27 May 2020
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Welcome to Being Human, X Æ A-12


Elon Musk’s Son X Æ A-12, Presents the Ultimate Name Matching Challenge

The naming of a child is an intrinsically human activity. Your parents get the first crack at it, but then as you grow up, your friends and relatives can also name you — although then it is called a “nickname.” One thing is for sure, a hard to spell name will follow you for life, and duplicate junk mail is the least of your worries.

On May 4th, Grimes and her famous partner Elon Musk created a Twitter storm of sorts by naming their newborn son X Æ A-12. Of course after “What?” the next question was, “How do you pronounce that?”

Musk provided some insight into his son’s name (which was mostly Grimes’ idea according to him) with this tweet.

Æ is a ligature representing the Latin diphthong ae. Its traditional name in English is still ash. The A-12 aircraft was developed by Project Archangel.

The tweet explanation brings up all sorts of possibilities as far as pronunciation:

  • X Ash A-Twelve
  • X Ash Archangel
  • Unknown AI Archangel
  • UnknownVariable AI Archangel

A tweet reply below — to Musk’s tweet (above) that explains the origins of his son’s name — notes that Musk typed SR-17 rather than the correct SR-71 (the plane that was the descendant of the A-12).

Those familiar with Chinese ideographs, in which each character represents a concept rather than a sound, might find ‘X Æ A-12’ simply a case of parents trying to use Latin characters as ideographs, where “A-12” represents an ✈ (airplane) rather than the literal characters “A-12.”

Musk cleared up the mystery on May 7 when he pronounced his son’s name on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast as “X Ash Archangel.” However, his partner Grimes posted on Instagram that the name is pronounced like the letters “X A.I.” or phonetically, “ecks aye eye.”

There’s also the question of whether the state of California will allow the new parents to register the name given its rule that does not even allow diacritic marks in the names of children.

A person’s name ends up in myriad databases as they grow up, for passports, driver’s licenses, school records, health records, and more. Inaccurate patient identification or information results in denied health insurance claims, costing the U.S. healthcare system more than $6 billion dollars annually. There is software out there now to fuzzy match names, but with the endless creativity of humans – ‘X Æ A-12’, being just one case in point — how can computers keep up with human expressions? Even Rosette would be hard pressed to keep up with a name like ‘X Æ A-12.’