Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What's Not in a Name

My name is Adriane Skinner. That's it. I have no middle name. My grandfather told my mother it was a waste of ink (despite having given my father his own forename, Bartley, as a middle name), and it was apparently hard enough to come up with one name Mom and Dad agreed upon (or two, since they had to come up with Morgan first). This has never been a problem... until now.

I recently received a letter from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, which oversees drinking water operator certification in the state of Wyoming, where I am certified at the Treatment III and Water Systems I levels (the system is different in California, where I am a Treatment III, Distribution II). The letter stated that they had recently renewed my Water Systems I certification using qualifying training hours I had on record, which is fine. But there was more.

They're restructuring their database to match operators' records with their middle name or initial and birthdate, instead of the last 6 digits of our social security numbers, which was the old method (to which a lot of people rightly objected). The DEQ wrote to tell me that they are unable to print a copy of my renewed certification because they are "missing a vital piece of information." Seriously, it's that serious. The letter was addressed to "Adriane x Skinner", probably to illustrate the point.

I rarely meet another person without a middle name, apart from my older sister Morgan, who also got shafted. I even know people who have two middle names or more. Having a middle name is like having a secret, a special, hidden code name (not unlike that of a Jellicle Cat) that only certain people in your inner circle -- and some admin specialists at your doctor's office and probably your accountant -- are privy to. You might be years into a friendship before, during idle conversation, it occurs to you to ask your friend's middle name or share your own. Learning someone's middle name can be such a fun surprise (and also a new source of torment to capitalize on).

Not having a middle name is a secret of its own kind, but it's a secret shame. Like an appellatory handicap, a dearth of separate syllables stunts my signature and truncates my monogram. People occasionally react to this revelation with oddly exaggerated shock, which is why I grew up thinking it must be either a major faux pas or just really unusual. I also suspect it took some of the steam out of Grandma's disciplinary tactics when I was small... using a child's full, triple name is a sure way to let them know you mean business, am I right? Anyway, the fact that I have no middle name used to be one of the most interesting things about me. (I later became a much more interesting person.) Not a problem, until now.

As I was responding to the letter (requesting that they just use the letter "X" like a clerk at Blockbuster once inadvertently did when their system wouldn't take no for an answer, either), it occurred to me, and not for the first time, that when Brent and I get married, I can't just back Skinner up one slot and create myself a middle name I'd be glad to hang on to (I'm the last of the Skinner line in name, since Dad was Grandpa's only child), finally have a complete set of letters. Why not? Brent's last name is Shepherd. You do the monogramic math. So I will just be plain Adriane Shepherd, which, I just realized, will take decades to get used to.

If you have a middle name, treasure it. Keep it a secret and only share it with those who love you the most. It's your superpower, the one thing that, on a luggage tag or credit report, might distinguish you from the hundred or two other people who share your particular combination of forename and surname. And if you, like me, don't have a middle name at all, why then... let's start a club. We're special too.


Anonymous mister anchovy said...

I have a middle name but I only use it when prompted by some kind of officialdom. I prefer just my first and last names. My last name starts with a silent letter, and my parents chose to give me a first name with a silent first letter too, a nice touch, even though they were just naming me after my uncle.

March 23, 2011 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger A said...

I can't begin to guess your middle name... but I like your first name. And your blog name. :)

March 24, 2011 at 9:02 PM  
Anonymous mister anchovy said...

Eugene Michael Knapik

March 25, 2011 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger A said...

That has a very nice ring to it. I love silent consonants. Knapik... Polish? Czech?

March 25, 2011 at 12:01 PM  

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