474 People in America Named Richard Rich

by Jia Tolentino

If you combined Harper’s Index with its Findings section and dramatically lowered the research quality of both, you would get my mind after a good internet k-hole. Here are all the things I learned this week.

In 1982, Sweden enacted a Naming Law in order to prevent non-noble families from giving their children the names of nobility. (The House of Bernadotte is the reigning royal house of Sweden; “I think we can agree that we can not all be called Bernadotte,” said a lawyer for the Swedish Patent and Registration Office, which rules on potential name changes.) In 1983, the law was amended to permit Swedish men to adopt their wife or partner’s name. There are only nine states in America that allow this. Recently a Florida man named Lazaro Sopena was accused of fraud for attempting to change his last name to that of his wife. “It was an act of love,” he stated. An estimated 90%of married American women enact this name change; none of them seem fraudulent in their legal act of love.

Other common acts of love include moving in with your partner (an arrangement that allows two to live together for 1.4 times as cheaply as one) or buying a diamond engagement ring (a purchase with an average cost of $5200). The Beatles song “Can’t Buy Me Love” has sold over 1.5 million copies as of 2012; Taylor Swift’s “Red” album sold 1.2 million copies in its first week. Today, the dating services market generates over $2.1 billion in revenue annually. High-end Manhattan matchmakers charge $1,500 to secure a man four dates.

The Naming Law in Sweden also bans first names that could be deemed inappropriate. In the nineties, one Swedish couple refused to register a name for their child. When he turned 5, the parents were fined; in protest, they named their child “Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116,” pronounced Albin. The name was rejected and the couple was fined $600. The Patent and Registration Office has also rejected Ikea, Metallica and Allah.

There are 131 people in America with the last name Bernadotte. There are 89 Catherine Middletons. There are 8 people named Justin Bieber and 18 people named Selena Gomez. There are 888 George Washingtons, 3 Abraham Lincolns, 67 Ronald Reagans and just one Barack Obama. There are 271 people in the US named Richard Head, 235 named Richard Butts and 87 people named Richard Sweat. There are 145 people in the US with the last name Assman; one of them is named Richard.

474 people in America are named Richard Rich, not counting Macaulay Culkin’s character in the 1994 movie Richie Rich. In the movie, Culkin’s father (also named Richard Rich) boasted a fictional net worth of $70 billion. America’s actual richest man is worth $66 billion, which is over 3 times the 2012 GDP of Afghanistan. The richest Richard of all time was Richard Fitzalan, the 10th Earl of Arundel, an English nobleman from the 14th century whose net worth at death was equivalent to $118.6 billion.

The 10th Earl of Arundel is entombed in Chicester cathedral in Sussex, England. The stone effigies of Richard and his wife Eleanor of Lancaster show them lying peacefully with their hands intertwined and their dogs sleeping at their feet. Philip Larkin described the image in his 1964 poem “An Arundel Tomb,” which ends with two famous lines whose irony can be invisible out of context: “Our almost instinct almost true:/ What will survive of us is love.”

Jia Tolentino lives in Ann Arbor.

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