Sorry, Gertrude

Sometimes people comment on really old blog posts here. I imagine they googled something, found a 3-year-old post, left a comment, and, most likely, they never came back. The only other person who is going to see their comment is the one other random googler who happens to find that one post (out of 742, so far). Because I don't think my regular readers are going back to my 2004 posts and checking on the comments.

But sometimes those comments are just so... "good"... that I have to make sure you all see them.

For example, in August 2004, I wrote a post called "Law and The Amazing Race." In it, I added, regarding Mirna, a participant of that season's Amazing Race, after noting that I did not like her name:
...[t]he most surprising part is that Mirna isn't even her first name, it's her middle name.

I understand that sometimes people have a good reason for using their middle name. Maybe it sounds better, maybe it's less confusing. But if my first name was Lara and my middle name was Mirna, you could bet I'd go by Lara.

I think my post is clear: I don't think "Mirna," is a nice sounding name. (The word I used in the original post was "awful.") If I had a choice over the name "Lara" or the name "Mirna," I would choose "Lara."

I wrote that I think sometimes people have a good reason for using their middle name. Sometimes parents name a child after another family member, for instance, and then use the middle name to differentiate.

I'm personally from the school of thought that a middle name should be more like an accent, and if that's what your parents want to call you, they should make it your first name. I think a middle name should be more like the flower in your hair, not your whole outfit, you know what I mean?

Someone commented (back in 2004), that they don't trust people who use their middle name. I don't really care. Personally, I don't really trust people who have first names as both their first name and their last name. (Like, "Joseph Thomas," where "Thomas" is the surname - but you weren't really sure - maybe that's his middle name, right?) And I realize it's something you can't really control. But still, I feel like, at best, it's confusing, and at worst, it's kind of shifty.

I'm also a little confused by women who have compound first names, like "Mary Beth," but "Mary Beth" is their first name, not their first and middle name. Because, really, how can you tell? I mean, if your birth certificate says Mary Beth Smith, it sure looks to me like your first name is "Mary" and your middle name is "Beth." And then when you correct me and say, "No, my first name is Mary Beth," I think, "Well, ok, maybe your parents called you Mary Beth, but the first name on your birth certificate is Mary and the name Beth really falls in the middle, doesn't it?"

And, you know, we all judge people by their names, sometimes before we even meet them. (Men, tell me you'd want to go on a blind date with a "Hilda," "Gertrude," or "Esther," rather than a "Christina," "Allison," or "Kathryn.") That's why there is such pressure on new parents to come up with good names for their children.

So, the only real problem I have with people who use their middle name instead of their first name is when their first name is the nicer name. (If you were born "Sarah Gertrude Smith" and you're going by "Gertrude," I personally question your judgment. Period.) We all have our ideas of what are names are nice and what names aren't, or what names fit a person, and what names don't. So if you don't like your first name, use your middle name. And if you don't like your middle name, no one has to know it. And if you don't like either name, come up with your own nickname.

But, please, don't be such a crybaby like this commenter, who, just yesterday, left this comment on my Amazing Race post from over 3 years ago:
I want to make a comment about idiots saying that people who go by their middle names shouldn't be trusted by anyone. That is a retarded and bigoted statement to make about people. I go by my middle name and my parents forced me to do this every single day of my life. This means that my parents started doing this to me on the day of my birth. My older brother, sister and some of our cousins were also forced by our parents to do this from the time of their births. Almost everyone that I know who is called by their middle name was forced to do this from their birth as well. Why on earth do you idiots force people from birth to go by their middle names, get amnesia about us, refuse to accommodate us, screw up our names on every single legal document and then punish us because of your stupidity? Why don't you quit creating the problem that you hate so much and stop acting like a bunch of jerks because of it? If you want to screw up someone's name and punish them for it, then you should feel free to screw up your own names. Leave other people alone about this because it is rude.

Leave other people alone? Really? Because it kind of seems like maybe you were out searching for the topic.

But, more importantly, if you're old enough to use the internet, then you're old enough to say, "From now on, I'm going by my first name, and that is that." It might be a little confusing for a while - like when your high school friends who know you as "Gertrude" come visit you at college and meet your friends who know you as "Sarah." But they'll get over it.

And maybe that will help you get over it.


  1. The commenter makes a good point, Blondie. Why DO you force people from birth to go by their middle names and then punish them for it later? Stop that!

  2. This post cracks me up. I'm a double-name person, and my husband goes by his middle name. If you knew my husband's first name, then you'd understand. The only time I don't raise issue with folks going by their first name is when they are given a family name. For instance, my name is one that has been passed for (now) 10 generations through my mother's family. The oldest daughter is given a version of it. My mother also goes by her middle name (her given middle name, now her first). My husband was named for his father (an Irish name that is almost never heard here in the US), and has always gone by his middle name. So my point is to (nicely) say that sometimes it makes sense for someone to take their middle name as their chosen name.

    Other times, it's just odd.

  3. You know who I don't trust? People who use their middle name, but still use their first initial. Like G. Gordon Liddy. You just know they're hiding something.

  4. My favorite part is that the poster claims that we are refusing to accommodate people who use their middle names, as if it is a disability that requires accommodation under the ADA or something. Sheesh, get over it!

  5. I would *so* rather go by "Gertrude" than "Sarah."

    But that commenter is still a tool.


  6. Yeah, me the oppressor.

    Actually, I think I agree most with windypundit - either use your first name or use your middle name, but that first middle initial thing is stupid, G. Gordon Liddy.

  7. Like the actor, F. Murray Abraham. As someone once asked, "What's he hiding with the "F"?"

  8. "Sarah" is probably a poor choice for an example in this case. Having been born at the peak of the Sarah/Sara craze, I once was on a soccer team with six (!) others. I became known as "Sara Frances" mainly out of necessity, and it's kinda stuck.

  9. How would you idiots like it if I tried to force all of you to switch to your first initial and middle name on all of your legal documents? What if all of you hate your middle names? Would you like to have it shoved down your throats? Would you like to have your first names thrown away as if your first names are unwanted garbage? What if I constantly continued to do do this even after you have constantly told me to stop doing this? What if I told you idiots to switch to names that you hate and get over it? Would you do it? Somehow I doubt that any of you would switch names. Wouldn't you want me to simply stop being a jerk and put your first name, middle initial, and last name on your legal documents? If I do what you want me to do, am I treating you as if you have a disabilty? No I'm not. Am I treating you as if you are a crybaby? No I'm not doing that either. What I am doing is accommodating you by allowing you to have your records under your preferred name without an unwanted hassle. This is the polite thing to do and you have a double standard if you won't accept my first initial, middle name and last name.