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The aesthetics of names

This is a post by Mike Elgan on G+ titled "The trouble with Google's names policies: Real unconventional names = Bad. Fake 'normal' names = OK."


The post itself is not what I want to talk about though. It's a comment in that thread by Robert Scoble, a big Google+ booster who has recently been going back and forth about what he thinks of Google's name policy.
...some people have "non common" names and I do have empathy for those who really have weird names, like M3 (if that's really his legal name).

But that said I am totally groking the AESTHETIC that Google is going for. They are trying to look different than Twitter is and I really really like seeing names that look common here. IE, most everyone I've met in the real world has a first and last name.
I can scarcely put into words the rage I feel about the notion that people's names are an "aesthetic" issue reasonably subject to control. It's racist, sexist, classist, xenophobic, and just about every other -ist and -phobic I can think of.

If Scoble were to say "I want to use my name, and I don't want to feel pressured to come up with a handle," I would understand it. He says he doesn't like Second Life because he wanted to use his name there, and I also don't like Second Life's policy of requiring you to use a name they pick for you (you get to enter your own "first name" but you have to choose from their list of "last names"). But to think that "I really like seeing names that look common" is a good basis for a policy? Or to even think that it's worth uttering in public? I don't get it.

This entry was originally posted at http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/738889.html, where there are comments.


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 18th, 2011 11:44 am (UTC)
I can see how treating names as subject to his aesthetics is being an arrogant jerk, but I think it might or might not be -ist or -phobic. If by "names that look common" he means a certain ethnicity, then yeah. And I am reminded of author Owl Goingback being denied some online presence under his real name because it didn't look real! If he just means "a name similar to that which any parents have ever given a child anywhere in the world"--that's some kind of hegemonic, but I don't even know the word for it. Parentist? Usually patriarchal, but not always. Note that this isn't about intent in the emotional sense but rather what those words mean in this context, which I think isn't at all clear.

But I think "arrogant jerk" is enough of a condemnation. I really liked the bit you quoted here, a few entries back, about real names leading to more censored communication and known but not search-linked pseudonyms leading to more open communication. Yes!
Aug. 18th, 2011 12:46 pm (UTC)
OK, supergee mentioned that Indonesia generally has single names, so that was my ignorance. I can see "sexist" via patronymics. I still don't get classist.

Meditations on single names and class did lead me to wonder--could Cher join Google+ under that name?
Aug. 18th, 2011 02:30 pm (UTC)
Well, for instance, in some countries different classes have different naming conventions. A working-class child in Scotland is far less likely to be given a middle name than an upper-middle class child, for instance. A working-class Scottish child is also more likely to have exactly the same legal name as their grandparent, which could cause problems if they both join the same real-names social network and friends/family can't tell which is which. Class also affects nicknames; an English man with the legal name "Peter" is quite likely to be known as "Pete" if he is working-class, but probably not if he is upper-middle.
Aug. 19th, 2011 12:25 am (UTC)
Very interesting! The one you mention that seems relevant here is the same legal name as a grandparent, although I assume that the family has different names if they're both living--no?--but/and both would still qualify as Google+ names.

If the ruling required three names, I would have seen that as classist. And if any specific names were allowed or disallowed, yeah, boy howdy!
Aug. 19th, 2011 01:12 pm (UTC)
They would both qualify as Google+ names, but it would be confusing. There are sufficient men in my family called "Robert Hughes", for instance, that really only birth family members can keep the nicknames straight. My husband outright gave up trying to learn them when he realised that "Old Robert" is younger than "Young Robert" - and that was when he had them in the same room. On a social media site, with small avatars, even birth family would struggle. You'd really want to be able to choose a handle that didn't feature the word "Robert" at all, without having to pretend it was your legal name.

The issue of people who for cultural or other reasons have only one legal name also has a class dimension, I believe, since in India this practice is vastly more common in certain castes than in others (or so I was told by an Indian client).

