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.
Mentalfloss.com — 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.
Time.com 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.