Sorry Miss Butt, Your Name Is Illegal

Reader Janet Butt was trying to sign up for an airline miles program when she ran into a prudish form processor that deemed her last name “illegal.”

Janet writes:

I tried to sign up for the Airmiles Reward Miles program at yesterday, June 2, 2009, but could not complete the registration process due to an error. The error read, “There are illegal words in your input text”, as per the attached picture. At first, I thought that perhaps the system had a problem with the punctuation in the name of my city, St. John’s, Newfoundland (as I have had issues with this on other sites before), but after removing the period and the apostrophe, I was still unable to register. Then it hit me. My surname is Butt.

I Googled “funny surnames”, just to see whether there were other “illegal” names out there. Oddly enough, I was able to continue without error by using the last names Balls, Death, and Cockshott (all real surnames)

No “illegal words” error when I tried to sign up as “Janet Nipples”, either.

I contacted them via their feedback link and they contacted me today, saying that I could email my information to them for processing. I asked if they might fix this problem and got a reply with their generic message saying they would “forward my concerns to the appropriate department”.

We don’t know what to do here. We understand that there is a need for safeguards, lest the online world be overrun by Amanda Hugenkisses and Mike Hunts. Nonetheless, these restrictions eventually preclude people with unfortunate real names from using them, adding even more hassle to their lives.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Piemonkey says:

    Hee hee. Illegal Butts.

  2. Tom_Servo says:

    They call me Adolph Oliver Bush.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    *Cue the “big butts” jokes*

  4. Unsolicited Advice says:

    I can only imagine years of schoolteachers and prospective employees looking down, raising an eyebrow, and then looking up with vague amusement at Janet Butt. She’s had to live with that her whole life, and now this.

    Get Marty McFly. You need to go convince some distant relations that they’re making a mistake.

    • Gramin says:

      @Unsolicited Advice:

      I would agree with you, except that I know someone with the last name Butt. By no means is he a small fry in his company. In fact, he controls the entire North American and Canadian section of his multibillion dollar corporation.

      • alexcassidy says:

        @Gramin: And his subordinates giggle uncontrollably whenever they read an email from him, I promise you.

        • wardawg says:

          @alexcassidy: One of the reasons I never joined the military… Private Butt, Major Butt, General Butt… not exactly the kind of name that commands respect, you know?

          I grew up with that name, I’ve had a few problems signing up for things online, but for the most part people tend to be more mature once you hit high school, I haven’t had anyone over 16 make fun of my name.

          • karmaghost says:

            @wardawg: Probably because most people over 16 learn some form of self control.

            At a place I used to work, this guy had the last name “Rape.” No joke. The first couple times he came into the office to ask for his paycheck/stub, before they could look it up, they’d ask him “what’s your last name?” “Rape.” Yeah, that’s a tough one.

            Also, there was another guy named “Cheeseborough.” Yeah, that dude’s name was Cheeseburger.

            • ajlei says:

              @karmaghost: I can’t stop laughing at your post. I don’t know what’s funnier, the last name Rape or the last name Cheeseborough.

              • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

                @ajlei: The photographer at my wedding to the first Mr. ex-Siren had the most unfortunate name: Rusty Enos.

                My intended insisted on calling him crusty penis whenever he referred to him, and I lived in constant fear that I would somehow slip up and let that nickname slip out while talking to him directly.

            • xredgambit says:

              @karmaghost: It’s a fairly common name. My Souther Baptist Preacher’s Last name was Rape. He told me stories about how when other ministers or church people would say his name they would say it as Rope or something else other than Rape.

    • 67alecto says:

      @Unsolicited Advice: Years ago, my boss’s boss was named Dick Shortt. Not only was that his name, but he made sure that he said his name about 3 times every time he introduced himself just to see if the other person would react.

  5. Jessica Haas says:

    I once knew a girl who’s last name was Butts. It really was unfortunate. My last name was always the subject of ridicule in elementary and middle school because it sounds like “ass” and is constantly misspelled as Hass and not Haas.

    Oh the perils of having a last name that is funny.

    • trujunglist says:

      @Jessica Haas:

      At least people understand the difference between your first and last name, unlike mine, which could theoretically be switched, and often is. In fact, I get called lastname firstname more often than I get called firstname lastname, even by people looking at my ID, EVEN BY POLICE OFFICERS WHO YOU’D THINK WOULD KNOW HOW TO READ AN ID FROM THEIR OWN STATE.

    • HogwartsAlum says:

      @Jessica Haas:

      I used to date a guy whose last name was Butts. I’m SO glad I didn’t marry him.

  6. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Let’s not pick on the consumer here, making her the butt of our jokes…

  7. BuddyHinton says:

    She should just type in “(|)”

  8. AI says:

    Seymore has exactly the same problem. Poor guy.

  9. Alexander says:

    Try another language. Janet Nalga.

  10. lilacorchid says:

    I knew a girl who’s last name was Glasscock. She changed it when she married (at 18). I wonder if they would accept that last name?

    (And no, you don’t pronounce it like it looks.)

