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Daring Middle Names: Hamish, Chrysanthemum, and Scheherazade

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By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Let’s talk about middle names.

Family names, filler names, fallback names – there are so many approaches to choosing your child’s middle that it can make landing on the perfect first feel almost easy.

Factor in a growing number of children who receive not one, but two middles, and it can become quite the puzzle.

I still regret choosing our son’s second name too quickly, and I remain ridiculously pleased with our daughter’s bonus middle.  (It’s Wren, a nod to my sister’s nickname, Bird.)

There’s nothing wrong with using Elizabeth or JamesPlenty of us have loved ones we wish to honor with a traditional choice.  And a more conventional middle can anchor an out-there given name.

But the opposite is true, too.  Jeremy Renner’s Ava Berlin is far more interesting than say, Ava Grace.

Middles that are meaningful and interesting and maybe downright original have their place, and I’m an unapologetic fan of big, stand-out middles.

This week’s daring middle names in the news are:

Hamish – The third season of Sherlock has finally made it to the US, and last week Holmes’ steadfast sidekick, John Watson, married the lovely Mary.  Dr. Watson is given the middle initial H. in the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories, but we never learn if the H. is for Henry or Harold or some other name.  In the new series, Sherlock finally figures out that his best friend is John Hamish, a Scottish form of James.  It’s a small point that turns out to be quite significant as the daring duo solves another case in the nick of time.

Steadfast – Speaking of Steadfast, it came up as a possible middle earlier this week, and I’ll admit – I think it is brilliant.  Options like Grace, Hope, and Faith are familiar for girls.  An unconventional pick like Loyal, Noble, or Sage might work well for a son.  Words like Steadfast and Resolute aren’t often heard in everyday speech – they sound a little bit like ships.  But it also feels like a category to explore for unusual middle name possibilities.  Evergreen, maybe?  Candor?

Perpetua – For Real spotted a birth announcement for Grace PerpetuaPerpetua was a third century Christian martyr.  Her name means without end – perpetual, another subtle virtue choice. Grace Perpetua sounds like a deeply religious name, but it is also terribly pretty, and far less expected than Grace Elizabeth.

Marlowe Duana’s advice to this expectant couple is spot on.  They’ve settled on the first name Julia, and had planned to use the middle name Marlowe to honor dad, Marlon.  Now dad is thinking that Catherine might be better in the middle spot.  Duana writes: “You can absolutely be more sure that there won’t be another Julia Marlowe than that there won’t be another Julia Catherine.”  If you’re after something just a little different, a classic first with an unconventional middle might satisfy.

Chrysanthemum – In an age when so many girls are given the middle name Rose, it’s fun to see extravagant botanicals in the middle spot.  For Real found a birth announcement for Thalia Chrysanthemum.  It’s proof that nearly any bloom works – I can imagine Sarah Azalea, Eliza Orchid, Avery Marigold.

Django – If you’re not borrowing from the natural world, how about music?  Legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt’s one-of-a-kind name has been borrowed by movies.  First came a 1966 Western, then a string of spin-offs.  In 2012, Quentin Tarantino gave us Django Unchained.  He’s seen some use as a given name in recent decades, but I especially like this combination For Real spotted in Oregon: Arley Everett Django.

Scheherazade – Another daring middle someone suggested recently, borrowed from the ever-so-clever storytelling heroine of One Thousand and One Nights.  It’s a bold, literary possibility, with richly creative ties thanks to the Rimsy-Korsakov suite and ballet.  But is it just too much name?  Ella Scheherazade Smith, Mia Scheherazade Carson, Louise Scheherazade Allen.  Hmmm … it might work.

12th – Seattle Seahawks fans Kelly and Troy Mann named their new daughter Cydnee Leigh 12th.  In football parlance, the twelfth man refers to the fans in the stadium.  Cydnee Leigh 12th Mann feels a little bit like giving your son the middle name Danger – tempting, but perhaps over the top.  Then again, I just made the case for Scheherazade, so maybe I’m being too dismissive of the gridiron-inspired name.

Farenorth – I’ve saved the best for last!  Discovery Channel reality series Alaska: The Last Frontier follows the rugged, back-to-basics life of the Kilcher family.  Their best known member is singer Jewel, but she’s not the only one with a stand-out name.  Eve and Eivin Kilcher recently welcomed a new baby boy called Findlay Farenorth.  Farenorth is appropriate for an Alaska babe, but this is no creative choice brainstormed in recent months.  It was the name Yule Kilcher chose when he came to America and decided to set out for the distant state, back in 1913.  So not only is it poetic and appropriate, it is a family name, too.

Would you consider a truly daring middle?  Are there possibilities – family names, meaningful names, hero names or something borrowed from a favorite story or piece f music – that might work?

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