My wife and I just celebrated our 15th anniversary a few days ago. When we got married, I changed my name from “Jeremy Rothman” to “Jeremy Rothman-Shore.” I had never specifically wanted a hyphenated name, but it was important to me that my wife and I have the same surname. She didn’t want to give up “Shore,” so if I wanted us to match, we would either both have to hyphenate or I would have to be the one to change my name.
I did think about becoming “Jeremy Shore,” but in the end I decided that I just couldn’t quite bring myself to give up my own last name either. “Rothman-Shore” is not bad as hyphenated names go – just three syllables – so we went with it.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but hyphenating my name has had a huge unexpected benefit. I am quite confident that I am the only “Jeremy Rothman-Shore” in the whole world. And this is quite useful in the Internet age.
As social media has become popular, there has been a land grab for being the first one to claim a popular user identifier. Twitter handles, LinkedIn profiles, Facebook pages, domain names all uniquely identify an individual person, and when you have several people with the same name, confusion arises. People with common names end up having to use odd tweaks to avoid collisions, such as using their middle initial or adding a number (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org). And if you are the early adopter who gets the clean version (e.g. email@example.com), you then have to contend with all the mis-delivered messages and confusion from people trying to contact the other people who share your name.
I’ve been lucky enough to never have to deal with this. When I wanted to register “rothmanshore.com”, it was available. My twitter handle (@jrothmanshore) was there for the taking. I never have to worry about joining a company and having an email address conflict.
And today, I had another nice benefit. I received a message on my blog that a nice person in Cupertino, CA has my t-shirt and offered to mail it to me.
I didn’t leave my t-shirt in California. Rather, I’m a huge NPR listener, and I am a sucker for podcasts that raise my money by offering t-shirts. I love my 99% Invisible shirt, and I have been waiting years to get my hands on the long-awaited Planet Money t-shirt. So, when another of my favorite podcasts, The Truth, offered t-shirts as part of their Season 2 fundraiser, I couldn’t resist and ordered one. It was due to arrive very soon.
Apparently, there was some sort of shipping mistake. My address was confused with someone else’s, and a person in Cupertino received two – one with my name on the label and one with his. The Truth is a small operation run by a small, dedicated group, so I don’t have any hard feelings that they made a mistake like this.
And here is the benefit of the hyphenated name – the person who received my shirt googled me, and I was the only Jeremy Rothman-Shore who popped up. I don’t exactly keep a low profile online, so it was pretty easy for him to send me a message through my blog offering to mail it to me.
Ah, the benefits of uniqueness!
I’m not saying that having a hyphenated name isn’t without its inconveniences. My name sometimes has trouble fitting on credit cards and business cards. Airlines can’t seem to handle the idea of a hyphen in a name, so I have to fly as “Jeremy RothmanShore.” And customer service people often decide to shorten it and simply refer to me as “Mr. Shore.”
But it got me my t-shirt.