Another relevant issue may be that the English upper class had a long tradition of making servants with "strange" names adopt a more "respectable" name, so being able to control the name by which one is known - and in particular the ability to choose a name that doesn't conform to the mainstream aesthetic - probably is culturally more of an issue for the working class here than it is for the upper and middle classes.
Aug. 18th, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC)
Classism can come in to play because what names one thinks are "common" is largely dictated by the subculture in which one lives. If you go to a major North American city with a large racial divide that runs along class lines -- which is true in most big North American cities -- you'll see a proliferation of "ethnic" names as one moves down the class system. Also, since unusual names for a given location are often a result of people relocating, and people often relocate due to work or poor living conditions, "lower class," names are more likely to seem uncommon. If you go to a charity dinner event for the social elite that charges $2000 a plate, you're going to see a lot more Michaels and Mary Beths than Shaniquas or Mahmouds. Not that you will see none of the latter cases, but the density does change with class, both because class and race are interrelated and because of the class issues of geographic relocation.

There's also a social meme that you have to name your children for success, such that upwardly-mobile people are more likely to adopt names they associate with the class they're trying to "merge up" to for their children, and since most of the famous upper-class people are white Americans, those are the names often chosen. There's actually a section of Freakonomics all about the idea that a child's name determines their destiny. (I think that the conclusion was that it doesn't, but it's been a while since I read it. Whether it was or wasn't the case, the existence of the chapter was definitely an acknowledgment of the widespread cultural belief.)
Aug. 19th, 2011 12:37 am (UTC)
You & Stef, I think, both interpreted the statement as a lot more restrictive than I did. I'm sure this is in part that I tend to interpret things as inoffensive, including to me personally, unless I have enough evidence to the contrary. (Unfortunately, yes, I very, very often have more than enough evidence to the contrary.) But the only example of a "weird name" given is "M3," and the only criterion is "a first and a last name." So it could be that Shaniqua, or Seon or Seung Hyeon, is a "common name." Anyway, that's how I interpreted it.

If you and Stef are right, and "common" means "sounds European" and not like "M3" or "rowdyboy" for a full name, then I can completely see that as racist and even classist.

At the academy, a lot of students adopt European-type first names; I actually prefer when they don't, but it's completely not my business, so I have never said that to anyone there and never would. I sometimes mispronounce their Korean names, but heck, about 1/5 to 1/4 of my students have never been able to pronounce my last name, and we all just do our best.
Aug. 19th, 2011 01:18 pm (UTC)
I'm sure this is in part that I tend to interpret things as inoffensive, including to me personally, unless I have enough evidence to the contrary.

That's also something with class implications, IME: the less privilege a person has, the less likely they are to feel safe making that assumption.
Aug. 19th, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
And the more privilege a person has, the more likely they are to have the time and mental energy to learn how to bypass an offended reaction, and the time and energy to process one potential offense before encountering the next.
Sep. 4th, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure. I've thought about this a lot, and I think that actually the most important thing in having or achieving that kind of equanimity is getting an effective approach and using it. I think my method and yours are fairly intellectual and time-consuming, but there are many other approaches that aren't; the most important thing for those approaches seems to be having a good role model. Doing it without a good role model may well map to privilege. But saying that learning to bypass the offended reaction itself comes only from privilege seems to me de facto dismissive as well as understanding. I see the truth and utility of a statement like yours, but also its potential for untruth and condescension.

Edited at 2011-09-04 04:40 pm (UTC)
Sep. 4th, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
But saying that learning to bypass the offended reaction itself comes only from privilege seems to me de facto dismissive.

I'm requesting that you read what I said more carefully and think about how it's different from how you paraphrased it.

I said "the more privilege a person has, the more likely they are to have the time and...energy."

Your paraphrase is "learning...comes only from privilege."

Nothing "comes only from" privilege. But privilege changes the odds.

It can change the odds of having a good role model as well as the odds of having time and mental energy.
Sep. 5th, 2011 01:00 am (UTC)
You're completely right that I exaggerated. And I thank you for actually explaining the difference. Yes. Clearly I have developed an allergy to the phrase, yet I want to talk about the uses of the term in part to get past that.

What kinds of privilege do you think change the odds of having good role models? Racial? Class? Having a functional family of origin with good boundaries? I think a lot of it is luck, and (although I know it's in part a function of my studies) for the biggest non-luck determiner I'd bet on the final one mostly; it might tend to map onto the other two somewhat, but I think it's probably wrong and potentially de facto dismissive to attribute it directly to those.

From my tutoring days, I know too many working black single mothers whose philosophy was just not to sweat a lot of stuff, in totally good ways. I don't know how they did it, but they did. And I know too many wealthy, educated, white people who have really bad boundaries and seethe over offenses such as people touching their cars. In that way, social privilege seems to promote an offended reaction.

