a name; now, the correct way is the way the person with the name wants it to be spelled, hence Chone rather than Séan for Mr. Figgins) means that you can't reliably transcribe an abbreviated name back to the full form.

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