Practically all the new parents I know in Seattle have saddled their newborns with two middle names. And not short, easy-to-remember names either. More along the lines of Rasputin Marlowe Fabian Jones (or more likely Jones-Smith) for a boy. Or Josephine Emily Prudence Smith for a girl. I’m not sure how they come up with these, but I suspect the formula goes something like this:
(Literary reference) + (Ancient ancestor) + (Favorite flower)  Or perhaps:
(Seldom-used old-timey name) +
(A virtue) + (Open a book and point)

Sure, these lofty monikers may look great on the birth announcement, but perhaps parents should consider how many times their child will have to spell these names for call center operators in far off lands.

Southern parents traditionally prefer to keep things simple: two first names, no bonus middle one. Some popular choices include, Billy Ray (for a boy), Peggy Sue (for a girl), or Willie Jean (undetermined).

Yes, this is a stereotypical Southern trait, but it’s one that happens to be true. In case you are wondering, the South also features the largest concentration of folks named “Bubba” in the known word. Many a “Bubba” has passed as “Richard” or “William” for career advancement purposes or when living above the Mason-Dixon. But when he comes home, everybody still calls him “Bubba.” (Sorry, Bubba, we just can’t help it!)

I’m not sure how the two-first-names tradition got started. Maybe way back when there was a Southern couple who had a name they just LOVED and wanted to give it to all their children (as in “This is my brother Darryl. This is my other brother Darryl.”) But they figured it was best to give each kid an extra first name so everybody would know which one was currently being hollered at: Bobby Joe, Billy Joe, or Bubba Joe. Just kidding. Bubbas hardly ever have two first names.

My sister’s best friend is named Mary Bess (though my father–who’s known her for 20+ years–always calls her “Mary Beth,” which is actually pretty good, seeing as he’s liable to address folks named “Jonathan” as “Mark” or “Luke”).

Anyhoo, Mary Bess fell in love with and married an amazing guy whose last name for the sake of anonymity we’ll call “Tammy.” Before she had kids, she held on to her maiden name and when asked “Why?” (because Southern folks think everything is their business) she’d say, “Who wants to be a girl with three first names?”

One of my other Mississippi friends had the good fortune to meet and marry a girl with the best two-first-name name I’ve ever heard: “Mary Love.” If y’all take a notion to start calling me that, I won’t mind a bit.

P.S. Please don’t make the mistake of addressing a doubly named person by a single name. A “Lee Ann” will not answer to “Lee” or “Ann.” Or if she does, you might not like what she says.

Does your family tree feature doubly named folks? Feel free to name names…

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Tags: c-teamblog, lifestyle, like, names, people, southern, stuff, traditions

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Comment by MaryDell Harrington on April 9, 2014 at 6:43am

I would love to see a list of double names that begin with Mary.  My mother is "Mary Louise" and Dad was "Jimmie Dell," thus my name "Mary Dell." In the south, people get that I have been and always will be called by both words.  I don't answer to "Mary." But, since moving to NY, and marrying, I have come to accept that "Dell" usually falls through the cracks unless I make a point of explaining that it is NOT my maiden name.  Cute post, Kim.

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