Do you have two middle names?
February 10, 2018 12:55 PM   Subscribe

How much trouble is it?

I'm considering giving my child two middle names. So instead of (first) John (middle) Alfred (Last) Doe, it'll be (first) John (middle) Alfred Simon (last) Doe. I know that this is pretty common, but I guess I don't really understand how it works and really if it is ever any trouble.

For example, on your passport, is there confusion as to what you first name is vs. your middle name? Example: someone thinking your first name was "John Alfred" and your middle name "Simon"? When filling out your name on your driver's license form or SAT's does your full name ever get cut off, part of your middle name lost etc.? Have you ever been stuck at the border because one document says "John Alfred Doe" and the other says "John Alfred Simon Doe"? When I fill out the birth certificate with the baby's two middle names - is there anything I have to look out for to ensure both names are included?

I am pretty sure I'm overthinking this - but I actually don't know anyone personally with two middle names and so I'd like to know.
posted by Toddles to Society & Culture (42 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I know a lot of people who have recently given their child 2 middle names and I haven't heard about people having issues. However, as a professor, I can tell you that many university systems won't know what to do with 2 middle names. It is possible that the individual could do something like this: ROBERT CARL-STEPHEN SMITH or ROBERT | CARL STEPHEN | SMITH. The university systems sometimes even have a hard time with 2 last names, even when hyphenated.
posted by k8t at 1:01 PM on February 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have three middle names and it has never had much of an impact on anything whatsoever. I like having the extra names though because it makes me feel *special*.

I'm a white woman though so all my middle names are white women names. YMMV
posted by winterportage at 1:02 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just because you have two it doesn’t mean you have to use them all the time. My mom had two but never used the second one. Just about any time she signed anything she only used the one middle name. She eventually dropped the second one when she legally changed her name back to her maiden name.
posted by bondcliff at 1:04 PM on February 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have two middle names, almost everyone in my immediate family was given two.

No problems at all, my birth certificate, driver's license, and passport list them all but for other cards/applications like credit I just use my first and last name, or sometimes the first middle name. Never had a problem with travel or government or credit reports or anything.

In my family my brothers almost all go by their middle given name (so Fred John Smith goes by John not Fred) and that caused a touch of confusion sometimes with teachers but it's really not a big deal.
posted by lafemma at 1:07 PM on February 10, 2018

Mr.Tipsybumblebee has 2 middle names and it has come to be helpful because his first and last names are common and short in letters...think Sam Hill. When he fills out forms that ask for middle name he puts both of them on and (just peeking on his passport), his first name and both middle names fit on the line of "First name". Its fine, it works as a great identifier because of his common first and last name and no one has every had a problem with it other than the occasional computer system thing. For credit cards it lists just first and last name same as everyone else.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 1:08 PM on February 10, 2018

I usually just don't disclose that I have middle names in the first place, or use the initials of my two middle names, including on legal documents. The second one typically gets awkwardly truncated on most forms anyway, so reducing them to initials works much better.
posted by halogen at 1:08 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have two middle names. Never been a problem. It would maybe? cause some confusion if you wanted to use both middle initials, but I’ve always only used one. (John A. Doe and not, John A.S. Doe)
posted by tinymegalo at 1:09 PM on February 10, 2018

I have two and it is fully hilarious to get junk mail in multiple combinations of names. I also get it mixed in with my old name (I change my name later in life.)

There isn't room on forms ever, which is mildly a problem when I go to the DMV and they can't figure it out. The passport office, the IRS, and Social Security had no problem with it. Sometimes it's a "computer says no" problem, in which case I just roll with my first middle name and let the second one go. In general, when it actually matters that they have your entire, legal full name, they built the software to accommodate it. Most places are catching on to the fact that a lot of people have multiple middle names, multiple last names, or names that don't fit the John Q. Smith pattern, and of all my 99 problem, my name isn't one.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:10 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

data point: I used to have 2 middle names, but dropped one when I legally changed my name at 15. I never had a problem exactly with there being two, and also felt special as a child that my full name sounded like royalty or somesuch, but honestly I never cared all that much.
I kept Heather, my mother's name, and dropped Ashley, a name I never liked much and didn't have as much meaning (as in, my parents had no recollection as to why it was even in there). So, if the names are all special to you and you anticipate that either your child will want to use them instead of their primary/first or will also find them special, go for it!
Oh, I will add though, that my class rosters at the college I teach at sometimes get a little gleeky when faced with too many names. Registering under 3-4 possible identifiers can cause a little bit of confusion, but it's not, like, a problem.
posted by zinful at 1:12 PM on February 10, 2018

