A Different Perspective on Unusual Names:

The discussion last week of unusual names led a couple of people to e-mail me their personal unusual name stories. Here's one, from a very smart and successful former student of mine:

[Another former student] passed along your very entertaining piece for Slate.com on the case law of various funny names. I thought you might like to know that my middle name is "c" -- as in the scientific abbreviation for the speed of light.

I probed further, and learned that it was indeed c, lower case, in italics, and with no period. What's more, this was the name the student's parents gave her, on her birth certificate. The reasons for the name:

I come from a family of scientists, my mother's maiden name begins with a "C," and I was born very very quickly. My father has this to add: "I don't think you have a middle name. You have a middle symbol. Something simple, ethereal, brief, fast, and different."

And my ex-student's experience with the name, which "over time has become [her preference] as well [as her parents']:

[I]t's a pain -- class rings, diplomas, passports, etc. are almost always printed incorrectly, despite my efforts to get it right. I omit it from my resume, etc. to eliminate the possible perception that I've made a typo spelling my own name. On the other hand, it's a great ice breaker.

My sense from our correspondence is that the person is quite happy with the name, the (modest) effect it has had on her life, and with her parents' decision to assign the name to her.

I should note, of course, that much of this has to do with this being (1) the person's middle name, which can usually easily be included or omitted as the person prefers, and (2) a middle name that's similar to normal middle initials, so that it can be turned into a "C." with no questions asked if some institution demands a middle initial. Being "Jane 5 Doe" or "c Doe" would be much harder, I think, than being "Jane c Doe."