Modern Software Experience

2008-05-28

Longest Name

easily broken

You might think that the Longest Name record hardly matters, as any such record is easily broken by determined parents registering their child. However, it is not so easy to break the current record. If the clerk who has to enter it does not object to an overly long name, you may find that the registration software they use sets a limit anyway.

longest name

Besides, the reportedly longest name ever used is rather long. So long, that most people cannot even pronounce the given name without pausing for breath - and the family name is even longer:

Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff­voraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schafers­wessen­schafe­waren­wohl­gepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen­von­angreifen­durch­ihr­raubgierig­feinde­welche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vor­an­die­erscheinen­wan­der­erste­erde­mensch­der­raumschiff­gebrauch­licht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraft­gestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum­auf­der­suche­nach­die­stern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­der­neu­rasse­von­verstandig­menschlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­an­lebenslanglich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­­von­hin­zwischen­­sternartig­raum, Senior.

Wolfe­schlegel­stein­hausen­berger­dorff

He himself generally gave his name as no more than Hubert Blaine Wolfe­schlegel­stein­hausen­berger­dorff on most documents. He was commonly known as Hubert Wolfe, and wrote his name as Wolfe+585, to indicate another 585 characters following those first five letters of his surname.

alphabet

The initial letters of his given names enumerate the alphabet. Including the spaces between the 26 parts, the given name is 175 characters long. Together with the last name, allowing for a space in between, his name is 770 characters long.

Guinness Book of Records

Mr Wolfe+585 was born on 1904 Feb 29 in Bergedorf, near Hamburg, Germany, immigrated to the United States of America and settled in Philadelphia. He is listed in several editions of The Guinness Book of Records, and for the 1980 edition, he was even photographed standing in front of a New York marquee displaying his name.

story

Still, that last name is decidedly weird. If you bother to insert spaces between the words, and add some missing umlauts while you are at it, you get the following German text:

Wolfe­schlegelsteinhausen­bergerdorff voraltern waren gewissenhaft schäfers wessen schafe waren wohl gepflege und sorgfältigkeit beschutzen von angreifen durch ihr raubgierig feinde welche voraltern zwolftausend jahres vor an die erscheinen wan der erste erde mensch der raumschiff gebrauch licht als sein ursprung von kraft gestart sein lange fahrt hinzwischen sternartigraum auf der suche nach die stern welche gehabt bewohnbar planeten kreise drehen sich und wohin der neu rasse von verstandig menschlichkeit konnte fortplanzen und sicher freuen an lebenslanglich freude und ruhe mit nicht ein furcht vor angreifen von anderer intelligent geschöpfs vonhin zwischen sternartig raum.

Soft Hyphen

The run-on text that makes up his name above actually contains the same breaks, I used the Soft Hyphen (­) to assist browsers in displaying that name in a reasonable manner. Sadly, not all browsers make good use of it, but that is another subject entirely.

translation

I tried both Yahoo! Babelfish and Google Translate, but neither ones makes much of that German text, so I made the following deliberately literal translation the old-fashioned way, and merely inserted some commas to improve readability. Even poor translation skills cannot hide how outrageous the text is:

Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff who, of old were conscientious shepherds whose sheep were well tended and carefully protected from attack by rapacious enemies, who, of old twelve thousand years ago, to them appeared, when the first earth human from the spaceship, using light as origin of power, that started its long journey between the starry space, searching for those stars that have habitable planet circles and in which the new race of sensible humanity could procreate and enjoy a lifelong joy and peace with not a fear for attack by other intelligent creatures from starry space.

practical joke

It sure seems like a practical joke. The February 29 birth date is perfectly possible, but is also the kind of date a jokester might have picked as a tip-off. The text is not German as it is spoken either. For example, I translated mit nicht as with not, but you’d say without and a German would say ohne. The original German makes as much sense to me as I’d expect to get from an English speaker picking German words out of a dictionary. I even find the name to be reminiscent of the ridiculous name that the Monty Python bunch dreamed up for the candidate of the Silly Party in their Election Night Special sketch.

removed

The Guinness people like to verify their facts before publishing. So, he was presumably able to show the Guinness officials a passport or some other official document with his name on it.
His mention in the book was not removed from publication because it was inaccurate, but only because Guinness changed policy on what kind of records to include in the book. Reason for the removal of records like these is simply that Guinness does not want to encourage even longer names.

name change

That his parents gave him an A through Z list of forenames sounds possible, but have a good look at that list. Notice that most of these are English names and not German ones. His parent, presumably born around 1880, must have been surprisingly anglophile Germans to give him that series of names. The mere fact that these names are English strongly suggests that he changed his name himself after living in the United States for a while.

