Hi Duana,

My husband and I are expecting our second child - another boy - this spring. Our front runner for baby # 2 is Nolan - likely to be the eventual winner but I don't like officially naming a baby until it's here.

I'm a little perplexed by middle names. Neither my middle name, nor my sister's have any significance and my parents were never given middle names by their parents, but ended up just picking one themselves. I love the idea of honouring the legacy of a family member by using their name as a middle name but otherwise I don't see the purpose. My son has a middle name that we just chose because we liked it and "needed a middle name" but it feels strange and phony. For this baby I've been considering giving him a middle name with some relevance but the reason I'm having a problem - which is also the reason we didn't do this for our first - is because any names of significance to me don't really go well with their given and last names.

I had some questions about how to choose which side of the family to honour, but a friend of mine made a good point; the kid already carries the father's family name so choosing a middle name from the mother's side is justified. Works for me. Now, how do we choose which side of MY family to honour? My dad's name is Dominic - is that way too Italian to pair with Nolan and a very British last name? Is it a blow to my dad if I choose my maternal grandfather? Is it a blow to my mom if I choose my paternal grandfather? I admittedly had a much closer relationship with my mom's father and I doubt my dad would be offended, but...his name was Pando. Okay, okay, we could use the English translation, which is Peter, but our last name starts with a "P" and sounds funny to me when I say it out loud. My paternal grandfather's name was Joseph, so I considered Nolan Peter Joseph but my husband totally axed it because it was "just too many names". Even if I were to choose a name of significance to my family, is that now unfair to my first son?

Am I over thinking this? Should I just scrap the whole legacy name thing and go with our second favourite and call it a day? I don't want to scrap a middle name altogether, solely to avoid the "mom why don't I have a middle name?" question. Help! 


Middle names are like summer camp. Super, super important to people for whom they are an important tradition, and worthy of discussion and analysis and reminiscing. But if it’s not your tradition, it seems overwrought and endless and pointless.

So which one is yours? You’re putting all this enormous pressure on yourself to choose something meaningful, but I’m not sure what that would be. For example, “Is it a blow to my mom to choose my paternal grandfather?” I have no idea, because I don’t know what this means to your family. You said your own middle name doesn’t “mean” anything so your parents aren’t hung up on the “meaningful” part….so don’t feel an obligation.

Related: I’m going to go ahead and say that name spots are precious. Like there’s only so many of them to give away and I know you feel the same way or you wouldn’t be writing in. So, if you’re going to use an ‘honour’ name, make sure the person in question is actually going to be honored. I’ve heard more than once of sleep-deprived new parents turning to their own parents and saying, with shining, misty eyes, “We chose great grandpa’s name as his second middle” and the parents go “huh, okay”. It’s your kid, and he’s the one wearing the names. 

Having said that, if you’re pretty settled on Nolan, and the last name is British, then the middle is precisely the place to put a more exuberantly ethnic other name.   Remember, names aren’t about being perfectly uniform as much as they are being perfectly suited to your particular kid, so yes, by all means go with Pando, or Dominic or anything that floats your boat but that you’re not using.

And don’t tie yourself in knots about your first son’s name, either. Depending what you chose I’m sure there’s some historical figure or celebrity or something who bears it whom you can draw a line to. Aaaaaaand, if that’s still not enough, you can always give your second son the same middle as your first, and make that your tradition (maybe adding an additional name each if you want, since you’re messing with birth records anyway).

In short, you can go any way you want, but you can only really make yourself happy when all is said and done, so do that and don’t worry about what the people say because they’re going to say something no matter what.