DON’T DROP THE IBN.

Jon Lee Anderson’s New Yorker article about Mali is good, but it made me grind my teeth right out of the gate. It begins:

On the spine of a hogback hill overlooking Bamako, the capital of the West African nation of Mali, is a green sliver of a park, decorated with effigies of Mali’s historic explorers. On a recent visit, I stopped one piercingly hot morning to admire a bronze bust of a turbaned, bearded man set on a plinth. The nameplate was missing, but, judging from the man’s wide brow and Arab features, it seemed likely that this was Ibn Battuta, the great Moroccan traveller, who journeyed through the Empire of Mali and visited its capital, near the River Niger, in 1352.
When Battuta arrived, [...]

“Not ‘Battuta,’ Ibn Battuta!” I hollered (in the privacy of my brain, not wanting to frighten the cats). Since I have a bully pulpit, I’m going to use it: “Ibn” is not a first name, it means ‘son’ and indicates a patronymic, or nasab as it’s called in Arabic. You can no more abbreviate Ibn Battuta as Battuta than you can abbreviate O’Malley as Malley. For more on Arabic names, consult my ancient post on the topic (or Wikipedia, if you prefer, but “This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page”—you have been warned).
Addendum.. Robert Irwin, in his devastating TLS review of Robert Twigger’s Red Nile (if you’re going to write an error-riddled book on Middle Eastern history, Irwin is the very last person you want reviewing it), makes the same point: “Referring to the famous expert on optics, Ibn al-Haytham as Haytham is a solecism comparable to referring to Macpherson as Pherson, or Robinson as Robin.”

Comments

  1. dearieme says:

    What a schoolboy error by John Lee Ander!

  2. Derson really dropped the ball on this one.

  3. Ugh! In the New Yorker of all places. Isn’t that the place where people coöperate?

  4. Seeing it in all caps, I thought for a moment that you had written “don’t drop the ISBN”.

  5. OP Tipping says:

    Do you think that it should be written as ibn Battuta, or Ibn Battuta, when not at the start of the sentence?
    I was thinking it should probably be the former, cf van Buren.

  6. David Fried says:

    Not “Derson”–”Anders.” Think about it . . .

  7. Maybe this was hypercorrection based on a vague memory of the Dan Brown Foreign Name Affair (“LOL the Of Vinci code! Everyone knows you don’t include the ‘da’!”). Wouldn’t excuse it, but it’d still be better than thinking “Ibn” was a given name.

  8. What is more, on first reference he should have been properly identified as Abū ʿAbd al-Lāh Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Lāh l-Lawātī ṭ-Ṭanǧī ibn Baṭūṭah (per Wikipedia), though I wouldn’t blame the magazine for reducing that, for typographic reasons, to Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Abdullah al-Lawati al-Tanji ibn Battuta. The second and later references are more of a crapshoot: it’s never particularly clear which part of an Arabic name to choose as the equivalent of a Western surname, and various Arab countries have had to establish their own conventions for it, which are by no means universally observed.

  9. I’m sure the cats twigged on anyway.

  10. @David Fried
    I get it. I already got it. And I think Ander, as dearieme says, rather than Anders, no? (Though that’s arguable both ways.) But “Derson” amused me, so I went with that.

  11. Garrigus Carraig says:

    We can all agree — can we not, John? — that “Ibn Battuta” is sufficient for an ancient, like “Avicenna” or “Averroës” or “Confucius”. Indeed, how do they refer to Bohemond, Baldwin, Maffeo Polo?

  12. Incidentally, that “al-Lawati” means that he was actually of Berber ancestry, so “Arab features” may be something of a misrepresentation… However, I seem to recall that he didn’t actually speak Berber.

  13. Well, “O’” (Ó ‘descendant’) was routinely dropped from anglicized Irish names, e.g. everything that looks Goidelic in origin and begins with an ‘H’ in English (which would have been inserted between ‘Ó’ and an initial vowel of the following name), like
    Hennessy Name Meaning
    Irish: reduced form of O’Hennessy, an Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó hAonghusa ‘descendant of Aonghus’ (see Angus, and compare McGinnis).
    Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press
    (houseofnames.com actually likes Malley for a variant of O’Malley but doesn’t give a specific source)

  14. des abu boris says:

    So what you’re saying is that if I invest time and effort into finding out how to do Arab names right, my reward and payoff is to spend more time being outraged that everyone actually does it wrong, up to and including the once notoriously competent New Yorker?

