Middle Name

Mid­dle names are one of those things that we very rarely ques­tion. Why the eff do we have mid­dle names? Men­tal Floss to the res­cue!

In ancient Rome, hav­ing mul­ti­ple names was an hon­or usu­al­ly bestowed upon the most impor­tant people—like Gaius Julius Cae­sar. The fad died out only to pick back up again in West­ern cul­tures in the 1700s, when aris­to­crats start­ed giv­ing their chil­dren lav­ish­ly long names to indi­cate their place in soci­ety. Sim­i­lar­ly, lengthy Span­ish and Ara­bic names adopt pater­nal or mater­nal names from pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions to trace the individual’s fam­i­ly tree. (In oth­er cul­tures, like Chi­ne­se, there are tra­di­tion­al­ly no mid­dle names.)

The three-name struc­ture used today began in the Mid­dle Ages when Euro­peans were torn between giv­ing their child a saint’s name or a com­mon fam­i­ly name. The prac­tice of giv­ing three names even­tu­al­ly resolved the prob­lem with a for­mu­la: given name first, bap­tismal name sec­ond, sur­name third. It branched to Amer­i­ca as immi­grants arrived: Adopt­ing a trio of labels became a way of aspir­ing to a high­er social class. Non­re­li­gious mid­dle names—often mater­nal maid­en names—gradually became the norm, and by the Civil War, it was cus­tom­ary to name your child what­ev­er you liked. Mid­dle names had start­ed to become more or less offi­cial by World War I, when the U.S. enlist­ment form became the first offi­cial gov­ern­ment doc­u­ment to include space for them.”

So, we have mid­dle names because we are A.) aspir­ing to be more upper class, B.) keep­ing a fam­i­ly name, well, in the fam­i­ly, or C.) keep­ing a reli­gious name in the mix. Or your par­ents were like EFF THIS and just picked a name they liked. OR may­be you don’t even have a mid­dle name. So many pos­si­bil­i­ties. So inter­est­ing!

So where do you fall on the mid­dle name spec­trum? I have a fam­i­ly fore­name as my mid­dle name. My BF has a fam­i­ly sur­name as his mid­dle name. My dad has the same mid­dle name as his dad. They actu­al­ly share their entire name, which is neat. And then most of the oth­er peo­ple I know had mid­dle names that are just names their par­ents liked.

I won­der how many par­ents nam­ing their babies hold their baby, say the baby’s may­be-name out loud and won­der how it will sound when they are PISSED and yelling the whole thing. Ha. Can’t say it wouldn’t cross my mind. Bet­ter not name your kid a tongue twister. Noth­ing ruins a good get­tin yelled at by stut­ter­ing and get­ting con­fused.

So, what do you think?