Falsehoods This Guy Believed About Names

Friday, 7 October 2022 at 08:34 in the evening

There’s an infamous blog post from over a decade ago where Patrick McKenzie outlines a bunch of falsehoods programmers believe about names.

Obviously it’s got a very Western slant to it. Mostly I found myself nodding in agreement with the early ones like ‘People have exactly one full name which they go by’, which is patently untrue because half of the emails I get are addressed to ‘Joe’ and the other half to ‘Joseph’, rolling my eyes a bit at the ones in the middle like ‘People’s names are written in ASCII’ which is clearly a load of nonsense, until I got closer to the end with ones like ‘People’s names are assigned at birth.’ where I started rolling my eyes and imagining some completely weird edge cases, or cultures I’m completely unfamiliar with.

That all changed in 2020. My wife (at the time my fiancée) was born in Hungary. According to Hungarian naming conventions, her birth certificate, which was printed a week or so after she was born, said that her name was LastName FirstName MiddleName (clearly to parents lacking in creativity).

She decided to take my last name, but she also wanted to drop her middle name, baggage, she said, that just made filling in forms more complicated. So she did, and she became Innes FirstName.

But the thing that stunned me was that she was issued a new birth certificate. Her maiden name is now LastName FirstName. It’s as though MiddleName was never there. So, at the age of 30, my wife’s birth name was finally decided. At least, until she wants to change it again…