NEW LOCATION

This blog has moved! Please join us over at http://www.swistle.com/babynames!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Naming Etiquette: Is It Okay to Use the Middle Name?

Christina writes:
I have 3 girls, and our "baby" is about to turn 1 year old!! Her name is Amelia Joy, but for various reasons we have been calling her by her middle name "Joy", since about 4 weeks of life. We don't call either of our other 2 girls by their middle names, and with 3 girls I'm wondering how much sibling rivalry it will cause when girl #3 grows up only to realize we have been calling her by her middle name all this time!! Amelia is a perfectly beautiful name, but our sweet pea is always so happy these days, Joy just seems to fit! Further to add to the confusion, she is beginning to walk and talk and ANSWERS only to Joy. So my question is at what point do we settle on a name?? Is it quite normal for a child to be fully called by their nickname, even though they have a beautiful given name? Could we call her "Amelia Joy" or do I really need to settle on one or the other??

In my opinion, it is okay to do this any way that feels right to you: call her Joy, call her Amelia, call her Amelia Joy, call her a combination---you're right no matter what. Both "Amelia" and "Joy" belong to her, and it doesn't seem like the sort of thing that would cause sibling problems.

I'm interested to hear what other people think. Is it a problem to use a middle name, if the middle name fits the child better? Is it a problem to sometimes use the first name and sometimes use the middle? Is it important to choose just one?

24 comments:

MonkeyBusiness said...

I am a big sib through a local community program, and my little sib goes by her middle name. It is perfectly fine, when she's a bit older she will understand her full name and then will answer really to either.

Kate said...

Having been called by my middle name my entire life, it has always kind of bothered me that my parents gave me a first name other than what they planned to call me. It made me embarrassed when I was in elementary school, as though I didn't go by the right name. Now as an adult, I really don't mind so much...but for legal reasons sometimes I think it would be easier.

I definitely think parents should name the child whatever they plan on calling them. If you know (in advance) that you will always call your child Daniel then don't name him Jacob Daniel....

With that being said, I think it is a completely different situation when parents choose to call the child by their middle name (or even a nickname) AFTER they are born. Sometimes the name just doesn't quite fit the way you expected. In these situations I think it is okay.

Amy said...

My dad goes by his middle name and always has. Some times it confuses people a bit but generally his official forms or whatnot just say Initial, Middle Name, Last Name (P. John Smith for example)

The Schwant Family said...

I've always been called my middle name and I'm fine with it. Yes it is a pain sometimes but I could have dropped my first name when I got married and used my maiden name as my middle name and my "real" name as my first but I didn't, I just added to the confusion and now I have 4 names. If it was really terrible to go by my middle name I would have changed it when I had the chance.
I think my parents did a fine job naming me because like Amelia Joy, my first name is a little more formal than my middle name and it didn't sound as good when it was switched. Amelia Joy has such a nice ring to it but Joy Amelia doesn't flow as well. Anyway, good job on the pretty name and just call her what fits - she can go by Amelia later if she wants!

Caitlin said...

Call her what fits. Either way, they both still belong to her, as Swistle so wonderfully put it.

Frankly, I wish that I didn't only associate my middle name with being in trouble, and hearing my Mom yell it. Not that she yelled it a lot, but I REALLY knew I was in trouble when I heard both names (didn't we all?). I don't ever remember it being used otherwise, and I wish I could appreciate my middle name for what it is, and feel like I own it.

Amelia Joy is beautiful, and I think it's great that she will hopefully be able to identify with both as she grows older.

Jan said...

Growing up I went by my first name at school, middle name at home. It only made for confusion at birthday parties. In college I decided to ask everyone to call me by my middle name. In grad school I briefly toyed with going back to my first name but gave up when I would freeze when people asked me what my name was. I am the only child in our family to go by a middle name and it's never been an issue. Actually, my mn goes better with my siblings' first names than my fn.

I'm guessing Joy will probably stick at home and then you can decide if that's just a family nn or an everywhere name.

