• Could You Spell That, Please?: As correspondent Mark Rice-Oxley worked on today's story about naming trends in the United Kingdom (page 1), he thought about his own generation's choices. "All of my friends are Pauls and Johns and Chrises. My neighbors are Mikes and Matthews. But when I meet the friends of my children, their parents have to spell their names to me," he observes.
"Someone once told me not to give my children a name that was too unusual because the average person introduces themselves 1 million times in a lifetime. If it's an unusual name, you have to spell it that many times. Imagine how many days of your life are spent just spelling your name," he says.
And what are the names of Mark's children?
"Well, obviously, we ignored that advice. They're Artemy and Yann," he says.
• Sparta's Quake: Some readers have challenged the opening sentence of the Jan. 12 story, "From Sparta to Nicaragua, disasters alter political history," on the grounds that Sparta eventually defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War that followed the 464 BC earthquake. Jelle Zeilinga de Boer's thesis is that in the long run, despite that military victory, the earthquake and its consequences - especially the persistent unrest among Sparta's slaves - hobbled Sparta in its quest for power and influence in the region. What endured were the cultural, social, and political achievements of Athens, argues Professor de Boer in the book "Earthquakes in Human History: The Far- Reaching Effects of Seismic Disruptions."
David Clark Scott