You’ve settled on the perfect first name, when suddenly you realize that you’re not done yet.
There’s a family member that you’d love to honor – but can you really name your new son Algernon?
Maybe it isn’t so bad being one of three women named Jennifer in your office, but two of you share the middle name Ann, and the third is Anne. Now you’re in love with the name Ava, but worry that your daughter will be known as Ava LastInitial.
Speaking of out there, is it really okay to name your daughter Luscinia, or will she have to spell and repeat her name endlessly?
So many dilemmas, and one possible solution to them all: look to the middle.
Like the mighty Oreo, the filling in the middle can make a huge difference. For some parents, it is as easy as using a family name – think of the Spelling-McDermott’s Aaron, Doreen, Margaret, and Davey. Other parents have good reason to fall back on names sometimes dismissed as filler – if your grandparents are James and Rose, those middles are meaningful, even if they’re very common.
But there’s a certain magic to going big – BIG – with middle names. Choices like Algernon and Luscinia are the Double Stufs of cookie-dom, with more than you expect awaiting. They’re a delight to name enthusiasts, but going big can be useful for lots of reasons.
If you’re consider a daring middle, here are seven reasons to go for it!
7. A name that feels overwhelming in the first spot might be perfect in the middle.
Fretting that your daughter will dislike answering to Scheherazade? Doubtful that anyone will ever spell Aloysius correctly? Concerned that everyone will shorten Elsinore to Ellie, no matter what your preferences may be?
A name that you find extravagant – or even outlandish – might be easier to wear as a middle name.
6. Family names, honor names, place names with meaning, literary favorites all work surprisingly well in the middle.
Grandpa Algernon’s name is charming and quirky in the middle. So is Thackeray in honor of your favorite poet, or Ocean for the child of a marine biologist, or Majorca, for the place you honeymooned. Think of Brangelina’s Shiloh Nouvel, the middle name inspired by an architect admired by Brad.
There’s a story there, and it could be quite the fun one to tell – especially because, unlike a first name, you only have to tell the middle name story some of the time.
5. It’s a great compromise spot.
Your top name is Arsenio. He likes James. To him, Arsenio seems too flashy, too dramatic. You see the appeal of classic James, but worry that he is too ordinary.
Or maybe you’re the only grandchild in your generation with a hope of having a daughter, and your entire family is really hoping you’ll pass down family name Edwina, and you’d like to oblige. But Edwina just isn’t your style, and it seems like a lot of name to saddle on a child born in 2014.
Where’s the middle ground? In the middle, of course.
If there’s pressure to use a name that doesn’t quite suit, the middle makes a convenient hiding spot. James Arsenio gives you some spark. Elena Edwina honors your loved one. It’s not always perfect – but that’s the textbook definition of a compromise, right?
4. Adventurous middles can spark up a popular or conventional given name.
There’s nothing wrong with the first two combinations, but if you’re using a fairly common given name, a bigger, more daring middle can make the whole name more interesting.
It’s doubly true if your surname is common. Betcha there are dozens of boys named Mason Brown. But Mason Obadiah Brown, Mason Lazarus Brown, Mason Swift Brown, Mason Noble Brown, Mason Augustus Brown – any of those is less likely to repeat.
3. It might come in handy.
While plenty of us never use our middles, many a famous writer, artist, or other talented person is known by their middle exclusively. Maxfield Parrish was born Frederick Maxfield Parrish. Dashiell Hammett’s given name was Samuel. In both cases, their middles were family names.
Yes, there are families of artists and musicians. (Think of Rufus Wainwright, son of Loudon, brother to Martha, uncle to Arcangelo, and father to Viva. Musical talent and a penchant for off-beat names must run in their blood.) But there are also accountants and dentists who are astonished that their children grow up to be sculptors and dancers and such.
2. It’s a way to make a style statement without burdening your kiddo.
Are you drawn to names like Bluebell or Steadfast or Keats, but feel like they go too far on the standing-out/fitting-in scale?
There’s nothing wrong with choosing unusual names. But you know your family best. If Atlas and Paloma strike you as over-the-top, then tuck him in the middle spot. Parker Atlas and Genevieve Paloma might be exactly the right combinations. The middle names add an extra oomph, something that surprises, but doesn’t need to be constantly explained.
1. As we strive for distinctive names, this can be the best way to go about it.
We want so much from our children’s names nowadays. Easy to say and spell, a nice balance of standing out and fitting in, meaningful but not burdensome … everyone’s list is different, but many of us have lists that are extensive, and hard to satisfy.
Thinking about your child’s full name – first, middle, and maybe even a bonus middle if you’re so inclined – can provide more options.
What was your approach to choosing middle names? Are your children’s middles safe, daring, or somewhere in between?