  15. Well, “O’” (Ó ‘descendant’) was routinely dropped from anglicized Irish names
    In ancient bygone days of yore, yes. Now, not so much.
    So what you’re saying is that if I invest time and effort into finding out how to do Arab names right, my reward and payoff is to spend more time being outraged that everyone actually does it wrong
    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  16. Reminded of the ‘Eban’ scence from this otherwise crappy movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qU_XoJt5uhw

  17. dearieme says:

    Maybe Crown should post as J ap Crown.

  18. Garrigus: Well, sure. Except in the New Yorker, which is (or was in ancient bygone days of yore) fanatical about unambiguous identifications of absolutely everybody, to the point of always referring to Shakespeare as William Shakespeare on first appearance (doubtless to avoid confusion with some Shakespeare or the other). Anyway, the comic possibilities of such a lengthy name appearing in the magazine’s narrow columns are manifold, to say nothing of its sound in English, which to my ear “sounds like a trunk falling down stairs”.

  19. Rodger C says:

    Shouldn’t that be “Abu Abdillah”? (Which was the real name of the sighing Moor we usually call Boabdil.)

  20. marie-lucie says:

    It always seems funny to me to see famous French people identified by their full names in American publications. We refer to most of them by their last name only, we sometimes now their first name (or, in earlier centuries, the name normally used in their families), but only a biographer would list all the names given to them at birth. Such names are listed on birth certificates, official ID cards and passports, but apart from those kinds of official documents names beyond the first and last ones are not considered suitable for public display. There is no such thing as a “middle name”.

  21. marie-lucie says:

    oops! we sometimes Know …

  22. It always seems funny to me to see famous French people identified by their full names in American publications.
    Seems “American publications” don’t trade in rote pedestal worship or take their cues from the French Ministry of Illustrious Universally Recognizable One-Named Personages? Must be that renowned Gallic sense of humor, more cocorico and navel-gazing, less page filling.

  23. m-l: Detailed identification like this is part of belonging to a low-context culture, where you can’t assume much about what your listener has in common with you. Hozo, offensive as he always is, is basically right this time.

  24. In Ireland in the 19th century, when surnames were being standardized into English versions, it was quite common for people to drop the Ó for various reasons. Thus you find both O’Casey and Casey. There are some parts of Ireland where people drop the Ó in informal speech even if the formal name has it.
    Ó isn’t a patronymic any more. It means more like the tribe of people who descend from some famous ancestor.
    Patronymics in Irish are done by following the child’s name by the parent’s name in the genitive case. But you wouldn’t refer to someone by their patronymic alone.

  25. dearieme says:

    “a low-context culture”: bless Canada for its mastery of the art of the euphemism.

  26. marie-lucie says:

    JC: I am not sure why you think that Hozo-the-Delightful’s comment is right (in the spirit rather than in the letter).
    dearieme: ??? to my knowledge, JC is American, not Canadian.

  27. Hozo, offensive as he always is, is basically right this time.
    I too am curious what you think he’s right about; m-l wasn’t saying Americans are stupid for including full names, she was saying it seems funny to her because that’s not how they do it in French, which is as far as I can see entirely unexceptionable.

  28. I am a Yank of the Yanks, and so was Edward T. Hall, an anthropologist who worked out the notion of high-context and low-context cultures. Quoth Wikipedia:

    In a high context culture, many things are left unsaid, letting the culture explain. Words and word choice become very important in higher context communication, since a few words can communicate a complex message very effectively to an in-group (but less effectively outside that group), while in a lower context culture, the communicator needs to be much more explicit and the value of a single word is less important.

    As a low-context culture (not quite as low as Germany, somewhat lower than English Canada), Americans have a much more limited list of “Illustrious Universally Recognizable One-Named Personages” than France does.