  11. kaptainkk says:

    The last name “Biggerstaff” has always freaked me out. If you’ve never heard of or known anyone with that last name, you’ll see what I mean when you meet someone with it.

  12. youbastid says:

    Looks to be a shady operation anyway, if they can’t spell “Enrollment” right.

  13. dwb says:

    If I remember correctly, Janet has a sister named Bertha. (sorry Janet, but someone had to say it)

  14. korybing says:

    I saw a soccer player with the last name of “Fucker”, pronounced “Fuss-ker”.

    I had a similar-but-not-nearly-as-hilarious problem when signing up for credit cards. My address has a “1/2” in it, and I discovered that most credit card forms won’t accept that.

    • formatc says:

      @korybing: Does .5 work? That’s what I’d do.

    • LiquidGravity says:

      @korybing: Same problem here for most forms. I usually just spell out ‘and a half’ like so;

      Bob Suruncle
      12345 and a half Any St.
      Sometown WI 54321

      Sometimes I spell it differently just to see who sells my address to advertisers. Those bastards.

      • korybing says:

        @LiquidGravity: Using .5 has worked on some forms, but not all. I’ve never tried writing it out before, though. I’ll do that the next time I’m having problems with it.

      • Chris I says:

        @LiquidGravity: If that was me, I’d try variations just to see if mail gets delayed on delivery.

        12345 and a bit
        12345 give or take

  15. Haggie1 says:

    My personal favorite is Craven Moorehead…

  16. John Israel says:

    @undefined: For going through such duress, they should give her a two-for-one, or an “Ugh, Double Up, Ugh Ugh” deal, if you will.

  17. KernelM says:

    H-E-B, a huge supermarket chain in Texas, is named after Howard E Butt and is still controlled by the Butt family. I remember my friends and I snickering about that in elementary school, but I think being 7 is a valid excuse.

    • lisa1120 says:


      I lived in Houston for a couple years and still snickered about it at 24. My BF liked to say “Let’s go to Heb” as if reading it as a word and not initials. I also liked how they adopted “Here Everything’s Better” as their slogan… seemed like they were trying to make people forget that the B stood for Butt.

      • synergy says:

        @lisa1120: You know, they’ve been using that slogan for a while now and it wasn’t until last month that I got the reference. I always thought someone stupid in marketing had coined it despite it being so damn awkward sounding. Now I realize why they were forcing the wording. :-p

    • mathew says:

      @KernelM: As regular Butt shoppers, we do the sensible Consumerist thing and get generic store brands.

      “Don’t get the Doritos… Get the Butt chips instead.”

      So yes, we refer to the products as Butt milk, Butt soda, Butt yogurt, and so on.

      Note also that H-E-B have soda based on Doctor Pepper, called Dr B–which means it’s Doctor Butt. And they have a mascot for kids, the H-E-Buddy. That’s right, the Butt Buddy.

  18. Galactica says:

    Wait! Was she using her debit card? If so, then that’s just the most terrible thing ever.

  19. MyPetFly says:

    That’s mighty cheeky of the airline to program things that way.

  20. Borax-Johnson says:

    My friend Holden McGroyn has never had these problems

  21. cortana says:

    In my little Ohio town, back in 1974, we had a HUGE F’ING TORNADO. It killed 33 people. Included in these 33 were the two sons of an Indian professor at a nearby college, whose last name was ‘DIKSHIT’. My town decided to make a public memorial stone for those killed in the disaster… but luckily the parents decided to change their children’s name post-mortem to DIXIT. Life is weird sometimes.

  22. Belabras ate my dingo! says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: @winshape:

    I see what you did there.

    Well played sir.

  23. qxrt says:

    I went to a friend’s bar mitzvah many years ago when I was a kid (I’m not Jewish, so it was the only one I’ve been to), and at the synagogue where it was held, I remember seeing a list of benefactors to the synagogue. Among them was the name, “Louis Gaylord.” I wonder how he’s getting along with his name?

  24. H3ion says:

    At a government proceeding, the lawyer’s name was Mr. Schmuck (and he pronounced it like “luck”). His client’s name was (this is real folks) Donald Duck. The hearing examiner had to call a recess to stop laughing.

  25. missdona says:

    My very favorite High School teacher was Mrs. Dick. I bet poor Mrs. Dick would have the same problem, as would the whole Dick family.

    • audiochick says:

      @missdona: I had a Jr. High teacher named Mr. Dick, too. He was 6’5″, had a bowl cut, a porn ‘stache and wore short-shorts with knee socks. In 1992. He was also mean, and once suspended a kid for greeting him with “How’s it hangin’, Mr. Dick.” True story.

  26. Teira says:

    Okay this policy confuses me for reasons other than the obvious. You can only earn miles on tickets you use under your own name, yes? And you can’t get through the security gate (at least not without a hell of an annoying and futile hassle) without them verifying your ticket name against some form of official identification, so why would they assume people would spend the ridiculous cash on an unusable ticket with a stupid joke name on it? It seems logical, and frankly quite a lot easier just to allow everything.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      …so why would they assume people would spend the ridiculous cash on an unusable ticket with a stupid joke name on it?

