How to pick a middle name your kid will WANT to share

Guest post by Kelly Ward
Danger really IS his middle name.
Danger really IS his middle name.

Last December, my husband and I welcomed into this world our first born son: Lincoln. Lincoln Danger. Yep. As you might imagine, a typical conversation following Lincoln’s birth went as follows:

Us: It’s a boy!
Friend or Family member: Congratulations! What’s his name?
Us: Lincoln Danger.
Friend or Family: (blank stare) I’m sorry, did you say Danger?

After the initial surprise, said friend or family member either feigned indifference, pretended not to notice, or (our favorite) broke out into a “That. Is. Awesome. Why didn’t we think of that?!”

When you choose an atypical name (even a middle name) for your child, you must be prepared to answer the why’s…

First, though, it might be helpful to think about how middle names are typically chosen in the first place:

    1. Some people choose a name to honor a family member, usually the grandmother or grandfather. Sometimes the mother’s maiden name is used.
    2. Perhaps it “just sounds good” with whatever first name was selected.
    3. The middle name might actually be intended to be used as part of the first name (e.g., Mary Ann, John Paul)
    4. It could be part of a family tradition (e.g., My dad has 5 sisters. Every one of them has the middle name Ann).

When we were choosing Lincoln’s name, we fell somewhat into the family tradition category–not that Danger is family heritage. For 5 generations in my husband’s family, the initials L.D.W. have been given to the first born son (taking a slight detour with my husband’s uncle, who named his son Chris…my husband’s parents chose to carry-on the tradition instead).

So, we knew we needed an “L” name (done!) and a “D” name. Combing through baby name books at our local bookstore gave us a few front runners, but we still weren’t sold on anything. My husband was a bit sad that his number one choice actually started with a “P” so couldn’t be used (since I’m feeling generous, I’ll offer the name up to any takers out there: Pocket (I know…).

In fact, please use it. That way I can tell him it’s been done and I won’t have to consider it for baby #2.

One day as I was searching online, I came across a baby name list I hadn’t seen before. Going straight to the “D” names, I saw it: Danger. We loved it and never looked back.

But how to answer the inevitable “why” questions we were sure to get?

Really, for us, it boils down to the fact that the middle name (in America, at least) is rarely used. Sure, you’ll print it on your birth announcements, they’ll call it out on graduation day, it will probably make an appearance on your wedding invitations…but really, most people don’t go around everyday introducing yourself with your full name. [Editor’s note: unless you’re me. -AMS]

Think about it — other than close friends and family, do you know people’s middle names? On resumes and other paperwork in the business world, the middle initial is more often used that the full name. Keeping all that in mind, we decided to move forward with our name choice. Why did we pick it? Why not? If it is hardly ever going to get used, why not have fun with it?

Our one regret about choosing such a unique middle name for our son? The intense pressure we now have to come up with something equally unique when baby #2 comes along (I mean, really. How are we supposed to follow that??). We aren’t expecting yet, but I’m already writing down ideas. It is going to take a long time to come up with something that lives up to Danger.

Comments on How to pick a middle name your kid will WANT to share

  1. Love it. Seriously. I think an unusual middle name is one of the best things EVER. My middle name is Ann (yes, that's what I'm using for my name here). Ann. Really. My parents are SO not creative, and I would have given my left middle toe to have a cool middle name.

  2. My middle name is Davonia, which is a mix of David and Donia, who were my father's children who died in a car crash w/ their mom (dad's first wife). Of course, it was because of this that my parents met. My mom was being neighborly and brough a cake to the funeral.

  3. We are far from having children – we're getting married in October – but we agreed years ago that if we have a boy his middle name is Danger. So glad other people have done it. I'm passing a link to this on to my fiance.

  4. "The intense pressure we now have to come up with something equally unique when baby #2 comes along (I mean, really. How are we supposed to follow that??). We aren't expecting yet, but I'm already writing down ideas."

