Photo by thost
Photo by thost

It’s Christmas Time, late December, when capitalists celebrate Consumerism, Pagans celebrate Winter Solstice, and Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. During Christmas Time I sometimes remember the day I was out shopping with my three small children in tow. They overheard another shopper swear, “Jesus H. Christ!”, and one of the kids asked me, in all innocence, what Jesus’ middle name was. Taken aback, I asked him what made him ask that. “Well, that man said Jesus’ middle name began with an H, so what did the H stand for?” Thinking quickly (which mothers with young children have to do on a regular basis), I replied, “Well, I’m not sure, honey, but I think it was probably ‘Holy.’” 

Whew, got around that one!

There is nothing quite so fraught in the lives of new parents as the choosing of a child’s name. There can be all sorts of strings attached, all sorts of underlying intentions and considerations and traps. Whom shall we honor, or remember, or please, or piss off? If we give her this name, what is she likely to be nicknamed? What will the acronym of the name be? Will that distant elderly relative leave us a bequest for that child? If we MUST use an aunt’s out-dated name, can we hide it as an initial in the middle of the child’s name and only reveal the name if necessary?

I never thought of my mother’s mother, Gertrude Quick, as having a sense of humor until I realized that she’d named her daughter Dorothy Blanche, and her son John Biery – “Dorothy Be Quick” and “John Be Quick.” Cute.

My husband and I named our firstborn “Joseph Thomas Trenshaw.” That was a home run name – in one brilliant choice he became the namesake of four: his two grandfathers: Joseph Thomas (my father), and Joseph Trenshaw (my husband’s father); his uncle: Joseph Thomas (my brother); and his father: Joseph Trenshaw (my husband). That was a LOT of Josephs in one family, so we called him by his middle name, Tommy.

I have no middle name. When I’m filling out a form in a medical office or a bank I just put a line through the blank space asking for a middle initial. (I’ve also been known to answer “Person to call in an emergency” with “Doctor” and to fill the blank for “sex” with “occasionally.” But that may be too much information for my readers!)

I don’t have a middle name. This is because (I was told), when I married I would – “of course” – use my maiden name to fill that gap. I was at least twenty-five years old before I realized the huge presumptions in that explanation: when (not “if”) I married, I would take my husband’s surname, and I would want to keep my maiden name as part of my identity. I was at least forty before those presumptions made me really angry.

I did get married, at age 19. I did take my husband’s surname. But I did not keep my maiden name as a middle name. At first it was because I simply wanted to have some say in the matter. Later, out of sheer spite, I chose to continue having no middle name, ever.

And you know, I haven’t missed it a bit.

14 replies
  1. sarah MAC dougall
    sarah MAC dougall says:

    Your acerbic sense of humor never ceases to get joyful belly laughs! Capitalists celebrate Consumerism; Jesus Holy Christ (my father used this one a lot- I wonder if it germinated in the military?) Assumptions about names. I had no middle name when born- then as a teenager I felt left out so I gave me the name Lynn- then when I converted to Judaism in the cult I took the names Sarah Naomi and have kept them both as they evoke strong women- I am of the pagan variety so the biblical connections are not why I keep these two names!! Thanks for the laughs and the thought provoking stories! Happy 2019, Cynthia!!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Sometimes it’s a real drag to have to write a blog post. And then, when a post generates thoughtfulness, memories, and laughs, it’s worth all the effort. Thanks, Sarah, for affirming this.

      Reply
  2. Ann Linnea
    Ann Linnea says:

    Checking in as another person with no middle name, I have to say it has not been a problem. My birth name was Ann Linnea Brown. Always loved my middle name—same as Mom’s and Grandma’s—and took it as my full name after paddling around Lake Superior and needing to “rechristen” myself. Names are very important!