  29. marie-lucie says:

    JC, I didn’t get the impression that that was quite what Hozo meant.
    Most European countries have a longer list of such people than the US, simply because they have been recognized entities for a much longer time. But the list includes persons who are known internationally, whether ancient (eg Homer, Cicero, Saint Augustine, Confucius) or relatively modern (Marie-Antoinette, Liberace, Madonna).
    I was referring mostly to cases where French uses only first name (which may be compound, like mine) and last name, even though the person probably has one or two other names on their birth certificate. For example, everybody knew former French president Mitterrand as François Mitterrand, but I just learned from Wikipedia (English version) that his full legal name (given right away) was François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterand. The French version starts with plain François Mitterrand in the introductory paragraphs and only gives the full particulars in a later section dealing with his parents and earliest years. I think that American editors, expecting one name between first and last, are not sure what to do with two or three extra names and put them all in for good measure. In French those extra names are generally unknown to the average person, unlike American middle names which are often common knowledge for public figures (John [Fitzgerald] Kennedy, Richard [Milhous] Nixon, Barack [Hussein] Obama).

  30. dearieme says:

    “dearieme: ??? to my knowledge, JC is American, not Canadian.” Oh well, I’ll forgive him.

  31. mollymooly says:

    Are American middle names that well known? Those of Presidents and their assassins, certainly. I understand the US also has the convention that you are only “Joe Bloggs Jr” if you have the same middle name as your father. Thus if Joseph Andrew Bloggs has a son Joseph Albert Bloggs, the latter is not “junior”. What happens then if Joseph Albert names his son Joseph Andrew Bloggs? There is also the subconvention, which I will risk international offence by calling ‘dumb’, under which William Gates III became William Gates Jr when his grandfather died.

  32. marie-lucie says:

    mollymooly: Only some of them are well-known, but my point is that they are expected. Most forms you need to fill have spaces for “first”, “middle” and “last”. Some newspapers always quote the full legal name (if they know it) the first time a person is mentioned in an article. French names on the other hand usually include at least one extra name between first and last, but those extra names (or even their initials) would never appear on business cards, in newspaper articles, or even on most forms to fill. These extra names are usually the first names of family members such as grandparents, uncles and aunts, etc, thus providing a symbolic link with earlier generations. It is not that people try to hide them: it just isn’t the custom to write them except in places where they are legally required for identification, such as on a passport. (There may be recent counterexamples because of the spread of American customs).

  33. I’m still wondering where Marie-Lucie is seeing these superfluous middle names? American middle names are mostly just brought out for formal occasions like wedding invitations or graduations or presidential inaugurations (also small children in trouble, to let them know it’s serious). They’re printed in newspapers just to disambiguate one crime suspect, say, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt of Springfield, from all the other John Schmidt’s in the area.

  34. mollymooly says:

    I did read an American police procedural in French translation, where NMI (“no middle initial”) was rendered “pas d’autre prénom” or something. I don’t know how many French readers would understand why the writer had bothered to say as much. OTOH I don’t know how many Americans, other than readers of police procedurals, know what NMI means.

  35. David NMI Marjanović says:

    Are American middle names that well known?

    Well, no, but Americans who have middle names often go to great lengths to let everyone know that they have them. That is the phenomenon of the middle initial: perhaps only 3 people in the world know what it stands for, but everyone knows it exists! Hence “no middle initial” rather than “no middle name”.
    Related to this is the American expectation of exactly one middle initial; two, as in George H. W. Bush, are considered an aristocratic flourish, and higher numbers are unheard of. Over here, it’s at least as common to have three given names (drei Vornamen) as two, and al but the first are so rarely used or hinted at that people don’t necessarily remember those of their brothers or sisters. Four seems to be common in the Netherlands, and I know one case from Québec (a scientist – and I know it because I saw some documents relating to his marriage; his publications contain no hint of that). German nobles easily reach numbers like 8 or 12; Austria has a legal limit on 3.
    I know one scientist from Germany who publishes with a middle initial, and one – indeed, one native speaker of German in total! – who goes by his middle name and lets us know that he does it by publishing with his first initial.
    A few public figures in Austria have two given names and use both all the time (like the popes called John Paul): Klaus Albrecht Schröder, Konrad Paul Liessmann, Klaus Maria Brandauer and a few other men named Maria… and I think that’s it. This is not counting German hyphen names (Kai-Uwe, Wolf-Ernst, Hans-Dieter, Anna-Lena…) that are considered inseparable.

  36. A remarkable number of presidents of the University of Chicago were known by full first, last, and middle names, and only one was an NMI. I myself use “John Cowan” for all purposes except on my books, where I try to keep librarians happy by being known (uniquely) as “John Woldemar Cowan”.

