Home Columns Anantha Narayan Bang in the Middle

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    Kiefer Sutherland, the actor best known for playing Jack Bauer in the popular TV series 24, is worth remembering for another reason. He’s the guy with five middle names! No, I am not kidding. Kiefer Sutherland is actually Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland. But that didn’t get him into the record books as Adolph Wolfe+585 (the man with 585 more characters in his surname) beat him hollow with 25 eye-popping middle names.
    That raises the question as to what is a middle name. Technically, it’s the thing that appears between a given name and a surname. For instance, Damodardas is the middle name of Narendra Modi. You would have known that had you paid more attention to his 4.31 crore pin-striped suit.
    Anyway, the point to bear in mind is that middle names were largely a Western tradition (even in India, it’s a Western Indian phenomenon). It came into vogue around the 19th century when there was a sudden rush to take an alternative first name as the centrepiece. A few folks who were not particularly happy with their given name chose to flaunt it, instead. W Somerset Maugham, J Edgar Hoover, F Scott Fitzgerald and Joseph Rudyard Kipling are some famous examples.
    In Russia, the middle names are patronymic (derived from the father’s name). They usually occur with an -ovich suffix for males and -vna for females. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Anna Sergeyvna Kournikova are cases in point. The Chinese don’t have any concept of middle names, just like us South Indians.
    A few weeks ago, Twitter went crazy coining befitting middle names for celebrities. The creations varied from the downright insulting to the terribly funny. Virat *beep* Kohli was a nod to his sledging. Robert DLF Vadra was a tribute to his notorious land deals. Rajdeep Buy My Book Sardesai was a dig at his shameless plug of his tome. Beyond trolling, many indulged in some delicious wordplay. Here are some pearls: Hashim Dabur Amla, Naomi Kilo Watts, Stevie Seven Day Wonder, Stanley Rubik Kubrick, Cat On-A-Hot-Tin-Roof Stevens, David Take A Bowie, Wayne Loonie Rooney, Tiger Lost-In-The Woods, Charlie Sexma Sheen, Jim Cash N Carrey, Rock Paper Scissors Hudson, Lady GooGoo Gaga, Paul I Feel Like A Newman and Whitney I Think We Have A Problem Houston.


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