Sunday, 17 March 2013

What's in a Name?


Most business these days is done over the internet.

I was thumbing my way through a big book, a 1993 Typhoon Edition of Webster's Comprehensive Dictionary, it was a Latin phrase I was searching for, when my glance fell on a chapter headed: Business Letter Writing.

I looked at the specimen letters. They were so quaint. I really felt as if I had been transported back in time.

Here's are two examples:

Dear Mr. Magnes:
Thank you for your order for Clover Danish Blue Cheese. It is being shipped out to you today.
We enclose a catalogue of our other products. Please note that with orders of $10.00 or more, customers may receive free, their choice of a jar of Lingonberry or Currant preserves.
Yours sincerely, 
  Einar Toksvig

Thank you for your order #324 for a dozen Pop-Up Toasters. They were shipped today. The invoice is enclosed. We also enclose the catalogue on waffle irons requested in your letter.
 Sincerely yours
 Morton James

But it was the names of the businesspersons signing the letters that really intrigued me. Here's the list:

Arthur Ives
Howard Carver
A. S. Cantor
V. A. Miles
Marc Rafferty
Kenneth Miller
Seth Bellows
Charles Bloom
J. H. Hudson 
Adam Pierce
Eric Hunter
Einar Toksvig
Edward Hines
Mark Lyons
Joseph Evans
Morton James
Roger Hessian
Hiram Godkin
Martin Ullmann
David Proctor
Edmund Gates
Arthur Reinhardt
Charles U. Clifford
Robert E. Griffin
Elmer Robinson
Leon Hart
Anthony Asch
Horace Seton
Edwin Robbins
Alan W. Furness
Gabriel Harcourt
Ed Schacht
Conrad Dietrichstein
A. E. Handley
Morton James
Gail Longinetti 
Sam Laury
Norman Rich
David K. Nelson

The names of the businessmen are in white. The names of the unknown gender businesspersons are in yellow and the names of the businesswomen are in green.  You will notice that there is only one person identifiable as a woman in the whole list.

The next chapter in my book is headed Glossary of Terms Commonly Used in Business and Formal Correspondence. Perhaps there's a potential poem gestating somewhere between Abstract of Title and Zoning just dying to be born.

I will take a look and maybe we will find it.


  1. where went such formality? I thought you might pick up on my bridge post - ah such a laddish confession.

  2. Gerald, I got about halfway up The Bridge. I think our kid actually went to the middle. Or at least to the gap where the middle should have been which was almost closed. They tightened up after that with a watchman.

    When I think of these old business letters, bearing in mind it's a US dictionary, I can clearly see the two it takes to write the letter as if it's an old National Graphic advert.

  3. National Geographic I meant. He smoking contentedly and she perched obediently on the desk corner.

  4. the overseer overlooks the overseen

  5. Thanks Gerald. In a sample of business letters assembled today it might be different. The world is certainly changing quickly. What we call poetry today was unthinkable not so long ago. Perhaps it still is. But we do it anyway. So many influences at work.


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