M. Giant's
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Thursday, June 29, 2006  

What's in a Name?

You won't believe the name of the guy who manages the ramp that I park in downtown.

His name is Major Smith Jr. III. I am not making up any of that. Except, incredibly, the "Smith" part.

Never mind the rarity of encountering a person with the first name of Major outside of Catch-22. I happen to think it's actually kind of a cool first name, even if it's not also its owner's middle and last name. It was probably more common in generations past, of course. Otherwise how does there ever get to be a Major Smith Jr. III?

For that matter, how does there ever get to be a person with a Jr. III tacked onto the end of any moniker at all? I understand Jr. and III separately -- or, more precisely, when applied to two separate people. Particularly when they are father and son. But how a person ends up as a Jr. III is completely beyond me.

Surely the key to unraveling this mystery is his father's name. Was he Major Smith Jr. Jr, born of Major Smith Jr. Sr.? And just how far down does this rabbit hole go? In order to know how many Major Smiths there have been, do I add the two represented by Jr. to the three represented by III to get five, or do I multiply the integers to get six? Or is Jr. III an unknown-to-me generational notation for 2½? And if so, how does that work?

I suppose the simplest explanation is the most likely one: that one day, plain old Major Smith woke up, decided his name wasn't impressive enough, and decided to add what he thought were a couple of honorofics to the end of it, then held onto them even after he graduated kindergarten. He probably even changed his middle name to Tom while he was at it. The problem with this theory is that it fails to explain how he eventually got a job managing a parking ramp.

These are the kinds of questions that occupy my tiny little mind during the short walk from my ramp to the office in the morning. Usually they're forgotten by the time I get in the elevator. But something happened the other day.

I stopped in to the office to pay my lease, and there was a young man of about eleven or twelve loitering around. "My dad will be right back," he said.

You're going to hate me, but I was afraid to ask the kid what his name was.

Not just because it would seem presumptuous, but because some part of me was genuinely afraid to find out. Was I looking at Major Smith Jr IV? Major Smith III III? Major Smith Jr. III Jr.? Major Smith9? Major Smith ?? Captain Smith Jr. III?

Sometimes I feel guilty for naming my son in such a way that everyone will call him by his middle name, just as they have me my whole life, and my father and grandfather and great-grandfather before me. But then I remember that it forces one to develop unique little ways of dealing with the world, without doing something as drastic as naming him Sue.

Perhaps this is what is behind the Smiths' unorthodox nomenclature. I'll never know, because I don't know them well enough to ask. The other upside to my ignorance is that this way, I can put my mind at ease by telling myself that as far as I know, the kid's name is Bobby.

posted by M. Giant 8:51 PM 8 comments


My dad has a friend named Major. I just wanted to throw that out there.

By Blogger Zerodette, at June 29, 2006 at 10:27 PM  

Hmmm...I was reading Freakanomics the other day, and there's this in in, whic touches on a similar topic.


By Blogger Diablevert, at June 30, 2006 at 2:58 AM  

Hence, your son shall be known as:
His Honorable Lordship Little Mr. Velcrometer Senior's Junior II

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 30, 2006 at 3:27 AM  

My great-grandfather's name was Major. No one seems to have wanted to keep that tradition alive, or I could be naming my kid, well, no, since I'm a girl, but whatev.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 30, 2006 at 7:01 AM  

Have you not heard of George Foreman, and his 18 kids.. George, George, George, George etc.?? Now THAT'S abuse

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 30, 2006 at 7:19 AM  

One of my math teachers at university was King James III. First name King, last name James. He was the third. It was really disorienting because he also had a PhD, therefore he was Dr. King James III.

I decided at the point if I ever had children I'd name them Senator, President, Doctor, King, Duke, etc... Luckily for the future I decided against children. But every now and again I think wouldn't it be nice to have a seven year old Senator John Smith running around?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 30, 2006 at 9:28 AM  

I was horrified to discover that my great-great-great grandfather's name was Bushrod Parsons. He married a woman named Mabel Persons. Did she then become Mabel Persons Parsons?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 30, 2006 at 2:33 PM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 30, 2007 at 4:44 AM  

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