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Name your children well

366478-449939-thumbnail.jpgToday's assignment, boys and girls... especially those of you with soon-to-arrive bundles of joy... forget about the color of the nursery, whether Classic Pooh is still "in," or even how to keep falling prey to The Wiggles.  (Those of you with kids in the 2-9 range, you know what I mean.) 

Ditch the "Baby Names" book, get out a newspaper or an encyclopedia, and pick yourself a middle name.

Middle names, for most of us, have become to our identity what the appendix long ago became to our digestive tract -- They're there, but we just don't know what they do anymore.  But when they flare up, it's usually the sign of something bad... very, very bad.  And painful.  

To wit:  

  • John Booth:  (Could be your neighbor, your local Northwestern Mutual Life sales representative.)
  • John Wilkes Booth:  (Goodbye Quiet Company, hello presidential assassin.)
  • John Gacy:  (The church organist.  Quiet guy.  Nice.  Has two cats.)
  • John Wayne Gacy:  (Woah, Nellie!  Serial killer from the 1970s.)

And the list goes on...  Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Rey, Mark David Chapman, John Mark Karr... 

And so, parents to be, some broad-brush rules:

Steer clear of Wayne.  News of the Weird says that there's a disproportionante number of baddies with that middle name.

366478-449913-thumbnail.jpgBrevity.  The Trumans didn't mince words... or use them... when their son Harry was born.  "Harry S. Truman."  The "S" doesn't stand for anything, which is cool.  And does anybody doubt that this quiet man from Independence, Missouri kicked alot of A. S. S. in his day??

Brevity Part 2:  Unless you're George Herbert Walker Bush, J.R.R. Tolkein*, or Charles Philip Arthur George, you probably don't need more than one middle name.  Remember Princess Di getting the middle names backwards??  (Come on, who doesn't remember the Royal wedding??) 
* Extra points for coolness if they're all used as initials.  It washes the dorkiness away.

366478-449920-thumbnail.jpgX Marks the Spot.  If the first name is Francis, "No more calls, please.  We have a winner."  It has to be Xavier.

beej.jpgSafe Harbor: 'J' Names.  In general, you shouldn't try to force a kid's nickname.  They more or less evolve from IMBs (Incidents of Moronic Behaviour).  But if you want a build-it-yourself nickname kit, there are more than enough TJs and PJs to demonstrate that James or John are safe territory for the ready-made initial nicknames.  (Painful Autobiographical Caveat:  If your kid's name begins with "B" then expect the "J" to trigger towel-snapping play when kids realize what "BJ" means in certain circles.  And it just may happen that the other kids will learn what it stands for before your son does, leading to the double humiliation of his not being able to fend off the verbal towel-snapping with an equally appropriate comeback to Vincent David Divergilio, Brian Brendan Wilson, or smooth Kevin Young Gellison.  Not that that happened or anything...) 

Be careful of last names as middle names.  No wait... wrong rule.  You're supposed to watch out for people with last names as first names.  They're just about always a--holes.  A warning for another day.  As is the Corky Sherwood-Forrest theorem of picking a mate suitable for hyphenated married names.)

The QED:  If you're lucky, the middle name will be nothing more than a joy to the relative it honors, the child who bears it, and the parents who will hear it called out during Commencement exercises.  Yes, God willing, it will remain as generally useful as the appendix.  But if inflamed by Junior High School smart-alecs, or perhaps a rap sheet and a mug shot, there's no denying it. 

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