      @Teira: This.
      Why are they even worried about it?

      It seems logical, and frankly quite a lot easier just to allow everything.

      That could be said for the name field for most forms. Every few months there’s a story about someone having trouble with some company because their validation rules are stupid.

  27. labeled says:

    Aww, Mike Hunt. You will haunt me forever. What with my memories of tending bar near the Culinary in upstate NY… my sweet, naive self being taken in by the seemingly innocuous request…

    … yelling out at the TOP of my lungs “IS MIKE HUNT HERE”? The second it hits your lips, you know… but are unable to stop.

    Damn you, Mike Hunt. You have always been more trouble than I could imagine.

  28. DrGirlfriend says:

    She and I should be friends. My maiden name is White, and more than once I received airline tickets (back in the olden days before e-tickets) with my last name spelled “Whipe”.

  29. veg-o-matic says:

    I’ve known more than one Butt, actually. It doesn’t seem so weird, but I guess auto-puter-systems want to head off those hordes of 13 year olds trying to sign up for airmiles..?

    In another job a few years ago, I also came across the names “Titsworth” and “Bumpass”

    Those are truly phenomenal.

  30. Matthew Lee High says:

    It took nearly a year for Facebook to accept that my last name was actually “High”

  31. RandomHookup says:

    Paging, Dr. Lipshitz.

  32. GuyNermit says:

    If it makes Janet feel better, I know someone named Hugh Butt.

    I’ve always wondered what his parents were smoking when they named him….!

  33. pgh9fan1 says:

    Would the Pittsburgh Pirates’ player from the 1930s been able to sign up? His name was Johnny Dickshot.

    (He actually changed his name TO Johnny Dickshot.)

  34. Snarkysnake says:

    As a person who’s real name is Hugh Jass , I can feel for this woman…

  35. HogwartsAlum says:

    A former supervisor told me there was a lawyer that she knew whose name was Richard Wacker.

    I giggled for half an hour.

  36. shepd says:

    Good to see their site and support still sucks. I applied for an Air Miles card about 10 years ago through their site and accidentally chose “Mrs.” instead of “Mr.”. I emailed them about it a couple of times and received no reply. I got the “Mrs.” card and didn’t use it. About a *YEAR* later, still no reply, but a “Mr.” card shows up.

    Needless to say I never used either, there’s better rewards programs out there.

  37. Tijil says:

    I’m an admin of a few sites, and one of them had a ridiculously strict censorbot. On that site (until I re-trained the bot) it used to always do stupid things like calling our ex-VP “**** Cheney”… (Then again, maybe it WASN’T so dumb.)

  38. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    She must have been the butt of many a joke!

  39. Eels says:

    My landlord used to be Dr. Butt. Great guy.

    My grandparents had a friend named Richard Head. Guess what they called him. Guess what they named their son?

  40. Mark Swieca says:

    Once upon a time, I worked for the evil Circuit City (for a long time, but that’s a different story). Anyways, one day, a co-worker and I were calling customers to come pick up their serviced products. One customer had the name of “Barbara Gorilla”.

  41. Andrew McCloskey Aka ATM says:

    That name is nothing. There was a baseball player by the name of Rusty Kuntz. His dad must have hated him.


  42. dwasifar says:

    I once knew a guy named Mike Pee. I wonder if he’d be able to sign up.

  43. dwasifar says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Archibald Butt yet. He was a distinguished US military officer, an aide to two presidents, and generally considered to be an all-around heroic guy. He died, believe it or not, in the sinking of the Titanic.

    Don’t believe me? Here you go: []

  44. Damocles57 says:

    Went out with a girl in college years ago whose last name was Virgin. I asked her if she was looking forward to marriage so she wouldn’t be a Virgin anymore….

  45. Anonymous says:

    Butt is actually a pretty common last name here in Newfoundland. In fact, if Janet is from Carbonear I think we have family in common. Small world indeed. It’s ridiculous that the Air Miles form would allow those other names but flag hers. I wonder if Mark Hiscock (accordion player for Shanneyganock) would have the same issues?

  46. panicjanet says:

    Here in NL, Butt is a very, very common name, so I almost never got teased about it growing up. I probably make more fun of it myself than anyone else! Thanks all for the concern, though. And also for providing me with a whole bunch of new jokes I can use for self-deprecation.

    Janet (|)

  47. synergy says:

    The major grocery chain which has squeezed out just about everyone else here in South Texas is named after their founder’s son, Howard Edward Butt. Needless to say, at some point, they went down to H-E-B. For some reason people don’t want to ass-ociate food with butts. :D

  48. stegosaurus1 says:

    My wife’s maiden name was Butt.

    She had an aunt and uncle in Toronto named,
    (seriously) Rosie and Harry.

    I’m not kidding.


  49. CapitalC says:

    Yes, but are they “taking it very seriously”?

  50. PageMagumbalee says:

    This happens to me sometimes.. my first name is Cassandra.

  51. mathew says:

    In the computer software world, this is known as a Scunthorpe Problem.