Dear Dr. Boli: Last night I was in a certain chain restaurant where you place your order for blandly mediocre food at the counter, and the teenage clerk asked, “Can I have a first name for the order?” All sorts of possible responses flitted through my head (such as “I don’t know—can you?” and “No”), but I ended up just giving her my first name. I understand that they ask for first names because last names are often difficult to pronounce (mine is Brown). Still, I don’t really like this whole culture of nobody having last names anymore, and I don’t really like some fourteen-year-old addressing me by my first name. What should I have done? —Sincerely, Mrs. Brown.

Dear Madam: Dr. Boli also objects to being addressed by his first name by strangers who are less than a tenth of his age. But you will notice that the establishment you visited—and this is commonly the case—did not ask you for your first name. The exact words you quoted were “Can I have a first name for the order?” And since it is your order, you may in good conscience name it anything you like. The next time a clerk asks you for a first name for the order, have an interesting name ready, such as “Ashshurbanipal” or “Mioquacoonacaw.” Speak it clearly and distinctly, ending with the sort of icy smile that says, “I dare you to make fun of my name.” If you can persuade enough of your neighbors to do the same, the management may reconsider its policy of asking for first names for orders.


  1. Zombie Psychologist says:

    I also too often find myself in this unpleasant predicament.

    Yet Dr. Boli provides us, at one stroke, with hearty entertainment, an encouragement towards mild sociopathic behaviour, and a practical, democratic, and grassroots solution to the problem at hand.

    What other magazine can boast as much?

  2. Captain DaFt says:

    Alternatively, get a bunch of your friends together, que up at the counter, and as each one places an order and is asked for a first name, answer; “Pat.”
    The ensuing confusion as they scramble to serve diverse orders to a dozen or more ‘Pat’s should provide some amusment, not to mention in these online times, decent youtube footage.

  3. Martin the Mess says:

    A friend of mine used to respond to such requests with the name “Guy Schmalle”, which was in fact the name of another one of his friends.

    When forced to wait for a table to be readied for us at a restaurant, another friend of mine used to give the name “Donner” and ask for one more place setting than actually needed for the meal. This often led to the hostess calling “Donner, Party of seven…oh, there’s only six of you?”

    Another option is to give the name “Spartacus” and then have everyone in your group shout out “I’m Spartacus!” in turn once called. “Brian” also works, provided someone calls out “I’m Brian and so’s my wife” for the benefit of any Monty Python fans in earshot.

  4. Greybeard says:

    My wife tends to stick her elbow into my ribs when I name my order Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz or Slartibartfast. Reading your insightful answer has helped her to realize that my behavior was proper and correct all along. Now if only I can get her to belay the icy stare she gives me when our order is delayed by the clerk having to check with his manager when I ask if they accept Federal Reserve Notes.

  5. RepubAnon says:

    It does sound like the management is attempting to encourage creative thinking among its customers. Bart Simpson’s prank phone calls to Moe’s Tavern for Mr. Koholic (first name Al) come to mind as a possible group activity.

  6. raf says:

    Restaurants do this because they think it is more friendly than simply assigning a number to the order. I think it is antinumeral discrimination. I always answer, “Seventeen.”

  7. kyp says:

    I usually have to make up a name, since the name I usually give (Kyp) is apparently indecipherable when spoken. Once, my order receipt came back with the customer name as “Hip.” At least he got the vowel right.

    So, like Greybeard, I usually do Slartibartfast. I can spell it out loud confidently, which gives baristas pause, and if they get the reference, I go back to their coffee shop.

  8. Sean says:

    Since my name is one which has several legitimate spellings (or at least what are considered legitimate spellings by those with no imagination), I am often asked to provide it for the cashier. Why they need to know how to spell something which they will be simply saying aloud is beyond me. Thus, I’ve taken to simply replying with “Frank”.

  9. markm says:

    Q. “Can I have a first name for the order?”
    A. No, I want to eat it, not make friends with it.

  10. Joshua Fahey says:

    Give the name Mephistopheles. When they call it out, respond with “You summoned?”

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