  37. (Oops, saved too soon.)
    Chicago presidents. The present Prez, though, is merely Robert Zimmer.
    Danes seem to be quite often known by two given names (sans hyphen), particularly on line.
    By no means all American dynastic numbers are reduced: the writer Lucian K[ing] Truscott IV has had no living ancestors in the direct male line since 2000, but he is far from dropping his number. Indeed, changing III to Jr. is one thing, but changing IV to III strikes me as quite another. I remember reading in a novel that a Father Kelly, whose first name I can’t remember, joked that if he had a dynastic number it would be XL, being the fortieth (and presumably last) Kelly of the same name in a row.

  38. marie-lucie says:

    David: Related to this is the American expectation of exactly one middle initial; two, as in George H. W. Bush, are considered an aristocratic flourish, and higher numbers are unheard of. Over here, it’s at least as common to have three given names (drei Vornamen) as two, and al but the first are so rarely used or hinted at that people don’t necessarily remember those of their brothers or sisters.
    I agree with you about the “American expectation”.
    Your comment about German customs describes the French situation exactly. I had to take a moment to remember the other names of my three sisters. I know my parents’ other names (one each) but not my mother’s brother’s, his daughter’s or our common grandparents’. Those names are practically never mentioned outside the family and ID documents, not even on wedding invitations or funeral notices. That’s why finding them displayed in full in English-language media while they are practically unknown in French-language ones is so strange.
    German hyphen names (Kai-Uwe, Wolf-Ernst, Hans-Dieter, Anna-Lena…) that are considered inseparable.
    Same as French names again. Jean-Paul Sartre would have been called Jean-Paul by his family and close friends, never just Jean. He could have had several brothers all called Jean-something. Similarly with Marie for women. Nobody in French circles would ever call me by just that name, and one of my sisters is also a Marie-something. We share this name pattern with our mother, grandmother and several other female relatives further away on the genealogical tree, not to mention innumerable others over the centuries, including such well-known women as Marie-Antoinette (née Maria Antonia in Austria to Queen Maria Theresa). Our parents had chosen their children’s names well in advance: if we had been boys, at least two of us would have been called Jean-something. (There is more diversity in compound names nowadays).

  39. David NMI Marjanović! Great to see you around again; we missed you.

  40. I’m sorry no Danes have yet popped up in this discussion to confirm what I believe to be the case, that full names in Denmark, too, are never shortened, even though unhyphenated and that, eg, Emil Christian Hansen must never be referred to simply as Emil.

  41. Britain’s The Independent has just done something similar:
    ______________________
    Abu Qatada’s 20-year stay in the UK finally came to an end today, as prosecutors confirmed his arrival in Jordan to stand trial on terrorism charges.
    The Government has been actively trying to remove Qatada for more than nine years, and succeeded at 2.46am on Sunday morning when a private jet carrying the 53-year-old took off from RAF Northolt, west London.
    Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted his pleasure at the news, saying: “Abu Qatada is back in Jordan. This is something the Government said would get done. It’s now been achieved and I am delighted.”
    The Home Office released photos and video footage of Qatada’s departure, and Home Secretary Theresa May said . . .
    _______________
    Surely Robert Fisk will take the editors to task.

  42. That’s funny, I had meant to add something like “the same, of course, applies to Abu” in my post, but forgot.

  43. David Marjanović says:

    I remember reading in a novel that a Father Kelly, whose first name I can’t remember, joked that if he had a dynastic number it would be XL, being the fortieth (and presumably last) Kelly of the same name in a row.

    …and indeed, there is a noble family in Germany that now stands at Heinrich the Seventy-Fifth.

    Jean-Paul Sartre would have been called Jean-Paul by his family and close friends, never just Jean.

    I know two Jean-Michel who are shortened to Jean-Mi but no further.

    Maria Theresa

    Maria Theresia.

  44. marie-lucie says:

    David, thanks for the correction. In French she is known as Marie-Thérèse.
    Jean-Michel to Jean-Mi
    Yes, this is a nickname kind of diminutive. I have a niece married to a Jean-Philippe, who is known in the family as Jean-Phi. But this has nothing to do with the fact that the name is a double one: for instance, a person (male or female) called Dominique could be addressed informally as Domi. In each case, a name consisting of three syllables is reduced to the first two. Such diminutives are only used informally in speaking, within the family, the school or the workplace (among equals, especially young ones), they would not, for instance, appear in a newspaper article about those people, unless perhaps in a quotation.

