Category: Middle Names
Clearly, parents today are giving a lot more thought to their children’s middle names than their own parents did. Long gone are the automatic connective choices like Lee and Lynn, Beth and Bruce; more likely now might be something more imaginative like Maeve or West—or Sebastian or Story—or Mom’s maiden or another family name.
For some people, the reasoning behind this is to give the child an additional option for later in life. It works both ways: either he could switch his classic William for his jazziermiddle Jasper, or she could opt for using her traditional, grown-up Elizabeth middle name over the less sophisticated Poppy.
It turns out that a surprising number of celebrities have done just that—chosen to use their middle as their marquee moniker. Sometimes it was to drop a wimpy appellation for a more stylish one (Eldred for Gregory, Orvon for Gene), sometimes because a name was too common at the time (Mary, John, James) and the middle had more character (Farrah, Orson, Montgomery), sometimes maybe because probably just seemed cooler to be Brad than Bill.
As a result, some of the most stand-out celebrity names –Evangeline, Reese, Rihanna, Ashton and Jude—started out in second place on the birth certificate. Here are some of the most prominent–And note that the last names given aren’t necessarily the ones they were born with.
I’m looking for a short and simple middle name for my daughter, but certainly don’t want to go back to the tired old standbys of my childhood like Lynn and Lee and Sue and Ann. Any fresh ideas?
There are loads of more modern and imaginative one-syllable options these days. Many parents are choosing Rose-which is in danger of becoming the Ann of our day-others are going retro with Mae, Rae, Fay, Pearl or Belle, or ethnic with choices like Maeve or Paz. Nature lovers might consider Bay, Snow, Teal, Lark, or Plum.
I’m considering using my maiden name as my child’s middle. Is this a good idea?
Absolutely. In fact, increasing numbers of parents are choosing this option rather than the bulkier hyphenated names used during the early days of feminism. Some are taking this practice a step further and considering the surnames of maternal or paternal grandmothers, which otherwise might be lost to history.
I kind of like the new trend of giving girls traditionally male names but wouldn’t want to go quite that far myself. Could I use one as a middle name instead?
Yes, this can make for a strong statement and an interesting combination of names – think Jennifer Jason Leigh, for example. Several celebs have done this with good effect for their own little starbabies, fitting their daughters with such boyish middle names as George, Max, Charles, Ira, Allyn, Eliot, Francis, Glenn, Jude and Cole. The possibilities are endless.
Are there any guidelines in terms of sound?
One thing to think about is the balance of syllables. Kyle Jefferson Reed makes a more pleasing statement, than Kyle Blake Reed, just as Savannah True Kennedy is more rhythmic than a mouthful like Savannah Trinity Kennedy. On the other hand, a sequence of two two-syllable names, or names with similar endings, can sound quite static, as in Ethan Aidan.
Some people think some balance of one, two, and three syllables is the best combination, so that if your last name has two syllables, say, you should aim for three-one-two or one-three-two….you get the picture.
How creative can I get with a middle name?
The middle spot is a place where you can be more creative and daring than you might want to be with the first name. Here you can use one of the new word or place names that has particular meaning for you, or honor a special hero or heroine of yours in the arts, history, politics or spiritual life, or whose values you would like your child to emulate. And remember – if you give your son the middle name of Elvis or Euripides, he can always abbreviate it to the initial E on his job application.
Bestselling novelist JACQUELYN MITCHARD, whose new book No Time To Wave Goodbye, a sequel to her Deep End of the Ocean, will be published this month, meditates on the middle name as payback, placeholder…..and downright embarrassment.
Middle names often are payback – a best friend, a deceased auntie, a family crest. My son Will‘s name is William Gordon Pendragon Brent, because of contributions from his brothers and godparents. Many, many people hate their middle names, especially if they’re names such as Miriam, Ursula or Von. Others adore them: Novelist Harper Lee‘s real first name was Nelle (pronounced “Nell“), Carson McCullers’ first name was Lula, and, in the modern era, the great Lorrie Moore‘s given first name is … well, Marie.
Some people don’t have middle names. My agent does not. Her name is Jane. Plain Jane, while her sister has a first and middle name. My husband doesn’t have a middle name. When he fills out documents, his middle name is “NMI,” or “No Middle Initial.” So the kids say his name is Christopher Nimmie.
Indeed, Marie was a favorite among our 50s or 60s-born contemporaries. Horsing around between fitful bouts of writing the news, Tim and I gave even our male co-workers the middle name Marie (James Marie, Tommy Marie). Years later, my 13-year-old and I play this same game, asking around to discover the hidden middle Maries. Kazart! Many young girls’ middle names are either Marie or that other ’50s-60s favorite, Ann, even if the person’s first name is Keihley or Phyllis, Maya or Serena.
There’s no doubt that middle names have been taking on increasing importance in the hearts and minds of baby namers. They’ve stepped up from the inconsequential connectives –especially for girls–of a generation or two ago to full co-starring roles on the birth certificate. For many, it’s a welcome opportunity to honor a family member, preserve a maiden name, or use as a solid alternative for their child to possibly choose to use later on.
But for others, it’s place to be whimsical, to salute a creative hero, to use a favorite word or nature name they wouldn’t dare to put in first place. For examples of how this works, we need only to look to the stars, those beacons of extreme–if not bizarre– baby naming. So here are some nature, namesake, word and lovey-dovey endearment middle names they have used, followed by the name of the celebrity parent who chose it and their child’s first name:
NAMESAKES–real and fictional
We all know, thanks to Princess Diana’s infamous wedding blunder, that British people like to use lots of middle names. But it’s not just about quantity: The multiple British names feel inventive and surprising, chosen less for any conventional notion of flow and more for individual considerations of style and family.
Thalia Violetta Carlisle? I would bet the nameberry farm that not a single child in America was given that combination of names last year….or maybe any year. It’s quintessentially British, and it works.
In the examples of recent British baby names below, you’ll notice that lovely antique first names are combined with surnames are mixed up with nicknames, and that once in a while a word name – Rabbit, Reckless – is stuck in, just in case things weren’t eccentric enough already.
Name aficionados will want to check out the Birth Announcements in the London Telegraph for hundreds more such goodies. WARNING: This makes highly addictive reading. Do not undertake too close to bedtime.