A is for unfair advantage

8th October 2004 at 01:00
Is it a coincidence that many world leaders have surnames at the beginning of the alphabet, or is it a legacy of the school register?

Attila the Hun is unlikely to have been alphabetically primed for office, but Bush, Blair, Berlusconi, Clinton and Chirac all have surnames that may have pushed them to the front.

Can we be truly inclusive if we ignore the needs of the alphabetically challenged?

ABC surnames inevitably thrust their owners into pioneering roles, whether they are temperamentally suited to this or not. The confident child may relish the chance to go first for everything, but a timid A-labelled student may long for the comfort of a name beginning with a reassuringly camouflaged letter somewhere in the middle, like M.

The tail-end Charlies of the listing systems spend all their lives waiting their turn, and possibly plotting revenge against a cruel world. A school lifetime at the back of every queue must, surely, have a detrimental effect.

The well-intentioned teacher who attempts to address this injustice by reversing the order may add further stress by exposing to public gaze the normally anonymous Z to W brigade. After years spent skulking in the penumbra of the last few letters, the bright light may be too much for their frail self-esteem.

The anonymous middle loses whichever way round the register is taken. Never are the Hs and Ks singled out. They will remain in obscurity except on the odd occasion when whole cohorts are split. The glory of being H when the split is A-H gives them a glimpse of the world usually inhabited by the As and Zs.

The obvious solution is to introduce into equal opportunity policy statements the necessity to rotate the register by one person every day, much as in the Mad Hatter's tea party so we all move on one place. This would give equal exposure and obscurity to everyone regardless of their name.

Having suffered from having had a name beginning with S at school, so lurking at the bottom end of lists, I married a man whose name began with W without considering the effect this would have on my children and their further depressed position on the register.

It is too late to undo the damage caused by my reckless choice of spouse, but I could assuage my guilt by campaigning to introduce the Aardvark Register Rotation system.

Volunteers to help in the campaign are eagerly sought, and applications will be particularly welcome from candidates whose names begin with W, X, Y or Z.

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