Why people name things, and themselves, "Zzyzx"


When I was a youngster, during the golden age of prank calls before caller ID, my friend and I found the name Zerba Zzyx at the end of the telephone book. We called Mr. Zzyx and asked if he realized he was the last name in the telephone book. Much to our surprise, he pleasantly told us that yes, he was aware of that fact, and hung up. (It wasn't one of our proudest prank call moments.)

Anyway, I hadn't thought about Mr. Zzyx for many years until I just saw this post on Weird Universe about "Zzyzx Road," just outside of Baker, California. Here's the origin of the road's name:

Entrepreneur Curtis Springer decided he wanted to be the last name in the directory, so when he opened a health spa at a natural springs in the Mojave Desert he called it Zzyzx Springs, so he could promote it as "the last word in health." By 1965 he had convinced the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to rename the road running to the springs Zzyzx Road. (It used to be Soda Road)...


Several movies have been named after Zzyzx Road, including the record-holder for the lowest-grossing Hollywood movie ever.


Sufficiently curious about any connection between Zzyzx Road and the Zerba Zzyx who I telephonically encountered in the 1970s, I did a Google search found this 1981 article from the Associated Press:


(Cincinnati) Roger Obermeyer wanted a way to make his name noticed in the city telephone book, so the advertising executive has himself listed as Zerba Zzyx, the last name in the directory. It was a matter of convenience, money and distinction for Obermeyer, 37, who runs his agency, Obel Productions, from Zzyx's address. "If people ever forget my name, I can always tell them I'm the last number in the book," he said. Obermeyer formerly lived in California, where Zzyx.' was born. "There is a road that runs between Los Angeles and Las Vegas called Zzyx Road — yes,''it actually does exist — and it stuck in my mind," Obermeyer said. The first name Zerba is a take-off from Zorba the Greek. • Although the listing has its advantages, being last isn't always best. Crank calls are part of the distinction. "They usually start about 2:30 or 3 (p.m.), right when school lets out, or late at night, when people are sitting around getting high or whatever," Obermeyer said. Cincinnati Bell has a policy not to "put fake names in the directory," said company spokesman Jerry Wright. But "we'll take their word for it. With a residential customer, we're not particularly going to challenge them."