Thursday, August 30, 2012

Names, Words, Success, and Acronyms

            In an apocryphal anecdote, Cole Porter's mother added a singular "A" to Cole Porter's name because she had heard that people whose name spelled a word were more successful in life.  If there is indeed that much power in the initials of a name we may be left to wonder how much intentional or coincidental gematriya was employed in the selection of the center initial.  If we assume that Ms. Porter was set on both the name "Cole" and wanted her son to have only three initials then she would only have had two options, "A" and "U."  By going with "A" she chose the first letter of the alphabet, perhaps indicating that she wanted her son to be "first" in whatever he did.  But she also chose a far more common letter and ladled her son with a seemingly symbolically unremarkable name. 

            By the same standards my own name dooms me to insignificance, but perhaps not as extreme as my parents LMF, NPF, or my brother, DJF.  My brother currently has nearly 18000 followers on twitter.  Imagine how many he could have if my parents had the foresight to make sure his middle name started with “a” (daf: a Persian drum resembling a tambourine, but without the cymbals).  My Uncle Steve, accepted as a success within my family and the statistician community, has the only set of initials with a readily pronounceable unit; SEF. 

A cursory check of Forbes’ top 100 most wealthy people for 2012 indicates that not a single one of those billionaires has a name which spells a word.  Of course there are many other indicators of success which are measured in more elusive individual ways.  For instance, I was unable to find a list of the top 100 happiest people in the world, or the most satisfied.  No certain conclusions can be drawn from this list.  The survey of the forbes list indicates that whether your name represents an esteemed acronym, common word, or even, a clean slate, success is still a possibility.  Clearly there are possibilities for further research.

Choice acronyms for each of my family members presented in alphabetical order, followed by the total number of acronyms (as listed on

DJF - Daniel James Fienberg

Divorced Jewish Female
Djibouti Franc (ISO currency code)

Total: 2

LMF - Lorne Michael Fienberg

Lacking Moral Fiber
Library Management Facility
Light Manufacturing Facility
Logical Mainframe
Lutheran Ministries of Florida

Total: 15

NPF - Nona Paula Fienberg

National Park Foundation
National Peanut Festival
Nigerian Police Force
No Problem Found
Nuclear Power Facility

Total: 24

OJF - Ori Joseph Fienberg

Online Job Facility
Order of Sir John Franklin

Total: 3