As Many Names: The Middle Name Gender Divide

Kmillicam’s post about Gender Bias in the Book of Mormon, and the DoM podcast that inspired her post, got me thinking about other ways that language is used to distinguish women from men, and one  way we do this is through the use of middle names, or lack thereof.

When I was born, my parents decided not to give me a middle name. They did the same for my sister three years later, but both of my older brothers have middle names: my dad’s name for my oldest brother, and another favorite boy’s name for my other brother. The reason they changed tradition with me, they always told me, was that when I was married I would use my surname as a new middle name. Unfortunately the use of my maiden name as a middle name, and I have been questioned why my parents gave me a boy’s name as a middle name because my old surname is also a boy’s first given name (like Scott).

I am often fascinated to learn people’s middle names, as it seems to say something new and exciting about them. I always loved learning the meanings behind names, and with a middle name there was more of the story explained, an ancestor or parent’s friend they were named after, or a name that stood as a symbol for something the family considered important. Or, just a beautiful-sounding full name that rolled off the tongue particularly well.

This is something I thought about often growing up. I had to think about it when filling out forms for school or the doctor, or when filling out the bubble sheets for a yearly standardized test. It was brought up each year when teachers learned our names. It was something brought up in conversations with friends. Middle names were talked about in extended family settings.

To be honest, when I thought about it, I always felt a bit under-dressed without a middle name. Part of the reason is that my first name–Alisa–was so hard for people to pronounce. Over 70% of strangers will pronounce my name the same as they would Alyssa. My third grade teacher called me Alison the entire year. I had a doctor who mistakenly called me Ali. It’s just a complicated first name as far as readability goes. Because of this, I went by the shortened “Lisa” from 4th to 6th grade. I had always felt that if I had a middle name, one that was easier for people to read, I could use that name instead of my difficult first name. Instead, I felt like I didn’t have a choice. My best friend and debate partner in 6th grade was a boy who went by his middle name mainly. I envied that flexibility.

Perhaps my parents were just following trends. There were three other girls my age in my ward. Granted, they were all born in the months after I was, but none of us had middle names. It wasn’t until the four of us went to elementary school and were exposed to girls outside of our ward that we learned it was possible for girls to have middle names. Also, I eventually learned that my mother had a middle name, but it was the maiden name of her mother (which is also the first name for a boy). So maybe my mom’s middle name never meant much to her, as she had three names (middle, maiden, and new last name) that were all male-first-name-sounding surnames.

Because I spent so much time thinking about this though, I couldn’t help but feel the contrast deeply between what my brothers have, and how I was given less. My one brother who has a son had the privilege of naming his first son by his middle name, thus being able to name son after father but avoiding the confusing “junior” issues when they share the same first name. Middle names are a great way of honoring ancestors, and I would miss out on that if I continued the tradition of not naming daughters with middle names.

Fortunately, I that will not be the case should I have a daughter. She will get a middle name, or two. The reason why is because I wouldn’t want my daughter to feel like she is less of a person–less compared to a son–until she becomes married. While I hope that my son will find a partner of his choice and get married, and I would hope the same for any daughter I would have, I would not want to call out that the expectation is greater for a daughter than a son by something like a disproportionate naming system followed by an explanation that because she would get married and assume a new name, her name will at one time finally become whole. For many reasons, some religious, some familial, some cultural, and some biological, I felt deeply growing up that I would not be complete until I were married. My lack of a middle name in anticipation of my marriage was just one of these messages that told me the standard was different for me than for my older brothers.

Margaret Atwood said, “The Eskimos had 52 names for snow because it was important to them; there ought to be as many for love.” Perhaps we ought to be giving our daughters as many names as our sons. I know I will be.

How about you? If you are female, were you given a middle name? What do you think about your middle name? What do you think of waiting until marriage to use a maiden name as a middle name?

Alisa

Alisa is a professional adult educator and corporate manager who enjoys spending time with her husband and son.

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68 Responses

  1. CatherineWO says:

    I feel I have to come to the defense of your parents a little bit here. I don’t have a middle name. My dad always told me it was because my first name is so long (Catherine-9 letters) and so was my last name (Wheelwright-11 letters). Also, my dad himself did not have a middle name, so he didn’t think it was necessary. I never felt slighted because I didn’t have a middle name and when I married I did (and still do) use my maiden name as a middle name.

