What’s in a name?

#Phone rings#

Mother answers: “Hello”

Voice on phone:  “You’re a mad cow”

Mother:  “I beg your pardon”

Voice on phone “CJD, your initials, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease – Mad Cow Disease”

#Hangs up#

I really don’t phone my mother enough and it must have been a couple of months without communicating but I had to let her know the minute it struck me what her initials stood for.  (It was a slow work day)

People always ask what my middle name is but my parents never gave me one, what a strange question really, you’ve introduced yourself and one of the early questions you get after “What do you do for a living?” is “What’s your middle name?”.   They give me a look of pity when I reveal I have none, it must be the working class upbringing, we yearned for so much but there just weren’t enough names to go round.

I asked my father, “Why don’t I have a middle name?”   He replied “You have a name why do you need two?”   He extended this theory to many things including Christmas presents which we received one of.   It was a long wait before my Autobot had a Decepticon to do battle with.

It was certainly easier at school though, and he had thoughtfully named me Jon removing the H more typically found in England.  I was quickly top of the class for writing my name leaving my classmates  Christopher Alexander Graham Smith and Elizabeth Kimberley Melville firmly in the shade.


Once in a previous house-share I answered the phone..

“Is Kathryn there?”

“Sorry, wrong number” I replied and hung up.

The same call came again, “There is no Kathryn who lives here, you must be mixing our number up, we get it all the time, we have a similar number to the dairy with people asking where their milk is, sorry, but please check the number, goodbye”

By the third time they called they were quite annoyed, it turned out Kathryn was my flatmate of 2 years, Clare.  She was Irish and it’s apparently normal to be called by your middle name by everyone you know including your family who gave you the first name to begin with, so Kathryn Clare had lived her whole life being called Clare even though it would not be the name first referred to on her birth certificate, passport, bank card etc.  There is probably a good reason, maybe the first name is the mother’s middle name and the formula repeats through generations?  I’m making this up, I have no clue, maybe someone can enlighten me?


I also avoid the embarrassing middle name, where you are named after your great-grandfather, a name which was the height of fashion in the 19th century but these days they don’t want anyone to know their middle name such is their shame.

Just when are you happy you have enough names?  You regularly use the many you were given and then when married you double barrel the surname too, do you want me to get a cramp when writing my Christmas cards?


Animal names too have taken on a life of their own, when once Fluffy, Spot, Patch and Thumper would be common, now we have to name our pets people’s names and even sharing our surnames.  I can forgive this at the vets, it’s quite cute, but when you hear a full triple worded animal name called across the park is there not the tiniest hint of pretension?

I never needed to name my cat, Lily was already christened as such when collected from the re-homing centre, it just so happens to be my Nan’s name, well middle name, so I just pretend she’s named after her in the hope my £5 in my birthday card is bumped up to £10 next year.


I don’t even use my real name here, Joe Hoover is a moniker, another flatmate was calling me Joe for ages, I never noticed, I just thought it was her accent, all my mail just had my initial on so it was never noticed, after that it stuck though and I have used the pseudonym since, she added Hoover with it being a play on my surname, Dyson. And with Dyson also being the leading brand of vacuum in the UK means this is constantly referred to when I have to give my name on the phone:

“As in the Hoover?”

“No”, “I say, as in the vacuum, Hoover is a brand of vacuum cleaner”

“I bet you’d love to have his money!”

“Yes, now can I please order a large Pepperoni pizza and……”

So Joe Hoover stuck and I imagine it would be my name if I were a private eye in a film noir from the 1940’s.   Who’s gonna deny someone so cruelly born with no middle name the chance to dream.

Leave a comment


  1. When I was growing up I absolutely hated my middle name. My middle name is MacRae, a nod to my Scottish heritage. When kid would ask me what my middle name was I would make something up. Those that I did tell the truth usually had the same response, “What kind of middle name is that?”

    Now that I am older and know more about the MacRae clan, I don’t hesitate to tell people what my middle name is. It’s a name I share with a few uncles and cousins and I wear it proudly.

    • I have never heard of something like yours being used, it’s so steeped in history, I love it. I would be of the opposite mind to people questioning it, it’s infinitly more fascinating. Now I’m even more envious of not having one, in my first and last names I actually only have a total of 6 different letters.

  2. You are not going to believe this, but my middle name is Jo. If I tell people this, they automatically assume I’m from the deep south. My younger brother has never gone by his first name, Daryl, just his middle name, Chris. I can’t say as I blame him but it’s damn confusing to people.

    • Two letters of my first name are also in my last, there are 26 letters may parents could have played around with, I wonder why they didn’t?

  3. That is weird…I kind of get it, but what if there are other Jon Dyson’s out there? Maybe we should say SU is your middle name. It fits with the vacuum thing…

    • shall i change it legally!

      • That is funny. Really, middle names are pretty pointless if you think about it, well, it does help if there is someone with the same name. My middle name is Grace.

        • thats a nice name, what gets me is some are terrible that they are forcing their children to a life if ridicule,

          • I know…poor kids, and some kids have first and last names that suck already and then you find out their middle name is just as bad. It is nice to have a good middle name if your first name sucks because then you can just go by your middle name.

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