BibTeX sorting and name prefixes

BibTeX recognises a bewildering array of name prefixes (mostly those deriving from European language names); it ignores the prefixes when sorting the bibliography - you want “Ludwig van Beethoven” sorted under “Beethoven”, not under “van”. (Lamport made a witty deliberate mistake with Beethoven's name, in the first edition of his LaTeX manual.)

However, a recurring issue is the desire to quote Lord Rayleigh's publications (“Lord” isn't an acceptable prefix), or names from languages that weren't considered when BibTeX was designed such as “al-Wakil” (transcribed from the Arabic). What's needed is a separate “sort key”, but BibTeX only allows such a thing in citations of items that have no author or editor.

The solution is to embed the sort key in the author's name, but to prevent it from being typeset. Patashnik recommends a command \noopsort (no-output-sortkey), which is defined and used as follows:

snippet.latex
@PREAMBLE{ {\providecommand{\noopsort}[1]{}} }
...
@ARTICLE{Rayleigh1,
AUTHOR = "{\noopsort{Rayleigh}}{Lord Rayleigh}",
...
}

Note that this \noopsort applies to the last name in this kind of construct, so an author with an Arabic name might be rendered:

snippet.latex
...
AUTHOR = "Ali {\noopsort{Hadiidii}}{al-Hadiidii}",
...

A further use might deal with word order games, as in the famous Vietnamese name:

snippet.latex
...
AUTHOR = "\noopsort{Thanh Han The}{Han The Thanh}",
...

though that author seems well-acquainted with Western confusion about the significance of the parts of his name (even to the extent of missing out the accentuation, as above…).

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