FRAZIER: What’s in a (middle) name?

Published 4:00 am Saturday, January 28, 2023

My baby girl is getting married, and I have been having fun working on the wedding list. (This is being said with great sarcasm in my voice.)

It is a laborious job, as those who have done the same know.

In addition to tracking down addresses of family and friends, I have also been seeking out the middle names of those on the invitation list.

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I know times have changed and it is not a faux pas anymore to not include middle names — some of my invitations will be middle nameless — but since I did it for my older daughters’ weddings, I figured I would give it the old college try and include as many middle names as I could find for my son’s and baby girl’s wedding invitations.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention — I am having two weddings this year.

Anyway, in my quest for middle names, I began to wonder how middle names were derived. So, like the Google girl I have become, I went out in search of the answer, and ironically, middle names became a thing during the Middle Ages. — don’t you just love that website name — states during the Middle Ages when Europeans were torn between giving their child a saint’s name or a common family name, adding a third solved the problem: given name, Baptismal name, surname.

As this concept arrived with immigrants coming to the U.S., having three names became a way of “aspiring to a higher social class.”

“Nonreligious middle names — often maternal maiden names — gradually became the norm.”

Mental floss said by the Civil War, it had become customary to name a child whatever you liked. has a bit of a different version as to the origin of middle names.

This website claims middle names were revived in Italy around the 13th century.

Revived — meaning some Romans had three names, but that was only the men. Women had two names and slaves had one.

As the practice of middle names expanded throughout Europe by the 19th century, middle names were used among all classes of society. Most people I know today have a middle name, whether good or not so good.

I can remember how awful it must have been for my mother to have the middle name Burdine. But now I see the significance of it. Burdine was her mother’s maiden name and as Stephen Wilson, the author of “The Means of Naming: A Social History,” stated on the Time website, middle names serve as a way to keep family names going.

Maybe including the middle name on an invitation has its purpose after all.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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