The Prank Letters of S. William Kost

Over the last ten years, I have written dozens of joke letters, sometimes under pseudonyms, to companies large and small in America and around the world. Many of these companies have written back.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Office of Vital Records 3/19/96, 3/31/98

S. William Kost
P.O. Box 598
Clackamas, OR 97015

March 19, 1996

State of Oregon, Health Division
Clerk, Office of Vital Records
800 NE Oregon St.
Portland OR 97232


Dear Clerk,

My name is Stanley William Kost. For the past 23 years, I have had to live with this name for any and all purposes. Frankly, I am getting a little bit bored with it, and would like to create a little variety in how people address me. For this reason, I am writing to you. Since having my name changed would be an important factor in recrafting my identity, I knew it was in good order to ask a few questions regarding my name:

1. Would it be possible to change my name to simply an "S"? It would mean versatility, in that I could go by Stan (still), Shawn, Steve, Scott, Sergio or even Susan! (Did Harry S Truman ever realize this power?)

2. How many names may I legally have? I like a great deal of names (including Dave, Daniel, Fritz, Bobo, Tracewell, Toné, and Arvydas), and would like to be able to accommodate them all, if possible. Is there a legal maximum?

3. Do you keep statistics on name popularity? Are they published in the form of a word find? (I like word finds.)

4. Many people change their names to make a statement to the public. Would I be able to do the same? I think "Floss Regularly" would be helpful in today's careless society.

5. Can I add stipulations to my name, so that if it was printed, the publisher would be required to use Bold Print?

6. May I change my name to a number, such as 473 (my favorite)? What about symbols (!) or maybe pictures (☺)?

7. If I make up a unique name, for instance Zwerfgoz, can I copyright it so nobody else in the world can share it?

I appreciate your taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you can respond very soon. I have a family reunion coming up in June and I want to show off the new me!

Nomenclaturally yours,

S. William Kost

P.S. Would you be able to send an autographed picture of yourself or someone you admire? It may help me to make up my mind.

Center for Health Statistics
P.O. Box 14050
Portland, OR 97214-0050

Dear Mr. Kost,

This is in reference to your letter asking about changing your name. You did not indicate if you were born in Oregon. I can only speak to the requirements in Oregon so if you were not born in this state you will need to contact the state in which you were born. They will then be able to provide you with the information concerning changing your name on your birth record.

An Oregon birth record reflects the name given to a child by their parent. In order to change that name legally you must petition the court for a order to change your name.

The judge will determine if he/she will grant a name changed based on what is presented to them. If the judge allows you to change your name to a number or symbol and you were born in this state then this office will record that information on your original birth record. At this time we do not have the equipment necessary to have your name appear as a picture, your example "smiley face". You may want to ask the judge your other legal questions, such as can you copyright your name, or can you require your name to be printed in bold. This office cannot provide legal advise.

You may want to give serious consideration to changing your original birth record. Any future change in names would again require a court order including amendment fees and court fees. You should also be aware that the process of obtaining copies of records could involve more time, as any request would require special handling if you used other than alphabetical characters to indicate your name. Perhaps before you make this decision you should also inquiry of other governmental agencies, i.e. social security, passport, IRS, etc., their requirements if you should make a name change.

Once the court has granted a name change a certified copy of that order plus our current amendment/copy fee of $40.00 must be submitted to this office.

We will change an original Oregon birth record by drawing one line through the old name(s), typing in the new name(s) and making a notation on the certificate showing by what authority we made this change (court order).

Sharon Rice
Manager, Registration Unit

Two years later....

P.O. Box 598
Clackamas, OR 97015

March 31, 1998

Center for Health Statistics
Attn.: Sharon Rice, Mgr., Registration Unit
P.O. Box 14050
Portland, OR 97214-0050

Dear Ms. Rice,

Since it's been more than two years since I wrote to you, you probably don't remember me. My legal name is Stanley William Kost, and I wrote to you concerning name changes. For all intents and purposes, I have chosen to be known as ☺ (Shift-J, Wingdings font). That's why I'm writing to you again.

Can I use ☺ as my name without having to go through the formalities of legally changing my name? I'll still sign official stuff with my legal name; it's just that I'm a happy person, and I'd like my name to reflect that. People could address me as ☺ on paper, in conversation and in all other circumstances.

My argument is this: "Skeet" Ulrich? "Rush" Limbaugh? "Tipper" Gore? Certainly these couldn't be the legal names their mothers gave them at birth! Yet everyone knows them by those names. I'd just like to do the same with ☺!

Now, hypothetically speaking, let us say that I want to change my name again, down the line. Is this possible? I'm thinking I might like "Draycor the Magnificent", "Papadooley Maranificus", and "Alloftheabove Wilkins". Also, I've thought of cashing on Leonardo DiCaprio's star power by sharing that name with him. Is there a limit (finances notwithstanding) to how many times I can change it? If so, I could potentially visit your office every week with a new name request!

Please respond with any information soon. By the way, I like your name, too!

Banana fanna fo fanna,

P.S. Please send an XL-T-shirt or a pen.

Center for Health Statistics
P.O. Box 14050
Portland, OR 97214-0050

RE: Stanley William Kost to ☺

I am writing in response to your correspondence of March 31, 1998 requesting information regarding name changes. In the State of Oregon you may assume a name as long as it is not for fraudulent purposes. I am not an attorney, so I can't tell you if it's legal to assume the name of another person in an attempt to cash in on a star's power (as you stated in your letter). In response to your question regarding if there is a limit of how many times you may change your name, we have no limit. There is a limit, however, to how much space is available on a birth certificate to show all of the changes to a name. Each name would be required to be listed and then a line drawn through it upon a change to another name. Each change would also require a footnote at the bottom of the certificate to explain why the certificate had been amended.

[blah blah blah, repeating the required procedure and fees]

Edward J. Johnson, II
State Registrar

Donna Nyberg
Amendment Clerk


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