And no matter what kind of privilege it is, once we've established that, then what? That may sound snarky, but it's a genuine question.

On my recent LJ entry, people are making good distinctions, including between having privilege and showing privilege. I believe I'm not the only ones to confuse them--that that confusion is part of how I got allergic. Because showing privilege may be grounds to dismiss someone's ideas, but having privilege is not necessarily, and the two being conflated means the "then what" to "that opinion is more likely with privilege" is "your argument is invalid."

At this point you have been tirelessly reasonable and kind, so I'd bet that probably isn't your "then what" at all. But I'm not sure what is, seriously, so I'm asking. Just that spreading awareness of privilege is a good thing, as I feel about many other concepts? Do you think that awareness of the role of privilege in my development of this viewpoint should alter my own actions? It certainly should alter what I say or even imply others should do, and it has; but so far here you and lizw have just been talking about my initial comment about how I react, yes?

If someone says, say, "The poor just don't work hard enough," and someone says "you're showing your privilege," then I see how they should change the first person's views and behavior. If someone says, "I'm really happy in life," and someone says, "you're showing your privilege"--well, they may well be right, but even if so, how should that fact affect the first speaker? I'm not saying that what I said is like saying "I am happy," but it is somewhere between the two poles.
Sep. 5th, 2011 02:51 am (UTC)
What kinds of privilege do you think change the odds of having good role models?

I'd guess economic, primarily. I wouldn't be surprised if it were harder to be a good role model when you're working multiple jobs and don't have as much time to spend with your kids. I wouldn't be surprised if kids were less likely to be exposed to other good role models if they attend underfunded schools in high crime areas.

The privilege of having the media you interact with (TV, movies, Internet, school texts) show you a lot of people like you, too. Having a role model means having someone to identify with, and if most of the positive culture around you is about people who seem different from you, then you have fewer role models to choose from.

Likewise, receiving fewer messages that everyone like you is inferior.

From my tutoring days, I know too many working black single mothers whose philosophy was just not to sweat a lot of stuff, in totally good ways.

OK. Are you suggesting that they were good role models and their children would probably turn out the same way? Do you also think you know what they were like when they weren't around you?

And I know too many wealthy, educated, white people who have really bad boundaries and seethe over offenses such as people touching their cars. In that way, social privilege seems to promote an offended reaction.

I think one thing social privilege promotes is feeling safe to show an offended reaction. It's possible other people have similar reactions to having their boundaries violated, but they don't feel they're in a position to show it.

And no matter what kind of privilege it is, once we've established that, then what?

"Then what" for me:

Really, being aware of this stuff is a big worldview shift, for me a bit akin to the worldview shift from monogamy to polyamory. And I don't know that I can describe what it's like or how to get there, but here are some things I do:

Try to be aware of the ways privilege (and lack thereof) affect my life and behavior, especially the things that are largely invisible to me until someone points them out.

Try to be aware of the ways privilege and lack thereof affect other people's lives and behavior.

Pay attention to people who talk about how their experiences are different from mine.

Try to be an ally.

Share my views with people I think should know about them.

I have now read your LJ entry. I agree with everything bcholmes said.

I wish that everyone who picked on the word privilege would take the time to suggest viable alternative language for talking about this stuff.

I definitely don't think "lucky" or "fortunate" gets at it; they ignore the systemic aspect altogether. "Advantage" covers some of the systemic aspect but covers over the injustice. Also, I think "advantage" would take on the same baggage that "privilege" has now if we tried to switch to it -- some people would feel guilty and defensive if their advantage were pointed out.

Here is some of what the alternative language needs to cover:

The social injustice behind the fact that some people are systemically denied rights they should have and have fewer opportunities than others.

The fact that some of the people who have those rights (a) don't realize that anyone is denied them, (b) don't know what the results are of having them systemically denied, and (c) don't want to be asked to think about it.
Sep. 5th, 2011 03:39 am (UTC)
I think we're talking about different kinds of "role models" and different effects of having them. For instance, while I know the effects that seeing people like you on TV has on self-esteem, I can't think of a single TV character I'd think of as a good role model for the kind of equanimity in the face of anger-inducing stuff that I am talking about, so the ability to identify with the characters is kind-of moot. I see a lot of people getting it from genuinely taking Christian messages to heart--not that one has to be Christian, not at all, but that is a source of role models (in the church, I mean) that might map inversely with social class and definitely maps inversely with education. Some people with chronic illness or other disabilities can't see wasting their time and energy on anger, while others--more similar to what I'd do, I fear!--get more apt to react with anger.

