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Middle Names - Mo's Journal
April 22nd, 2008
09:26 am


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Middle Names
I don't have one and always felt deprived, but that's not what I want to write about :-). I've seen and heard a lot lately about Barack Obama's middle name. There was a good piece on it on NPR this past weekend (and with Pesach I was cooking a lot and listening to the radio a lot, so I think I heard it three times).

Obama doesn't generally use his middle name. I don't know if he ever did. I do know that until young adulthood he went by "Barry" and doesn't use that anymore. I think when people grow up they often adjust the form of their names they use. I go with the Miss Manners dictum that you give kids all the naming equipment you can: first name (not a nickname as a first name), middle name, initials that don't spell out something rude, etc. and then just let them use whatever they want at each stage of life. One of my kids went through a short phase of using her middle name instead of her first name, and my youngest has taken to signing her name including her middle name, but in general - so far - they've all used first name and double-barreled hyphenated last name. This may well change over time, and I'll try to be gracious if - as I expect it will be - my last name is the one that gets dropped.

But getting back to Obama: as NPR and others have reported, the fact that his middle name is "Hussein" (it was his father's middle name as well) has led to a lot of right wing types suggesting he is a crypto-Muslim. And since there is very widespread bigotry towards Muslims in this country, they say or insinuate this to discredit him. You can pretty much tell that someone is on the far right, before you read anything s/he says, when you either see Obama referred to as "Barack Hussein Obama" or you see a gratuitous and insinuating reference to him not using his middle name.

It made me think about other presidential and presidential hopeful middle names. Certainly we know both President Bushes': George Herbert Walker Bush and George Walker Bush, although both typically use middle initials rather than middle names. And in between them was William Jefferson Clinton, but he generally went by Bill. Hillary Clinton occasionally uses her birth name, Rodham, as a middle name, but I had to look up her bio to find that she also has a given middle name (unlike poor me, wah!): Diane.

And then I started wondering: what is John McCain's middle name? He never seems to use one.

I looked it up: Sidney. This is the difference between the left and the right. Folks could be making hay out of the fact that McCain is running away from a middle name that doesn't sound really macho in 2008, but that would be such a silly issue. Just as silly as making hay out of Obama's middle name not being used...

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(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:April 22nd, 2008 02:41 pm (UTC)
My father doesn't have a middle name either. He occasionally gets mail addressed to Edward NMI Greengrass, which he explained was because he used to put N(o) M(iddle) I(nitial) on offical forms :)

I can't even get into the stupidity of the "OMG, his middle name is Hussein" thing!
[User Picture]
Date:April 22nd, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
Your father's story reminds me of the (perhaps mythical) RB Jones, who had only initials and not names. He wrote his name on his induction forms when he was drafted as he always had on forms:

R(only) B(only) Jones

and then spent his whole time in the army as Ronly Bonly Jones.
[User Picture]
Date:April 22nd, 2008 03:34 pm (UTC)
The whole middle name thing seems tied to a lot of immigrant name issues (like Herminia becomes Minnie, and Feigele is Florence). But with a nasty twist of know-nothingness.

Maybe somewhere out there is a viral email campaign pointing out that John McCain's middle name is shared by many African-American girls as a first name? I'm sure that would mean something to someone.

Edited at 2008-04-22 03:34 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:April 22nd, 2008 04:43 pm (UTC)
Maybe somewhere out there is a viral email campaign pointing out that John McCain's middle name is shared by many African-American girls as a first name?

Yes, that's kind of what I was getting at in pointing out that it doesn't sound so macho now (although I'm sure that when he was born it was a solidly masculine name). But I just can't see the Democratic party or liberal bloggers, even, focusing on something that silly.

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