names should get longer

There was a story on the front page of the Wall Street Journal yesterday about how names in Germany are restricted by certain rules we would find quite odd in the US. Coincidentally, while re-reading parts of Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies this morning I just ran across a section about how sur-names became more and more frequent in cities around the mid-thirteenth century as a good way for tax collectors to keep all the Johns seperate.

Someone in the government explaining Germany's no-hyphen rule explained that they feared that this generation's hyphened last names would become next generation's 3-hyphen last names and lead to 7-hyphen and 15-hyphen last names in a short 100 years or so of cross-breeding those hyphenated last names.

However, if the purpose of names is to be able to tell people apart, maybe we need more last names. How many John Smiths do you need to have before you need a better way to tell them all apart? I am sure that middle names have helped a great deal, but there really are a lot of people in the world and only so many decent sounding names, so bring em on.

Michael Schulz-Strauss-Nolan-Zamost sounds like a law firm waiting to happen. Excellent.