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1) Is it Ok to leave the initials or would you drop them? Writing his name in full seems odd since it isn't Gagarin who is the point of discussion.
2) Is it Gagarin's or Gagarin? Is there any difference between the use of the possessive case in titles and not, with well-known names and not?

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As a side note, in English his first name is written Yuri. I don't think I have ever seen it being written Juri. –  RegDwigнt Jan 14 '11 at 17:31
    
@RegDwight: indeed! The poor chap can have (at least) three different initials when romanised: in most European languages he is Juri or Jurij; in English, French, Spanish and a few others he is Yuri, Youri, or similar; in Portuguese he is Iuri! –  PLL Jan 14 '11 at 17:43
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@PLL: I used to have an "iou" in my family name. Then the authorities suddenly decided that they no longer liked the so-called "French transliteration", so millions of people had to get new passports, and the romanized name in mine is now spelled with a "yu". Fast forward a decade or so, and I still often misspell my own signature. Muscle memory is like that. –  RegDwigнt Jan 14 '11 at 18:18
    
Ву the way, you cannot contract "Yuri" to Yu., right? So what are your initials then? Offtop: I changed "Yelena" to "Elena" when I got a new passport. Maybe you could change yours?;-) –  Lena D Jan 14 '11 at 20:51
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Some people actually do use Yu. Gagarin, as a quick Google search reveals. But if you ask me, it's Y. Gagarin, plain and simple. (Or Y. A. Gagarin, if you absolutely insist.) –  RegDwigнt Jan 14 '11 at 22:41

1 Answer 1

  1. On first reference you should keep the initials (or spell out the name in full). On subsequent references you can just call him Gagarin.

  2. In general you would use the possessive. A form like "the Gagarin flight," I think, would usually be used only if it's a stock phrase (like "the Obama administration") or if the referent is an object rather than a person ("the Challenger explosion").

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The phrase "The Gagarin flight" might be used to distinguish from other flights associated with someone else - for example, "the Lindbergh flight", "the Earhart flight" etc., assuming that each had already been referred to beforehand (since all of the individuals concerned made more than one flight in their lifetimes!) –  psmears Jan 14 '11 at 17:46
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I see. It's going to be "Yuri Gagarin's flight" then. Thank you all:-) –  Lena D Jan 14 '11 at 17:55
    
@psmears: I thought of that, but I still don't know that I'd agree. It seems more natural to me to say, for example, "Lindbergh's flight led to his being lionized, while Earhart's flight resulted in her fate becoming an enduring mystery." –  Alex Jan 16 '11 at 3:08
    
Yes... the difference seems to be that the "Gagarin's flight" form would be used when referring to Gagarin as a person, either when he himself is the topic of conversation or has an important bearing on the flight; with the other form the flight is the focus, and the name is merely a convenient label to distinguish flights already mentioned (so in an article about transatlantic flights, we might refer to "the Lindbergh flight"/"the Earhart flight", but equally to "the 1927 flight" and "the 1932 flight", with little difference in meaning, if those were the two flights already mentioned. –  psmears Jan 16 '11 at 8:46

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