Oh! And when I updated my passport I forgot which name I kept. Pretty sure it's wrong on one of my docs, maybe my license? (one says Heather, one has my previous first name) but have had zero problems at multiple international borders. I'm an upper-middle-class-presenting white woman, however.
posted by zinful at 1:17 PM on February 10, 2018

I have 2 middle names because the absence of the first one would have meant that my first name + great grandmothers name sounded like a plastic. It looks long on things, but it's never a problem. Occasionally somebody will assume that the first two are hyphenated but it really doesn't bother me.
posted by cholly at 1:20 PM on February 10, 2018

I have two - a standard middle name and then a “family” name from my mum’s side that all my siblings have and is sometimes confused with a surname? But it’s really never been a bother!
posted by ozgirlabroad at 1:25 PM on February 10, 2018

I've known a few people with 2 middle or 2 last names who have had a lot of annoying issues with government or school forms.
posted by gatorae at 1:30 PM on February 10, 2018

One of my son's middle names is my last name, which I did not change when getting married. We chose this rather than a hyphen.

Recently he was asked by the motor vehicle branch to provide his mother's maiden name as his password when getting his learners license.

Proved awkward for them when it was my current name and his middle name.

That and form length has been the only real issue thus far.
posted by chapps at 1:36 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have two middle names, and my younger brother has three. It's great. I recommend it.
posted by tapir-whorf at 1:37 PM on February 10, 2018

One of my friends has two middle names, and three of her names are on the long side. Her passport has truncated versions of two of her names (her long first and third names, short middle name and long last name are full).

So, (for example) instead of "Periwinkle Bee Honeysuckle Applesauce", it says "Peri Bee Honey Applesauce". We've traveled internationally together and as far as know, she's never run into any problems with it.
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:37 PM on February 10, 2018

However, as a professor, I can tell you that many university systems won't know what to do with 2 middle names. It is possible that the individual could do something like this: ROBERT CARL-STEPHEN SMITH or ROBERT | CARL STEPHEN | SMITH. The university systems sometimes even have a hard time with 2 last names, even when hyphenated.

Yeah, good point. At the school I went to, they'd just put both first/middle/last names in the same name slot, but the big huge problem is if the names are long. There's character limits in our system that will never be fixed, so anyone with a super long combination of names is going to inevitably have their name cut off on everything, which pisses people off. They have tried to come up with workarounds to signal that someone has a long name and it needs manual fixing in the spots where you *can* manually fix (not everything can be, like transcripts can't), but they frequently don't work and you just have to hope a clerical worker notices that your name is (first) Jane (middle) Michelle Supercalifragilisticex (last) Smith and red flags about it and bothers to do something about it. This may not even red flag if the name cuts off in such a way that it looks like a full name, like "Antidisestablishmentarianism Michael" instead of "Antidisestablishmentarianism MichelLE." People with long names have a lot of complaints here, for very good reasons.

If this is a concern for you, I'd ask that the two middle names be *short* ones, not long ones.

A relative of mine who went to the same school has a hyphenated middle name (John-David) and I haven't heard of him having any issues with it, though. Another person I knew had a double barreled middle name but they were short enough names to not cause issues.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:39 PM on February 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

I was given four* names at birth, and I'm not the biggest fan. For instance, I don't like that I have to choose which initials to use on a monogram (LLBean can only monogram up to 3 on their backpacks). It's also kind of a burden since I feel like I can't add one of my own accord without dropping one.

*In theory I could end up with up to 6 between (religious) Confirmation and marriage.

However, the bigger headache was that not only do I have four names, but I've always gone by my middle name. Why mother did you do this to me? I've had nothing but problems. The email system at work wanted to list my first name as my name instead of the name I go by "because of company policy" and that's a terrible policy for me since people wouldn't be able to find me. (I fought that policy and won). I've had a college professor who reported me as a no show to my advisor because she was looking for first + last and I wrote down on my sheet as middle + last. I've also had trouble at the DMV because I signed my lease as middle + last instead of first + middle + middle + last. (And so on...)

In short, give your child four names. Or call him by his middle name. Not both. And I would urge you that if you do either of these options, do it for a good reason since it does add a small amount of hassle.
posted by oceano at 1:41 PM on February 10, 2018

For example, on your passport, is there confusion as to what you first name is vs. your middle name?


Example: someone thinking your first name was "John Alfred" and your middle name "Simon"?

I don't think so? Maybe some gov't official called me A B instead of just A, but who cares?

When filling out your name on your driver's license form or SAT's does your full name ever get cut off, part of your middle name lost etc.?

I think my d/l just has three names on it. I'm only A B C D on Very Official Gov't Documents -- my birth cert and passport have them, and I used all 4 on biscotti's immigration crap. On an SAT I'd just fill in 3 names and fix it if they shouted at me. Usually I'm A B D, professionally I'm A C D. No problems.

