My full name is Pol Van Aubel. My first name is “Pol”, last name “Van Aubel”. To answer the first questions I’m always asked by Dutch people about this:

  1. Yes, that’s a capital “V”.
  2. It’s correctly spelled, including all spaces and capital letters.
  3. No, the “Van” is not a middle name nor technically a “tussenvoegsel”, but you probably want to sort my name on “A” anyway.
  4. Yes, this breaks basically all the Dutch “rules” about names. Sorry.

This is all very unusual for a Dutch name, and I’m known to be very particular about it, so I figured I owe people an explanation.

How did this name come to be in the first place?

At some point several decades ago the municipal government of my then-hometown noticed they had a weird glitch in their citizen registration database. Basically, our last name was stored as “Van Aubel”, with a capital V, rather than “Aubel, van”. My parents were given a choice: keep it as-is, or change it back with all the hassle that brought. Since they figured it wouldn’t make a difference, the choice was to keep it as-is. That’s really all there is to it.

So yes, my passport really does say “Van Aubel”, that’s really my name. On official documents this can even become a problem, because misspelling a name there may invalidate the entire document. This has happened on my Bachelor’s diploma, which had to be reprinted. And even outside of that I’m pretty particular about this, because hey, it’s my name. Dutch is a language of exceptions to the rules, what’s one more exception?

How to sort & cite me

Due to how Dutch society works, it makes sense to keep sorting my last name on “A”, because nobody expects to sort a name that starts with something that sounds like a “tussenvoegsel” on the first letter of that tussenvoegsel.

When citing me, please cite me either as “Pol Van Aubel”, “P. Van Aubel”, or “Van Aubel, P.” (or “Van Aubel, P.J.M.” if you really must). When doing this in LaTeX, be careful it doesn’t actually turn it into “P. V. Aubel” — this has even happened to myself in a moment of inattention. The easy fix is to just write my author-line down as Pol {Van Aubel} in the bib(la)tex and be done with it. All the bibtex snippets on my publications page already do this correctly.

By the way, when citing Dutch names, many non-Dutch-speaking people get this wrong even when the name is as would be expected by a Dutch person. “Jan de Graaf” should be cited as “J. de Graaf”, “De Graaf, J.”, or “Graaf, J. de” (though that last one is highly unusual). Not as “J. D. Graaf”, nor as “Graaf, J. d.”. Why people get this wrong is a mystery to me — after all, nobody would ever dream of citing, say, Leonardo da Vinci as “Vinci, L. D.”.

Pol Van Aubel | PhD Student / Lecturer in Information Security at Radboud University