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In the United States, would it be legal to have an infinitely long middle name?

It appears that it would not be a problem, since most of the time people only use the first letter of the middle name. When a middle name is asked for, it is usually permissible to truncate it if it does not fit in the field provided. Some notes:

  • We will assume that the name in question is computable. That is, there is an algorithm that given a natural number n outputs the nth character of the name.
  • All the characters in the name are standard characters of the English alphabet.
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    Infinity with a beginning? Must be a uni-directional infinity? Or Just an ridiculously long name like the roman-letter representation of phi? "onepointsixoneeightzerothreethree". 33 characters of an indeterminately long number. Jan 21, 2019 at 18:57
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    @AustinTFrench Unidirectional. i.e. it is a ω-word. Also, not a ridiculously long but finite name. A ridiculously long but finite name has a last character, whereas a ω-word does not.
    – PyRulez
    Jan 21, 2019 at 19:00
  • @AustinTFrench There are plenty of infinities that can be said to have a beginning with respect to some ordering. These are called well-ordered infinities. Consider the natural numbers: 1,2,3,....This infinity begins with the number 1.
    – David Reed
    Jan 21, 2019 at 21:09
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    @PyRulez It's turtles all the way down. Jan 22, 2019 at 0:27

4 Answers 4

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You cannot have an infinitely long name because a name has to be something that can be written down or spoken to be used. An infinitely long name can't be written down or spoken.

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Laws about names vary from state to state. One of the more common ways to give a person a name is to report a birth to the state in obedience to the laws requiring that births be reported; the state, if satisfied as to the accuracy of the report, issues a birth certificate. The name appearing on the birth certificate is often regarded as the person's full name, until some event causes the name to change.

As an example, Vermont law, beginning July 2019, requires the report be made on a form approved by the Department of Health. The rules adopted by the Department of Health require

Not exceed a total of 50 characters in length for each of First, Middle, and Last Name. The count of maximum allowable characters shall include hyphens, apostrophes, and periods when used as part of the name.

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  • Do any states permit infinitely long names?
    – PyRulez
    Jan 21, 2019 at 19:02
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    Only if you can write the name down on an application form.
    – user6726
    Jan 21, 2019 at 19:59
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In order to change your name, you must file a petition for a change – here is the form used by King County (WA) courts. This requires you to write in the full new name on a line that has a finite length. The court has the discretion to reject such a petition, though not capriciously. By definition, you cannot actually write the name in the space. You could perhaps fit in a finite algorithm describing the name, but your new name (if granted) would be the text algorithm, not the string that the algorithm computes. No state allows you to forgo the step of actually filling in the requested new name.

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It would be illegal in

Your name has to be on a registry. The Registry is guarded by people in the registrar's office. They are allowed to reject names. An Infinitely long "middle name" or just a string of nonsense can be rejected as damaging to the child. The highest court in Germany also said: you can have at most 5 names, of which at most pairs can be hyphenated together.

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  • Not demonstrably lawful might be more accurate. The Registry is still waiting for the applicant to complete the form... Jan 25 at 20:57

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