Rachel said...

My boyfriend is Donald Scott but has been called Scott his whole life. He is WAY more a Scott than a Donald. Both his sisters are called by their first names (he's the youngest). He doesn't care at all because he'd rather go by Scott. The flow of the name sounds better with Donald first, which is why the parents used it there, and its a family name.

For me, I would use the name I want to call my child for their first name. But you didn't know you would be calling her Joy so it seems fine. Maybe start calling her Amelia Joy to get her used to both names. Then Joy can just be a nickname for her family?

-R- said...

I think it is fine to call her Joy. Maybe you could call her Amelia Joy occasionally just so she is more familiar with it, but I think you should call her whatever you want. I can't remember either of my parents ever calling me by my given name. They've always used a nickname, and I never cared.

I don't see how it could cause sibling rivalry.

Daycare Girl said...

I have a friend who was named Alice Anne at birth and her grandmother started calling her Joy the minute she got home from the hospital. When she turned 18 she had it legally changed because she never did use Alice or Ann at all. And I can't imagine calling her Alice- she's totally a Joy.

So, call her whatever fits her. :)

Anonymous said...

My son's middle name is my father's name, David. I considered just naming him David but thought it would be too confusing when he was around his grandpa. Now I wish I had just named him David. It's not that I don't like his first name, but... David would have been so perfect for him! And he does NOT want to be called by any nickname or his middle name. (Darn kids with their opinions and independence... Sheesh!)

The Baby Name Wizard blog had a post recently about naming regret, but it was mostly about changing the name of an infant. I also noticed in the comments that no one really seemed to regret the names they chose (or at least most people weren't admitting to it), but said that kid just grow into the names they're given.

Am I the only one with naming regret?

Personally I love Amelia and Joy, and if Joy seems to be what fits her then it's great!

Frazzled Mom said...

I agree with those who suggest calling her Amelia Joy, and then letting her decide when she's older which name she wants to use.

My grandfather goes by his middle name and finds it a pain, mostly now with online forms with only 1 character for the middle initial. But, from what I've heard, not everyone who goes by their middle name seems to mind that.

I don't see sibling rivalry as much of an issue either. I think the hassel of filling out online forms as an adult would be the bigger challenge. But she can always legally change her first name to Joy when she's 18, if that bothers her.

Erin said...

Hey Christina! (She's an in-real-life friend.) I think Joy is her name. It has been from the beginning. And I like the way it flows with your olders, too. It's OK for her to go by her middle name, in my opinion. I plan to keep calling her that anyway! Ha!

Anonymous said...

My sister was supposed to be named Rose until the last minute my Dad changed his mind. So she was named Caroline Rose. However, for the first four years of her life she was called Rosie by everyone (especially Dad!). When it was time for school, my Mom told Dad it was either change her name to Rose Caroline, or start using Caroline. So she went to school as Caroline, but we still call her Caroline Rose at home. The rest of the siblings never minded though -- why would we? I think familes use so many different names and nicknames it just all works out.

Firegirl said...

My friend has used her middle name as long as I've known her. I believe she was named after a grandmother. Other than a little bit of "Who?" during our senior year, when everyone discovers your full name, it hasn't been an issue. She has siblings and to my knowledge, it wasn't a problem for them at all. She doesn't seem like a "Laura" so it's worked out nicely.

And really, at this age, the family is the only ones who will know/care.

Anonymous said...

I think erin answered this (erin, the IRL friend, a few posts up). If friends are already going by "Joy" rather than Amelia, I think you're going to have trouble turning it around. Which is fine, really. Just make her familiar with her given first name, so the first day of preschool, she's not staring blankly at the teacher calling for "Amelia" ;-)

Anonymous said...

I have a friend named Matt who goes by "Smatt" because his parents named him Shawn Matthew and he has always been called Matt... and therefore all of his "official" papers say "S. Matt Thompson".

