Upgrading my name
June 25, 2010 5:14 PM   Subscribe

I don't have a middle name. Will the rest of my life be a paperwork nightmare if I legally give myself a middle name (or two)?

As a child, my parents were always supportive of me choosing my own middle name, but eventually I became 18 and now I have all kinds of things (bank accounts, passport, driver's license, etc) tied to my current name, and I love travel so I explore the world as much as I can.

Two questions:

1. What is the best way to do give myself some middle names?

2. Will the rest of my life be so filled with technicalities related to the name change (i.e. complications at airports, foreign borders, applying for jobs, etc) that I'll regret not just using the new names casually?

(Bonus points for personal experience)

Thanks in advance!
posted by bradly to Law & Government (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a middle name, but in my teens I decided to give myself one. I gave it up after about a year, but I do still get mail from the government addressed to Lekvar Middlename Lastname. It seems they have a long memory but little fact-checking. No problems have arisen yet.
posted by lekvar at 5:23 PM on June 25, 2010

When I got my first credit card in college, I decided I would use a made up middle name [Spaz] instead of my real middle name [Charity] (sorry UKers I'm aware it's a bit of a slur). I enjoyed this so much that I used this name when I applied for a passport [this was in the late 80s] I fileld in the name Spaz instead of Charity even though I was also sending them a birth certificate with my real name. No one ever cared. I had a friend with credit cards using a middle name of Doofus. When I got my next pass port I went for no middle name which is what that passport and my current passport both have. I have no idea if people care about middle names. My first name is a bit unusual so it may have made any weird middle name easier to deal with.
posted by jessamyn at 5:23 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know how much trouble using a middle name without proper documentation can cause, but I suggest that if you do change your name at all and it is used for anything remotely official that you get paperwork to prove you are entitled to both names.

My dear old aunt was old fashioned enough that when I got married she felt I should take my husband's name even though I didn't take it and told her as much, and for reasons of her own she left me property in her will as "Jane Brown-Black" instead of "Jane Brown". When the time came for me to actually get my hands on the inheritance, I ended up having to get notarized copies of birth certificates and marriage certificates and jumping through a couple of days of phone calls and other administrative hoops.

Similarly if you are listed as "Bradly Brookshaw" on your birth certificate with no middle name and your old auntie leaves her fortune to "Bradly Bryan Brookshaw" that birth certificate may then be taken as evidence that you are not entitled to inherit and that she probably meant to leave it to one of your cousins, or something.

So if you do take a middle name, do it officially and get it documented so you have something you can use to prove it.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:30 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Check the laws for your state. In many states, you can just use any ol' name you want, as long as you're not doing it for fraudulent purposes, without having to submit a legal name change.
posted by goblinbox at 5:33 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was in exactly the same situation as you several years ago, when I picked a middle name ("Hortense", if you must know) and used it to take the SATs, but left it off when I took the GREs. Their records reflected that two separate people took those exams, and I had a hard time getting them to release my scores to me when I asked for them. And there is absolutely no one else in the US with my first and last name, with or without a middle name.

So if I get a vote, I would vote for using your chosen middle name only socially, unless you are going to undergo a legal name change to make your middle name official.
posted by DrGail at 5:38 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

My small input is that if you are talking to the police and you don't have any ID, and they ask you your name, be sure to give them whatever your legal name is. Police often check people for warrants based on their name and date of birth and it may complicate things if you give them a name you haven't formally changed.

But really, the chances of it causing a significant problem in that scenario are slim.
posted by Menthol at 5:42 PM on June 25, 2010

Harry Truman did not have a middle name from birth.
He eventually added the letter "S" as his middle name. Did not seem to cause him a problem.

I have a single letter as my middle name. And I love it when the DMV says.. you gotta have a middle name. I show them my birth certificate and passport showing only a single letter. They gulp and go along. heheh
posted by JayRwv at 5:45 PM on June 25, 2010

Why do you need a middle name? I don't have a middle name either, and it's never been a problem.
posted by StrawberryPie at 5:46 PM on June 25, 2010

Doesn't cause much trouble to change your name (any of them), but: If you ever want to fly on a plane again, you'd better get tickets issued in whatever name exactly appears on the ID you plan to use. My wife has had bad experiences with that - as simple as getting a ticket mistakely issued as Firstname B. Lastname instead of Firstname V. Lastname has almost caused us to miss a plane.

Don't get me started on how many terrorists being that nitpicky about ID foils
posted by ctmf at 6:01 PM on June 25, 2010

I thought I had a middle name, but it wasn't until I got my birth certificate in preperation for getting my marriage license that I found out it had never been officially recorded. Everything up until that point had my middle name associated with it and I've never had a problem.
posted by sugarfish at 6:02 PM on June 25, 2010

My husband has two middle names and about half of the databases we have to interact with only allow him to have one middle name. So he has iterations like John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt; John Jacob Jingleheimer-Schmidt; John JacobJingleheimer Schmidt; JohnJacob Jingleheimer Schmidt; John-Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt; John Jacob-Jingleheimer Schmidt; John Jacob Schmidt; John JJ Schmidt; John J. Schmidt; John J.J. Schmidt; and John Jingleheimer Schmidt. However that day's database monkey decided to try to fit four names into three spaces, and frequently the database disallows spaces mid-name so he gets smushed or hyphenated.

This drives me absolutely batshit crazy because we HAVE had to dig up paperwork periodically and prove he is the right person. I have urged him, over and over, to PICK AN ITERATION for the three-name databases ("John Jacob Schmidt") and just "save" the second middle name for "good" databases and personal use, but it makes HIM mad that databases won't let him have four names so instead of controlling what iteration the three-name databases use, it's just this GIANT CHAOS OF POSSIBILITIES. That sometimes he can't even REMEMBER what he put when he has to go back to a bank or something, and boy are banks touchy when you're not sure who you are!

