Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A constitutional amendment

I recently posted a critical new piece of social legislation that you must all follow. See my original post here.

My dear friend Tawana has pointed out a flaw in the original legislation so I am amending the rule. This amendment is effective retroactive to my original post. [Tawana's critical counterexample was a person we both know whose first name was "M." It wasn't short for Matilda or anything like that. Her name was just "M." And it worked. I consider it a fine example of innovation.]

It's not that you are prohibited from having a letter or initial as your first name. It's that you are prohibited from doing so if you are going to use your middle name as an official part of your name. [If you have a middle name as a contingency plan should the three name thing become the ticket to a life of luxury or simply a requirement to get on a life raft, then you're in the clear. In such a case, the middle name is not an official part of your name.]

I will now illuminate the rule with some examples. Let me start with L. Gordon Crovitz from the Wall Street Journal. [I am using Crovitz as an example for the sake of consistency with my original post but let me state on the record that I enjoy Crovitz's writing and I'm sorry to have to pick on him here. I will eagerly transition to another example momentarily. And, of course, it is my sincerest desire that Gordon drop the "L."]

As you can see from Crovitz's name, he is using a middle name, Gordon, as an official part of his name. So his use of "L." as his first name violates the rule. Jan Michael Vincent also uses his middle name as an official part of his name but he is in full compliance with the law because he uses "Jan" as his first name and not "J." I'm sure you can tell immediately that "J. Michael Vincent" would be a heinous affront to decent society. Of course, "Michael J. Fox" or, even "Michael J. Vincent" would be OK per my original post because the letter is used as a middle name and not the first name. [Note: While "Michael J. Vincent" would be in full compliance with necessary regulation, I cannot assure you that such a person would be functionally equivalent to Jan Michael Vincent. I daresay he wouldn't.]

[In case you're wondering who Jan Michael Vincent is, well I'll tell you. He is a "virile, handsome and square-jawed youthful star of the 1970s and 1980s." Check out this picture of him. It's not entirely clear to me that he is, in fact, square-jawed (I invite comments on this critical question) but you will distinctly see that this man is not burdened by the angst of having a socially proscribed name.]

I'm sure most of you have an intuitive sense of the evils of the letter first name in the pre official middle name position. But there may be some of you who are arriving from distant shores or who are just awakening from a coma and still feel mildly disoriented and who are confused as to the reason for this very important prohibition. So let me explain.

When you have a letter as your first name followed by an official middle name, it's as if the letter is there to warm us up and get us ready for the real thing. It assumes that we need to be eased into someone's name because, well, we can't handle names. YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE NAMES!

Well I tell you (and I think I speak for the entire platoon when I say this) that I don't need to be warmed up. I speak English. I know names. Just hit me with your real goddamn name from the start and drop the preamble.

Another reason for this prohibition is that the letter first name is a bit arrogant. It makes a statement that the owner's name is so goddamn important that if your attention happened to be somewhere else for a nanosecond and you missed the first phoneme of the name, it would be a catastrophe. First of all, don't be so damn arrogant. It's wrong. And even if you want to be arrogant, at least educate yourself on the phonemic restoration effect. People will most likely manage to accurately interpret your name even if they weren't paying attention to the first letter and you didn't include a warmup.

Well, I hope this clarifies matters for everyone. You all owe my wonderful, beautiful friend Tawana a debt of gratitude.

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