Why foreign physicists' names retain diactrics when the phonetic meaning of these diactrics becomes irrelevant? "Ampère" uses "è" to indicate which type of French "e" to use but English doesn't even differentiate between an open and closed e. In "Schrödinger" the "ö" sound isn't used at all in English. Native dictionaries don't consider these diactrics in ordering words which means their role is merely to indicate pronounciation.

Why not simply write "Ampere" or "Schrodinger"?

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    Dictionaries trawl relevant publications to determine prevailing spellings, they don't usually prescribe. Encyclopaedias may be more traditional. 'Why don't ...' questions are usually answerable by 'That's the way it's usually done' and can come across as rants. But note that Noel and Noël may provide a useful distinction. Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 20:05
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    "merely" to aid pronunciation? We need to pronounce each other's names correctly. Surely we can make the ö-sound easily enough! The French 'J'-sound is rare in English, but we don't call Jacques 'Jack'. What would Mötley Crüe and , Motörhead do without umlauts? I wouldn't want my lamé smoking jacket to be called lame. I agree 'ampere' doesn't sound much different without the accent. Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 20:09
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    Why not spell Schrödinger Shrowdinger, as that would be easier for English speakers to pronounce?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 22:03
  • Is the question "why the tradition instead of my suggestion?" or is the question "what is the tradition which causes this to be the case?". In the latter case, the question probably is not opinion-based. Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 8:45
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    The question should have been closed as a duplicate of Why does English omit diacritics on foreign names?, rather than as opinion-based (the OPs of these two questions differ in their assumptions, but the substance of the two questions is essentially the same).
    – jsw29
    Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 17:47

1 Answer 1


This question has little to do with physics and physicists. Rather, it concerns how to treat, in an English text, diacritics and other special characters that appear in non-English names or loanwords. And that, in turn, is a matter of style: different manuals of style will give different recommendations. Thus, your physics sources will (or should) follow the recommendation of whatever style manual they are committed to; I would imagine this will normally be The Chicago Manual of Style/Turabian.

Here is what several style manuals say about the issue of diacritics.

The Chicago Manual of Style

The CMoS recommends using the spelling in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. This raises the question of how that dictionary makes its decisions, and that is unfortunately not entirely clear. For example, we have Göttingen and Västerås, but Łódź apparently was a bridge too far and is rendered as Lodz. (And it wasn't the L with stroke that was the problem there, since the dictionary does use it to render Marie Curie's maiden name, Skłodowska.) As far as the two physicists in your question, they are indeed rendered as Schrödinger and Ampère.

The Associated Press Stylebook

Use accent marks or other diacritical marks with names of people who request them or are widely known to use them, or if quoting directly in a language that uses them: An immigration officer spotted him and asked an innocuous question: “Cómo estás?” How are you? Otherwise, do not use these marks in English-language stories. Note: Many AP customers’ computer systems ingest via the ANPA standard and will not receive diacritical marks published by the AP.

The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage

Accent marks are used for French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and German words and names. For simplicity, use the marks uniformly with uppercase and lowercase letters, despite conventions that treat certain uppercase accents as optional. Do not use accents in words or names from other languages (Slavic and Scandinavian ones, for example), which are less familiar to most American writers, editors and readers; such marks would be prone to error.

Some foreign words that enter the English language keep their accent marks (protégé, résumé); others lose them (cafe, facade). The dictionary governs spellings, except for those shown in this manual.

In the name of a United States resident, use or omit accents as the bearer does; when in doubt, omit them. (Exception: Use accents in Spanish names of Puerto Rico residents.)

For more, see this extended discussion: Wikipedia:Naming conventions (use English)/Diacritics RfC.

Finally, note that other people have an opposite impression, namely, that English-language writers are often not retaining the diacritics; see Why does English omit diacritics on foreign names?.

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