    Ditto! We gave our daughter a beautiful unique name and are having a difficult time coming up with our next child's name, and we haven't even conceived yet!

  5. How about "Trouble" or "Adventure" as middle name for #2 – I'm sure I've heard both of those in "___ is his middle name" constructions before.

  6. After reading some of the comments I think my mother's maiden name (Roswell) would be a great middle name, but mine….not so much…I mean really, Smuck as a middle name just doesn't hit me right. My middle name is Lenore, I used to joke that if I had a girl I would name her Elle Lenore(Eleanore was my grandmother's name). Loving Danger as a middle name though. If being used in the "____ is his middle name" you could easily go with Demon, Evil, Genius…I'm sure there are many more. How about some proclaimation of royalty? King could be an interesting middle name, or Highness etc etc. the possibilities are endless.

  7. Here I thought we were being creative. My husband and I are fairly offbeat and while Gabriel was in the womb, I was joking with my dad that our son would be a little daredevil probably. Surfing with sharks and skiing the glaciers. He'd be DANGER Savage (Savage is my last name). My dad thought it was hilarious and used the name for the rest of the pregnancy. So naturally we gave Gabriel the middle name Danger. My husband's family was scandalized, but we proceeded regardless.

    But yeah… how do you follow Danger?

  8. One thing that strikes me about this and other naming discussions is how, even among those trying to make daring and offbeat choices, we still often (subconsciously) see the parameters in rather conventional terms – particularly when it comes to how we signal gender expectations. Plenty of people think giving a boy the middle name "Danger" is awesome – but how many of us would pick it for our daughters? Even with more adventurous nature noun names (which I happen to like), you seem to be asking for trouble naming a girl Fox, Hawk, or Stone, and even more trouble calling a boy Raven, Meadow, or Wren…
    Regardless, I'm a big fan of parents picking names they love – despite knowing that some people are going to be judgmental (or at least disappointed) no matter what one chooses. If a name isn't "too weird/ uncommon/ embarrassing/ pretentious," it's "too boring/ common/ uncreative/ trendy." It's fascinating to me the kinds of cultural and identity signals we read into others' names and try to send in choosing names ourselves. Sometimes though it seems to me that the pressure we self-identified "offbeat" types put on ourselves to impress everyone with our creativity – and indeed our overall insistence on self-consciousness – can make us pretty unhappy. (Good reality check on overthinking things: Is this helping me/us be more mindful and open-hearted, or merely more self-absorbed?)
    I try to remind myself that most parents choose names (including the ones that are not my style at all!) with love. The name is a message to the child, connecting her to family, community, culture, history and their hopes for her future – and there are often treasured stories and meanings behind "boring" Michael and Madysynne, as well as Moab and Maybelle. It sounds like Kelly and her husband have made a thoughtful choice by giving their son a name with a fun story, which will remind him both that he belongs to a loving family and that they wish him a bold, joyful and courageous life. (Ideas for his little brother or sister – Adventure, Bonfire, Daring, Horizon, Lion, Magellan, Perihelion, Python, Rodeo, Quest, Spire, Tussle, Vista, Whitewater …?)

    • Thanks so much for this thoughtful response. My husband and I have had the same discussion regarding choosing a name for a girl (should we have a daughter in the future). I appreciate the name suggestions as well! For us, we never set out on the quest to think of an "offbeat" or super unique name…we just happened upon Danger in our search for a middle name that we felt suited our future son and fell in love with it : )

    • We named our son Michael, after my husband's grandfather. I was kind of hoping the name was so traditional that nobody wanted to use it anymore. Alas, not so. There is another little boy named "Michael" in the class above his in preschool. Oh well. They're still buds. His middle name is unique, though. It's my great-grandmother's maiden name- Duvall. 🙂 (No relation to Robert Duvall :p )

      • While not a mama yet, I’ve always wanted to name my first little girl Lilianya Rose. Lilianya being taken from one version of Snow White and roses being my favorite flower and also closely tied to my favorite fairytale (Beauty and the Beast).