    Reply
  3. Mary Nausadis
    Mary Nausadis says:

    Being a cradle Catholic, the main criteria for my mother was that the name was a saint’s name. My sister was the first born and was named Mary Rebecca, going by Becky. When I came along 22 months later, she apparently had no name picked out yet and the doctor suggested Mary Margaret, which is what she thought was good…..forgetting she already had one Mary. But, that is how it remained and, of course, has worked out pretty fine.

    When the father of my children and I were choosing a name, his main concern was that there was no one else in the family who had the name…..that included all our extended families. So we never had to pick a family name.

    A cute little aside; an older woman I knew years ago told me that her mother told her that when choosing a name for your child, go and call it out the back door to see how it sounds.

    Wishing you a fruitful and healthy 2019, Cynthia.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Love the suggestion about how to tell whether it’s a good name or not.

      Also, the idea of choosing a name that no one else in the family has. In fact, I’m currently writing a young adult novel about a girl who is a “first-name child,” with no one before her carrying that name!

      Reply
      • Mary Nausadis
        Mary Nausadis says:

        I’m wondering, Cynthia if being a first-named child in your novel, is gong to have an affect on her positively or negatively. Because you mentioned it, I’m thinking it is going to have some impact on her.

        Reply
  4. Lynne Donnelly
    Lynne Donnelly says:

    We gave each of our children TWO middle names — so they could have my last name as part of their names. (I bucked the tradition and didn’t change MY name when I got married.) But, sadly, there are no forms that have spaces for two middle names or initials, so the second one always gets left off. If I’d realized that I would have simply given them my last name as their ONLY middle name. Alas…

    My nephew got my first name (with a male spelling) for his middle name. I always thought he would hate it, because it’s so rare for a man to have Lyn for a name, but he doesn’t!

    My middle name is Carol. When I pointed out to my mother that she gave me the reverse of the popular Carolyn, she was surprised. She hadn’t realized it. But my initials, LCD, stand for least common denominator, and as the youngest in my family, I wasn’t thrilled with that as a child.

    I never realized I had so much to say about middle names!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Well, welcome to the club (of people who have more to say about middle names than they thought!). Thanks for adding your stories to this growing collection.

      Reply
  5. Sari
    Sari says:

    My mother took my dad’s last name as hers, and because he didn’t like the name Helene (the name she had been known as through most of her life), she adopted her middle name, Lee as her first. There was an adjustment and realization as a child when I went back to the Allegheny Mountains outside of Pittsburg to her hometown of Rural Valley (pop. under 1000), that I was “Helene’s daughter”.
    I always wondered if she would have seemed a different person to me and others if she had been a Helene into her adult years. She was very modern, and probably lived more as her subsequent chosen name, rather than the one she was born with. But I still have a warm place for Helene, especially when I look at pictures of her from childhood up to her wedding. And going back and taking Daniel, or my granddaughter to Rural Valley is still on my list of possible adventures to come.
    Probably need to name a cat Helene as some point, eh?
    (BTW – loved your optional answers for medical intake). May I plagiarize some day??)
    Love,
    S

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Plagiarize away, Sari – it’s a secret pleasure, though, ’cause I don’t think anybody ever reads those forms anyway.

      Reply
  6. Starr Rohrman
    Starr Rohrman says:

    I too, have no middle name. Though when I was young I wanted one like the other kids so I tried Susan. Don’t know why I chose that name, but it did not last long. I have also happily lived the rest of my life with no middle name. My son in law is from Russia and he has no middle name. My daughter named her daughter Maya Starr…tho I was highly complimented, I thought it sounded like the name of a cruise ship. At any rate, never heard we young women would want to take our husband’s surname and keep our maiden name as part of our identity, but back then we pretty much did as we were told. Enjoyed your blog. Happy New Year

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      And I have the privilege of knowing how you came to have the name “Starr” – after “Brenda Starr, Reporter,” the long-running comic strip scripted and drawn by your mom, Dale Messick. It was fun, as a kid, when she would occasionally let us look at her drawing board with the next episode half-finished. Thanks for the memories.

      Reply

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