Is your name a ‘typo’?

Did you know that a massive 41% of names of babies’ born in England and Wales are ‘typos’? Find out how a new campaign is calling for tech giants to correct autocorrect and spell-check.

The campaign, I am not a typo (IANAT) advocates for greater tech inclusivity, and has undertaken research into baby names in the UK to demonstrate how the technology we use should be more inclusive and reflect today’s multicultural UK.

41% of names in the UK are ‘typos’

They found that, across all girls and boys names given to children in England and Wales in 2021 (with minimum three occurrences), 5,492 of 13,532 were ‘wrong’, in testing conducted on Microsoft’s English (UK) dictionary – 41%. Names deemed typos include many of African, Asian and Eastern European origin – but also popular Scottish, Welsh and Irish names.

I am not a typo analysed the most recent data on baby names in England and Wales released by the Office of National Statistics. The campaign group found that popular names such as Ottilie – with 430 occurrences among girls in England and Wales in 2021 and 1,732 occurrences in the five years analysed were ‘typos’.

Alongside a billboard campaign calling for the Tech Giants to correct autocorrect, an open letter to the technology owners highlights the example of Esmae:

“Esmae – all 398 of her born in England and Wales in 2021 – is wrong, apparently. Same for the 447 born in 2020, 501 born in 2019, 480 born in 2018 and 502 born in 2017. That’s 2,328 in the last five years. That’s compared to 36 instances of the name Nigel in that time.”

As the mother of a ‘typo’ child herself, I can understand the frustration. My Eurasian son was given the Indonesian name Cahaya (pronounced Chahaya) when he was born. Following years of correcting people and technology on the pronunciation and spelling, he eventually started calling himself Ollie.

The top 10 typo girls names

According to Microsoft Word’s English (UK) dictionary, a whopping 3,079 out of 7,330 names given to girls in 2021 in England and Wales (with minimum of three occurrences) were ‘typos’. Here are the top 10 typo girls names:

The top 10 typo girls and boys names

Analysing names given to boys in England and Wales in 2021, 2,413 out of 6,202 (39%) names (with minimum three occurrences) were ‘typos’. Here are the top 10 typo boys names:

Autocorrect is ‘unhelpful’ and ‘harmful’

Supporting the campaign, Professor Rashmi Dyal-Chand of Northeastern University in the US, author of the paper Autocorrecting for Whiteness, said: “My name is Rashmi, not Rashi, Rush me, or Sashimi, autocorrect notwithstanding. For people with names like mine, autocorrect is not convenient and helpful. It is unhelpful. And yes – it is harmful.”

Also lending her support, writer and journalist Dhruti Shah, who has covered the issue extensively, said: ‘My name is Dhruti. Not Drutee, Dirty, or even Dorito. And yet these are all words my name has been changed to, often because of an autocorrect decision or a rushed message… My first name isn’t even that long – only six characters – yet when it comes up as an error or it’s mangled and considered an unknown entity, it’s like saying that it’s not just your name that’s wrong, but you are.’

National Records of Scotland data analysed found that across all names (girls and boys) given to children in 2022 in Scotland, 3,347 of 8,074 (41%) were ‘typos’, according to Microsoft’s English (UK) dictionary including prominent names like Ruaridh, Lochlan, Maeva, Ayda and Fiadh.

And the same English (UK) dictionary deemed popular names of babies born in Wales to be incorrect – like Alys, Seren and Osian – as well as names of babies in Northern Ireland, including Oisin, Daithi, Meabh and Eabha.

Let’s banish ‘typo’ names

So what’s the answer? I am not a typo want tech giants to change their name dictionaries, so that all first names are treated equally by the technology we use. They want to create a world that sees and supports all of us.

I am not a typo is a collective aiming to create social change so no one feels like an oversight. They look at the link between identity and technology, challenging tech giants to adapt.