Tuesday, June 03, 2003

The curse of three names

In today’s bleat Lileks points out a quirk of news reports involving a captured criminal – they almost always are reported with a full three names.
Well, we know Eric Robert Rudolph’s guilty, don’t we? He has THREE NAMES. He was Eric Rudolph for years, but now he’s Eric Robert Rudolph. Say no more. That’s why I never thought Richard Jewell did the Atlanta bombing; he would have been described as Richard Jay Jewell, or Richard Harvey Jewell. People don’t get a middle name unless they’re a famous criminal. That’s the law. Ricky Ray Rector. Lee Harvey Oswald. James Earl Ray. Sirhan Sirhan Sirhan.
The first time that I was made aware of this quirk was in the movie Baby Boom (ahh… the 80s) – the new mother becomes frantic when she realizes that her babysitter has three names – clearly the sign of a criminal!

I remember being bothered by this at the time because I have 3 names. I was born in the 70s and my parents evidently got in some sort of a fight over whom to name me after. Rather than coming to an agreement (silly idea) they flipped a coin to see which name would go first and gave me two first names - with a hyphen. Considering the flights of fancy that many children born in the 70s are stuck with as names I guess I got off fairly easily (no matter how badly I wished I was named Jenny as a child). Still – my name can sound a bit like a news report of a murder suspect that has been captured.

I know that the reason the media takes the time to use three names in describing suspects or criminals is to further differentiate them. There may be thousands of men in the US named ‘Eric Rudolph’ but there are likely many fewer named ‘Eric ROBERT Rudolph’.

For the same reason I have come to appreciate my name – regardless of the fact that it is too long to fit on any standardized form – the uniqueness of my name makes it memorable. At the very least when I hear my name is called across a crowded room I know that somebody is looking for me. That said… perhaps I should take that extra name off of my resume – maybe I have had a hard time finding a job because nobody wants to hire somebody whose name sounds vaguely menacing.


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