Advertising That Your Child Comes From an Upscale, Graduate-School-Educated Home and Therefore Won’t Need Financial Assistance if (When) He or She is Accepted Into Yale.

One of the really annoying (at least to me) fads among late Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, mainly, I suspect, from the Northeast and the Washington, D.C. area, is the hyphenated-last-name thing for their children.  As in, say, Alex Seitz-Wald, a Millennial blogger at the Washington Post’s The Plum Line, whose post from this morning, “John Boehner’s Escape Hatch is Closing,” I just read.

I don’t know anything about him; I know it’s a “him,” not a “her,” because I’ve read mentions of one or another of his posts, with references to him as, well, “him.”  Or, that is, I wouldn’t know anything about him were it not for the hyphenated last name.

But because of the hyphenated last name, I do—or at least probably do—know quite a bit about him: that his parents have graduate degrees and fast-track careers, probably as doctors, lawyers or the like, and that he grew up in a gentrified city neighborhood or an upscale, probably older, leafy (definitely leafy) suburb somewhere not far from the Atlantic Ocean and not south of D.C., or in a college town.  He spent his youth, when not in school, in highly competitive sports leagues (probably soccer) and in look-at-me volunteer programs, maybe overseas during the summer.  He had private tutors for math and/or whatever other subject he needed in order to ace the SAT.  And he spent his four undergraduate years at a prestigious private college or university, and his junior year (or at least a summer) at a university in China, South America or Europe, graduating with a degree in something and with no (or almost no) college-loan debt.

And eventually, probably when he’s in his early 30s, he’ll marry a Millennial with a wink-nod code name like his: say, Harriet Goldman-Sachs. They’ll have two kids, named, maybe, Gertrude Goldman-Sachs-Seitz-Wald and Leon Goldman-Sachs-Seitz-Wald, respectively. Whose offspring three-plus decades later will be named, maybe, Linda Goldman-Sachs-Seitz-Wald-Neiman-Marcus-Carlyle-Group and John Goldman-Sachs-Seitz-Wald-Neiman-Marcus-Carlyle-Group.  Respectively.

The danger here, of course, is that by then all college and graduate-school programs will be online, and more reasonably priced, and therefore the Goldman-Sachs-Seitz-Wald-Neiman-Marcus-Carlyle-Group kids will be saddled with the hyphenated eight-name last names with no particular advantage to it.  Other than that the Washington Post, New York Times and other prestigious media outlets will have jobs waiting for them when they graduate with a degree or two or three from Yale Online University.


UPDATE: Actually, as I just wrote in the Comments thread in response to a comment by reader rjs, Seitz-Wald is a terrific political journalist at Salon, The Nation and ThinkProgress, as well as, now, the Washington Post.  (I believe he’s still with the other three.)  And really, I don’t know a thing about his background.  I just keep wondering what the intended end game is with these hyphenated names.  I mean, how many generations can be reflected in a last name before space runs out on the birth certificate? Because it obviously can’t extend beyond another generation, this fad really does strike me as simply code for, “This is someone with upscale, educated, intellectual parents who can pay his or her college expenses.”

Sorry, but it does. It’s today’s version of the British-Isles-last-names-as-first-names code that the Brahmins of the early and mid-20th Century employed.