Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What's In A Name?

A German court has ruled on a question I've been wondering about for quite a while. That may say at least as much about me as about the court, but that's as may be.

The case involves the trend toward couples combining their surnames and creating a hyphenated last name. The question is: if that trend were to continue over multiple generations, wouldn't the names eventually become too long?

For example, if George Walker Bush's grandparents and parents had done that, he could be George Robinson-Pierce-Walker-Bush. The former president has, of course, been called many things over the past few years, but never that.

The German court decided: two names joined together, and that's it.

However, the Times article on this subject notes that German aristocrats have traditionally carried long names.

As is so often the case, I'm reminded of the British TV show Monty Python's Flying Circus. They parodied that German tradition with the story of a composer named Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern- schplenden- schlitter- crasscrenbon- fried- digger- dingle- dangle- dongle- dungle- burstein- von- knacker- thrasher- apple- banger- horowitz- ticolensic- grander- knotty- spelltinkle- grandlich- grumblemeyer- spelterwasser- kurstlich- himbleeisen- bahnwagen- gutenabend- bitte- ein- n├╝rnburger- bratwustle- gerspurten- mitz- weimache- luber- hundsfut- gumberaber- sh├Ânedanker- kalbsfleisch- mittler- aucher von Hautkopft auf Ulm.

Ever the iconoclasts, I'm sure the Python troupe are glad to find themselves seriously in violation of German law.

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