Does there exist a general guide to the alphabetization of degenerate cases?
For example, which is to be listed first, "hamburger" or "Hamburger"?
My answer addresses this question as an indexing question, since (I believe) that is how it was presented at the time I wrote my response. Whether viewed as an indexing question or as a dictionary-entry-order question, though, it is fundamentally a question of style.
The Chicago Manual of Style, fifteenth edition (2003) offers an interesting take on the question of entry order in the "General Rules of Alphabetizing" section of its chapter on indexes:
18.60 Same name. When a person, a place, and a thing have the same name, they are arranged in normal alphabetical order.
Common sense must be exercised. If Amy London and Carolyn Hoe were to appear in the same index as illustrated above, adjustments in the other entries would be needed.
hoe. See garden hoe
In this example, "hoe" comes before "Hoe, Carolyn" because "hoe" as an entry ends after the first three letters, whereas "Hoe, Carolyn" continues to a second word. The reverse case occurs in a later example, which includes these entries:
Abridgement (Croke), 302–3
Abridgement (Rolle), 316, 316–17
abridgement, cases of, 246n161
In this case, the parenthetical words "(Croke)" and "(Rolle)" are not treated as continuations of the one word entry "Abridgement" but as clarifying notes or attributions that can themselves be alphabetized but don't affect the claim of "Abridgement" to be a one-word entry, in contrast to "abridgement, cases of," which is a three-word entry.
Unfortunately, Chicago doesn't offer any direct guidance on the specific question of whether a one-word entry that is capitalized should always precede or always follow an otherwise identical one-word entry that is lowercased. This is perhaps because the question wouldn't have arisen long ago. As Chicago observes (at 18.10):
Traditionally, all main headings in an index were capitalized; Chicago recommends the practice only where the subentries are so numerous that capitalized main headings make for easier navigation.
In other word, in a traditional index, the entries for "Hamburger" and "hamburger" would have looked like this:
At least as late as 1974, when Words into Type, third edition, was published, the traditional style was still the dominant form. All of Words into Type's coverage of indexing issues assumes that the main entries in an index will be initial-capped.
Presented with single-word entries for generic "hamburger" and proper name "Hamburger" destined for a modern index, Chicago would appear not to have a preference about which one went first. But once you choose one or the other, I think Chicago would strongly support maintaining the same preference across all other identical pairs of entries in the index.
The Oxford Guide to Style (2002) takes a different (and quite detailed) approach to identical words in its section on alphabetical order in indexing:
16.3.1 Systems of alphabetization
The examples below consist of simple and compound entries; simple names precede compound names. In both systems identical entries are ordered as follows:
people: New York, Earl of
places: New York, USA
subjects, concepts, and objects: New York, population
titles of works: New York, New York
This order leads Oxford to use the following entry order in a subsequent example:
High Water (play)
Oxford thus offers clear-cut advice on whether "hamburger" should precede "Hamburger" in three cases: if "Hamburger" is a person, Hamburger goes first; if "Hamburger" is a place, Hamburger goes first; if "Hamburger" is the title of a work, hamburger goes first. On the other hand, if "Hamburger" is a subject, concept, or object (as "hamburger" is), then the two are on the same footing, and Oxford doesn't recommend putting one or the other first.
If you treat the entries as different by case, then you should place the most important entry first. EG:
God before (a)
god. Capitalization is an indicator of importance, so capitalized terms should come first.
Unfortunately, most of the case-sensitive computer sorting collations (such as ASCII) cannot help you as they sort all uppercase before all lower case. EG:
The long standing practice in indexing and alphabetization is to treat uppercase and lowercase the same. This is reflected in most style manuals, such as the Gregg Reference Manual's "Rules for Alphabetic Filing" (PDF link) which states:
...the differences between capital and lowercase letters should be ignored.
Furthermore, if you are creating an index or a definitions table, the convention is to Capitalize each entry anyway. So if you have the terms
Hamburger, your table would have two entries under
Suppose you have the terms:
Then, 3 different ways to sort them might be:
Standard ASCII Case sensitive -------- -------- -------------- Apple Apple Apple Apple God apple God apple God Snake snake snake
Use the standard approach. The ASCII one is clearly wrong, and the case-sensitive approach will make the table harder to scan and will also irk publishers, editors, and pedants. ;)
ASCII numerical values for 'a' and 'A' have uppercase coming first.