Names and Branding

Thomas P.M. Barnett explains why he has double the standard allotment of middle initials.  His wife, the former Vonne Meussling, took his name by adding a hyphen to hers and he added hers to his minus the hyphen.

I went from “maiden” name Thomas Patrick Barnett to Thomas Patrick-Meussling Barnett, or Thomas P.M. Barnett as the brand.

That extra initial makes me unique on the web, something I find incredibly valuable.

The more common your first and last names, the more useful that is.  Frankly, at this point in time, simply searching for Tom Barnett yields results exclusively pertaining to Thomas P.M. Barnett; that was likely not the case back before Pentagon’s New Map broke out.

My business card says “James H. Joyner, Jr., Ph.D.” which is more than enough characters and adding in a second middle initial never really occurred to me. There are quite a few people with the name “James Joyner” (my online brand) out there but it’s uncommon enough that I’m easily the most prominent one on the Web.   I’ve got it easier in that regard than, say, Steven Taylor or Stephen Green but harder than, say, Matthew Yglesias.

My wife took my last name and converted her maiden name, Webb, into her middle name, dropping the Anne she was born with.  She didn’t hyphenate it but, alas, going with three names seems to confuse the bejezus out of data entry types, so she’s frequently entered into databases as Webb Joyner rather than Joyner.   Our daughter, Katie (Katharine) has Webb as her given middle name as well.  By the time she’s old enough to marry (she’s four months now) the custom of women changing their names may well have died out, removing that issue but raising others.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    You could always have followed the old Southern custom of giving your daughter the given name of Webb. I think it has a rather cool sound to it. I wouldn’t be surprised if she adopted it herself when older.

  2. G.A.Phillips says:

    I’m gonna go with Gary A. Phillips DP.R.

    cause it’s sound more distinguished and both my first and last names are 60-70% common I think.

    Oh and DP.R. stands for Donkeypoop Reflector.

  3. Patrick says:

    We did the Southern tradition. Our son’s first name is my wife’s maiden name. I just thank God it was a fairly normal last name.

  4. fester says:

    James — is Katie sleeping through the night yet? Elise, my 4 month old who is about 20 hours younger than Katie is getting to that point. The politics and practicality of naming is a pain in the ass, especially as my last name is one of the top 10 most common last names. We spent too much damn time trying to figure out a unique but not bizarre first name for Elise.

  5. James Joyner says:

    James — is Katie sleeping through the night yet? Elise, my 4 month old who is about 20 hours younger than Katie is getting to that point.

    Most nights, she’s sleeping from around 10:30 or 11 to 6 or 6:30. That’s been going on for about a week.

  6. Michael says:

    Most nights, she’s sleeping from around 10:30 or 11 to 6 or 6:30. That’s been going on for about a week.

    Not bad, my son liked his every 4 hours meal schedule for most of his first year. I timed my sleep patterns to get two 4-hour long segments of uninterrupted sleep.

    Of course, half the nights I spend those segments asleep in the rocking chair holding him. But now I can easily sleep on long flights in coach.

  7. sam says:

    Hmmm, will we be going down the Spanish road in the future:

    Since time immemorial in Spain, the Catholic church and the civil government (since the middle of the 19th century) have been using the same system for registering and ordering the surnames of individuals. Its use was extended to the New World, starting in the Colonial Era.

    The high number of surnames a person may use —four, eight or more-does not make that person an aristocrat or more elegant or a member of the nobility, it only shows that the ancestors are known to that family or that individual in particular; it is basic genealogy.