Have you ever been stuck at the border because one document says "John Alfred Doe" and the other says "John Alfred Simon Doe"?

Nope. Back when you didn't need the passport to go to Canada, never happened even when my birth certificate said A B C D and my d/l said A B D.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:41 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

My Dad had three middle names. Two of them were for grandfathers, and the third was just a preference (I think). He opted to use only one of the middle names on things like his drivers license and checkbook. The middle name he used was the first in the series, so maybe at the time, the drivers license station just did that? Then it would follow that his checking account would reflect the same, as his ID only had one middle name. But he was very tickled to have multiple middle names.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:54 PM on February 10, 2018

Not fully related, but I'm a junior and even that is poorly handled by many systems.

Its not bad enough that I would change it, but I specifically avoided naming my son III because of that.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:04 PM on February 10, 2018

I have two middle names. I almost never use both of them. Together, they're cumbersome, and few filing systems are built to accommodate them. They appear on my most serious identifying documents and just about nowhere else. For a long time, my passport had both middle names but concatenated into a single word.

In sum, it's not actually a pain to have two middle names, because there's the workaround of never using one of them. But you might find that, as a result, it doesn't provide much value either.
posted by grobstein at 2:11 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have two middle names, and it's never been a problem. I tend to use one of them more than the other because it belonged to the grandmother that I liked, and it distinguishes my name a bit from my mom's (we have the same first and last names, and one of my middle names is very similar to hers) On forms and stuff I'll just put both middle names into the middle name spot and leave a space between them.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:12 PM on February 10, 2018

I have 2 middle names and 2 passports (dual national). Neither passport has a problem with it. Name fields on forms usually aren’t long enough but this has never caused any problems. The only place I can think of where any weirdness results is on airline bookings that ask for your middle name. If you try to give both they end up run together like this: WilliamArthur. I’ve even had them run all 3 given names together. But I’ve never had any problems as a result.
posted by Logophiliac at 2:16 PM on February 10, 2018

I have two middle names- one name that's easy to write in Roman letters, and one name in a language with a different writing system. Only the Roman middle name was ever documented, but the other one is real too, albeit known only by family. It works fine for me.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:19 PM on February 10, 2018

One of my best friends from college had a totally insane long name given to her by her hippy parents. 6 names all told between her first and last name. However, on her passport and all of her official documentation, other than her birth certificate, she only uses her first and last name. I learned from this and gave both of my daughters long beautiful names that represented all that I wanted them to.
posted by momochan at 2:25 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I took my husband's last name as a second middle name. So legally I'm (for example) Amy Becky Campbell Davis, but 99% of the time I'm still Amy Davis. Things that default to a middle initial use Amy B. Davis. Most things that don't require a legal name let you pick whether or not to include middle names so it only matters as much as you let it. The only time it comes up is when people are entering it into a new system and I have to explain that it's a 'second middle' and not a hyphenated last name.
posted by arrmatie at 2:26 PM on February 10, 2018

I have two middle names and love having four initials; so much more fun and distinctive than three, especially when initialing rental car contracts and the like. When obliged to show only one middle initial, I have a convention about which one i use so that I don't run into trouble when trying to prove my identity.
posted by carmicha at 3:04 PM on February 10, 2018

I added my maiden name as a second middle name when I got married and changed my last name. So, I have 2 middle names now:
First name: (Firstname)
Middle name: (Original Middle Name) (Maiden Name)
Last name: (New Lastname)

It has caused me zero problems. However, I do often drop my second middle name on government forms due to lack of character space.

My husband was given 2 middle names at birth and does something similar.
posted by samthemander at 3:07 PM on February 10, 2018

I have three middle names but the Virginia DMV found that confusing and only put the first one on my license. So that's the only one I use for official paperwork now rather than have to explain about the missing names.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:20 PM on February 10, 2018

I know one person with a very long name who can never do online check-in on planes: I recommend being careful about total number of characters.
posted by jeather at 4:01 PM on February 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

My husband has two middle names and the primary problem is that he wasn't consistent about how he did it so he's in infinite combinations in many databases based on what they'll accept. If he had been consistent about being Alfred Buster Conseulo Doe, then Alfred Buster Doe, then Alfred B. Doe, depending on the vagaries of the computer system, life would be a lot easier. We frequently have difficulty because his names don't match, he'll be Alfred BC Doe, Alfred B Doe, Alfred C Doe, Alfred B Conseulo Doe, Alfred Buster C. Doe, Alfred Buster-Conseulo Doe etc. MADDENING. So do decide on what your standard will be when dealing with forms/systems that don't accept two middle names, and stick with that. If your kid decides on a different standard later on, that's not a problem, and at least all of their school paperwork, pediatric records, childhood bank accounts, etc., will be IN THE SAME FORMAT, instead of being a constant guessing game and then trying to come up with matching ID.

