Friday, November 21, 2008

Two Requests

I begin with a request for prospective parents: please, please give your children names you intend for them to use. If you want little Susan to go by Sue or little Nate to go by Nate, please just name her Sue and name him Nate in the first place. Leave Susan and Nathaniel to parents who want to refer to their children as Susan and Nathaniel.

Put the name you prefer on the birth certificate; put the foreseeable go-by name on the birth certificate; put the charming, appealing diminutive or variation on the birth certificate.

And for the sake of everything worth cherishing in this life, use the common spelling. Don't render Jake as Jayk, Jonathan as Johnathan, Michelle as Mychele. If you're not sure what the common spelling is, pick a different name, because your uncertainty is as good a signal as any that there is no common spelling, or that the common spelling is unsettled -- Stephen/Steven, Kathy/Cathy, endings with y/ie, etc.

Or suppose you decide to name your son or daughter after yourself and hope to escape the ambiguities of having two people of the same name in the house by calling the child something else. Stop there! Reconsider the whole idea! Don't fix the ambiguity by prompting the child to go by the middle name, or a nickname, or a diminutive, or a variation, or the initials. Same name means same name, yes? Go all in on the idea of "named after" or don't bother.

Step back from that abyss -- rest assured it is an abyss, trivial though all of this may sound. We live in an information age, which means we live in a literal, case-sensitive, relentlessly spell-checked age. Consider that every time your child's go-by name does not match his or her legal name, you've dropped your child into a nontrivial bureaucratic morass.

The card's name and billing address don't match? Well, not exactly -- the name doesn't quite match, and good luck tracing the malfunction to that in under an hour. Have you ever given blood or applied for credit under a different name? Well, yes and no, perhaps, if you are legally Terence but you've been called Terry since birth. You've been removed from the voting rolls? Well, yes and no -- the person with your legal name has been removed because the person at your address uses the diminutive. That these are actually the same persons does not compute because computers are stupid.

I close with a request to all six readers of this blog, parents and non-parents alike: please consider the request of Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis, owner-proprietor of the fine Zehnkatzen Times blog, to whom fortune has been unkind lately.

In a roundabout way, these two requests are related. Maybe some time later I'll be calm and centered enough to explain how.


1 comment:

Zennalathas said...

Oh PayPal...I hate it too, but just because I loathe adding a middleman to the very simple business I'd like to conduct on the internet.