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One of our employees has a name like “Stephen Starr”. Since our company email addresses are based on initials, this means that his email address should be ss@example.com.

Another of our employees say that this would make it very hard to deal with Germans, as they would be offended by the email address.

Can any real Germans shed some light on this? Is it still that big of a deal in your country?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Loong Oct 24 at 6:53

11 Answers 11

45

It's not Ok, but not for the reasons you mention.

Business emails need easy recognition, ss is not an email I can easily match with a person or department.

If your company has such email naming policy, I, as a business party, will think of you as unprofessional.

And by the way, in general employees like to be addressed by their name, not their initials.

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    It will also make the company's recruiting process more and more cumbersome when the number of employees approaches 676. – Mr Lister Oct 23 at 6:14
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    It wouldn't have to get anywhere near 676 -- assuming 26 letters of equal distribution, there's a 50% chance of a duplicate pair with as few as 31 employees, and a 90% chance at 56 employees. With uneven distribution it's even more likely. (Based on an approach like that described in the Wikipedia entry for "Birthday problem".) – GargantuChet Oct 23 at 6:57
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    @Agent_L Like any employee has a choice in how their business e-mail is created... – Mast Oct 23 at 13:37
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    Companies using monogram emails tend to also have aliases, eg ss@ and sven.seifentaucher@ are equally valid... – rackandboneman Oct 23 at 16:05
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    This should be a comment. – c.p. Oct 23 at 20:48
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German administration does take such issues seriously enough to not allow certain letter combinations as parts of car license numbers (which are made of two one-to-three letter codes and a number): SA, SS, HJ, and KZ are federally banned and will neither be assigned nor can they be requested. Additional restrictions (NS, SD & others) are local to federal states. It has been that way for a long time.

While many Germans would not make a fuss about that kind of email address, they would most likely either be amused, or consider the owner or assigner of that address insensitive/ignorant, or would suspect it to be a plausibly deniable endorsement of some unsavory extreme right wing group (which have gained traction in Germany in recent years, but so has public and media scrutiny of such!).

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    Not restricted to Germany. Dutch car license plates would also not have SS and SD and other two-letter combinations. They're a bit more relaxed with the new 3 letter combinations. – Paul Palmpje Oct 23 at 8:36
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    Nazis find ways around that bans, using numbers like "18" (First and eight letter in the alphabet, AH for "Adolf Hitler"), or "88" (HH = "Heil Hitler"). And if those would get banned too, they would find other ways... – Jost Oct 23 at 8:52
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    @Jost If they'd ban AH, Albert Heijn would have a problem in Germany. AH is a common abbreviation for that store's name. – Mast Oct 23 at 13:36
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    @Mast: Albert Hein will get his licence plate - unless he is a known Nazi and lives in Bavaria or Brandenburg. SA, SS, HJ and KZ won't be granted anywhere in Germany. In Bavaria and Brandenburg it's impossible to get "## - AH 18", even if your name is Albert Hein and your birthday is the first of August, all other plates with AH depend on the discretion of the authorities. If these letters are your initials, they will grant you the requested plate number (if available). (Details) – Frank from Frankfurt Oct 23 at 14:53
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    KZ = Konzentrationslager. Concentration camp. Very, very taboo acronym in Germany. – rackandboneman Oct 25 at 10:20
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This might or might not be an issue if a German company chose such an abbreviation for business correspondence. Personally I would consider this a non-issue, but there is probably enough residual business risk that it could be a good idea to avoid 'SS', 'SA', or 'NS' preemptively.

If a foreign company does it, I can't honestly see how anyone in Germany would take offense at a coincidence that was clearly not intended and is marginally significant to begin with.

12

Another of our employees say that this would make it very hard to deal with germans, as they would be offended by the email address.

Maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to use such an email address, if you run a security service (for obvious reasons). But that doesn't seem to be the case here.

If it's hard to deal with someone because they feel offended by an email address, I would advice you not to deal with such an unprofessional company at all. You will run into much bigger trouble with them.

Actually someone addressed my usage of SS2000 as abbreviation for Sommersemester 2000 (summer semester) once.1 It's childish and stupid for my taste. Maybe someone will ask you: Would you please start a campaign to change the spelling of the word address? Someone might feel offended by the ss in it. someday.

So my advice is: just don't entertain such a bs. Overdone out of misunderstood pc might make us all mute someday.


1 Just to make it clear: that's an exception, not the rule. In my experience most people have enough common sense not to put up a fuss about nothing. I once witnessed a coworker accidentally calling a customer, whos name was Mrs. Führer, Mrs. Braun instead. She just laughed about it and there was no drama at all.

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    I've seen SS used for Sommersemester all the time during my studies in Germany, nobody made a fuss about it (and it was in this century). – vsz Oct 23 at 4:09
  • @vsz Yes, it's an exception, not the rule. Thanks for the note. – Olafant Oct 23 at 7:25
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    Sometime between 2011 and 2017 universities (at least in MV & Brandenburg) changed from WS/SS to WiSe/SoSe. – Erik Oct 24 at 6:58
  • @Olafant Are eg Japanese allusions completely problem-free in the Philippines? || Could I eg use the names "Paracelles" or "Spratley" without isue in Philippines business contexts. Would there be no allusions to the USA Phillippines campaign of the early 1900s that would cause problems? || I'd be immensely surprised if none of the above caused occasional problems. (I manage to be surprised on occasion :-). ) || "The Nippon Philippines co-prosperity sphere import export company" - now there's a name! How long would that last? – Russell McMahon Oct 24 at 12:50
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    Nothing ever applies equally to academics :) "SoSe" sounds funny (reads like misspelled Soße (sauce)).... – rackandboneman Oct 24 at 14:52
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Since "Germans" includes "German Jews", you can bet that there are at least some people who will take serious offense. Imagine some Karl-Klaus Krüger using kkk@example.com in correspondence with a US company...

