ULAN BATOR, Mongolia - After years of living with just one name by order of the Soviet Union, Mongolians have been ordered to invent their own surnames. But, lacking the talent and experience of having more than a single name, most Mongolians are coming up with strange combinations.
Daily, hundreds of Mongolians enter an office in the city capital where identity documents are issued. City officials say they are registering odd names like Big Strong Handsome Guy and Sexy Gal and names that are already famous in the world, like Jay Leno, John Travolta and Dan Rather.
Many are adopting the name of Genghis Khan, who was the mightiest of Mongols. The phone book for the city of Ulan Bator will consist of many pages devoted to Khan, Genghis, come its next publication.
"We must fight incest and make official records more intelligible," a government official who just changed his name to Martha Stewart, said.
All 2.5 million Mongolians have to choose a family name or be fined several months' salary.
Not all names being recorded are strange. Some Mongolians are taking their new name from their profession. Such is the case of Cosmos Bakes Bread and Telia Serves Food.
"My grandmother once mentioned that we are related to Merv Griffin somehow, but it may not be true," said another Mongolian about to register a family name. "In any case, I like that he was a strong talk show host once, so we are going with Merv Griffin."
A state name expert is advising people how to choose appropriate names. "I tell them to think of something they were born near," he said, "the name of a river, valley or mountain."
This helped Vladamir, who chose the family name Cul de Sac.