Sunday Summary: 8.12.18Out here on the interwebs, well meaning types often caution parents about all sorts of Horrible Problems That Will Inevitably Occur if you do X, Y, or Z.

One of the biggies? If you name your child First Middle, but plan to call him Middle, it will be a Hassle and a Headache. Save yourself! Spare your child!

Except … I re-named myself legally as an adult. For so many reasons, I kept my birth name as my first name, and adopted a new middle that matched the nickname I’d been using for a few years. And so I became Amy Abigail, A. Abigail, Abby.

This sounds confusing, and indeed, it has its moments. But they’re very rare. This week, I had two separate occasions to mention my full legal name. In both cases, it would have been a surprise to the other person hearing it. I’m always, only Abby Sandel in real life.

In one case, the person said, “Oh, that’s interesting.” Maybe she’ll ask about it later. In the second case? He didn’t even comment. I suspect I’ll have to remind him at some point.

My sense is that LOTS of us are members of the call-me-by-my-middle club, whether by design from birth or personal choice later in life. If either of those categories includes you, tell me: is it a hassle? Or does it work for you?

Elsewhere online:

  • What’s the statute of limitations on adding a middle name to your child’s birth certificate? Because Kim Kardashian has been longing to use Noel for years, and is now unofficially calling her daughter Chi Noel. Kanye’s not into it, though, so even though it’s Kim’s middle, it’s not likely to be added to their daughter Chicago’s birth certificate. On the one hand, I’m used to kids adding confirmation names later in life, and sometimes using them in social settings. (For example, I know someone who added her confirmation name to her wedding invitations.) And as adults, I feel like we’re free to do whatever we want. But I find it interesting that Khloe didn’t give her daughter a middle name, either, but feels that she might add one later. Is delayed middle naming a thing? Or could it – should it – be one? Or is this strictly Kardashian?
  • While we’re talking celebrities, did you see that Dean Sheremet and Vanessa Black named their son Atlas Wilding? That middle name! Wilder is trending, but Wilding turns it up to eleven.
  • Okay, this article is from all the way back in 2013, but the analysis is interesting. I really like the way the alternative naming strategies are broken down. (Though some things have changed, and diehard name enthusiasts will probably quarrel with a few details.) But he makes a great point: If the kid is awesome, then (a weird name) is awesome. This always strikes me as the challenge of a really out-there name. I was an awkward, self-conscious kid. I think I would have liked a really unusual name … but would it have just made me feel even more out-of-place? We shall never know …
  • On a far more current note, Laura Wattenberg analyzes the State of the (Baby Naming) Union. In brief, statistically speaking, there is no more “normal” in baby names. While “fracturing” doesn’t necessarily seem like a good thing, the flip side is that we have tremendous freedom in naming. Because a “weird” name is only an issue if other people will identify it as such.
  • There are so many names that I expected to be big. And they just sort of fizzled. Emily has a profile up on one: Giselle. Because how fun was Amy Adams in Enchanted?
  • More name quotes from Nancy. LOVE the one about Donna! It’s always surprising when I meet a child with a name like Barbara or Linda, names that are lovely and strong and classic, but belong – at least in my mind – to an earlier generation. Which reminds me: I used to wonder if Barbara Bush was super-jealous of her twin sister’s name, Laura.
  • A boy named Harper Glen, brother to Charlie Ash and Nolan Robert! My take on the unisex names conundrum: if we can name girls Logan, we can name boys Harper. The problem isn’t that we’re borrowing from the boys for our daughters, it’s that we perceive that those names somehow become off-limits for boys once it starts happening. And yet I wonder if I’m being naive about that? Maybe it really does feel different for the boys answering to Riley and Madison, along the lines of the “weird” names mentioned earlier?
  • Turns out there’s a reason we confuse the names of our kids – and pets!

That’s all for this week! As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!

Girl Names 8.12.18 Boy Names 8.12.18

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My parents didn’t give me a middle name when I was born, and when I was 4 or 5, I came home and announced to my parents that I had picked THE MOST BEAUTIFUL name for my middle name. Not only was it intrinsically beautiful, it *also* went well with my last name. Henceforth, I was to be Sara Flower Fairy Friedemann.