    I did not give any of my three daughters middle names either. At the time (late 70s-early 80s) NOT giving a girl a middle name was considered the more feminist thing to do, because then the girl would not have to drop her family name when she got married, which was the current custom. (It didn’t occur to me at that time that my daughters would have the option of not taking their husbands names when marrying).

    Naming girls is problematic no matter how you approach it. I’m still glad that my dad won out (Mom wanted me to have a middle name), but if I had it to do over again with my own daughters, I would give them middle names, if only to give them more options, and I would keep my family name instead of taking my husband’s (but then what last name do you give to your children?). Two of my daughters have taken their husbands’ last names and one of them has hyphenated her last name with her husband’s. Naming practice in the Western world is patriarchal any way you look at it, so I’m not sure what the answer is for feminism. Any ideas?

    • de Pizan says:

      I’ve always liked the Spanish naming system, where a child receives two surnames, one from the mother and one from the father. I know in Spain, the mother’s surname was usually first and the father’s last and often the mother’s was dropped in everyday writing/speech–but they’ve recently changed that to allow the parents to choose which order the surnames are given. When they marry, they do not yet take another surname, but retain their two birth surnames. And then when they have children each parent will decide which of their two surnames will be passed down (generally it’s the last one). I think out of most naming systems, that has the potential for the most equality.

      • Whoa-man says:

        That is exactly what my husband and I did for our daughter’s name. She took a surname from both of us, but they aren’t hyphenated so it allows some flexibility in how she will use it in the future.

  2. C. says:

    My family has a tradition that I really like, all the kids middle names are family surnames. Mine is my mother’s maiden name, my sister’s is a distant ancestor on my mother’s side and my brothers got family names from my father’s side.

    My mother hyphenated her own maiden name and married name, and when I married I hyphenated my middle and maiden name so it was the same as hers (sort of in tribute). I love all my names because they show both the families I came from as well as the one I married into – some descendant will bless me when doing genealogy work, but that’s not why I did it. I like the idea of using family names as middle names. J.’s already agreed to do the same with our future kids so a someday-daughter will have my maiden name for a middle name, hope she likes it as much as I did.

  3. Maybe we could shift to Norwegian naming conventions – Frank Tomson, Karen Cherylsdaughter, etc. That’d really confuse teachers on parents nights. 😉

    • BethSmash says:

      Wouldn’t it be cool though if it was Karentomson/Tomkarenson/Karentomdaughter/Tomkarendaughter

      One of those options decided by the parent.
      Just a random thought.

  4. BethSmash says:

    I don’t necessarily think your parents were trying on purpose to make you feel “less than”. They probably just thought, like Catherine said, this way she can still keep her own name! And it very well could be a trending thing. Although, I have heard that church records automatically move your maiden name to be part of your middle name (so they can keep track of you better for family history – not sure if this is actually true though – ANY clerks out there want to comment?) Perhaps they just liked how your name flowed. When I think about baby names – I try to think of names that flow well together. Maybe they just knew that that was supposed to be your name (that kinda happened with me). Are your parents still around to ask? Because that might be interesting to know. Maybe there’s more to your name then just not having a middle name so that you can keep your maiden name, you know what I mean?

    Now, in my family my two oldest sisters don’t have middle names, (and this is what my mom has repeatedly said so I believe it) because their names are combination names like MaryJo or Maryanne – except not those two names – because I prefer to remain mostly anonymous, And they’re pretty unique names (both pretty unique AND pretty and unique) My dad did not have a middle name, my mom does, my older brother does and went by it because his first name was the same as my dad’s. I also have a middle name – for multiple reasons and it is a family name. technically all our names are family names just my oldest sisters got combined into one name – so it’s slightly different. I like my middle name – I didn’t when I was little because it was hard to spell and it’s VERY old fashioned, but I like it now. Oddly enough, my mom recently says she doesn’t like her middle name, but I LOVE it. And if I end up with kids one day – they’ll all get middle names (one of which will be my mom’s) and I’m pretty certain that I won’t name the first name the same as either my or the father’s name. I know you thought that having more names gives you more options, and it does – but my brother dreaded that first day of class when they’d call his name – and then he’d have to explain that he went by his middle name, (kind of because his first name has teasing potential and kind of because he was shy and that involved speaking up in class – and in jr high and high school 7 or 8 classes).