I guess strange nicknames can pop up anywhere, though...

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

My grandma's sister was called "Sunny" her whole life; a nickname her mom gave her because she was a smiley, sunny baby.

Her name was Wilma; but it's not like any of us EVER called her that (even her siblings, nieces, nephews and her own son and daughter-in-law called her Sunny!).

I see no problem in calling her "Joy" if that's what fits her!

Barb @ getupandplay said...

I think calling her Joy is darling and won't cause her any problems later on. I have cousins- 4 girls- who are called Ruth, Bonnie, May and June. May's actual name is Christina May, but they just ended up calling her May. Even with another girl with a 'month' name!

Verity said...

I'm known by my middle name and I must say, there are some drawbacks. My full name has been mangled by my accountant, HR office, financial advisor, corporate travel agent and priest! And I hate having to answer to my (detested) first name whenever I'm dealing with my insurance company or other official entity.

But all of those irritations are infrequent. My middle name fits FAR better than my first name ever did. I've never seen a stat for how many people are known my their middle instead of their first names, but it's not all that rare.

In fact, we're using a nickname for our daughter that isn't obviously derived from her first name. It could be a headache for her at some point. But it just makes sense for us.

If your little girl is a Joy, then use Joy. She'll always have the option of using her first name at a later date. (I know someone who switched to his first name as an adult.) Better to call her by the name that fits!

Awesome Mom said...

My youngest is Harold but we call him Harry as a nickname. I have made sure to call him by both names on different occasions so that he will answer to either one. My husband grew up with one first name but being called another and there were actual legal confusion about what his "real" name is. We made sure to avoid those sorts of troubles for Harry's sake. I look at it as him having a kid name and a more formal name that he can grow into.

CarolinaDreamz said...

Hi. I'm Heidi. I'm not sure how I found your blog, but I wanted to leave some footprints behind. I'm a mom to teens, outside of Charleston, SC.

In the "Kaitlyn" era, I wanted to name my baby "Katie Lynne" and I fretted one name, two-names/middle name.. and decided to make it two names. Only I really call her by both, anymore. It was her decision and it just seems normal, for me, to use both. She jokes, with friends, that she never knew when she was in trouble. :)

amazing, too.. in ref steph the wonderworrier's comment.. my great grandmother "Wilma" was given no middle name and her father called her "Sonny." Ironic. I always wonder about era's when I see coincidences like this.. Grandma was born in 1912.

I would use what fits. But, I also would prepare to eliminate or reduce confusion once any child is school-aged.. I remember teacher's that were adamant to never use a nick name and only a student's given name, which seemed to cause unnecessary stress.

Amelia Joy is a beautiful name.

Alexis said...

I knew a family who had 4 children that all went by their middle names. All 4 of them.

I always wondered why you would name your children John James if you were just going to call them James...

Your daughter's situation is much different. You should call her what you like. When gets to be school aged, you can let her choose what she wants to be called.

Kathleen aka Coffee Mom said...

We call one of our boys by his middle name. When we were choosing his name it was a no brainer to put the short one first even though we didn't intend to call him that. His name is Sam Harrison. Harrison Sam just didn't sound right. When we have to fill out a form for him (like when he opened his first bank account) we just put S. Harrison rather than Sam H. Easy Peasy!

Chaya said...

The concept of using a middle name is a Southern tradition, due to there being so many juniors, III's, etc. My grandfather, grandmother, and many of my aunts and uncles all go by middle names to differentiate between themselves and other family members, so for instance, my grandfather is John Morgan, called Morgan; my uncle is Daniel Titus Andrew, going by Titus; and sometimes, people go by either name, like my great-grandmother, Mary Wilfred, who is sometimes Mary and sometimes Wilfred, depending on to whom she's speaking with. Having grown up with this, I see this as perfectly natural. Also, you may like the sound of a certain sequence of names over the inverse, but you like the second name better. I really think it's perfectly acceptable, and more people than you know go by their middle names for whatever reason.