I guess I'm saying that while social privilege is real ad crucial, it's not always definitive. Sometimes it's a or even the determining factor and other time various personal, psychological, even spiritual factors make the picture too complicated to make such generalizations totally useful.

Picking at the word doesn't necessarily mean "don't use it." I certainly don't mean that. I guess if I have something I'd like to see, it would be uses of the word that made more distinctions among things such as showing privilege and having it, advantages everyone should and can have and those that are inherently only possible for a few, and above all more nuanced views of how different kinds of social privilege offset each other--intersectionality is good at looking how they augment each other, but when people are both privileged and oppressed, as so many people are, it only stands to reason that there can be mitigation as well. I don't think the latter is more important in any way, but as far as I can tell the former is being investigated and the latter isn't. (I'd be happy to be wrong.) And looking at mitigation might be fruitful in providing "what then" directions.

I also think that the guilt and defensiveness is not always coming just from the person whose privilege is being pointed out. I know full well that dynamic goes on, of course, and I'd guess it's the vast majority; but I think that using the term to dismiss valid points and perform a kind of moral/socio-political one-upsmanship also goes on. We can agree to disagree on this, but evidence is I'm not alone in this opinion, and I think it does have some evidence behind it.

I don't know that ongoing awareness of my privilege is a big switch for me as much as a component that fits very well with much that I've believed at least since my senior year in high school--when I took sociology for the first time--and continuously refines and sharpens those ways of thinking. Actually, it's been less a switch of what world I perceive around me and more like seeing it in more depth. But then I don't experience mono and poly as such different mindsets either; for me it's more like two sets of choices, with a lot of overlap and some not.

Edited at 2011-09-05 03:44 am (UTC)
Aug. 19th, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, but I think that's privilege(1)--something that every human being can benefit from, that it's a shame that some don't have, and that I try to do what I can to make it possible for everyone to have--as opposed to privilege(2)--something that some people have only at the expense of other people and that I try to do what I can to give up and work against anyone having.
Aug. 19th, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
I believe thinking it's a good idea for everyone to share your assumptions and interpretations is privilege(2), actually.
Aug. 20th, 2011 12:03 am (UTC)
And your evidence from comments here that I believe everyone should share my assumptions and interpretations is?

Yes, I have said some things like that in the past, but I really don't think I was doing so here.

Also, "should" is ambiguous. Do I think everyone in the world would be happier if everyone took my approach? Factually, I see some evidence for that. Do I go around to oppressed people saying they should do things my way? Sometimes, but not usually, and less so all the time. Do I say that their feelings based on different assumptions are invalid? Never, really.
Aug. 20th, 2011 12:11 am (UTC)

You said "I tend to interpret things as inoffensive, including to me personally, unless I have enough evidence to the contrary."

Lizw pointed out that being able to do this involved privilege.

You said "I think that's privilege(1)--something that every human being can benefit from, that it's a shame that some don't have, and that I try to do what I can to make it possible for everyone to have."

If there is a way to interpret your statement other than "Every human being can benefit from sharing my assumptions and interpretations, it's a shame that some don't share my assumptions and interpretations, and I try to make it possible for everyone to share my assumptions and interpretations," I don't see it.

However, if you didn't mean that, I believe you.
Aug. 20th, 2011 12:52 am (UTC)
I dunno-- I think I meant something more like "everyone should have the kind of safety and the confidence that breeds to be able to take this position," not "everyone should take this position."

Especially since lizw linked being able to feel that way to feeling safe, you know? What's wrong is not that they don't make the assumptions I do, but that they don't feel safe. I do notice now that "don't feel safe" could just mean "they don't think it's valid" (for instance, "It's not safe to extrapolate with so little data."), so maybe I misinterpreted what lizw meant.

Similarly, I certainly don't think everyone in the world should do graduate work in English, but I think everyone should be able to do it (or some kind of advanced, mentored studies) if they want to. Also, I completely don't feel that even the majority of people would enjoy being in a triad, but I am adamant that we should all have the right to if we want to.

Edited at 2011-08-20 01:00 am (UTC)
Aug. 20th, 2011 12:14 am (UTC)
Do I think everyone in the world would be happier if everyone took my approach? Factually, I see some evidence for that.

