The downside is these names worked too well in the middle. They became typecast as go-to middle names, middle names picked by parents tired of thinking about their baby’s name. Frankly, these middle names have become expected and maybe a little dull. But it’s not the names’ fault! These names are overworked, and need to take a break!
To decide which middle names belonged on the retirement list, I had to rely mostly on my gut because, while stats on popular first names are pretty abundant, stats on popular middle names are in short supply. These were the best places I could find stats (and note the caveats):
- BabyCenter’s Top Middle Names of 2010. Caveat: these stats are for Australia. After checking BabyCenter’s Australian middle name stats, I concluded they seem comparable to common middle names in the U.S., a conclusion based on gut-feelings. These stats were used to help guess (because guessing is the best I can do) which middle names are popular on contemporary U.S. babies.
- Name Nerds middle name survey. Caveat: this is an unscientific online poll and we don’t know when the site owner last posted the poll results. This is a voluntary internet poll. The results don’t indicate where respondents come from, but I suspect most respondents are from an English-speaking country, because the site is in English and the results look like common English speakers’ names. The poll results were used to help guess which middle names are popular on U.S. adults. Not many newborn babies take part in online polls.
One thing is almost certain: one generation’s go-to middle names are replaced by the next generation’s go-to middle names. That means—just like first names—middle names that seem fresh today could become stale tomorrow. That fact could support the “different is not always better” stance, but more on that later.
Another thing is almost certain: while there is a newer crop of go-to middle names, the grandparents of go-to middle names (Anne, Elizabeth & Marie for girls; Alan & James for boys) are still used a lot on contemporary babies.
Here are the lists of go-to middle names. Girls are coded pink, boys are coded blue, and unisex are coded green.
List 1. Middle Names Ready For Retirement
Many of these—such as Anne and Marie—have been used forever, but others—such as Grace and Rose—have only become popular in the last 20 years.
Lee (or Leigh)
List 2. Middle Names Near Retirement
These middle names aren’t as tired as ones in the above list, but aren’t exactly full of energy either.
List 3. Middle Names Ready to Re-enter The Workforce?
Here are a few middle names that seem tired on older generations, but seem to have fallen out of fashion and may eventually become retro-chic on contemporary babies. Notice the uncertain language here. This uncertainty comes from lack of historical data. I’m going by the Name Nerd poll results and popular middle names in my parent’s high school yearbooks that I don’t remember seeing/hearing on many of my peers or my peer’s children.
Jo (or Joe)
List 4. The New Recruits
These names make fresh alternatives to the names on lists 1-3, but keep in mind, many of these names work so well in the middle that some may join retirement ranks in a few years. For example, Pearl, Lark, and Wren are popping up in other places as middle name suggestions. I tried to include a few suggestions that I haven’t seen elsewhere, such as Elihu and Soledad.
|Bernadette||Birch||Rhys (or Reese)|
|Tru (or True)|
The new middle name list was getting long, and some of you might prefer to find your own unique middle name. In addition to giving you a list, I am also going to explain why some names work better in the middle than others. That discussion is for next week.
And the observant among you may have noticed my own kids have middle names from List 2. Middle Names Near Retirement! (Their names are Fiona Dawn and Paul Robert.) How could I, a name writer, pick go-to middle names for my kids?
The reason is that family honoring middle names were more important than unique middle names to Rob and me. I tried to find stylish first names for my children, and decided tradition would take precedence over style in the middle spot.
Tradition is one selling point for go-to middle names. This may be another reason, besides simply sounding good, that certain names become typecast in the middle.
Sometimes I mourn the lost opportunity to give my kids imaginative middle names. Ideally I would have loved to give my kids both meaningful and original middle names. For that reason, I put my grandparent’s names, Marshall and Winifred, and my mother-in-law’s name, Bernadette on the new middle name list. I didn’t just include these names for sentimental reasons. Next week I’ll explain why Bernadette, Marshall and Winifred work in the middle.
Readers: Ideally we would like our kids to have middle names that are both imaginative and meaningful, but if you had to choose, which would be more important to you?