Hi Duana,

I would appreciate your thoughts on a new name ‘challenge’ that I haven’t seen addressed here before. Baby boy is arriving at the end of the Summer. It is tradition on my hubby’s side to name the son after his father.
This is a tradition that I want to respect, however…

I don’t LOVE the idea of ‘yet another’ similar name in the family. It doesn’t seem too original and I was personally annoyed when I used to call their house back when we were dating (YEARS ago now) and have to answer “the big one or the little one?”.

One option that is being considered is whether to go with the tradition but call him by his middle name. How does this usually work? Is baby introduced with the full name and you just tell people that you would prefer he be called by the middle name, or ‘sneak’ the first name in there when you register the birth certificate? My other concern is that if we do this, the in-laws will take it upon themselves to call the baby by his first name anyway, even if we tell them we’d prefer the middle name. How do you make sure that baby is called the name that you want (or can you)?

I welcome your thoughts on going with preferred name for a middle name – what’s the protocol? I know a few adults who go by their middle names but I always wonder how they got there.

Thanks for your help!


This is a great question, because it’s one of those things that we see happen all the time – “Oh, I go by my middle name” – but it’s not really clear how to do that. You’re also sage to ask, because, especially with a higher-risk maneuver like this, you only have one chance to get it right.

The first and most important point here is that you have to introduce the child by the name you want them to be called. So let’s have a drill:

It’s the hospital, you’ve given birth mere minutes ago! Grandparents arrive, grab the bundle of joy possessively out of your arms, you immediately say:

“Meet Cody! Isn’t he adorable!?”

Them, caught between cooing adoringly and looking at you in shock: “What? Isn’t he named Archibald like 18 generations of our family?

You smile, and say, “Absolutely! We’re calling him Cody, but he’ll be Archibald Cody on his birth certificate so the tradition is still in place”. They sniff in annoyance, the baby starts to cry, and you take him, calling out to your partner, “Honey, where’s the  (anything at all. This can be ‘tax return’)?” Your partner replies, “Oh it’s in Cody’s diaper bag.” You’ve both just wrapped ‘Cody, existence of’ into your lives and your vocabulary, job done. Nobody can argue with this

Over email, this is slightly trickier, because people don’t read your tone as easily. This one is all about the subject line. Though you might want to go with ‘She’s here!’ or ‘Drumroll please’, in this situation you must must must make your email heading “Meet Eugenia!” 

Then in the body of the email, you go, “We’re so happy Eugenia is here! She was a quick delivery and blah blah blah but everyone’s good! Official stats are:

Name: Elizabeth Eugenia Last Name
Weight: What does anyone get from this anyway?
Height: I defy you to find anyone who can define what ’21 inches’ even looks like.

Basically, what you’re doing here is what many people do with their children’s middle names. They park them there as an honorific, they make sure they’re spelled correctly on passports – but they basically have nothing to do with most people’s every day.

I’m also assuming having the name in the front spot is non-negotiable, but you must never think of your kid that way. That is, don’t allow your in-laws or anyone else to have an in to call her Elizabeth or call him Archibald – any more than they would ever call him “Last Name”, you know? Or call her “Daughter of Ronald and Regina”.  It’s not their name, it’s a tradition… which is different. Your child is named what they’re named, and the fact that they might have a ‘family tradition name’, which everyone understands, in the first spot rather than the middle one, is just a tiny quirk. Most importantly, what you choose goes.

For those of you walking around with Stealth Middle names, were there any official policies in your world? Do you know how your parents smacked down people who tried to use your actual legal first name? Do you hide your passport or drivers’ license from friends so they won’t know about your first-name shame? Fill us in.