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Why are more people opting for legal name-changes than ever before?

The BBC reports that record numbers of Britons are legally changing their name by deed-poll, and speculates on the factors that account for this (escaping your past, reverting to maiden names after divorce, merging names for marriage), but they miss the big one: the fact that you can't just change what you call yourself anymore. My grandparents all had fistfulls of names -- the names they were born with, their Hebrew names, their Yiddish names, their anglicized names, their nicknames -- and their ID, papers and records use a mishmash of all of them.

I've had several passports without my middle name ("Efram") which I've never used (though I'm not embarrassed by it or anything); however all the identity documents I've received in the past decade had insisted that all my names be present and identical on every piece, thanks to the growing use of databases and the growth of the Zuckerberg doctrine that every person should have exactly one name and that name should be identical in every context.

So while Britons might earlier have gone by names of their choosing with little trouble, today, officialdom requires that what you call yourself be what the state calls you, hence all the formal name-changing.

And it looks like this could be a record year, with an estimated 58,000 people changing their name by the end of 2011 - an increase of 4,000 on the previous year. A decade ago, only 5,000 people changed their names.

Many have been inspired by celebrities or their sporting heroes. In the past few years, the UK Deed Poll Service has welcomed 15 new Wayne Rooneys into the world, five Amy Winehouses and 30 Michael Jacksons.

And nearly 200 people can now say that "Danger" is officially their middle name.

However, 300 people opted for the solid but less glamorous John Smith, which indicates that people change their names for reasons other than just fun.

Getting people's names right in software design: a LOT harder than it looks

Charlie Stross weighs in on the Nym Wars and Google Plus's braindead "real names" policy. He reprints Patrick McKenzie's prescient list of problems with name-handling in software design, a must-must-must-read for anyone thinking about the subject, and then ruminates further.
People have exactly one canonical full name.
* People have exactly one full name which they go by.
* People have, at this point in time, exactly one canonical full name.
* People have, at this point in time, one full name which they go by.
* People have exactly N names, for any value of N.
* People's names fit within a certain defined amount of space.
* People's names do not change.
* People's names change, but only at a certain enumerated set of events.
* People's names are written in ASCII.
* People's names are written in any single character set.
* People's names are all mapped in Unicode code points.
* People's names are case sensitive.
* People's names are case insensitive.

Read the rest

Understanding the Nym Wars

Here's a pair of great (JWZ) posts (Kevin Marks) on the Nym Wars, in which Googlers, net users, and sensible people try to convince the G+ team that it's insane to tell people that they must socialize using their "real names," and to then try to adjudicate what a "real name" is. Both link out to the canonical essays produced to date on the subject, such as EFF and boyd, and add a lot of good context.