by Mark Levy
I’m going to give you plenty of advanced notice to get ready for Middle Name Pride Day this time around. Mark your calendars. My online sources list March 10th as the special day to celebrate middle names, or the first Friday of the first full week in March. But that alternative rule seems needlessly complicated. I think the middle of the month — that is, the third Wednesday of any month with five Wednesdays — would be more appropriate; but as usual, no one asked me.
A fellow named Jerry Hill got the ball rolling on middle names. He thought Middle Name Pride Day would be a good time for us to call each other by our middle names. The only people whose middle name I know are dead and it seems disrespectful to refer to the deceased by his or her middle name.
Some people are not particularly proud of their middle name; they’re actually ashamed of it. President Obama, for example, suggested not giving your newborn child Hussein as a middle name if you’d like him or her to run for President some day.
Speaking of Presidents, Harry S. Truman used only his middle initial, because that’s all he had. That wasn’t the case for Rutherford B. Hayes or Warren G. Harding or Ulysses S. Grant, but you never hear their middle names: Birchard, Gamaliel, and Simpson, respectively. Fortunately, all of them preceded Middle Name Pride Day.
On the other hand, some folks are proud of their middle names. I’ll bet you can fill in the surnames of famous people if I provide just their first and middle names. Try it: J. Edgar _________, F. Scott _________, Wolfgang Amadeus _________, Thomas Alva _________, Alexander Graham _________, and Joan of _________.
Show business people don’t always appear to have a last name, much less a middle one, like Cher, Madonna, Liberace, and Prince. But other celebrities would feel naked without their middle name, like Tommy Lee Jones, Jamie Lee Curtis, James Earl Jones, Billy Bob Thornton, and Francis Ford Coppola.
I can understand why certain actors keep their middle names hidden. Richard Gere’s middle name is Tiffany; Tina Fay’s is Stamantina; Hugh Grant’s is Mungo; and Quincy Jones’s, believe it or not, is Delight. And you hardly ever hear Donald Duck use his middle name: Fauntleroy.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed about anything when maybe he should have been. Still, his middle name doesn’t top the list of embarrassments, especially in the eyes of his three wives and a few women married to his clients who may or may not have had middle names.
My middle name is Edward. I’m not embarrassed by it, but I never use it since it takes so long to write. When I become famous, I will hate to spend so much time signing my name for autograph hunters when I should be preparing for my appearance on The Tonight Show.
Joyce Carol Oates’s name, however long, doesn’t stop her from being one of the most prolific and successful authors. At last count, knocking out an average of two novels per year, she had more than 40 novels published under her name and a score of books published in a couple of her noms de plume in addition to dozens of short story collections. When I asked her to sign one of her books, she just penned her initials — yes, all three of them; but to be fair, 400 people were on line behind me, all with the same request. And she might have had a tough day when I approached her. She spends at least 10 hours every day writing long hand. Writer’s cramp is a penalty for being a prolific, Luddite author.
Notorious criminals often go by their full names. In fact, nine of the twelve most heinous serial killers in the U.S. used their three names. The most famous three political assassins — Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, and John Wilkes Booth — used three names. So did Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon.
When I was in law school, I learned about U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justices Earl Warren and then Warren Burger. It was probably a mistake on my part to discover that Warren Burger’s middle name was Earl, so Earl Warren was immediately succeeded by Warren Earl…Burger. Confusing, eh? What are the odds? Even though their middle names were a source of befuddlement, the two chief justices were politically opposite so hardly anyone confuses them.
Remember Jerry Hill, the man who invented this holiday? How ironic and sad that the man who wanted to help people feel proud of their middle name didn’t have one himself. It would be like Aquaman’s father not knowing how to dog paddle.
About the author:
Mark Levy is an attorney with the Binghamton-based law firm of Hinman Howard and Kattell. He is a contributing editor to Ragazine of a legal advice column for artists and others who are engaged in creative pursuits (Feeding the Starving Artist), and is Ragazine‘s “Casual Observer”. He lives in Colorado. You can see his photo with ALVA and read more about him in About Us.