To my mother, the passport office and the HSBC bank, with whom I had an account 3 years ago and have never quite gotten around to canceling, I am Margaret H Gallant. To everyone else I’m Maggie Gallant, or in extreme cases Margaret Gallant. Doesn’t sound so bad does it? I didn’t think so, till I moved here and found that having no middle initial made me something of a loser.
Quite the reverse to England where most of us spent our formative years trying to deny the very existence of a middle name. Damn how we envied the kids whose parents lacked the imagination or just couldn’t be assed to come up with more than one name. They were free to roam the school and playground tormenting the rest of us.
“What’s your middle name
“Don’t have one”
“Yeah you do”
“So what’s the D stand for?”
“Yeah it does. It stands for Dogbreath. Go on, say it. Say your name.”
And we rarely fought back, willing to accept almost anything rather than give them the live ammunition of our real middle name. In England, the middle name is sort of a chance for parents to go a bit wild without any real consequence, at least to them. So you might meet Paul ‘Mountjoy’ Smith or Karen ‘Tallulah’ Williams. Parents get the thrill of coming up with a whacked out name, but were safe in the knowledge that their kids would never divulge it. So much better if you were born into the aristocracy, where Tarquin Gaylord’s mix merrily with Arabella Horsemindas and laugh at plain Janes and Ians. Course this theory is screwed by the Royal Family, who apparently require half a dozen or so very boring middle names, selected by stringing together the first names of all their ancestors, plus a butler or two, then choosing an unrelated name to actually call them. So Prince Henry Charles Albert David Windsor. Prince Harry.
Over here though, no-one really cares about the actual middle name, it’s all in the initial. This strikes me as odd for a country obsessed with knowing personal detail. If the immediate follow up question to “hi, how are you” is “what do you do”, then surely “what does the J stand for” shouldn’t be too far behind? Perhaps it doesn’t stand for anything, except arrogance, perhaps that’s the unspoken understanding between people here. After all this is also a country that seems to believe that last names work much better as first names. And it’s not just lawyers, doctors or other self-important professionals that like to display their initials, it’s friends, neighbors, senders of porn spam. In fact, the biggest surprise to me is how few celebrities use a middle initial. You don’t hear about Arnold B Schwarzenegger, though perhaps he’ll adopt this if he runs for Mayor of California, so people won’t confuse him with Arnold Schwarzenegger the crap actor. Ok, I know there’s Michael J Fox, but he’s Canadian.
Do people really think that the inclusion of a middle initial adds some kind of gravitas? My god, you’re Maggie H Gallant? I’m so sorry, we thought you were just Maggie Gallant. And what greater success might William F Shakespeare or Charles B Dickens have achieved in their lifetime if they’d only realized?
Then there’s the Americans who like to name their children after themselves and add the middle initial to distinguish between them. In the case of George Bush and George W Bush, the W. is extremely important in distinguishing between the Bush that lies, warmongers, lacks morals and rewards the rich and the Bush that lies, warmongers, lacks morals and rewards the rich.
And just for the record, the H is for …. oh forget it, I’m not telling.