Last updated: June 01. 2013 1:19PM - 269 Views
Stephen Harris

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So how was I going to get out of this fix?

I had gotten a form to fill out on the computer. I don’t remember what I was for; it was a while back.

The computer conveniently had filled in for me my name, Stephen.

Then on the next line it had a blank box for my middle name. Well, Stephen is my middle name.

Don’t you just love it when the computer is too smart for its own good?

The computer would not let me change the name Stephen as my first name. I tried to submit the form with the middle name blank, but the screen flashed in red letters, “box must be filled.”

So somewhere out there in cyber land is a form listing me as Stephen Stephen Harris. Hopefully when an identity thief strikes, that will be the name he or she gets. I wish I could see the thief’s expression.

I’ve noticed this oddity here in the hometown: a surprising number of people are called by their middle names. I’ve haven’t noticed this so much elsewhere. Has anybody else noticed?

Often I don’t learn a person’s unused first name till I read their obituary. It comes as quite a surprise.

For instance, it was in the obituaries I learned that cousin Albert was actually John Albert, uncle Raymond was Johnsie Raymond, and cousin Frank was James Frank.

When you see my obituary in this ‘paper, let me warn you ahead of time. My first name is James.

Actually, I’m the fourth generation of James Harris here. But none of us actually used the name James. Grandpa came the closest; he went by Jim.

Years ago on the first day of a physical education course the teaching assistant who was running the class, on soccer, started off by reading the class roll.

“Jim,” he said. Silence. “Jim,” a second time. Silence. “Jim Harris” he said, a third time. Grandpa? I thought. No, he must mean me. “Here,” I finally said.

He continued on down the list of names so fast he didn’t give me a chance to correct him. And I never did. So for one semester in one class I went by the name Jim. Grandpa would’ve been proud.

Years later I ran across one of my old soccer classmates. He had become a dentist in Morganton. We knew each other only from soccer class.

“Jim!” he blurted out first thing. How did he remember that? I was too embarrassed to explain. So I let it go. So there’s one person in this world who thinks I’m Jim Harris.

I’ve never been able to find out much about this notion of being called by the middle name. “Wikipedia,” the Internet encyclopedia site, says that only in the U.S. “it is also common for people to use their middle name as the first name.“

I found an Internet website, “March 2011 Birth Club,” on which you may comment on calling a baby by the middle name. About half of the respondents complained about it, and half said it’s no big deal.

It’s appropriate to ponder all this as we look ahead to Middle Name Pride Day. I am not making this up. It’s the Friday of the first full week in March.

However, Middle Name Pride Day is for those who are called by their first names and never the middle. Promoters instruct people on this day to show their pride by telling at least three people their middle names.

I have found advantages in using my middle name only.

Whenever I get mail addressed to James I chunk it unopened. I’m confident it’s from someone who does not know me.

Whenever I fill out customer surveys, product registrations or other such marketing-driven headaches I use James. So when I get those annoying sales calls during dinner that asks for James, I can hang up with no hesitation.

Ditto for those strange envelopes with no return address and addressed to James. No one by that name here.

So when you call “The Tribune” to compliment the great Monday columns, be sure to tell them the name Stephen.

When you call to complain use James.


Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

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