    Shortly after that, my parents told me they picked “Liana” to be my middle name instead.

    I’m not honestly sure now how it ended up incorporated into my legal name; I want to say that when I applied for my first passport, my parents simply put that down on the application. Once I had that, then getting an updated social security card was possible. And then of course when I got married, I signed my name with it, and that certainly made it official if nothing else previously had. (In Wisconsin whatever name you sign on your marriage license is your new legal name.)

  2. Fellow stealth middle name user here! (My choice, when I was a preschooler.) It’s rarely if ever caused a problem. Usually when I explain that I go by my middle name, the other person will say “Oh, my mum/dad/cousin/friend/boss/etc does that too.” So it’s often an icebreaker.

    1. It *is* so much more common than anyone would guess, isn’t it? How fun that you’re in the club, too. 🙂

  3. Earlier this year I was involved in an audit of an energy company as an external consultant, a job that required our team to interview a large number of employees. I was surprised by the number of employees who went by their middle names, or had nicknames based on their middle names. We would have a list of interviewees including, say, “Sarah G. Smith,” and in the course of the interview someone would refer to this employee as “Gabby.”

    This happened A LOT, and especially if we were doing a phone interview rather than in person, it caused some confusion! I don’t think that should be a deterrent in naming, though. Company databases probably should learn to handle “preferred names” a bit better than that one did!

  4. I’m fascinated by the idea of male Sarahs in the 1980s. And male Margaret’s, too, particularly since the names began with them.
    And I don’t have a default name, but I do use Child and Kid and yes, Dog a lot.

  5. Interesting, interesting.

    Yes, giving children a second middle after they are older is a thing! At least, at my house. I give my children a second middle when they turn twelve as part of their rite of passage into youthdom and out of childdom. I, actually, have a name help letter I wanted to send you to help with my daughter’s second middle that is coming up in September.

    The second middle is a name that reflects the qualities I see in them as a person since you don’t know your child very well when you name him or her as an infant! For example, my oldest was named Miriam Nicole at birth. Miriam because I loved it and Nicole after me. When she turned 12 I gave her the second middle name Muse because she is so very, very creative–a nod to the muses in Greek mythology. Miriam composes music, is a talented lyricist, loves to draw, writes novels, cooks–anything creative. She loves her second middle and uses it on everything.

    My oldest son was Cowen Timothy at birth. Cowen because I loved it, Timothy after his dad. When he turned twelve he became Cowen Timothy Moroni. Moroni because Moroni is a very important warrior prophet in Book of Mormon scripture. My son is a lot like Moroni–very physical and strong, dedicated to righteousness and protecting the weak . . . while also being a bit hasty with a short fuse. He doesn’t use it on anything, or tell people about it, but he likes it when I bring it up privately between us because Moroni has long been a hero of his (Moroni and George Washington and Grandpa–my son’s favorite people) and he likes being reminded that just because you have a temper (or any problem) doesn’t mean you can’t turn it for good.

    My third turns 12 in September and I’m having a hard time nailing her name down because I’m trying to represent two different aspects of her personality with one name. I should just send you that help letter. 🙂

    The whole gender bending names is super irritating to me. There are still those of us traditionalists who want our child’s gender to be 100% determinable by the name given to said child.

  6. Growing up, I had the number one name in America for girls. There were a LOT of us, so nicknames we’re divvied out the first day of school.
    My middle name was even a common one… just not glamorous. No girl would be caught dead using it. But it’s cool now!

    For my 21st birthday, my husband gave me a legal name change (best gift EVER) and spent the day in court, the DMV, the Social Security office, the bank, the library, etc. I kept my original middle, but now I wish I would have just used it as a first.
    A few of our kids have called dibbs on using it for their own children… which would be fine with me. 🙂
    Good for you for making the switch, Abby. That’s bravery in its own right.

  7. The Bush twins are Barbara and Jenna, correct? (You have them listed as Barbara and Laura, who is their mother.) Interestingly, the twins are each named after a grandmother — Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Hawkins Welch. Actually, did I read that here a while back? Anyway, I imagine that was always some consolation if the younger Barbara felt any jealousy of her sister’s name!