        And Elly- I have to wonder if we aren’t somehow related farther back in the family tree. 🙂 My family name is Duvall.

  9. Kat – I was just thinking that Adventure would be an awesome middle name for a baby girl!

    Love the name Lincoln Danger, btw. It's nice to see that not everyone is so deadly serious about baby names.

  10. I'm with Kat above on 'Trouble' for the next one, if only so that when his friends come around, his brother can greet them and say 'I'm Danger. You're looking for Trouble.'

  11. I love it, what a great name! I can totally relate too, our little guy was born in July and we were soooo expecting a girl, so we had ABSOLUTELY no boy names. I had always fancied "Jakob" which is my maternal grandfather's name, and my husband said we should also include "Franklin" who is his maternal grandfather. But being the offbeat parents WE are, we needed something AWESOME – so we came up with Jakob Franklin Zissou Paterson. Yes, we like Wes Anderson films.

    For those that know the reference to Zissou, they think it's AWESOME. For those that don't, they just give this sort of blank stare… oh well! We like it, and everyone else can just lump it.

  12. My oldest son is not happy that out of my three children, he is the one with the normal name. (Who knew so many boys born in 98 were named Austin Tyler?) My 5 year old daughter is Averi Kailen. But with my 7-month-old son, his dad and I could not agree, so we named him Canaan Elijah Nathaniel. All normal type names, but all together it's fun to say. Besides, now knowing that my oldest hates his name, the baby has options if he ever grows to hate his too. : )

  13. I love it! I'm currently 27 weeks pregnant and if it's a boy, his name will be Felix Turbo Walker. Our choice has gotten a few raised eyebrows, but I agree, it's not used that often so why not have fun with it. We already had a girl name picked out (Faye Shadow) and a the first name Felix picked out for a boy (no, the "f" first initial wasn't planned, we just happened to like 2 names that started with the same letter) and we decided that for a boy we wanted the initials FTW (because we're dorks like that) and Turbo occurred to both of us at the same time. Plus, now if he ever decides to pursue a career as an American Gladiator, he's got a built in gladiator name. 😛

  14. That's fantastic! My two kids have unique middle names too. Anna Rain and Noah Shade. We came up with those names when we lived in NM, where rain and shade were the two most precious things we could imagine.

  15. When we have a son, his name will be Rene Gade Remington. The first name is pronounced "Reen".

    We'll call him Rene when he's being a sweet little boy. But when he gets in trouble, we're gonna call in Renegade!
    "Renegade! Come here boy!"

    When we have a daughter, her name will be Soliloquy Raina Remington.
    It just sounds so poetic and unsual. And we're looking forward to calling her "Silly Soli!"

  16. My uncle had a tattoo of a wolf not long after his son, Z Wolf, was born. How they struggled for their second babie's name, not only did it have to be super cool, it had to be tattoo-able

  17. Our 12-week old son's name is Lincoln Niner – because "Niner" is the name my 5 1/2 year old son started calling him when we found out we were having a boy. It would have been "Zippy" for a girl…

  18. Two of my friends gave there children Danger as a middle name. I think it's absolutely rad they can say Danger is my middle name 🙂

    Our daughters middle name is Darling. Like from Peter Pan! I hope she isn't embarrassed when she is older……I think it's adorable 😉

  19. my boyfriend is OBSESSED with this middle name!
    we're having our first, a girl, in May-
    he let me do all the naming i wanted with one condition: Danger.
    hopefully #2 will be a boy and he is bound & determined…
    kudos to ya!!

  20. My son, my husband, his dad, his dad and so on for at least 6 generations are all named John. And all but one went/go by their middle name.
    Our sons name is John Henry Lincoln. Yes, he has 2 middle names. We either call him Henry or Linc.

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