The one thing that I would warn against is having two middle INITIALS. Two middle names is one thing, but two middle initials creates endless problems. If a form (as many forms do!) asks for First, MI, Last, pick ONE middle initial. Hubs really prefers being Alfred BC Doe, and spent years putting Alfred BC Doe on forms, with a variety of bizarre outcomes when they got data-entered, none of them consistent and some of them resulting in things like failure to properly issue paychecks because the computer didn't believe he was the same person. After the paycheck thing he got wise and now goes by Alfred B. Doe when a single middle initial is called for. Systems that allow middle NAME generally (these days) allow spaces, so they don't mind "Buster Consuelo" as a middle "name," but systems that ask for a middle initial want Just. One.

Do double check things like drivers licenses, every now and again he's gotten "Consuelo-Doe, Alfred Buster" which is easy to fix right in the moment but a pain in the ass if you don't notice until after you leave the DMV with a surprise new last name!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:22 PM on February 10, 2018

I have no middle name, but a last name that sounds like a first name, and people constantly call me by my last name, or they also think my first name is my surname and masculinize it. My name could not be simpler to remember, but I have no middle names, but issues when people do not pay attention.

If it is going to be a problem, it is not going to be because you slipped in an extra middle name. If that is your desire, then do it.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:01 PM on February 10, 2018

My kid has two middle names. We had to redo her SS card, because the my couldn’t handle the number of characters and thus just cut off the spelling of her last name.
posted by kestrel251 at 5:14 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have two middle names, but one is just an initial. My birth certificate, passport, SSN card, and drivers license all have different forms. Amazingly (probably because I am an upper middle class white cis male) this has never caused me more than a few moments' trouble.
posted by dmd at 7:08 PM on February 10, 2018

Tangential issue -- you might want to pay attention to whether some combination of the names sounds like a compound name. I have no middle name but my first name is compound (one of those Catholic Mary ___ names) and it has caused various degrees of bureaucratic weirdness. I had to fix it with Social Security, too.
posted by camyram at 7:18 PM on February 10, 2018

Might I also suggest you pay attention to any word that the initials might spell, something fairly easy to spot with the John Q Doe format, but increasingly dangerous the more names/initials you add. My ex, a German, gave her child (not mine) three middle names, and was furious when I pointed out that the initials spelled Makel, meaning blemish, flaw, imperfecton or stigma. She hadn't noticed.
posted by aqsakal at 10:18 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have two middle names on my birth certificate. I haven't used the second in years, not because it was any particular trouble but because on a form you have to pick one, and the first was the default. I thought it was fun when I was a kid; I certainly don't have any negative associations with it. I can even imagine using it still today in certain situations, if I want to seem regal, or old-world-aristocratic (I basically never do, though).
posted by dbx at 10:21 PM on February 10, 2018

I have two 'middle names' but they're all called 'first names' here in Sweden. Having three first names is very common here. We also have the concept of 'tilltalsnamn', the name you have selected to be addressed with, so your 'main' first name, which is registered with the Tax Office and printed in bold on ID cards. It doesn't necessarily have to be your first first name, which I know can cause people problems when traveling and such - it's not uncommon for someone to say go by 'Anders' and have 'John Anders Erik' in the first names field in their passport.

Also, mail from government institutions is always addressed to your full set of names, regardless of whether you have a tilltalsnamn registered, which is just kinda 'huh, neat', since most people don't ever use those extra names. I enjoy the thought of the postman admiring all my names.
posted by Vesihiisi at 10:32 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have two middle names - the first is an actual middle name, and the second is my mother's maiden name (it's Filipino naming tradition to pass on the mother's maiden name). For any legal documents, I use only the first of the middle names to minimize any confusion. No issues with people thinking my first name is two names.
posted by constellations at 11:54 AM on February 11, 2018

Growing up Catholic, I have a confirmation name, which sort of a second middle name.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:55 PM on February 11, 2018

I know one person with a very long name who can never do online check-in on planes: I recommend being careful about total number of characters.

My last name is 14 letters plus a hyphen and I have only once had trouble checking in at a kiosk—never online. In that case, the issue was that their system and the passport represented the hyphen differently, so they could not find a match. That has since been fixed, and the computer will ask you if you are the same as the person that is very similar.

So on newer airlines these days, 15 characters is a-ok.

I have also had documents list the first part of my last name as my second middle name (back before I got married and made it my second middle name, then swapped in my husband's, giving me five names total), but even then, no one at the airport has ever batted an eye.

In general, having some combination of my names has proven sufficient for travel so far in my life.
posted by dame at 7:17 PM on February 11, 2018

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