    I think your name should be up to you. Do you want to use your maiden name as a middle name? Then do it, or not (again, might run into some pushback from the church – we should really find out if they do that) I’m not certain I’ll even change my name if I marry (I’ll DEFINITELY here about that from my family – wouldn’t it be cool if we had a culture which incorporated both names automatically). I had one friend whose parents both hyphenated their names, which I always liked, and now I’m curious if my friend liked it or not.

    OOH!!! One thing I am clearly against – and I’m preemptively sorry if I ruffle anyone’s feathers! Naming your kids all the same middle name. What’s up with that? I mean, I get it if it’s a surname that has a lot of meaning in your family, but all four of your girls middle name is rose, or ann or anne or dawn… I just don’t get it.

    • BethSmash says:

      hear* definitely HEAR about that…

      • MonikerChallenged says:

        I can one up that. I know two families where the kids all have the same first name, and go by the middle name. I’m curious where this practice originated. It’s kinda Asian but kinda not.

      • Anon right now says:

        I dated a guy who, along with all his siblings, had their mom’s maiden name as their middle name. I thought it was a very feminist, yet also practical and simple way to incorporate mom’s maiden name into her children’s names, and my husband and I are going to continue that practice. My maiden name is Taylor–and I’ve known boys with that first name, as well as girls with that first name, and plenty of people with that surname, so I think it works great.

      • stacer says:

        Moniker, that’s also a German tradition–I have a lot of ancestors on the German side whose entire family of 10 or 14 boys all have the first name-middle name combo of Johann _____. Johann George, Johann William, etc. And then they all went by their middle names. I have no idea what the reasoning behind that system is.

    • Janell says:

      According to New Family Search, my surname is still that of my maiden name. In the church’s genealogy system a woman always remains the surname given to her by her parents. The system did automatically update to include my husband – but not his family – in my chart when my membership record was updated.

      Now, as for the membership records? I had to go battle with the membership clerk to get my middle/maiden name corrected in the system. I was a bit irritated when, despite the instruction the temple had been given, my name was incorrectly read in sacrament meeting! They’d just subbed out my married name for my maiden name and called it good.

    • Caroline says:

      All my children will have the same middle name — my last name. That way my side of the family will always be represented whenever they write their names out. I like it also because it connects me with them — I never changed my name when I married, and I like seeing my last name attached to them in some way.

      • BethSmash says:

        I think that’s great, since that’s how you decided to stay connected to your family. And if your maiden name was Rose, Ann(e) or Dawn, I apologize.

      • BethSmash says:

        Anon for now – I see that you’re also doing the maiden name for middle name thing.

        I think it’s cool that you and Caroline are passing along your family names.

        Now, here’s a question – a legitimate question, I’m not trying to be snarky or anything. If you felt so strongly about passing along the name, why didn’t you and your husband hyphenate? And did you change your own last name when you married, or keep your own? Or was it just a matter of preference that you liked your last name as a middle name anyway or thought hyphenating too bulky? OR did you not realize how important it was to you until you’d been married a while?

      • Caroline says:

        BethSmash,
        Those are good questions. When I was 22 and dating, I knew I wouldn’t change my name when I married, but I felt like it was too much if I insisted on my kids names being hyphenated. So I didn’t. I told my boyfriend/fiance that the kids could have his last name. Since having my kids, I have had some regrets about that. Now I wish I had pressed for a hyphen more, though I know my husband would have resisted strongly. The best I can do now is always write their middle name down — on homework, on doctor’s forms, on anything I possibly can.

      • charlene says:

        BethSmash, I’m another one who is giving my children (well, only one so far) my last name as a middle name. I did keep my own last name. As for hyphenation, I don’t think this is a sustainable solution. What’s she going to do when she has kids, have a triply-hyphenated name? In practice I think this is as good a solution as any. However, if I had my way and we had two kids, I’d want at least one of them to be named [HisLastName] [MyLastName] as the middle and last names, respectively. But I don’t think my husband will agree to that (it was enough of a battle to get him to give him my last name as a middle name, as all his family has middle names like “Rose” and “Anne”).

      • BethSmash says:

        I should point out, I’m NOT against those particular names, I just had an acquaintance who two of the girls’ middle names were rose, and another one where all the middle names were anne (yes, with the e) and I heard them say that they didn’t feel unique… so their parents didn’t do it to make them feel “less than” but they felt the weren’t perceived as individuals.