I came across a comment that the first wide publication of this name may be an 1965 Jun 25 press release from Associated Press, but the AP website does not offer the ability to verify that. Any press release was probably written after a clerk tipped of the local newspaper about this name change.
His name reminds me of Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken, but that book was first published in 1968.

research

Anyone born is 1904 can reasonably assumed to be deceased. Perhaps a genealogical society in Philadelphia can research to find out more about the man behind the Guinness Record Book entry.

James Bond

Late in 2006, James Fearn, a council worker in Wallsall, Stafford, England changed his name by deed poll to James Dr No From Russia with Love Goldfinger Thunderball You Only Live Twice On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Diamonds Are Forever Live and Let Die The Man with the Golden Gun The Spy Who Loved Me Moonraker For Your Eyes Only Octopussy A View to a Kill The Living Daylights Licence to Kill Golden Eye Tomorrow Never Dies The World Is Not Enough Die Another Day Casino Royale Bond to celebrate the release of the latest James Bond film in that list.
Newspaper stories quote him as saying I wanted to be James Bond and now I am - it’s the ultimate fantasy. I can’t wait for the first time somebody asks me what my name is.

Never Say Never

Allow me to suggest that, were you ever to meet Mr Bond, and are not shaken by his stirring presence, an appropriate topic of conversation might be just why Never Say Never Again is missing from his name. He is sure to have an eloquent and well-reasoned argument for it, that allows him to start on a dazzling display of his intimate knowledge of all things Bond over a glass of Martini.

longest deed poll name

That James all-the-official-franchise-movies Bond name is, including the 68 spaces between the 69 words, 378 characters long. It the longest ever recorded on a United Kingdom deed poll.

longer...

The name change was reported in various newspapers on 2006 Nov 17. According to the story, Mr Bond was 23 at the time. If he updates his name with each new Bond movie, the length of his final name may strongly depends on the shared longevity of the James Bond franchise and the now-eponymous Mr Bond, and is likely to exceed 512 characters.

Fantastic Name

In 2008 November, George Garratt of Glastonbury decided to change his name to Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined.
The Telegraph and Independent feature a photo.

Autumn Brown

Metro remarked that the fantastic name is not the longest name, because he has been beaten out by Autumn Sullivan Corbett Fitzsimmons Jeffries Hart Burns Johnson Willard Dempsey Tunney Schmeling Sharkey Carnera Baer Braddock Louis Charles Walcott Marciano Patterson Johansson Liston Clay Frazier Foreman Brown, a 1-year-old from Wolverhampton, whose parents sensibly decided to give her 25 middle names..

Jamie

Rhoshandiatellyneshiaunneveshenk Koyaanisquatsiuth Williams is a girl born in Beaumont, Texas, USA on 1984 Sep 12. That name is 57 characters long, and according to the Guinness Book of Records 1995, the longest to ever appear on a birth certificate. Yet her father later filed an amendment expanding her first name to 1019 letters and her middle name to 36, without publishing that name. She appeared on an episode of the Nickelodeon program Figure It Out as Jamie.

software limitations

255

A lot of software limits name fields to 255 (256 minus 1) characters. That is certainly sufficient for most names, but not for Mr Wolfe+585. Even a field of 511 characters (512 minus 1) is not good enough. Sticking with powers of two, a fixed field would need to be 1023 (1024 minus 1) characters long. The minus 1 is for either a length field or a terminating null character.

Family Tree Maker

Family Tree Maker 16 limits the full name to just 40 characters - and will bluntly truncate names that are longer! I just tested, and Family Tree Maker 2008 only starts truncating at a thousand characters. That maximum length reflects decimal instead of binary thinking and that is not a positive indicator of program quality. Fact is that FTM2008 is so defective in many other ways, that even faithful upgraders switched back to FTM 16.

best practice

Best practice is to not use a fixed sized field, but allow any length. The actual length limitation will typically be 32.768 (2^16), which is already more than sufficient for a short story, or 4.294.967.296 (2^32), which is more than enough for the complete text of Encyclopædia Britannica, leaving sufficient room for reasonable quality illustrations.

updates

2008-06-11 FamilySearch Philadelphia

The free FamilySearch Record Search Pilot just added Philadelphia Marriages 1885-1951. It does not list either Hubert Wolfe or anyone called Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff.

2008-11-16 Captain Fantastic

Added Autumn Brown, Captain Fantastic and Jamie.

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