Social Question

seawulf575's avatar

Why do we still use middle names?

Asked by seawulf575 (16158points) May 9th, 2023

I have been filling out lots of silly forms here recently and all of them want my middle name or at least middle initial. I started wondering where middle names came from. The best I can find is that they were something only for the elite in the beginning…what I call the “Star Bellied Sneech” effect. But now they are throughout our culture. Why? Are they still pertinent? Humor is welcome.

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12 Answers

chyna's avatar

So your mother has something to call you to let you know she is mad. “Jim get in here” doesn’t have quite the effect that “Jim Bob get in here” does.

zenvelo's avatar

To differentiate John Robert Kennedy from John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Most first and last name combos are not that unusual.

There was a well known Roman Catholic Monsignor in the San Francisco Archdiocese who had the same First Name, Initial, and Last name as me. The only difference was his middle name was Gregory, mine is my grandmother’s maiden name.

When I google my name. I am the fifth person with my name. The Monsignor, a press photographer in Ukiah CA, a lawyer in Ontario Canada, all are ahead of me in a google search. The only way for me to be unique is to include my middle name.

smudges's avatar

I’m not sure, but maybe it has to do with family names. You don’t want to offend your father’s Aunt Bertha by not naming your little one after her, so you give Bertha’s name as the middle one.

jca2's avatar

Think of how many people are named John Smith or Mary Jones or Juan Perez or Kathy Johnson. They need something else to differentiate them.

I have quite an unusual first name and quite an uncommon last name and there are a few people on FB with my first and last name combined.

Zaku's avatar

Also, when talking about naming children with a partner, the couple tends to come up with multiple ideas they like, and compromises tend to be involved. Also it makes a person’s name more individual and nuanced if it combines names. Especially if the family name is a common one.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’ve always wondered why ‘H’ is Jesus’ middle initial. How many time have you heard “Jesus H Christ” as an expletive.

For one thing, shouldn’t it be “Jesus F Christ”? I’ve heard people say “Jesus F***ing Christ” more time than I can count.

On a personal note, I was given a middle initial – but not a middle name. Just like Harry Truman.

Bill1939's avatar

My father wanted to name me after him, but mother didn’t want her boy to be named junior. So, she compromised. My father and I have the same initials, but his middle name is Edwin and mine is Eric.

JLeslie's avatar

My husband doesn’t have a middle name, but in his country, Mexico, he had two last names, his dad’s and then his mom’s. That’s typical in many Latin American countries. When he was doing his US citizenship paperwork I told him he could make his mom’s last name his middle name if he wanted to keep it, but he chose not to so in the US he has no middle name. I guess in Mexico he doesn’t have a middle name either, but he has three names.

Many American women move their maiden name to their middle name when they get married. I didn’t do that, because my mom wanted me to be named Leslie, but she didn’t win, so she made it my middle name, and when I got married I kept it in the middle. Sometimes I wish I had kept my maiden name, but it’s not a big deal either way.

My mom has a middle name, because the tradition is to name after a dead relative, or the first initial of the dead relative, and that was accomplished by her middle name. I guess my grandparents really like her first name. My mom’s sister has no middle name.

Middle names can give opportunity for a different name than the father’s name. John junior might be called by his middle name Eric.

I think using a middle name evolved for different reasons. You certainly don’t have to use your middle name. You can easily drop it on legal documents.

Back hundreds maybe thousands of years ago Jewish people were son of or Ben. Isaac Ben Solomon. Isaac son of Solomon. Maybe that started a trend for three names?

JLeslie's avatar

@Bill1939 Jinx. I can’t believe I randomly chose Eric and that’s your name. Lol.

Acrylic's avatar

We were deliberate in choosing a middle name. I have a very common first name, can’t be in a room with 5 other men without another with same name, on occasion women, too. We didn’t want our kid to have the same, so we gave her a more rare name we found on BabyNamesWorld.com. it starts with a K. We gave her same middle name as wife, which starts with D. This was, if she didn’t like her name (she does) we gave her an out to use her initials, K. D., which sounds like Katie, which was a considered name.

Funny part is, the name is Gaelic, and since we don’t know the language we pronounced it phonetically, which actually is not how it’s supposed to be said. That’s good, because if we pronounced it Gaelic, she’d not have the curse of the common name but the curse of having to correct everybody would would pronounce it as it’s spelled, not the traditional way. Bullet dodged.

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