  45. The House of Reuß, however, cheats. They name all their males Heinrich (after the Emperor Heinrich VI, 1165-97) and number them in order of birth, so that does not mean seventy-five generations of Reußes: the actual number of generations is less than 30. The 24th head of the House since the naming/numbering convention began around the year 1200 died childless in 1927. After that, the headship passed to a younger branch of the family, which has had four heads since then. As for Heinrich LXXV, he was apparently head in 1801-02.
    To make matters more complicated, the Heinrich numbers don’t grow without bound; the two branches of Reuß apparently maintained separate enumerations and reset them back to I separately. The older branch resets every 100 males, whereas the younger branch resets at the beginning of every new century.

  46. In Australia I understand that if a person has no middle name it’s common to write ONO (one name only).

  47. marie-lucie says:

    It’s a good thing the house of Reuß’s customs have not spread more widely.
    Along the same lines I remember from years ago a birth announcement in Le Figaro, a newspaper where the French upper crust choose to publicize major events in their lives. It went something like Jean I, Jean II, Jean III and Jean IV wish to announce the birth of their little brother Jean V. I am surprised these names passed the civil authorities, but the parents were probably quite highly-placed on the social ladder and able to exert “subtle” pressure. I have never seen the like again.

  48. marie-lucie says:

    Another misinterpretation of Arab names: in today’s WaPo an article on the role of women in Western Sahara mentions a woman by the name of Djimi el-Ghalia. In spite of the hyphen, later references to the same woman use only Ghalia.

  49. Then there’s that fellow who, when he joined the U.S. Army, insisted that his given names were “R. B.”, which did not stand for anything in particular. So he became, on the face of official forms, “R.(only) B.(only) Jones”, which quickly turned into “Ronly Bonly Jones” ….

  50. mollymooly says:

    “full names in Denmark, too, are never shortened, even though unhyphenated and that, eg, Emil Christian Hansen must never be referred to simply as Emil.”
    The current king of Sweden is Carl XVI Gustav, or “Carl Gustav” for short. That is, you can’t just call him Carl, even though the numbering refers only to the Carls, or rather Carls, Karls, and Caroluses (or rather Caroli). There was only one previous Karl Gustav, namely Karl X Gustav. Of course the first six Caroli are entirely fictitious, and Karl XIV Johan was Jean-Baptiste Jules.

  51. David Marjanović says:

    The House of Reuß, however, cheats.

    I thought so… but I didn’t know it was quite that elaborate!

    Then there’s that fellow who, when he joined the U.S. Army, insisted that his given names were “R. B.”, which did not stand for anything in particular.

    Let me guess: he was from Texas?
    The inversion: Harry S Truman and David S Berman.

  52. A friend of mine has the middle initial F, which likewise stands for nothing. When his office cube acquired a nameplate, it appeared with his first and last name separated by “F.” When I asked why he didn’t protest this excrescent period, he replied, “Simple. ‘F.’ is the abbreviation for ‘F’.”

  53. Rodger C says:

    Then there’s the French habit of refashioning English names to fit the French pattern: Edgar Poe, John Tolkien.

  54. Just to add a data point, naming customs in my native Argentina and other Spanish-speaking countries I’ve lived in seem halfway between the Continental and US patterns.
    It is not uncommon to have more than one given name (although there is a legal limit of 3), but how many of those (and, to a certain extent, which) are used can be highly idiosyncratic. Most people go just by their first name, and the exceptions are mostly limited to highly conventional combinations, which nevertheless —and unlike in French or German— are never hyphenated. The former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar is always “José María”, never “José” (let alone “María”).
    Then again, some less conventional combinations are sometimes used (e.g., Jorge Luis Borges), and in some formal contexts the additional names can crop up. (I suppose that the bias towards documents produced in such contexts is the reason why some historical figures, such as Juan Domingo Perón, are often remembered by their full names; in life, Perón was variously known as ‘Juancito’, ‘Pocho’ or ‘Juan’, but no-one ever addressed him as ‘Juan Domingo’).
    On the other hand, some people eschew the conventional ones for one of the parts; I know many Juan Pablos (there was a craze for the name after Wojtyla’s election), some of whom go by “Juan”, some by “Pablo”, and some by the full compound.

