middle-initial madness

26 Sep

One little difference between people on either side of the pond which I find quite telling is the prevailing attitude towards one’s middle initial. In England, it is common practice to basically ignore it unless you happen to be a fairly pretentious writer or academic, in which case you throw in your middle initial on your name on your book cover to look extra weighty.

For the self-effacing English natives, to put your middle initial is a bit like blowing your own trumpet and that, of course, is the worst possible crime.

But here in the U.S., it’s a totally different ball game. At first I thought that there must be heaps of extremely important people in this country, seeing as people seem to be brandishing their middle initial on every possible form, paper, email, advertisement. But I soon realised that it is absolutely the cultural norm, and in spite of my residual anglo reservations, there is apparently nothing pretentious about it.

So much so, that in my new teaching job, I was given a new work email address and horror of horrors!, they automatically added in my middle initial so that every time I send an email, it shows up as from Rebecca J. S—–a. Help! And the worst of it all is not only can I not actually work out how to remove the J, but, shameful admission, I’m actually starting to quite like the way it looks! Help! What’s happening to me?

And just to illustrate how prevalent this middle initial madness is: Downstairs in our apartment block, there is a sign-up sheet for the exterminator (yes, another fearful cultural norm in New York: the dreaded cockroach). I was walking past it the other day and noticed one of the neighbours had signed up, writing, yes of course, his FULL name, middle initial included.

I mean, come oooonnnnnnnn. How pompous can you get? Full name with middle initial – on the cockroach exterminator sign-up sheet?


4 Responses to “middle-initial madness”

  1. katja V special September 26, 2010 at 19:46 #


  2. alexei September 27, 2010 at 15:14 #

    Somehow, I’ve noticed this myself already, despite having little dealings with those in the US.

    I’m fairly sure one US president, who didn’t actually have a middle name, added a fictional initial (possibly Nixon?)

  3. Gaelle October 22, 2010 at 09:09 #

    yes, please refer to me as Elle J. L.

  4. Gaelle October 22, 2010 at 09:48 #

    More importantly, did you notice we are initial sisters! Yes!

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