Private and public names

Enid Buzz asks about middle names. Most people mentioned that their middle name was only used when Mom was seriously pissed.

This is a common habit in America, but it can’t be very old. The three-name standard is basically limited to the Protestant parts of the English-speaking world. Catholic areas traditionally have a pile of patron saints, not a single middle name.

In the South, including Enid, there’s an alternate tradition of Official Nicknames. The Enid phone books formerly recognized the tradition. Half of all male names looked like this:

Hodges CL Chuck   502 N Grand         234-1234
Choate HP Slim    4124 S 10th         233-5678
DeBoard RD Pops   123 W Maine         237-6789

There’s clearly an innate gene for private names and public names, expressed in various ways. The private name is often secret, known only to the tribe, and used for sacred or serious purposes.  When Mom is pissed, she’s bearing down hard on the private name, switching on our tribal obedience neurons.

Letting outsiders hear a private name was considered a sign of trust, to be granted sparingly.

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