  5. FoxyJ says:

    My husband’s oldest two sisters don’t have middle names, but one of them chose a middle name for herself and has used it for years. I’m not sure if it’s a legal middle name or not. They were born in the mid-1960s. My other three sisters-in-law were born in the 70s and they all have middle names. I also don’t know if it was due to a change in fathers either (the two sets of sisters have different fathers).

    My sister and I were given middle names. When I got married I kept my middle name and dropped my maiden name, and it’s never bothered me. I just thought my first and middle names flowed better together, and I still feel connected to my family of birth even if I don’t actually have that name anymore. I also feel more connected to my husband by taking his name. My middle name was my father’s mother’s name, and she died when he was 11 so I feel like it is a sacred trust to have her name. Interestingly I look and act quite a lot like her.

    We gave all three of our kids middle names. We have two daughters. My husband was born and raised in Hawaii, so we chose Hawaiian names as middle names. Our oldest’s first name is greek for wisdom, so her middle name means ‘dew from heaven’ in Hawaiian. Our baby’s name is an old family name and then her middle name is a Hawaiian word that can be one version of my middle name and is also a word used to refer to women warriors in ancient Hawaii. We’ve talked with all our kids about what their names mean and why we chose them, and they think it is cool. I figure when they grow up they can do whatever they like with their names.

  6. Heather says:

    My full name is Heather Kathleen Olson Beal. I try to go by “Sister Olson Beal” at church (although that seems to be very hard for people . . .) and “Dr. Olson Beal” at work.

    We gave all the kids “Olson” as a middle name. Sadly, they don’t really use it. It bugs me, but I also can’t give any energy to it . . .

  7. Hilary says:

    My Mother in Law doesn’t have a middle name, and it’s always seemed to really bug her, and she gave her daughter a middle name when she was born.
    I loved picking out my children’s middle names, as they all have deep family meaning (my oldest daughter shares a middle name with my younger sister who passed away, my second daughter’s middle name is her great (x5) grandmother’s name, and my son actually has two middle names — he was born on the day my husband’s brother was born and died (he was a preemie and passed away hours after birth), and so he has his Uncle’s name, as well as my husband’s, his father’s AND his grandfather’s middle name.)All of their middle names have so much meaning to me.
    Yet, interestingly, when I got married, I totally dropped my middle name and kept my maiden name legally — it seemed to make things easier to still have my maiden name on legal documents for stuff like bank accounts (some that I still haven’t switched over to my new last name in over 7 years). Yet, on the Church records my name is my given first name, my given middle name, and my married last name. So I see it used both ways a lot — and never know what to tell people what to say when I’m getting a blessing 🙂

  8. Erin says:

    My middle name is the same name as the person who molested me when I was younger, so I have never been particularly fond of my own middle name.

    I chose not to give my daughter a middle name, but only because her first name has kind of a middle-name in it (we chose the name to honor both of her grandmothers, who have the same middle name). I don’t expect her to use her maiden name as her middle name when she gets married. I want her to do whatever she wants with her name when she gets married. (Change to her husband’s last name, keep her own name, whatever.)

  9. Diane says:

    I am originally from an Italian family. All of my siblings have middle names, I did not have one on my birth certificate, but, when I was baptized a year later I had one. I’m not sure where my mom got the name Diane from, but, my middle name is from my grandmother, however she gave me the American version of her name, Lucille, and I hate it. Now, had she named me Lucia, which is my grandmother’s actual name, I would have liked it. I love the way its’ pronounced.

    Another piece of FYI, in Italy, most girls are not given middle names because their first names are generally used as middle names and the given name is Maria

  10. Janell says:

    It’s been tradition in my matriarchal line for 5+ generations that women are not given a middle name at birth, and, really, it makes remembering the genelogy in that line a snap.

    Thus I was not given a “middle name” nor did I ever find myself wishing for one. I’ve always found it comforting that I would be at least partially known by name as a part of my birth family regardless of my marital status.

  11. Erin says:

    I have a middle name and was honored to give the same middle name to my daughter. My husband’s sisters (and now their daughters) do not have middle names. I’ve always felt a little sorry for them. I “get” the idea that parents do it so their daughters can use their maiden name as their middle name when you get married, but I could have done that as well. I clearly remember after I got married, and the legal documents I had to sign, it allowed me the choice, so at that time I could have dropped my middle name and kept my maiden name if I wanted to (which I didn’t, because I love my middle name—Elizabeth).

    BTW- I’m not a feminist–I’m about as conservative as you get, just in case you were thinking this is a TBM “thing” to not give a middle name to a girl.