How is it possible to "see evidence" that "everyone in the world would be happier if everyone took my approach"? I can't begin to imagine a valid way of collecting such evidence.

If you are going to point to studies carried out by Western psychologists, I will mention that I think they might capture what would work for the same kinds of people they used as subjects, but there are far too many different cultures and situations in the world for such studies to constitute valid evidence for "everyone."
Aug. 20th, 2011 12:40 am (UTC)
You're completely right about "everyone in the world." I don't know much at all about stigma and identity in non-Western cultures. A little in some Asian countries. However, with that qualification, the studies I know do cover a wide range of class, race, sex, sexual orientation, and ages within Western culture.

However, my main point was that saying that is different from saying that everyone "should" react the way I do in the other two ways. You seemed to be saying that I was. If not, I'm very happy to be mistaken.

Aug. 20th, 2011 04:59 am (UTC)
I didn't think you were saying "everyone should react the way I do."

I do think that the way you're using the concept "everyone" shows privilege.

I think it's a form of privilege when a person feels it's fine to use "everyone" when they mean "people like me in some way." It kind of dismisses/ignores/erases other people, and people without that privilege don't get to do that because they have to keep an eye on people different from them.

As for whether it's what you call privilege(1) or what you call privilege(2), it's some of both. It's a form of safety, which everyone should have. But it's a form of erasure, which some people use at the expense of other people.

It's the same sort of erasure as "one size fits all" in a clothing catalog. And it's the same sort of erasure that Scoble is engaging in when he bases part of his argument on the statement "most everyone I've met in the real world has a first and last name."

I'm nitpicking obviously: your using "everyone" in this case doesn't harm anyone. I think over-reliance on that general attitude can harm people, but you're smart enough not to over-rely on it. Also, I don't think it's bad to have privilege or to act from privilege in ways that you're not aware of. I just want to point it out.
Aug. 20th, 2011 11:36 am (UTC)
Actually, I'm happy to discuss this, because it's something that I think is a big issue in online discussions.

As far as identifying each single utterance that does it--I do think that's nitpicking, actually worse than nitpicking, especially after the person has agreed. No one is conscious of all issues of usage all the time. It's as if I corrected every grammar mistake, and then went on to explain rules of tense and case. Except that wouldn't have social support among my online friends, an privilege-nitpicking sometimes does. The result is the same, though: the original topic is lost and the new topic is grammar/privilege. That may be a good thing, in either case, or it may not.

That aside, of course it's an important issue, which I do think about a lot. It's very odd for me to say something like "everyone in the world."

But "everyone"--often I do qualify it, and I don't find that kind of a precision an imposition, but I'm not really happy with any result. I often say "in the USA" if it's a legal matter, but this completely isn't. It seems broader even than "in the Western World"--"those with modern first-world psychological outlooks?" That's close to what I think is true, but past what I can actually support by evidence. And if I say "in the USA," am I implying that it isn't that way elsewhere?

I know this is serious--as a habit of mind, and as a practical matter in online discourse that I know goes to various people of various sociological categories in various countries and that potentially can go to uncounted more people around the world. But I think the best solution is dual: A to be more aware and B to cut some slack yet speak up with "not me," "not us," or "not them."

And you know, when someone says "most everyone I've met," I don't see that as erasure. It's a fact! It's also a fact that the people he's met may be far too limited a group on which to base a decision for an international service that purports to be a common carrier for everyone. But it seems to me he was being very precise and honest--in a way that, in this instance, I was not.

Edited at 2011-08-20 11:49 am (UTC)
Aug. 20th, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC)
I am very NOT interested in critiquing online discussions as a whole, especially from the notion that there is any such thing as "the best solution" to conducting them.

Of course it would be unproductive in many cases to "identify every single utterance" that shows privilege.

In this case, the original topic was, in part, privilege, so I don't think it was an unwarranted topic change.

And you know, when someone says "most everyone I've met," I don't see that as erasure.

Yeah, but you left out the heart of my point: when he bases part of his argument on the statement... and his argument is in favor of ignoring the interests/needs people who are different from the ones he has met.
Aug. 21st, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)
In part my comment was about online discussions in general, so I apologize for that not being as clear as it should have been. (Long explanation of annoyance with how the term is sometimes used is redacted as irrelevant and potentially annoying to you.)

