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September 10th, 2007, 07:16 AM
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Acadia Acadia is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Louisiana
Posts: 8,377
It's pretty common in the south, at least in my area. It used to be more common throughout.

For example, my aunt is Mary Ellen Lastname. She's called Ellen. They gave her the first name Mary to honor the Virgin Mary (very Catholic family), but there were already five Marys in their family (as happens in Catholic families). So they called her Mary Ellen or usually just Ellen.

Another case is to honor a relative or your family in general. Sometimes the first baby was given the mother's maiden name to honor her family, whether it was a boy OR a girl. So the child might be Smith Elizabeth Jones. She would likely be called Elizabeth instead of Smith. They put Smith first (instead of naming her Elizabeth Smith Jones) because if her middle name was a surname, potential suitors (and other people in proper society) might think she was already married, or even divorced (gasp!) or widowed. In the case of boys, one of my friends is Charles Adam, called Adam, because he was named after his grandfather (also Charles) but the family didn't want two men called Charles.

Those reasons aren't really expressed nowadays (a lot of people do it "just because"), but that's pretty much the old reasoning. A lot of people (myself included, it's just how I was raised and what I'm used to!) think giving a child a FIRST name in honor of someone shows a lot more respect and admiration than giving the kid a MIDDLE name in honor of someone. I guess because everyone does see the first name (as you pointed out), whereas they don't see the middle name all the time. I agree that in this day and age, it does seem more convenient to just use the first name you want to call them by, but everyone I know who does it gets along just fine.
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