Claypoole likens the situation to vanity license plates. States have certain restrictions on what words can and cannot be used. E-mail, he says, is no different: "You may have a right to use your name to describe you. You do not have the right to use your name on anything that you do."
A similar controversy arose a few years ago in connection with official National Football League merchandise. A Louisiana State University professor whose former student Randall Gay had become a cornerback for the New England Patriots was surprised to learn that she couldn't buy a Patriots jersey bearing Gay's surname and number, due to what NFLshop.com termed a "naughty word" violation; later, however, the Web site rescinded that ban. (There was no word on how "New England" managed to pass muster.)
For Herman Libshitz, the issue is less about legality and more about moral standards -- standards that he believes are being asserted inconsistently.
"I think it's hypocrisy that they're 'saving us from profanity' by not letting people use their surnames," he says. "I mean, these are the same providers that permit all sorts of pornography to go over their lines. If that's not hypocrisy, I don't know what is."
For now, the situation remains unresolved. Libshitz managed to triumph in his own personal struggle, but his victory hasn't reached far. Future generations will undoubtedly face the same burden of fighting obscenity filters and justifying single syllables -- in essence, of struggling to avoid virtual citizenship in an unassuming town in North Lincolnshire, England.