    At least I have a better middle name than my husband. His middle name is “W”, and yes, that’s “W” with quotations, not W. (with a period) It’s actually in quotations on his birth certificate 🙂 I’ve given him a hard time about that since I met him.

  12. Erin says:

    My sister and I both have middle names, largely because my mom always felt gipped not having one (her mother has one, so I’m not entirely sure why she ended up without). Mine is my mother’s name and my sister’s is my mother’s grandmother’s name. I was always glad I had a middle name – it seemed strange not to have one and, from a child’s perspective, felt that the person was incomplete or else you’d wonder why their parents had made such an obviously weird choice. I grew up on the East Coast, and almost all of my female classmates had middle names. When I married I kept my middle name and dropped my maiden. I didn’t mind my maiden name, but I don’t really like last names as first or middle names, and I felt more attached to my middle name.

    I’ve never heard the “that way they don’t have to give up their original name” idea, but have frequently heard that “well, her last name will become her middle name when she’s married”. To me, there’s a world of difference between those two views.

  13. Kullervo says:

    I’m male, and my parents and siblings (male and female) all have one middle name each. My mother took my father’s last name and dropped her maiden name instead of hyphenating or adding.

    My wife also has one middle name, and took my last name instead of hyphenating or adding, although she has talked about going back to her maiden name.

    Our kids, one son and one daughter, each have two middle names, because there are too many good ones to pick. The pattern that is developing is that each of our kids gets a classic/retro first name, a family middle name, and a second middle name that’s from mythology or literature or something else significant.

    We gave it some thought when we were naming our daughter (she’s our second), and at the end of the day we decided that we’re going to give her all the names we want to, and she can sort it out when she grows up.

    I mean, that’s really the rub here: as an adult, you’re in charge of your own name Don’t feel like you have enough middle names? Give yourself one.

    • I liked the “give yourself one” response.

      BTW, historically in the Norse countries, son’s got their father’s name with “son” added, daughters got their mother’s name with “daughter” added. So all of Peter’s sons were Petersons, all of Win’s daughters were Winsdaughter. Last names changed every generation, and not at marriage.

      I’m a believer in giving kids pretty names with a good cadence. Did that for all of my daughters.

    • Alisa says:

      The point is about the message it sends to *girls* to not have the same given names as boys on expectation of their marriage. Girls cannot legally change their own name against the will of the parents/guardians who named them.

  14. Lorraine says:

    I decided to maintain all my names when I got married, yes, 4 names. The social security card guy thought I was nuts.

    I actually think it’s sort of a nice idea that your maiden name becomes a middle name, because then aren’t forced to abandon your whole former identity when you marry. You can carry it with you. But I can see why you might have felt annoyed that you didn’t get the additional identifier like your brothers did.

  15. Moriah Jovan says:

    The use of the maiden name as a middle name upon marriage is a very old, old, old deep Southern aristocratic thing. It’s proper and expected. Even women who aren’t debutantes do it, if they’re from the South, and I’ve done it a time or two when I needed to make my pre-marriage identity known.

    Whether Southern women have a given middle name at birth or not is up to the parents, but I see this protocol in use on Facebook constantly, because that’s where it’s really helpful.

    (I did work with a woman once who shared the same middle name with all 14 of her sisters: Marie. They were Catholic.)

  16. Corktree says:

    I don’t have one and always wished I did, so I carefully chose them for my daughters. They each have one that very simply compliments their multi-syllabled first names, but which I got from family members or records or trees so that they have some connection to what came before. Oddly, my two oldest have June and May, and people assumed it was significant as to events, but they’re in the family and just went well with their first names. My son has kept the tradition of the male members of his ancestry by having his grandfather’s name as the middle, which worked out really well with my daughter’s names.

  17. Petra says:

    I wasn’t given a middle name at birth, which it sounds like was a larger trend than I knew in the 70s and 80s. Since I didn’t take my husband’s name when I married, this plan definitely backfired on my parents, especially my mother, who I know had wanted to pass on her own maiden name and had agonized for a long time about the decision.

    These days I don’t feel “less” than my brothers because of my lack of a middle name, but as a child I definitely did–when I was about two, I started using my mother’s maiden name as a middle name, and I didn’t find out that it wasn’t my official middle name until I was about 12 and wondered aloud to my mother why it wasn’t on my passport. Now I enjoy the uniqueness of not having a middle name (non-Mormons are shocked and appalled when they hear the reasoning) and the funny story of learning, at 12, that I had made up the name I thought I had.

