Wanna make something of it? Sunday is "Middle Name Pride Day."

Name Nerds main

By Joe Holleman
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Let us not dwell on that Shakespearean question "What's in a name?" Instead, let's look at what is between names.

There are thousands, probably even millions, who don't know that March 7 is "Middle Name Pride Day."

Well, now you do.

Often, the middle name is the place where the rich and not-so-rich tuck in a family surname. And more and more frequently, women are taking their maiden name for that center spot after they marry.

But mostly we're talking about the average, all-American middle name - the place where the out-of-fashion names of beloved great-uncles and favorite aunts go to hide, turning up only as an initial on some official document.

We're talking about names already on the birth certificate before the bearer had a chance to squawk about it.

In the scheme of Western civilization, middle names are relatively new, according to Rhonda R. McClure, author of numerous genealogy books, including "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy." According to McClure, we can thank German immigrants in the early 1800s.

"They were in the habit of giving their children two names at baptism. The first name was a spiritual name, often a favorite saint's name; and the second one, which would later be known as the middle name, was the secular name," McClure said.

"The secular name, or 'call name,' was the one by which the child was known and the name used in legal records. It was not uncommon for the spiritual name to be the same for all the children of the same sex within the family," she said.

By the 1840s, giving children a middle name became widespread. By World War I, nearly everyone in America had a middle name.

Norah Burch, who hosts the Web site www.namenerds.com, said there is a substantial difference in how the names are picked for boys and girls.

"Girls' middle names are very predictable," she said, adding that she did an informal study of birth announcements in 1997 in and around Ithaca, N.Y.

"The vast majority of girls had Ann or Marie as a middle name, with Lynn in third place," she said. "And those three names didn't even show up in the top 10 of the most popular girls' first names. Girls seem to get middle names because they sound good, because it has a good rhythm.

"With boys, it's different," Burch added. "Michael, John and James were the most popular middle names, but they were also in the top 10 of popular first names," she said.

Burch has seen a recent change in girls' middle names. "Rose and Grace, which are like old/new names, are becoming quite popular," she said.

Burch, an administrator at Harvard University, said she has a special fondness for middle names.

"My first name is Amy. But there were five girls other than me named Amy in my junior high class. And I wasn't even the only Amy B., so I was known as 'short Amy B.' That's when I decided to go with my middle name."

Robin Smith, TV anchor and reporter at KMOV (Channel 4), uses her middle name professionally. (She does not reveal her first name to protect herself from identity theft, she said.)

"I've been called Robin my whole life," said Smith. She added that the name came from her mother's affection for the work of A.A. Milne, whose most famous character (this side of Winnie the Pooh) is Christopher Robin.

"My brother is five years older and his name is Christopher. Five years later, I came along and got Robin as a middle name."

Smith said she had some hesitation about using Robin when she was starting her career. "I was afraid that maybe it would sound too young as I got older, but it still has a very useful and youthful feel to it," she said.

St. Clair County Board Chairman John Baricevic also uses his middle name. His full name - as is the names of his father and his son - is Charles John Baricevic. His father goes by Charles, and his son is called C.J., chairman Baricevic said.

These days, Stacy Christiansen, and her husband, Steve, are thinking a lot about middle names. They have a 6-year-old daughter, Kyra, and Stacy is expecting in July.

"Both Steve and I are very proud of our middle names, so we take it seriously," said Christiansen, of Manchester.

"Deane is my father's middle name, and the name he goes by. So we gave that middle name to Kyra. If the new baby is a boy, there is a tradition in my husband's family to give male children the name of Clarke. His middle name is Clarke," she said.

Christiansen said she doesn't want to give any of her children long names. "Christiansen is long enough," she said.

She also wishes her parents would've called her by her middle name. "My middle name is Jo, after the main character in 'Little Women.' I love that name, but my mom and dad always called me Stacy."

When it comes to middle names, few are as unique as 13-year-old Glen Ozenkoski's of Spanish Lake. It's Egbar.

"It was totally unplanned, the pregnancy," said Egbar's father, also Glen Ozenkoski. He and his wife, Linda, own OZ Line-a-Bed, a truck accessory company in north St. Louis County.

"Linda was all worried about (the pregnancy) working out, and how it was going to change our lives and our plans. So every day I would tell her 'Everything's Gonna Be All Right.'

"So when it came time to give him a middle name," the elder Ozenkoski pointed to the first letters of his daily refrain and explained, "we chose Egbar."

Robert Goodrich of the Post-Dispatch staff provided information for this article.

Reporter Joe Holleman
E-mail: jholleman@post-dispatch.com
Phone: 314-340-8254