Why are names that begin with 'Mc' first in order over names that begin with 'Ma'?
For example,
in references sections in books, we see that "McGann, Anthony" is first and "Maddox, Graham" is second.

  • Perhaps the sorting is done on the basis of first name. Anthony comes before Graham. – Sandeep D Feb 18 '14 at 8:05
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    @SandeepDhamija Not so. In that case, the names would be listed with the first name first: Anthony McGann, Graham Maddox. – Kris Feb 18 '14 at 8:20
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    McNames are generally sorted as if they are spelled Mac - because if you're verbally advised to call "McDonald", you might not know which way the name is spelled, so it's handy to have them all sorted together. – Jeffrey Kemp Feb 18 '14 at 12:26

The usual convention in the UK, in telephone directories etc is that Scottish surnames starting Mc are, for alphabetical purposes, treated as though there were an invisible a, between the M and the c. Thus our own telephone directory proceeds as McDonald, J.A., MacDonald J.C., McDonald J.M., MacDonald K. etc.

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    -1 What is an "invisible a"? Why is such a convention needed? Is there an "invisible" motive behind it? Is the phenomenon a quirk of the telephone directories, or is that more pervasive? – Kris Feb 19 '14 at 6:51
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    @Kris So you downvote me on account of the practices of directory compilers? As anyone who has a surname starting Mc (which is only an abbreviation of Mac) will tell you, they regularly receive mail addressed both ways. No one other than close friends and relatives ever remember. Whenever I send a Christmas card to my Scottish GP I always have to check (even after 28 years) whether his name starts Mc or Mac. So it seems reasonable enough for a directory compiler to treat all instances of 'Mc' as if they were 'Mac'. But I don't know why I am having to defend people who compile directories. – WS2 Feb 19 '14 at 9:15
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    That counts as a great and useful comment, though not an answer. – Kris Feb 19 '14 at 9:16
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    @Kris I shall avoid the pettiness of down voting your own answer, but I note that it provides less information yet says substantially the same thing as mine. And that's the last I have to say on the matter. – WS2 Feb 19 '14 at 9:23
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    I heard of this convention in school long ago. But (living in the US) I have never seen it applied. – GEdgar Jul 11 '17 at 16:55

Practise varies between cultures, and between organisations within those cultures.

Some take surnames strictly alphabetically, so Makespeare would come before Mcdonald.

Others (as in your example) treat Mc as an abbreviation of Mac, thus putting Mcdonald before Maddox.

See wikipedia on this here.

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    Seconds apart! Agree with you. – Kris Feb 18 '14 at 8:21
  • All I can speak for is the UK telephone directory convention which places McDonald before Maddox. – WS2 Dec 29 '14 at 10:31

Most likely, it is because of treating Mc and Mac as identical.

Naturally then, Mac occurs before Maddox.

It's as such not a sorting issue but a lexical one.

protected by Andrew Leach Jul 11 '17 at 16:57

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