& The other day I heard of an individual named Geoffrey Brinkley Black-Horrigan. I know nothing more of him than his name, and, because of the way people are naming their kids these days, I can only assume he’s a him.
I didn’t have much else to do at the time, and found myself pondering Geoff and what he means to all of us. He – his name to be more precise – means big changes for a lot of people.
I have assumed that Geoff (please, let us hope that at least his first name has been shortened in common usage) sprang from a father whose last name is Horrigan and a mother whose last name is Black, and had at least one grandparent named Brinkley. I also assume that the parents, who decided to combine names, are liberated. If they are macro-liberated, the father’s name is Black and the mother’s name is Horrigan.
Let’s further assume that Geoff manages to grow up to be a strapping young lad, and his father gets a promotion and moves his family into a neighborhood bathed in BMWs and seething with name-minglers.
Their neighbors, who were known before their marriage as Claudia Thornwick and Harold Bottoms, are now known as Claudie and Hal Thornwick-Bottoms.
Claudie and Hal have a daughter whose name, at least on her birth certificate, is Rosalinda Susan Thornwick-Bottoms. Everybody who thinks she’s cute – including our friend Geoff – just calls her Rosy.
In the interests of space and the family nature of this publication, I’m going to dispense with the goings-on between Geoff and Rosy and just tell you that they fall in love, and decide to get married. Geoff, having been taught by his father that to get along you’ve got to go along, agrees to allow Rosy to put her two names at the end of the string of last names, because Rosy is cute and because Rosy is macro-liberated and because Rosy demands it.
After several trips to the printer to get the names on the wedding invitations straightened out, the big day comes and the preacher pronounces Geoff and Rosy man and wife and introduces them to those assembled at the altar as Ms. and Mr. Rosalinda Susan/Geoffrey Brinkley Black-Horrigan-Thornwick-Bottoms.
The preacher has no problem doing that because he once made a living diving for oysters and can hold his breath for a long time.
Geoff and Rosy soon have a baby son and, as is the wont of many parents who are driven to prove that their first son had a father, decide to name him Geoff Junior.
This is the occasion for the first major get-right-down-to- the-dirty-laundry-squabble ever encountered between Ms. and Mr. Rosalinda Susan/Geoffrey Brinkley Black-Horrigan-Thornwick-Bottoms.
The nut of the problem is this: They don’t know just exactly where in the name to put the Jr.
Rosy won’t accept Geoff’s penchant to place the Jr. at the end of the name, as is the custom, because that would infer that there once walked on this earth another individual named G.B. Thornwick-Bottoms.
“Those are MY names,” says Rosy in the midst of a particularly petulant episode. Finally Geoff Sr., still going along to get along, agrees to place the Jr. in the middle of the name.
Geoff Jr. gets off to a scary start in life at his baptism, when the minister holds the little kid’s head under water and says “I hereby christen you Geoffrey Brinkley Black-Horrigan Junior Thornwick-Bottoms in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”
The baptizer, unlike the marrying minister, never dived for oysters, and it takes him some time to get all that out. By the time he gets to “Holy Ghost,” the kid has turned purple and comes up gasping, sputtering and flailing.
Two and a half-years later, when Rosy has tired of little Geoff, she enrolls him in a posh pre-pre-pre school.
Two days after the teacher first tries to call the name of Geoffrey Brinkley Black-Horrigan Junior- Thornwick-Bottoms, she quits.
Now I’ll be very frank with you. I have nothing against little Geoff Jr., particularly with what he’s been through, but I sincerely hope he develops a reproductive problem, or is gay, or decides to become a Catholic priest.
I can’t imagine what would happen if he fell in love with and married and made babies with Eustace Claire, beautiful daughter of P.B./S.Q. (they forgot their first names a long time ago) Montenegro- Childs- Farningsworth- Beacon.
Even if they named their first kid Joe, the effects of a Joe Montenegro- Childs- Farningsworth- Beacon- Black- Horrigan Junior- Thornwick- Bottoms would be too much to comprehend, even for people who wear undershorts with alligators on them.
Given a few generations of that sort of name-mingling, the telephone book will be delivered by pickup truck – one book to each truck.
Printers, particularly those in the business of wedding announcements, will have Arab oil sheiks working for them.
All of those people, like teachers, who have to call names as a part of their profession, will have quit, except Army drill sergeants, who will be required to have master’s degrees in linguistics and Ph.D’s in speech.
Formal White House Dinners – the kind where they announce everybody’s name when they enter the room – will begin at 8 a.m.
People who chisel names in gravestones will begin their work on the day a person is born, hoping to finish the engraving before the baby dies of old age.
Computers, because they don’t know what to do unless there are spaces between words, will become obsolete; people will be employed full-time to address envelopes; convention name tags will evolve into stick-on notebooks; and lots of people will love it when they are given 20-digit numbers by banks and governments and the drycleaners because the numbers will be easier to remember than their names.
All that and more will go on, one can assume, until a particularly liberated couple named Annabelle Delores/ Arthur Michael Anderson- Norbert- Dillingham- Ephraim- Velasquez- Elliot- Scottingworth- Marshall- Ionaiddes- Trueblood- Hadenfeldt get crazy and decide to use only their initials.
We’ll know them as Adam and Eve Smith. Then we can start all over again.
& Avoiding hyphens, I’m outta here.
Originally published 5/27/1984 in the Denver Post