Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Mitt By Any Other Name

If a person’s name has anything to do with it, Mitt Romney may have an uphill battle in his bid for the presidency. Most of our presidents have had fairly common first names. Most of them have gone by their first name or a derivative of that name. A few have gone by nicknames.

Alphabetically, we’ve had one Abraham, two Andrews, one Benjamin, one Calvin, one Chester, one Dwight, two Franklins, three Georges, one Grover (twice), one Harry, one Herbert, six Jameses, four Johns, one Lyndon, one Martin, one Millard, one Richard, one Ronald, one Rutherford, one Theodore, one Thomas, one Ulysses, one Warren, four Williams, one Woodrow, and one Zachary.

Not all of these are common names; however, almost all of them have been shared with at least a small percentage of contemporaries. Lyndon, Millard, Rutherford, and Woodrow are quite uncommon, but are not totally obscure. Ulysses, of course, is an historic name.

But Mitt? Who else out there is named Mitt? What the heck were George and Lenore Romney thinking when they gave their son the middle name of Mitt? By the way, Mitt’s first name is Willard. According to Wikipedia, the Romneys chose the name Willard in honor of their close friend, hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott. The middle name of Mitt was apparently in honor of Milton Romney, “a relative who played football for the Chicago Bears.” Mitt was Milton’s nickname.

Usually there is little problem with giving your kid a strange middle name. Heck, most people in your child’s life will never know his/her middle name. But what happens when you decide to use that middle name as your child’s moniker? Both my mother and my mother-in-law have been called by their middle names since birth. I have no idea why their families did that, but their middle names are quite common.

I can see how it happens, though. It’s cute to call your little tyke by a cute name. I have a brother that has been called by his first and middle initials since he was about three months old. But what happens when your child grows up? In some cases they can move beyond the cute name to something more mature. In other cases, the cute name actually works.

But Mitt? Man, that sounds strange. President Mitt? Yeah, it sounds weird. Just imagine what a heyday the political cartoonists would have with that.

All of this is written tongue in cheek. A person’s name has very little to do with that person’s qualifications for political office. However, in the real world of political elections, a candidate’s name provides a certain level of ‘curb appeal’ to the average voter. It will be interesting to see how this impacts Mr. Romney’s candidacy.

And if Romney wins and ends up being rather popular, will that spawn a generation of parents naming their sons Mitt?


Alienated Wannabe said...

I know you are just having fun, but it is an interesting topic none the less. I wonder what presidential nicknames can tell us?

President Richard Milhous Nixon was called "Dick."

President Gerald Rudolph Ford (His given name at birth was Leslie Lynch King, Jr.) was called "Jerry."

President James Earl Carter was called "Jimmy."

President Ronald Wilson Reagan was called "Ron."

President George Herbert Walker Bush was called "Poppy." (I suspect that this was just used within the immediate family.)

President William Jefferson Clinton was called "Bill."

President George Walker Bush was called "Dubya."

I don't know if it makes a difference or not, but I think I would rather be called "Mitt" than "Dick" or "Jimmy," but that's just me.

Dad's Thoughts said...

Very Interesting. Our first son was a junior so we gave him the nickname of Skip. We told him his real name when he was about four. He refused to belief us!!! He now has four kids of his own... no juniors.


Reach Upward said...

When my wife and I were a young married couple, some friends gave us a book on naming children. It cautioned against using the junior naming system, noting that it often causes lifelong problems for both the senior and the junior (such as identiy mixups in mail, phone calls, and even credit ratings). So we avoided that. One of my sons has my first name as his middle name, and another son has my middle name as his middle name.

The book warned that the child's schoolmates would be ruthless in exploiting every possible strange derivation of the child's name, so it advising thinking about that as well.

More pieces of advice included considering the child's potential nicknames within the family, how the child's name would sound when the child was 40 or 80 years old, looking at the child's initials, and saying out loud all of the possible name combinations that might be used.

For example, the "mother name," as the book called it -- since mothers are known to call their kids by their full names when the kids are in deep trouble. The book explained that there is a certain cadence of syllables and ordering of types of syllables that sounds pleasant to the average ear.

Of course, none of this can account for the taking of a spouse's surname at marriage. I know a woman named Chris. Acutally, her name is Christmas, because she was born Dec. 25. But she married a man whose last name is Holiday. It doesn't sound bad when she goes by Chris, but it looks quite odd in print.

The funny thing is that long before we had a list of potential names for our then yet-to-be-born kids, we had a long list of names that we had agreed were completely unacceptable. None of them, for exmple, were going to get my wife's maternal grandfather's name: Elmer. We strictly avoided unisex names, opting for very masculine boy names and very feminine girl names.

All of our kids have what I would call boring, traditional names. Oddly, few of my children have anyone else in their same grade that shares their boring, traditional name. Perhaps their traditional names have become unusual in this age of people constantly striving to give their kids unusual names.

To see how popular a first name was in a given year go to this link.

Reach Upward said...

BTW, Mitt's not the only guy out there with a potential name problem. I mean, Newt Gingrich also has a serious problem there.

Of course, I would argue that Mr. Gingrich doesn't have a snowball's chance in purgatory's infernos of becoming president or even getting the GOP nomination. Mitt, on the other hand, has a reasonable chance of doing both.