a weblog of wordplay by Eric Harshbarger
Standardized TestsOne of my first realizations as a child that words could interplay with one another came from the most unlikely of sources: standardized tests in school. You know the type, where you have to have a No. 2 pencil and fill in the bubbles, and at the bottom of the pages there were little icons that indicated whether you were to "Goto to next page" or "STOP!"
Well, the front page of those tests were always used to fill out personal information like your name and address. You were supposed to, in capital letters, write your last name first, then your first name, and finally your middle initial (or possibly your whole last name).
For me this meant writing:
HARSHBARGER ERIC CURTISOften the space allotted for last name was only 10 characters long, so I would have to truncate my surname to HARSHBARGE
This made me sad.
At some point, however, as I was dutifully filling in the bubbles corresponding to my name's letters in each column, I realized that if I were allowed a little freedom, I could represent my whole name in a format like so:
HARSHBARGERICURTISThe final two letters of my last name matched the first two of my first name... whose final letter matched the first letter of my middle name.
Right then, in the third grade, I should have realized this would set the tone of my future perception of the world: things could work so much better if I were allowed to just ignore the constraints imposed by external authorities. You see, with a little imagination, I could squeeze my whole name into 22 spaces; but having to adhere to the defined spaces I had to be known as
HARSHBARGEERIC CURTISwhich just seemed so silly.
Oh well. I got over it.
[23 April 2007]
Comments about this article:In Mexico, there is also a small place in the tests to write your name. Knowing the mexican culture, the space should be larger; I could never write my full name: Claudia Margarita Camarena Gomez.
My sons only have 1 first name each, and a short last name. yey!
Posted by: The Claude
Posted by: AnnaLiesa Dunn (no middle name)
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