In the German surname Voss, can ss be used interchangeably with ß? In Berlin there is a street spelled Voßstraße, which I understand to translate to Voss Street. But I am not sure if someone with this name can use the spellings interchangeably.
No, they cannot be used interchangeably nowadays. However, spelling used to be less strict, so in older documents you may find several spellings for the same person. Consequently, surnames today often exist in several spellings. There are people called Schulz and people called Schultz. There is Meier and Maier. There is Voss and Voß.
No. »ss« can not be changed into »ß«.
But the other way round is possible.
»ss« and »ß« are different.
means »the mass« (physical property as well as lots of things). But
means »the measurements« (i.e. lengths)
And the two exemplary words are spoken different: A vowel before ss is spoken short, but a vowel before ß is spoken long. You can use this rule also to determine if a word must be written with ss or ß:
If the vowel before ss or ß is spoken short, it has to be ss. If it is long, then ß.
All UPPERCASE writing
But there is no uppercase ß. (Some people tried to invent an uppercase-ß, but it is not an official part of German language.) So when you write a word like the name »Voß« in uppercase letters, you have to replace ß by SS. So the all-uppercase version of »Voß« is »VOSS«.
Like British and American English there are also Variations of German language. There are three Variations:
- German German
- Austrian German
- Swiss German
And when talking about ss/ß you have to know that the letter ß is only used in German German and Austrian German. There is no ß in Swiss German. When ever a word would be written with ß in the other variations, it has to be written with ss in Swiss German.
transcription for usage in foreign languages
When you want to use German words in foreign languages that also use Latin letters, it's up to you if you use ß or ss. The more transparent way would be to write the word as it is written in German (i.e. with ß if there is an ß). But often this is a technical problem. And in this case you are allowed to replace ß by ss.
People with an ß in their name who emigrated from a German speaking country to an English speaking country changed their name in the manner that the ß either became sz or ss (sz was the old transcription for ß), and so there might have been an ancestor of you who had the name »Voß« but when he moves to another country he changed his name to »Voss«.
You already get a lot of answers with a 'No' (what is the correct answer).
As a side information: If you are a German and you have a name with an
ß you can change your name. This is defined in Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zum Gesetz über die Änderung von Familiennamen und Vornamen (NamÄndVwV), Nr. 38:
Bei Familiennamen mit "ss" oder "ß" sowie bei Familiennamen mit Umlauten ergeben sich häufig Schwierigkeiten durch abweichende Schreibweisen ein und desselben Namens. Können diese Schwierigkeiten nicht nach den Vorschriften des Personenstandsrechts in einer für den Namensträger befriedigenden Form beseitigt werden, so ist eine Namensänderung im allgemeinen gerechtfertigt. Entsprechendes gilt, wenn der Namensträger durch die Schreibweise seines Familiennamens mit "ß" oder mit einem Umlaut im Ausland nicht nur unwesentlich behindert ist.
After this change, the name is written with two s.
There is another rule, that streets should not be named by living persons, so the writing of a street name should not change.
I will answer your question in three parts:
With the new German orthography, there is no confusion when to spell a word with ss or ß. The two cannot be used interchangeably.
Note, however, that under new orthography, it should probably be spelled Voss, since the o is short. However, this brings me to part 2:
Names don’t follow the normal rules of orthography. A name is spelled as it is – even if it doesn’t follow the current rules of orthography. It doesn’t change.
This is not a hard and fast rule, though. After a long time, the common spelling of names might change to better fit into the current language, but we’re talking timeframes of several centuries here. Mr. Voß died in 1864, there haven’t been that significant changes since then.
So, for example, when New German Orthography came around, a street named Voßstrasse may have been renamed to Voßstraße, because the a is long, but not Vossstraße, even though the o is short, because Voß is the name of a person and doesn’t usually change.
My name is Jörg. Period. It doesn’t get spelled any other way. “Joerg” might be acceptable if you are a time-traveller from the 80s. It is not completely wrong, but I find misspelling my name disrespectful. “Jorg” is just plain wrong.