People Middle Names

Posted in Uncategorized by chamblee54 on September 12, 2011

This is a double repost, about the custom of middle names. The part about Presidential middle names was written during the 2008 campaign. Pictures are from The Library of Congress .

With the current controversy about the Middle name of Barack Hussein Obama, perhaps it is time for a look at the lessons of history. George Washington did not have a middle name. Nor the rest of the early Presidents. The first one to have a middle name (or initial) is John Quincy Adams. J.Q. Adams is the first son of a president to hold the office. Many current observers wish he were still the only one.

The next POTUS to show a middle initial was William Henry Harrison. He was the first victim of the Zero Factor, in which Presidents elected in years ending in zero died in office. This tradition was ended by Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Another Zero Factor President, Abraham Lincoln, did not have a middle name. Ulysses S. Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant. One legend has a mistake on a school application giving him the middle name Simpson, after his mother’s maiden name. Moving into the twentieth century, William Howard Taft was referred to by all three names.

In many ways, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first president of the modern age. For some reason, his middle name was frequently used, and the initials FDR became popular. Presidential initials did not become popular again until JFK and LBJ. After FDR went to the fireside chat in the sky, Harry S. Truman became president. The S stood for nothing.

The next president whose middle name was frequently used was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Could this be a subtle dig at his Irish background, much as the current noise about B. Hussein Obama? As for Baines and Milhous, those both seemed to fit the personality of the man in the oval office.

After Tricky Dick was helicopered out of the White House, the use of Presidential middle names went into decline. Gerald Rudolph Ford would be a good trivia question. George Herbert Walker Bush downplayed his quadruple initials, perhaps knowing that many people don’t trust a man with two middle names. George Walker Bush is frequently referred to by his middle initial. Some even refer to the current “War on Terror” as “World War W”.

In the current election, we have a dark skinned man with a Muslim middle name. We have a white haired republican with the middle name of Sidney. And we have a married woman, who uses her maiden name as a middle name. Her original middle name is Diane. Thanks to wikipedia for help in researching this story.

Last year, PG heard a lot of fuss about the middle name of Barack Hussein Obama. This led to a post on the subject of Presidential Middle Names . That post is still getting google hits, and PG appreciates any traffic he can get.

While researching this feature, PG noticed that many of the early presidents did not have middle names . Apparently, before the American Revolution, middle names were seldom given. For some reason the custom caught on during the 19th century. When America started to draft men for World War I, the draft papers included a space for the middle name.

One possible reason for middle names was population density and increased family size. Many people began to have the same first name ( or Christian name) and last name ( Surname). Middle names were a way to distinguish between Jimmy Bob Jones and Jimmy Joe Jones. There was possibly a bit of status involved in having more than one name.

Women have long used the maiden name as a middle name after marriage. Girls were often not given middle names for this reason. The hyphenated Maiden-Married name is a fairly recent custom (Which this author hopes is a fad that will go away).

While middle names were originally a decoration, many are now used as a primary identification. PG is referred to as a diminutive of his middle name, which can be confusing when authorities insist on using his first name. The middle name is also a handy alternative for someone who gets tired of the name they are called by. There is also this thought …”I think parents give kids middle names so the kids will know when they are really p****d at them.” (That forum has an interesting post about Asian names and languages.) For some reason, people on trial for spectacular felonies are always referred to by all three names.


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  1. […] sky led the wise men to the manger with the baby Jesus. No one knows why people always used the middle name when talking about Mr. Roosevelt. Even fewer people know that Herbert Hoover’s middle name […]

  2. Middle Names | Chamblee54 said, on July 24, 2013 at 10:19 am

    […] is a double repost, about the custom of middle names. It was published in this format in 2011. Today, a middle name is like a body part or an excuse.. everyone has one. It has not always been […]

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