A Modest Proposal

I've been thinking a lot about names recently. You see, I never liked my own name very much. For one thing, it has no history or special meaning to anyone—my mother picked it out of an issue of TV Guide. It also doesn't command any respect, or at least I wouldn't respect someone named Craig.

Most importantly, I don't associate with it. When I think of myself—what I've done, who I am—I certainly don't think, "that's Craig."

I don't even really know how to say it. A number of years ago, someone asked me if it was pronounced "Cr-egg" or "Cr-ay-g," and I had no idea what to tell them. I still don't.

Because of this disdain, I do everything possible to avoid it. I cringe when I have to identify myself on the phone, or when I'm meeting someone for the first time.

I don't even like saying other people's names, since I irrationally assume they must dislike their name too. So I guess I've been projecting my own neuroses on other people.

To get around this problem, I typically address people by their chosen title—"Professor Jones," or "Doctor Johnson"—or by the rather anonymous "sir," or "ma'am."

But what about people who don't identify with a profession or a sex? What should I call them?

And that got me thinking: isn't the world full of labels? We try so hard to eliminate the racial slurs and hurtful epithets, but what about the rest of our society's labels?

We're pigeonholed by our job, our social roles, and yes, even our names. Why should anyone have these brandings thrust upon them?

And so I offer a modest proposal: that we completely do away with the practice of giving our children letter-based names, and instead bestow them with numbers.

What better way to do away with the privileged advantages some people possess? Numbers are completely neutral, and would put everyone on an equal playing field!

That's right, everybody can have their very own, perfectly unique number. And since there are less than 7 billion people in the world, that means we'd only have to go to 10 digits for each individual. Most of us are perfectly capable of remembering ten-digit phone numbers, so why not ten-digit people numbers?

It's even better than our current system, because with numbers, no two people in the whole world need have the same name. So for instance, I might be 3,694,092,784. Or maybe 4,739,206,437. Who knows?!

Of course, this would need to be phased in over a generation or two. But I'll be doing my part; my first-born son will be named 6,936,273,019. What do you think? Does it sound too ethnic?

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.