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After the recent discussion on LaTeX style accents, I have been reminded of this old discussion at tea regarding the appropriate spelling convention for some German names, such as Kähler. At the time, we saw that Google search (US, Canada, UK) for Kahler also matched Kähler and Kaehler but not as much the other way around. Our new MathOverflow search engine (which is still much better than the old one) does not associate any of the three spellings.

Current search counts are:

(Note: Google search site:mathoverflow.net kahler -kähler -kaehler and variants can be used estimate the overlap.)

Should there be a preferred spelling convention to facilitate searches? Should the MathOverflow search engine try harder to match alternate spellings?

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    $\begingroup$ You might also want to just post a feature request for the search to normalize umlauts like this, so that it does not matter which version you use for searching. I've no idea how complicated that would be, but if it is not that hard this would also be useful for other sites. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Jul 6 '13 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ Oh yeah, that would be immensely helpful on MSE as well. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jul 6 '13 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ While ä = ae in German, this is not necessarily the case in other languages, so I'm not sure that an automated way to do this is possible. $\endgroup$ – TRiG Jan 15 '14 at 20:22
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I think to have one preferred spelling by convention will be difficult (or have no effect), and I think it should not be tried to introduce one.

What I could imagine is to (gently) discourage the use of Kaehler as it seems to create most problems for searches, and also falls somehow in the middle between original spelling (Kähler) and the naturally convenient one for many (Kahler). Thus, I could also imagine that those using Kaehler at the moment would not mind too much to decide on either of the two remaining for their personal use. (I might be wrong on this though.)

If the searches could be modified to ingnore umlauts and related things this could be convenient, even more so if this could be switched on and off. With the two remaining spellings Kähler and Kahler the problem then would be solved.

For searches it could also be relevant to note that Kähler and Kahler in the title (sufficiently early on) both lead to kahler in the URL.

(Personal note: Since I argue against the spelling Kaehler, let me stress that in principle I have nothing against the spelling Kaehler, I could see myself using it depending on technical circumstance. But I would never write Kahler, except purely in error as much as it could happen I write, say, Käler or Kählr. Yet, I can see why others do; and I do similar things for related situations.).

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    $\begingroup$ If I didn't have an Umlaut available (which might happen if I were using an unfamiliar computer), I'd much rather write "Kaehler", which sounds right, than "Kahler", which sounds as if the guy was bald (was he?). $\endgroup$ – Andreas Blass Jul 7 '13 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ He was quite bald, at least later in life: owpdb.mfo.de/detail?photo_id=8317 $\endgroup$ – Evan Jenkins Jul 7 '13 at 6:02
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreasBlass: it is the same for me. What I meant with "(gently) discourage" is to communicate somehow that if one has the choice one should rather not write Kaehler (as opposed to the policy being to avoid umlauts and encourage use of ae instead of ä, and same for ö and ü). Moreover, I would be happy, if then someone else would change/improve my ae to ä, yet for the converse this is less clear. [Let us ignore the issue of whether somebody should make just this change to an old post; I mean a change close to time of posting.] $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 7 '13 at 13:13

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