    • I also don’t have a middle name so that I could use my “maiden” name as my middle name when I married but kept my birth name when I married, so I still just have two names.

      We gave both our daughters (and our son) middle names chosen from family names from my husband’s ethnic group. Passing on my name wasn’t ever something I really considered – but keeping my own name was (is) extremely important to me.

      It took a little tenacity, but my name does not include my husband’s surname on either the church records or my temple recommend.

      • Keri Brooks says:

        What kind of tenacity did it take? I’m not married, but if I do get married, I’m not going to change my name. What battle am I in for?

        Was the clerk trying to pressure you to adopt your husband’s name, or was he just changing it on the records by assumption?

      • CatherineWO says:

        I had hoped that attitudes in the Church had changed over the years. After just a few years of marriage I contemplated changing my name back to my maiden name. One of our ward priesthood leaders heard me talking about it to another woman at church one day and stood there in the hallway berating me and saying that if I didn’t keep my husband’s name I would be violating my temple covenants. What the heck? (I just ignored him.)

  18. N. Curtis says:

    I wish our naming convetion for our children was this symbolic. Instead names come about as intense negotiation and all-out war.

    However, EmilyCC learned with our first child that women will always win that fight. Hospitals are required to only allow mothers to name children. I asked Emily’s doc why that is, and she looked at me slyly and said, “we always know who the mother is.”

    Chalk one up for the feminist there.

  19. Diane says:

    Well, I’m curious as to what you guys think about George Foreman, the boxing champion, giving his sons, all the same name, the only difference is after the name he gives them a number.

  20. Its nice to live in a time/culture where you are allowed to make your name pretty much anything you like. Makes for interesting challenges for genealogy, but you can’t have everything 😉

  21. Jenzi says:

    I was not given a middle name with the expectation that I would use my maiden name as my middle name when I got married. When I saw the membership records after I got married my maiden name had not been changed to my middle name and my husband’s surname had been added on. I discussed the problem every year at tithing settlement, when the records are reviewed, but it never changed. We had to move out of the ward before a new clerk would make the requested changes. For priesthood ordinances I always presented my name as my parents intended with my maiden name as my middle name. All of my kids have middle names. They can decide for themselves what to do when they get married.

  22. alex w. says:

    I’ve two middle names–the first and middle names of an aunt who passed away before I died. It never occurred to me that this was unusual until I met many girls in school who didn’t have any middle name at all, and I found their statements that their parents said they’d just use their maiden names as middle names when they get married. I’m not sure why they couldn’t be given a middle name and then, oh, I don’t know, decide what they wanted to do with their names if they got married.

    In a funny coincidence, my husband doesn’t have a middle name, but his older sister and younger brother do. 🙂

    We plan on giving any children we have middle names. They can do what they want with their names when they’re grown, married or not. (Although I have such a good opinion of my taste in names that I can’t imagine that they’d want to change their names too much 😉 )

  23. Janna says:

    I do not have a middle name because my parents wanted me to use my maiden name (let’s stop and think about that term for a moment – “maiden” name) as my middle name after marriage. I am just about to turn 40 and am single, and will not change my last name if I marry.

  24. Alisa Mercer says:

    I too am named Alisa (and I also went by Lisa most of my growing up years, until I went to university). I was given a middle name at birth, but it never really had any special meaning. When I got married at 30 I wasn’t quite ready to give up my name/identity so I legally kept my maiden name as my middle name and took my husband’s name as my last name. As a show of support and solidarity my husband also legally dropped his middle name and took my maiden name as his middle name. So now we both have the same middle name and last name….which sometimes arouses questions, but ones I am happy to answer- about equality in marriage.
    We have 3 year old twins who both have significant middle names. We also recently had a new baby who we named after my husband’s former middle name.

    • BethSmash says:

      That’s really a cool idea.

      • Alisa Mercer says:

        Just as a side note…..it is really easy to change your middle name. When my husband when to change his he bought our marriage certificate to the SS office. They said that you don’t need any sort of documentation to change your middle name. You can change it to anything you want….you just can’t change your first or last name with out a legal document.

    • April says:

      Wow! I have never met a man who changed his name upon marriage. What a cool guy!

