Middle Names: Are two better than one?

September 23, 2009 Linda Rosenkrantz

It’s no longer just foreign royals who are using multiple middle names for their babies.  More and more parents–both celebrity and civilian– are doubling or even tripling up, seeing it as an opportunity to widen their naming options, both in terms of honoring a namesake, or just for the sheer pleasure of choosing and bestowing an extra name or two.

One appealing possibility is that of honoring both maternal or paternal grandparents, as Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin did using all fourof their parents’ names for their children– Apple Blythe Alison and Moses Bruce Anthony. It’s also an opportunity for a Mom to use her maiden name –a venerable tradition–along with  another, hand-picked one.  This is among the positive points brought up by posters on our message boards—the fact that it allows you to use one of your favorite names along with either your maiden name or that of some other family member you might want to honor.

There are some minor downsides including possible future bureaucratic snafus down the road. Smitty wrote in a while back to say that she works in the medical field and that “When women marry and hyphenate their names or keep their maiden and middle names and add their married names, the computer system we have can freak out.” –and forms like Social Security limit you to one middle only,  in effect depriving a person of recording her full name (so you might want to consider the order of the middle names quite carefully.)   

Another slight  but possibly annoying problem someone mentioned is the difficulty of getting anything monogrammed with four intials. All in all, though, most people who have grown up with two middles seem to have found that the positives outweigh the negatives, and plan on carrying on the tradition with their own children.

I do know from personal experience (two nieces) that kids with no middle name at all can definitely feel cheated. This can happen too with the uneven distribution among siblings–especially twins. If one has fewer than the other (Are you listening, Sarah Jessica?), he or she could feel slighted. (In fact, I really like what Sachito wrote in, quoting a Hungarian proverb that says that the more names a child has, the more loved he is.)

Which brings us to the question of triple middles. In this case, I think it very much has to do with the length and flow of the names themselves. Anna Livia Morgan May, fine; Archibald Barnaby Emerson McSweeney, maybe not. And beyond three is beyond the pale: we certainly wouldn’t advise going the Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland route.


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