My advice is, whatever you do, pick a couple of standard ways to refer to yourself (I use Eyebrows X. McGee and Eyebrows Xenophon McGee) and stick to those couple of ways to reduce confusion. And recognize that if you have two middle names, you may want to choose an iteration that only uses one of them for use in databases that won't let you have four names.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:05 PM on June 25, 2010

My mother gave me 4 names (first middle middle last). I've always been called by my first middle name. I've had numerous problems with this. Sometimes the system thinks I'm two different people (first name last name AND first middle name last name). People are also confused that I am not called by my first name, and want to know my "real" name, or why my first middle name is not a nick name of my first name. It can be trying at times to explain this, and get things with my name on it changed. Finally, I can't even use my name consistently because forms (and monograms) don't always have enough space. (For example, forms often ask for middle initial not middle initials).

I think most of my problems stem from having 4 names and being called by my first middle name. If you do add a middle name, I would advise just adding one. Your life will also be easier if you still go by your first name.
posted by oceano at 6:10 PM on June 25, 2010

I applied once for a government ID and the paperwork explicitly stated that I had to fill out all fields or write "N/A" or "none". Hence I wrote
"Yoyo" "none" "Lastname"

Since that day I was Yoyo N. Lastname on that ID.

A police officer asked me once what my middle name is since he saw that card. I told him the story and he found it very funny.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 6:13 PM on June 25, 2010

Legally you can change your name, but you don't have to-use "NMN" (no middle name), at least that's what they do for prisoners. (oops did I say that out loud?)
posted by ~Sushma~ at 6:44 PM on June 25, 2010

Your middle name is NMI.

The abbreviation "NMN" (no middle name) or "NMI" (no middle initial) is sometimes used in formal documents where a middle initial or name is expected when the person does not have one.
posted by Exchequer at 6:46 PM on June 25, 2010

I used to be First Middle Last but sometimes used First Nickname Last. Now I am legally Nickname First Middle Last. I changed this at a county level court and had to pay money and wait some number of weeks for a notice to be published in the newspaper. This does depend on where you live.

These days I use Nickname Last on virtually all my documents; I never use any other form of my name unless paperwork gets bounced back and I'm told that something doesn't match up. My company contact info lists me only as Nickname Last, and I have always bought plane tickets and gone through security (US domestic flights only) as Nickname Last, and it's never caused me problems. However, my credit card required a single middle initial and the DMV requires my name exactly as it's spelled legally.

So in my experience, once you've established middle names as part of your legal name, you can mostly omit or include them as you like.
posted by tantivy at 7:10 PM on June 25, 2010

I didn't have a middle name until I picked one up when I was 28. It's been over ten years and it's never been a problem. I gave myself just one, which is probably simpler than having a handful.

Overall it's easier to have a middle name than to not have one.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:14 PM on June 25, 2010

When I got married, I legally changed my middle name to my wife's last name and my wife, who didn't have a middle name, took my last name as a middle. Like so:

Before: Lazlo Middlename Hollyfeld and Sherry Nugel
After: Lazlo Nugel Hollyfeld and Sherry Hollyfeld Nugel

In my state both men and women who get married can change their names just by filling out some paperwork, but in many states this involves a court appearance. Check the process for your state. After that, you can get an amended birth certificate (I didn't do this), a new social security card, a new passport, drivers license, etc. It takes a little time, but for me it was worth it to make it official. Neither my wife nor I have had any trouble with our changed middle names.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 9:00 PM on June 25, 2010

Your middle name is NMI.

posted by delmoi at 9:01 PM on June 25, 2010

When my grandmother was born, her dad went to the county clerk to have her registered as First Mary Last. When he got home, he announced the baby's name was First Jane Last. No one knows where "Jane" came from, but there it was. It wasn't till decades later, when her dad died and his second wife made a fuss about the will so that all his kids had to get copies of their birth certificates to prove who they were, that it was discovered that dad had made a mistake. It said on the birth certificate: "Mary." This was going to mean trouble with the second wife. Fortunately, this happened in a small town. The county clerk was still the same man who had registered her originally and he knew the family well and knew all about the second wife. So, he erased "Mary" and wrote in "Jane." Problem solved.
posted by bentley at 9:40 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I took my wife's name when I got married, and I hate hyphens, so I moved my last name into my middle name. When I did, because the forms in my state didn't have enough room for my old and new middle names together, I truncated my old middle name to an initial. From Davejay Middle Lastname to Davejay M Lastname Newname.

Filled out the paperwork, never looked back, including a move to a new state. It's never caused me even the slightest difficulty, going on ten+ years now.
posted by davejay at 9:42 PM on June 25, 2010

If you are going to unofficially take a middle name for god sakes be consistent. Not being consistent can be far more troublesome then randomly picking a name. (I don't recommend either).
posted by An algorithmic dog at 9:47 PM on June 25, 2010

Not being consistent can be far more troublesome then randomly picking a name.


Due to a hospital error, I ended up having an abbreviated version of my middle name tacked to my ALREADY overlong (and already hyphenated) name, so legally it's: Karminai-Bree Brenna Grandmother Mother-Father.

Imagine putting that on your college applications.

On credit cards and such, I have chosen to just put Karminai Brenna Father, and as long as I'm consistent with it, I haven't had too many problems with people saying, "Hey, who's Karminai-Bree?"

If you really want to change your name, you should definitely do it. Just be ready to jump through the hoops.
posted by karminai at 10:02 PM on June 25, 2010

« Older What digital version of Infinite Jest should I buy...   |   wordpress: 2 blogs using the same db *and* the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.