  25. sarah k. says:

    I took my husband’s name, and thus have a middle name now, but it’s not satisfying to me, in several ways. I was always jealous of the kids with middle names, and it makes no sense to me to deprive someone of the… I dunno… mystique of a middle name for at least the first two decades of their life, on the assumption that they will marry and change their name. I regret taking my husbands name because my ancestral name is so much a part of my identity, and partly because I’m a huge bratty snob, and sometimes don’t want to be associated with my MIL.

    I love the above comment about the both partners taking both ancestral names. I know of a couple who melded their maternal grandmothers’ ancestral names to form a new name, which both took. I always explain to my kids, both male and female, that it will be their choice whether to take their partners’ names, or vice versa, or to have no name changing at all. I make sure my boys understand it’s not a requirement that only females do it. I kick against the patriarchal pricks every chance I get. (laughing so hard right now at my own wit!)

  26. Que says:

    I LOVE my middle name. My mom had dreamed of having a girl with my first and middle name since she was a teenager. I am her fourth daughter, and having been given two names she loved so much means a lot. When I get married, I will be dropping my maiden name. I don’t have much association with my father and the only reason I haven’t legally changed my last name to my mother’s maiden name is that it’s expensive and a hassle. So I am really glad that I was given a middle name – that way I get to choose whether to keep my middle & maiden names or which one I want to use.

  27. Sandra says:

    I also wasn’t given a middle name- just as my mother wasn’t. My brother was. I was jealous and gave myself a middle name as I child that I used all the time.
    When I was 18 my parents decided to give all of the girls middle names one year for Christmas. I opted out because I was 18 because it felt so late and inorganic at that point.
    I have since gotten married and changed my maiden name to my middle. I’m okay with it now. But I did give my own daughter a middle name at birth, the way I wish I had been given.

  28. Kristen Says No says:

    Boy or girl, all of my children get my maiden name as their middle name. It’s how my grandparents handled my mom and aunt. I remember reading Gordon Bitner Hinckley’s biography in the 90’s and liking that he had his mother’s maiden name. It seems nice and tidy for family history this way.

  29. Kmillecam says:

    I think it’s fine for people to defend Alisa’s parents a bit, but I just wanted to clarify that there is a difference between Alisa saying her parents meant to hurt her with their choice, and that they ended up hurting her by making her fell “less than” anyway because of their decision. I am sure they didn’t mean it, but that doesn’t make the argument in the OP any less compelling. I’m sure they didn’t think of how she might feel about it as a feminist now, but that’s the interesting part: perhaps we should be more aware of WHY we choose names the way we do. Perhaps we should take into consideration why Alisa feels this way, and why other women feel a similar issue there.

    • Diane says:

      KM
      I’m not so sure, that people are defending Alyssa’s parents as much as they are saying that its’ a pretty common phenomena.
      I even tried to show a little humor by bringing up George Foreman, but, in doing so, I was also trying to show that this also happens to male children as well . I think I did try to do it when I mentioned George Foreman naming all his sons with the same name, with the only difference being a number, but, people just didn’t pay attention

      Furthermore, As being the youngest in my family, I just think by the time I got around, my parents were just to tired to come up with another name.

    • Kmillecam says:

      It wasn’t anyone in particular, just a comment here or there. No worries, I know what y’all mean. I just want to raise the awareness a bit more on this one 🙂

  30. Janna says:

    I wonder what it would be like if the tradition was for men to give up their “lad’s,” “young man’s” or “boy virgin’s” name when they got married. As a tangent, I think the term “maiden” name is so interesting.

  31. lanwenyi says:

    Everyone in my family has a middle name (5 girls, 1 boy). Of the 4 daughters who married, 3 took their spouse’s name (including me) and one kept the family’s name. Of the 3 who changed their names, 2 kept the family name as a 2nd middle name, and 1 did not (me). (Before anyone asks, I’m simply not attached to my family’s name and was happy to be rid of it. I had intended to keep it as a 2nd middle name, but I filled out the papers wrong at the SSA and don’t care enough to fix it.)

    Of the 4 who have children, all of the kids (all girls except my son) have middle names.
    The eldest has a middle name that tributes her grandmothers and a second one that is her father’s last name. Her surname is her mother’s last name.
    The 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grandchildren have their mother’s surname as their middle name w/ their father’s surname as their surname. Their father is Hispanic and that is the naming convention he grew up with, so he wanted it for his children.
    The 4th grandchild has the same middle name as her mother.
    My kids (the 6th and 7th grandchildren) have names that recognize their heritage. Their first names are caucasion names. Their middle names are Japanese (my husband is Japanese). They have their dad’s last name (the surname we picked together for our family).
    There is a planned 8th grandchild (not mine), but I don’t know what naming convention will be used. I’m sure the child will have a middle name though.

