I use Gmail. When it displays an email from someone, it puts their name at the top. Sometimes, this is totally wrong, eg:

enter image description here

The person has "jo" in their email, and signs the email "Jo", but Google thinks they're called "Patricia". Their email isn't a gmail account.

Where does this data come from? It's annoying as it's all too easy to write "Hi Patricia..." in the reply and then sometimes people get annoyed saying "My name's not Patricia, it's Jo!".

Can this functionality be switched off?

EDIT - on examining the original text of the email, I can see this in the headers: Note the first in particular.

From: Patricia Wood <joj2wood@xxxxxx.com>
Content-type: text/plain; charset=utf-8
Content-transfer-encoding: quoted-printable
MIME-version: 1.0 (1.0)
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 17:18:21 +0000
Subject: Three Little Birds
Message-id: <E165616C-BE55-4E16-9298-68BD219693E5@xxxxxx.com>
To: helpdesk@example.com
X-Mailer: iPad Mail (15D60)
X-Original-Sender: joj2wood@xxxxxx.com

So, I'm guessing the "Patricia Wood" bit is something that is added by their email client?

migrated from superuser.com Feb 20 '18 at 10:10

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View the details of the message so you can see the raw headers. Is the name as shown there? Then the sender is sending the message with the wrong name associated.

If not, then you have a contact with that name and that email address. I've found that if two people have the same email address, but I have two different contact records for them, then the one who shows up first alphabetically will be displayed as the sender name, no matter what may be in the headers or who actually sent it.

  • Thanks, it's in the headers - see above. I'm now off to find one where the person got really narked that I called them the name that showed up... – Max Williams Feb 21 '18 at 8:42

This has been going on for a long time, and I'm surprised Google hasn't fixed it.

My use case is similar, but I do have the email address in the contacts, and I expect Google to display the name that I use for them in my contacts, because more and more other people are not savvy enough (or intentionally hiding details for privacy) that their From name is wrong, or at least not as a name that I know them by.

Additional info: Google are the ones who first tried to make a more average-human friendly interface by hiding the actual email address, which is how most of us used to identify our interlocutors. I found it odd and disturbing when more and more mail clients just displayed a name instead of the address, but this is now the standard. Given this, the potential for fooling the reader is high, as anyone can put any text in the From field when sending. It's obvious to me that a good, modern email client interface should allow the user to customize what "friendly name" shows up next to an email, and Google already knows what you would want here, by managing your contacts.

The only "answer" I can think to make of all this is to submit a bug report ("feedback") to Google.

  • I suspect Google might say "The sender's email client is writing that name into the email headers. That's not our fault, it's their email client's fault. Perhaps you could suggest to them that they use Gmail instead" :) – Max Williams Dec 19 '18 at 9:50
  • It's useful to know that it does ignore your own contacts list, at least. I mean it's not useful that it does it, but it's good to know what's actually happening. – Max Williams Dec 19 '18 at 9:50

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