  55. And the Russian habit.
    H.G. Wells is always Герберт Уэллс and T.S. Eliot Томас Элиот even though initials + surname is unremarkable in Russian (В.И. Ленин).
    And moving to Central Europe: Serbian, Czech and Slovak will always render foreign names either phonetically or to local conventions (Tačer, Thatcherová) whereas Polish, Slovene and Croatian don’t (Croatian used to be it seems to be increasingly rare).
    I have long wondered how these customs developed. Was it a single editor of a popular newspaper in each country in the 19th century who adopted a style which has become conventional ?

  56. This thread also cannot omit mentioning the classic pub quiz question of Ulysses S. Grant where the “S” doesn’t actually stand for anything.

  57. Alex: Serbian also respells loanwords (to which it is friendly), whereas Croatian typically does not (the few that it accepts). I think that’s Croatian being purist, in both cases. I don’t know how it came to be so, however.

  58. Thus if Joseph Andrew Bloggs has a son Joseph Albert Bloggs, the latter is not “junior”. What happens then if Joseph Albert names his son Joseph Andrew Bloggs?
    He would be Joseph Andrew Bloggs II. Indeed, the difference between “II” and “Jr.” in American practice is that the latter is used for sons who have the exact same name as their fathers, whereas the former is used in all other cases of name coincidence between generations. Henry Ford II was the grandson of the famous Henry Ford, for example, as well as his successor as president of Ford Motor Co. Both of them were NMIs.
    I myself am also named for my paternal grandfather, but not exactly so (my middle name comes from my other grandfather), and in any case he was thirty years dead before I was born, so there was no question of a dynastic number. I once asked my father what he would have done if he had been named “John” (his elder brother, who died in his teens, was in fact the John Cowan of his generation). He replied that he would have dropped the “Jr.” when his father died, and would probably not have named me “John” at all.
    Americans nicknamed “Trip” are most often IIIs. In Star Trek: Enterprise, the most recent TV series, the engineer is formally Charles Tucker III, but almost always called “Trip”.
    For completeness, someone should mention the 19th-century English public school tradition of calling successive brothers “Smith major”, “Smith minor”, “Smith tertius”, and so on.

  59. Or Ferry and Butzi.

  60. J.W. Brewer says:

    “Trey” and “Terry” are also extant in the U.S. for So-and-So III. The only person in my own extended family (a second cousin) who is a “III” has always been Terry, and wikipedia says that Trey Parker of South Park fame is more formally Randolph Severn Parker III. But these things can also be more ad hoc. The only guy I knew growing up who was a “IV” (formally Charles Something Something IV) has always been “Buck” and if memory serves his dad (Charles Something Something III) was universally known as “Tex.” Later in life I knew a woman whose brother (whom I might have met once at the most) was a “IV” who was known as “Tad,” with some vague suggestion that there was a cryptic numerical intent, but I don’t know if that’s really a thing.
    There is btw a whole inventory of American nicknames for boys (e.g. Buck, Chip, Skip) that can be used semi-randomly, i.e. there is no formal given name with which they are habitually associated. The formal given names of the various individuals at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buck_(personal_name), for example, seem to range alphabetically all the way at least from Alexander to Wilbur. I have an impressionistic sense that these names are not so commonly used as they once were (perhaps not unrelated to the general spreading-out reflected in the decrease over time in the total percentage of boys formally given one of the N most popular names), but I’m not sure if there’s good enough data on commonly-used nicknames to confirm that, since almost by definition these are the names that aren’t going into databases in the same consistent way people’s official legal names are. It seems plausible that one of these names would be especially likely to be used (for disambiguation) when there was already a male with the same formal name in the household (or close enough in the extended family to make disambiguation desirable), but again one would need to figure out how to test that against good data.

  61. @ John Cowan
    That public school tradition of naming successive brothers is alive and well today.

  62. “My father’s name was not Buck but Charles, nor had he ever been called Buck.” —James Thurber, “More Alarms at Night”

  63. marie-lucie says:

    French extra names as formal identification: My father was once one of the examiners for an exam given in all high schools in the region. Two girls taking this exam not only had the same first and last names, but the same second and third names. Fortunately, one of them had a fourth name. Fortunately too, they both passed.

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