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Ask Baby Names

Baby name advice from Jennifer Moss, founder of BabyNames.com. Have a question for Jennifer? E-mail it to question@babynames.com

Yes! People go by their middle names.

Hi Babynames,

I just wanted to share a little feedback on your most recent article. In it, you stated no one goes by their middle name unless they are in trouble. Well that’s not entirely true as I will explain below. I think it’s also a little bit judgemental of you to tell folks that it should be that way. It’s perfectly fine to go by a middle name. It doesn’t hurt anyone. Certainly doesn’t hurt the child in any way. They will know their own name and like you say can choose as they get older which to continue using first and foremost.

I have several cousins and other family members who do go by middle names only or a combination of a first and shortened middle. #1 was named James Cory. Goes by Cory and has since he was born. I didn’t even know his first name was James until we were well in adulthood (1 year apart in age). All his baby pictures have Cory written on back. #2 Gordon Forbes. Named after 2 times great uncle of the same name and his father Gordon. Again since birth has been called Forbes. In East Coast Canada, Cape Breton specifically, this practice is very common. Many folks are given two first names or their middle name becomes shortened and used as a full first name in daily interaction .Example: My grand pa was Allan Daniel but everyone called him Allan Dan his whole life. It wasn’t until he passed that I learned that his second name was actually Daniel. For years I thought Allan Dan was his first name.

So, for the lady asking, if you were in Cape Breton, folks would tell you it would be perfectly acceptable to call a child Archer Jack, Archie J or Archie Jack or include a secondary middle name such as Archer Jack Keaton or anything of interest.

I know you might think this practice is absurd, but it stems from the fact that small communities in Cape Breton, NS had many families with the same names so very long ago so they started calling children by first or middle and sometimes both. It might be culturally/regionally specific to us, I don’t know, but it happens. I just wanted you to know.

Kindest Wishes,
Jenn C.
Nova Scotia, Canada

Dear Jenn,

Thank you for your letter. Yes, sometimes I don’t think outside the U.S. when I’m answering name letters, and that is narrow-minded of me. Naming practices are very different depending on culture and geography.

I appreciate your response and hope your story helps our previous reader in naming her baby.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Moss
BabyNames.com

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