And this is really nitpicking, but the problem as I see it isn't the phrase at all but the argument itself. I do think that's potentially significant: in "one size fits all" the erasure is actually in the phrase and more hidden; in "no one who wears these sizes cares about fashion anyway" it's not in the word choice and is actually more obvious. If you'd said "his argument is in favor of ignoring the interests/needs people who are different from the ones he has met," I'd never have argued. Yup, yup.
Aug. 18th, 2011 06:04 pm (UTC)
Google+ has made exceptions to its name policy for some people who legally have one name but has refused to make exceptions for other such people.
Aug. 18th, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
He uses "aesthetics" and "common." I don't see how those words can be interpreted to mean "a name similar to that which any parents have ever given a child anywhere in the world."

(Which is irrelevant anyway, because many people are allowed to legally change their names to something other than what their parents gave them.)

One First Name And One Last Name In A Single Language privileges the names of mono-cultural people whose names use the Roman alphabet (ASCII characters).

It's sexist because declaring that everyone must use One First Name And One Last Name disproportionately affects women, who are more likely to change their names. Also, women are more likely to need to use a pseudonym to avoid harrassment.
Aug. 19th, 2011 12:48 am (UTC)
See my ct above to epi_LJ: I can see grounds for how I interpreted it, grounds for how you did. The "aesthetics" would be the feeling that one is surrounded by real people--of various ethnicities and classes but real--not pseudonyms.

If you have seen other statements by the same person, your interpretation has support that mine doesn't! For instance, I gather that "in a single language" is a part of the policy that you read elsewhere. That qualification does seem to me to be bizarre and pointless as well as offensively restrictive to some & not others.

Now, personally, I find absurd the idea that a fake real-sounding name is better than something like, say, Nellorat. I'm 100% with you on that. However, it does sound like this person just does want to be surrounded online by real-sounding names. If I did share that preference, I'd just say, fine, a woman can call herself Louise Demian Frost* but not Nellorat. Are women more likely to change to a single name but not make it legal? I can't really see why that would be so, but you'd know better than I do.

* A pseudonym I actually used for poetry in high school--isn't that a kick?
Aug. 19th, 2011 02:53 am (UTC)
Here's the policy that Scoble is discussing:


The policy isn't clear, the enforcement doesn't match the policy, and the enforcement is applied inconsistently. Google has banned a number of names simply because the name sounded like a pseudonym (this includes people whose names are exactly two words in a single language).

If you want to know more about the policy and people's viewpoints on it, and what names have been banned, type "nymwars" into a search engine.

Louise Demian Frost would not be allowed.

this person just does want to be surrounded online by real-sounding names.

Nothing about that statement makes sense to me. First, it posits a difference between real-sounding names and fake-sounding names. I don't accept that there is a difference between them that can be articulated in a way that doesn't leave out some names that people actually use (e.g., your saying "Louise Demian Frost" is real-sounding and "Nellorat" isn't leaves out mononyms, which as you pointed out earlier are used by Indonesians).

If whatever criteria you use to draw that distinction leave out some names that people actually use, you're expressing a preference for discriminating against certain people. I think that's wrong and offensive.

(Of course people are allowed to say offensive things, yada yada. I am also allowed to say their statements are wrong and offensive when they do.)

I react to it the same way I would react to "For aesthetic reasons, I want to be surrounded online by only fat people" or "...only men" or "...only people between the ages of 25 and 60." I can see reasons for having small groups that meet those criteria, but I can't see reasons for having the biggest social network in the world be that way.
Aug. 18th, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC)
It's a completely ridiculous position. On the one hand, "common" is incredibly relative. If you carve my first name off just before the hyphen, it's astoundingly common in some parts of the world, relatively uncommon in other parts, and its commonality differs even in a given place depending on your community -- it's common here in Muslim communities, for example. But even aside from relative commonality, having an uncommon name doesn't make it any less legitimate. (If you *don't* truncate my first name before the hyphen, it's globally unique, but it's still a legitimate name, and my actual real name.)

This feels like part of a wider discussion about nomenclature which has been getting rather heated of late (or perhaps it always is, for people sufficiently distant from average age of those giving birth), and while it does make me bristle to some degree when I see ordinary names where every vowel has been replaced with a 'y', that's not an internal reaction that I think is good or fair or should dictate policy or makes those people less legitimately-named.
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