Tuesday 23 May 2017

Middle moniker madness - are middle names important anymore?

Are middle names important any more? Deirdre (Anne) Reynolds looks into why we continue to insist on using them

Topical storm: Mrs Keating took to social media this week to defend her 'good' name.
Topical storm: Mrs Keating took to social media this week to defend her 'good' name.

What's in a middle name? Rather a lot, if you're Storm Keating, who this week found herself explaining to her Instagram followers that 'Storm' is in fact her middle name, and 'Sharyn' is her birth name, after being outed by Jennifer Zamperelli and the Breakfast Republic crew on 2fm.

Timely coinciding with National Middle Name Pride Day, which is today, Australian TV producer Storm posted a photo of her birth certificate and wrote on social media: "My parents took the name 'Storm' from one of the novels in Wilbur Smith's first trilogy (a famous South African journalist) because they loved it and have called me Storm since I was born. They made my first name 'Sharyn' because they were worried that people might make fun of me… turns out they were right."

Brad Pitt, whose first name is William, and Rihanna, who was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty, are just two of the stars better known by their middle moniker.

Others such as Jennifer Shrader Lawrence and Rain Joan of Arc Phoenix are likely to be more tempted to keep theirs under wraps.

Love or loathe yours, middle names have never been more popular here, with four-out-of-five newborns now given an extra handle, according to one survey by genealogy website Ancestry.com.

Over half are chosen in memory of a family member, with John and James among the most popular for boys, and Louise and Rose among the most popular for girls. Just 7pc of parents give their child a more 'celebrity' second name.

Name change: Jennifer Zamperelli, formerly Maguire.
Name change: Jennifer Zamperelli, formerly Maguire.

"Middle names are a relatively new phenomenon driven by the desire to commemorate ancestors," says Ancestry spokesperson Miriam Silverman.

"As a result, they are less likely to follow popular culture and more likely to reflect names that were popular in our parents' or grandparents' generation."

With over 50,000 baby names to browse, MummyPages.ie has plenty of ideas for couples expecting a new arrival in 2016.

Unlike Zoe Saldana however, whose one-year-old twin boys are named Cy Aridio and Bowie Ezio, spokesmum Laura Haugh revealed that most still stick with tradition: "Passing on a family name is the most popular reason for a choosing a middle name among our MummyPages community.

"We gave our first child James the middle name Paul after my husband's brother who died at a young age because we wanted to honour him without it being a constant reminder to the family.

"And I think a lot of our mums do the same - use the middle name for sentimental reasons or to give their child a really unusual name they're not brave enough to give as their first name.

"I think it solves a lot of issues between couples when they're trying to name their child."

When he went to register his son's birth four years ago, Michael Fox from Meath confessed he had to call his wife to double-check the spelling of his unusual middle name.

The dad of two said: "My son is named Leo Zdzislaw after my wife's late father from Poland. He passed away a few years ago and she was really close to him so that was the rationale.

"We certainly weren't looking for an odd name for him, but we probably couldn't find anything as unpronounceable even if we tried!

"When he was born, and I told some people his name, it caused a lot of funny looks in the office," he continued. "Since then, I rarely tell people his (middle) name and leave it off application forms."

Country crooner Nathan Carter has three reasons to celebrate Middle Name Pride Day - but won't be.

He told: "I was the first son and grandson in the family, so everyone wanted to call me something. As a result, I have three middle names: Kane Tyrone Anthony.

"Although I like the idea of middle names, I think most people are just embarrassed by theirs - myself included!"

Bucking the trend for once, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West gave their children, North and Saint, a solitary name each.

But there's good news for those lumbered with more than one, after a 2014 University of Limerick study found that people with middle initials are perceived to be more intelligent.

"Middle initials are often displayed in contexts in which intellectual achievements matter," explained Dr Eric R Igou of the Department of Psychology at UL.

"At the start of this research project, we predicted that the display of middle initials would increase perception of intellectual capacities and performance, and that's exactly what we found.

"However, the middle initials effect only occurred in domains where intellectual performance matters, such as quizzes, not ones where intellectual performance is secondary, such as team sports."

Although they've since kissed and made up on social media, as confirmation season gets underway across the country, the middle name debate ignited by Storm Keating and Jennifer Zamperelli is unlikely to end any time soon.

Incidentally, the 2fm star's own one isn't quite as exotic as her new surname. She previously revealed to us here in the Irish Independent: "With a name as plain and popular as Jennifer, picked out by my older siblings, having a middle name came in handy during roll call at school. Unfortunately, my middle name is Jean - which is just as plain and popular!"

Irish Independent

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