    I don’t think that there is any *right* or *wrong* way to name a child. I don’t think that you should do something just b/c everyone else does, but reasonable people can choose different ways to honor different parts of their heritage. It doesn’t mean that everyone should make sure to include both surnames in some way. What is important to person A may have NO significance to Person B.

  32. Aimee says:

    To be honest, I never had much of an attachment to my maiden name–my dad was the only male child in his family (and hence the only carrier of his family name by the time I was aware of such things) and I have only sisters who both go primarily by their married names now. Even my dad’s mother got remarried and took a new last name so there was never any real attachment to the name for me or my extended family. Getting married at 21 I never gave a second thought to changing my name even though I was already a conscious feminist–I was (and still am) so in love that I was more preoccupied with the romantic notion of sharing a name with my husband than I was of anything else in the moment.

    It’s only been in the past three or four years that I’ve reconsidered the importance I place on my family name. After having two boys (our first son’s middle name is after my dad, which I found more meaningful than my family surname) two years ago I gave birth to a daughter and felt suddenly like I wanted to give her my family name. This hadn’t even occurred to me with our sons, but I loved the idea of my daughter having a name that was (and still is) mine. So she ended up with four names–a first, middle, my surname and my husband’s surname. I don’t know what she’ll choose to do with all those names in the future, but I like knowing she’ll have a choice.

    • Aimee says:

      As a side note, sometimes I fantasize about changing mine and my daughters last name from Hickman to Hickwoman (which my spell checker is already yelling at me about!).

  33. BethSmash says:

    So… random question. In my family you could tell when my mom was mad at me because I got the first and middle name in a disapproving voice. My brother got that too. And as far as I could see (when I was little) it was the main reason for the middle name. Chastisement. SO, for those of you with middle names, did you get this too? For those of you without middle names, did you get your full name like my older sisters?

  34. Thought I’d use my full name for this. = )

    Not giving a girl a middle name so that she can later use her maiden name as a middle name assumes two things: that she will marry, and that she will change her last name upon marriage. Not every girl is going to do those two things.

    I didn’t change my last name upon getting married. I love my name. I love that my mom and I share the same middle name, and if I ever have a daughter, I’ll give her my middle name as well as my last name and my husband’s last name. She’ll have more names than she knows what to do with.

    Not giving a girl a middle name is sort of like asserting that she’s not complete, that she can’t have a first, middle and last name (which is the cultural norm) until she’s married. THEN she’ll be complete. I don’t like it. Not one bit.

  35. kamisaki says:

    I always wished I had a middle name. It always bothered me that, even as an infant, I was looked at as only able to “complete” my identity once I was married. A girl should feel important, beautiful, and complete just as she is, not dependent on a man coming into her life and completing her. A marriage can be a wonderful thing, but it is only fulfilling when both partners come in as equals. I always felt this practice automatically put me below my husband, before I ever had a chance to be his equal. Consequently, my daughter has her own first, middle and last name, and I have no intention of encouraging her to keep her maiden name when she is married. She’s perfect as she is, man or no man, and if she finds happiness with a man, then more power to her. But her name won’t play into that decision at all.

  36. kamisaki says:

    I meant to say I have no intention of encouraging her to change, drop or keep her maiden name if she is married, or take on her husband’s name. It’s her decision!

  37. Paula says:

    I have a middle name, Jane, and I hate it, because it sounds so cutesy: Paula Jane. Or dated, clearly from the 50s when I was born. But it was important to my parents because of some family associations. My names were chosen in some ways because I was too important to my family– complicated to explain completely, but I’m an only child, who arrived after a long stretch of infertility, and I feel like too many expectations got loaded on me with the names. I guess my point being that parents are people and not always at their most rational when choosing names. The fact that I greatly resemble both physically and in personality the Paul whom I am named for makes it even more complicated. Not that I dislike him, but, well, it’s complicated….

    I don’t use my middle name, and use my maiden name as a middle name to honor that family connection. I ended up doing that because I wanted to have the same surname as my kids and husband and because my maiden name was pretty common, at least in Utah. I just don’t think there’s any good blanket solution for forming family names– meaning hyphenated, made up surnames, one spouse changing surnames, etc.

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