As I wrote elsewhere, I am known here as Doug Wilson, though there is another person in town with that name. To distinguish us, I could use my full name, Douglas Pardoe Wilson, which has the advantages of being a unique descriptor. I don’t there is anyone else in the world with that name. Adding my middle name was all I needed. But the same would not be true for my brother, Alan. His middle name is the common one of Edward, so there are many Alan Edward Wilsons in the world, including one who went to my old high school in North Vancouver.
So let me try to produce a unique descriptor for my brother. As is common in some countries, let’s add our mother’s maiden name. He would then be Alan Edward Cottet Wilson. Unique. But let’s be consistent here. If he is going to have four names, I should as well. So let me be Douglas Pardoe Cottet Wilson.
This may not be good enough for some people, though. Consider a John William Smith, whose mother’s maiden name was Jones. Those are all common names, so the combined name of John William Jones Smith may be not be unique. So what now? We could add a the maiden names of one grandmother. That’s probably enough to get a unique descriptor for the man, but to be fair, let’s add both of them.
Instead of continuing with an artificial example, I’ll be egocentric again and look at what my own would be. While it only takes three names to make mine unique, it did no harm to add a fourth, with the end goal of giving everyone the same number of names. Putting the maiden name of my maternal grandmother before that of my paternal one, I would then be Douglas Pardoe Walker Tighe Cottet Wilson. If I continued adding maiden names past absurdity, then my real middle name of Pardoe would reoccur, since it was the maiden of my third great-great-great-grandmother Cicely, of Ombersley, Worcestershire, England.
That’s carrying things a bit far. How many names do we need to provide every human being with a unique descriptor? Four, Five, Six? And what would your name be?