Saturday, July 22, 2006

American Express renames me: &$$htmBegin&$$

A payment notice from American Express appears to be addressed to me as &$$htmBegin&$$:

Click to see full-size image

Looking more closely, I see that it's some sort of a flag for a wrapper, a field for a content management wrapper that didn't get expanded properly at publication time.

We've all seen this sort of thing before, where a distributed database or mass mailing system makes a goofy substitution or fails to substitute the customer name for the generic field name. There's a funny folk song about material addressed to "Your State Name Here."

Over the years I've heard some hilarious examples:

  • My friend Mark Grebner, whose firm is the leading political mailing list service in Michigan, puzzled over why so many people have a surname of Usafret. What the heck ethnicity is that? He figured out that it's USAF (Ret.) -- a retired member of the Air Force.

  • My wife's friend Deb Biggs once got mail addressed to Ded Buggs.

  • And the all time winner of the trifecta, Mark Allen Knopper, at the time a network engineer for the Merit network, received mail addressed to Mirv Alien Knipper. Yup, all three of his names transformed. For years thereafter people called him Mirv.

I'd love to legally change my name to &$$htmBegin&$$ but like Spock I'm afraid you wouldn't know how to pronounce it.