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    Or buying a KKK turbocharger for their car... which is a real and common thing. – Therac Oct 24 at 9:24
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Many Germans will think nothing if it. The ones that recognise it will not be offended, but they will have serious doubts about your character. And many will tell you that you should consider changing the address.

So you are not offending, but you might run into people who will not be willing to talk to you, and you will get continuous comments about that email address. And all that trouble is easily avoided.

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The abbreviation is only a problem in a context, that suggests it is used like the ns acronym. When it is clear, that they are initials, there should be no problem.

Some users may notice it and shortly think about it and then think that they are silly themselves. Nobody will think you're choosing it deliberately to resemble ns abbreviations, as long as you're not making disrespectful puns yourself.

When it makes your employee uncomfortable or when there is too much internal discussion, just use another address, because it is not worth investing too much time into this minor problem.

  • It might not appear deliberate or like endorsing nazis, but still rude/ignorant/arrogant.... – rackandboneman Oct 24 at 14:54
  • ...especially because the "what does old stuff have to do with us now" attitude, while it might or might not be right, is currently being coopted by groups generally considered right in wing only. – rackandboneman Oct 24 at 14:56
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What is your guideline, if there are two people with the initials "SS"? I am sure you'll have some rule to include the next letter of firstname or lastname, which coincidentally in this case, both leads to STS@example.com (respectively SST@example.com)

I really think you can go that way without breaking your usual convention, and you should, as here in Germany, we do in fact react sensitive to those specific "abbreviations". People may not say something, but at least, it will be regarded as inconsiderate.

  • While true, this question is about offense, not about the arguably doubtful guideline for emails. This answer doesn't add any new insight, therefore -1. – infinitezero Oct 23 at 15:43
  • @infinitezero This is also true for the answer with the second most upvotes. – Olafant Oct 24 at 23:07
0

That kind of address would be perfectly acceptable. For the slim chance that it evokes the connotation with someone, that person would probably blame himself instead of you or your company.

Since that address is under an international domain, that connotation would require some suggestive context anyway ( or the 'suitable' mindset with the recipient - in that case, you most certainly wouldn't run into difficulties ... ).

If your legal department or corporate bigshots were really sensitive, the best-known two-letter abbreviations from the NS period (excerpt from here) would be:

hj
kz
ns
sa
sd
ss

It might be more relevant to ban modern abbreviations and codes that are popular with right-wing extremists and outright nazis, see here for examples. Relevant two-letter codes might be

bh
ci
hh
wp

Note that considering theses codes means quite a stretch.

Just in case someone is really paranoid over the issue, there are also a number of online dictionaries purporting to compile abbreviations commonly used in Nazi Germany (eg. this one). They contain mostly terms that have been in common use in the German language of that time, irrespective of the Nazi dictatorship.

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    bh would rather be taken to stand for bra – Hagen von Eitzen Oct 23 at 0:09
  • Wow, that would be namecism. In Latia we have biggest website clasified ads translating ss.lv sludinājumu serviss. But everyone has their own problems or want to make where they are long gone, like now also communists abuse liberals beeing used to disrupt cities and countries with making them thing that they are saviours and not the agressors for victim organised by kremlin. – Kangarooo Oct 24 at 3:39
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    @Kangarooo what – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 24 at 14:21
  • www.ss.lv - biggest website in Latvia. Russia cremnil nazis calling themselfes antifa would be acting leftist victim style for everything they imagine, to act as saviours from theyr made up thing. So whoever has problem with a name is just making problems where there is none. Get rid of such actors. – Kangarooo Oct 31 at 8:29
  • @Kangaroo What does the question and this answer have to do with Kremlin, leftist, victimization, saviours, you name it (let alone the rather crude world view that shines through) ? – collapsar Oct 31 at 11:08
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It is unlikely to be a serious issue, but there may be a few individuals who object to it, some of whom won't tell you their thoughts.

Other reasons to question your naming policy have already been listed and don't need repeating.

0

On practical reasons I would suggest to avoid it, it is too dangerous.

It is bad in work mail addresses. The current de facto custom is that your mail address has a direct relation to your name. It is so around the middle 2000s.

If it is not a work address, or your name happens to be, for example, Stephan Schubert, no one will think any bad. Sometimes we have also an abbreviated alias, for example stephan.schubert@company.de as main address, and an ss@company.de alias for that. That is okay, but again it is better to avoid to use in work.

The typical attitude, and also the best practice for the long-term survival, if you take the possible largest distance from the whole topic. Such abbreviations are avoided in practice mostly on this reason (i.e. the people does not want others to thinking about it in the relation of him), and not on a real fear from possible consequences.

protected by infinitezero Oct 23 at 15:39

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