Hyphen-names

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WHAT'S IN A NAME?

The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare announced the imposition of an immediate nationwide ban on the use of hyphenated names yesterday.

"The widespread use of hyphenated names over the last few decades has caused considerable chaos in our society," Ms. Alexandra Parton-Wagstaff-Feller-Jones-Pettibone-Firkins-Dishweiler-Smith-Browning-Burns-Oppenheimer-Kauffman-Williamson-Geonetta-Campbell-O'Donnell-Sypek-Silverstien-Gladfelter-Sharifzadeh, Director of HEW, said.

"During the early years of the women's movement, when hyphenated names first came into vogue as a means for women to maintain both their maiden and married names, it seemed an easy way for them to keep their own identity as a human being apart from that of their husbands--but things soon got out of hand."

"The first use of hyphenation produced simple names like Preston-Jones, Wilson-Smith, and Harkenheimer- Billings," the HEW Director went on to explain. "Then the divorce rate soared until most women married three times, and names like Wilson-Brown-Parker-Smythe and Quilling-Morse-Dickens-Worthy became common. Then, when the daughters of these women grew up and took multiple husbands of their own, unwieldy surnames like Pilkington-Williamson-Throckmorton-Vanderhoffen- Duckworth-Alexander-McCleneghan appeared and society started going downhill."

"It didn't take people long to realize that simply rearranging the order of their hyphenated surnames would produce a new identity--at least as far as bank, police, and government computers were concerned. And, since a second-generation, seven-level surname can be rearranged in more than 5000 different ways, it only took a few years to create chaos."

"That's why the government had to step in seven years ago and make it a felony to arrange the segments of a hyphenated name in any but chronological order," Parton- . . . -Jones told the reporters. "This cleared up the problem of conflicting identities, but names kept on getting longer and longer until the majority of fifth-generation liberated women ended up with an unwieldy twenty-segment surname like mine--which has created a whole new set of problems."

The Director enumerated some of them:

Telephone Books: In order to make long names fit, all telephone books have gone to one column per page, creating 5000 page monstrosities in most major cities. In New York City the phone book has grown to thirty volumes--each one exceeding 25,000 pages and weighing more than 10 pounds. Subscriber telephone rates have tripled every year in an effort to keep up with the cost of these books.

Computers: Business that have to keep track of large lists of names charge anyone whose name is more than 23 characters long $2 per month for listing their name in order to offset computer storage costs.

Business Cards. These have been getting longer and longer and more expensive, and their cost has increased to the point that most people have to take out a loan to pay for them.

The director took out one of her own business cards to show how ridiculous the situation has become. It was two feet long and an inch wide.

Copyright © 2001 by Frank G. Van Atta