What’s in a (middle) name?

by Mémé

From time to time we have discussions on names, and trends in names.   Unfortunately, the anonymous nature of the site means that we can’t relate much of anything about the actual names used in our families.

Do you have a middle name?   Do your kids have them?    Is there something in your ethnic or regional background that dictates what is used as a middle name or how many or the order?    What about using two or more last names from both sides of the family?  How about Saints’ names?  Or the Southern custom of using  a family surname for a middle name and going by that instead of the more vanilla first name?

And if you feel like it, please share some of your real ones.    In my immediate family the middle names are  Biblical:   Asher, Isaiah, Ruth, Elizabeth, Jochebed (pronounced yō-‘HEH-but, Moses’ mother), Abraham.   Except for me.  My 1950s mom was assimilated in the fashion oand didn’t want to be ethnic, so it is Beth to honor my late grandmother, Beile (BAY-luh).

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85 thoughts on “What’s in a (middle) name?

  1. I have a middle name (Scott) which I never use, I’m not even sure why my parents picked it. Our kids have middle names – Isadore in honor of my great uncle, and Amelia in honor of DW’s grandmother. We never use them.

    When the kids were younger, I’d hear a lot of parents do the first name-middle name yell at their kids when they were mad at them. That was never done in my family. They only time they are ever mentioned is when a middle initial or name is needed for a form of some sort.

    So a related question: do you use your own or your kids’ middle names?

  2. We did the following for our four boys’ middle names:
    -My parents gave me my Dad’s first name and a new middle name (that I use). We did the same for (to?!) our son.
    -We chose Elisha over his more-famous prophetic partner/mentor, Elijah.
    -We used Thomas as a Biblical and a multiple-use family name.
    -We got more creative and chose Watchman for the excellent author Watchman Nee and Ezekiel 33’s awesome conceptual reference.

  3. I have the most generic middle name ever: Marie. I guess it could have been inspired by a grandmother, Mary, but that’s unconfirmed. My sister’s middle name (and first name for that matter) are family names (first names). My brother’s middle name is my mom’s maiden name, to try to keep it alive. My mom is one of five girls.

    For DS1 – his first name is a family (first) name, his middle is to distinguish him and just sounded nice.
    For DS2 – We just liked his first name so chose a family name (first name of DH’s grandfather and uncle). It’s an unusual name.

  4. Denver – I never use my middle name or the kids’ middle names. Growing up, if DH heard his full name he was either in trouble or there were too many relatives around with the same first name so the middle was used to distinguish.

  5. My middle name is Lucy. It’s my mother’s middle name, and also my paternal grandmother’s first name. I use it in formal signatures.

    My last name is religiously ambiguous. There are Jewish people, Protestant people, and Catholic people with my last name. My mother gave my sister the middle name Mary so that people wouldn’t think she was Jewish. I do not endorse this. I don’t make the news, I just report it. Yes, my mother was somewhat anti-Semitic. I am ashamed of that.

    My stepson’s middle name is his grandfather’s first name. It’s also my husband’s middle name. It’s a rather old-fashioned name, but since the kid’s first name is a bog-standard generic name, I think having a slightly old-fashioned middle name isn’t too terrible.

  6. Beth is generally considered a form or derivation of Elizabeth. The shortness may make it modern, but it is still Biblical.

    My middle name is NT Biblical. I don’t use it, but have not legally removed it.

  7. In our family it is Saints names that are popular as middle names. I broke tradition and gave my kids middle names to honor their grandparents/great grandparents. However, the ancestors had Saint names, so though I broke tradition, a Saint name still ended up on my kids birth certificate.
    My birth family used to never use my first name just a variation of my middle name. However, now everyone just calls me by my first name.

  8. In my family middle names are typically used to honor family. My middle is pretty generic: Ann. It was also my mom’s middle name and her mom’s middle name. So it is also my oldest’s middle name. My youngest is Frances, which was my maternal grandfather’s name, and DH’s maternal grandfather’s (with the male spelling).

    I’m not up on my biblical names so I didn’t realize Asher was from the bible. That name has become quite popular around here.

  9. Keri and Rocky, that’s my middle name—Mary. My sister’s is Maria, our Mom’s is Mary. We have German (great) grandmothers whose first names were Maria. Was there unconscious anti-Semitism involved in naming us? Maybe so, but that’s not a battle I need to fight right now.

  10. The reference to Marie made me laugh. If we had a daughter, we had considered Pamela Marie. (Marie is a family name on my side.) But with a last name beginning with S, we eliminated that combo. ;-)

  11. In my family middle names are typically used to honor family. My middle is pretty generic: Ann. It was also my mom’s middle name and her mom’s middle name. So it is also my oldest’s middle name. My youngest is Frances, which was my maternal grandfather’s name, and DH’s maternal grandfather’s (with the male spelling).

    I’m not up on biblical names so I didn’t know Asher was from the Bible. That name is somewhat popular in my kid’s school.

  12. I have cousin named after his dad, lets call him Robert. So instead of calling my cousin, Bob or Bobby or Robert, we all grew up calling him Jason, his middle name. When he got married, his wife called him Robert. To this day the rest of us still call him Jason and his wife calls him Robert. I have no idea what he goes by at work. It’s odd.

  13. I’ve often wondered why some Biblical names caught on and others didn’t. Hardly anybody names their daughter Ahinoam or Ephrath or Basemeth. It’s all Mary and Elizabeth and Deborah and Naomi.

  14. Both DH’s siblings named their kids Biblical first names. We were never so organized or deliberate in our name choices. DH rejected Joshua for some unknown reason. That was our only Biblical choice under consideration. (DH was a name rejector machine).

  15. I love talking about names. My kids have family names (some are Americanized versions) for both first and middles, and they are all common but not trendy (no Jacks as a full name or Coras here). And all 3 of mine go by nicknames, 2 of which have nothing to do with their actual names. I kinda wish I had given my kids crazy middle names with a lot of flair, but my husband vetoed all of my suggestions. Instead, my kids are similar to Elizabeth Victoria but goes by Skeeter.

  16. I wish I could have suggested the Southern custom of last name as a middle name to my mother’s family. My grandmother was knew the family name was not going to continue as my uncle had two girls. Well, that would have crowded out the Saints name custom or you could have a mouthful like Kerry Brown Catherine Smith.

  17. Do you have a middle name? Probably the first Confederate General you’ll think of. Only used for legal documents.
    Do your kids have them? Yes, oldest for my FIL, middle for my dad, youngest for me (all of our first names.
    Is there something in your ethnic or regional background that dictates what is used as a middle name or how many or the order? What about using two or more last names from both sides of the family? No to both.
    How about Saints’ names? All of them are saints’ names, but purely by coincidence.
    Or the Southern custom of using a family surname for a middle name and going by that instead of the more vanilla first name? n/a for us.

  18. I am from a family of Many Names (why give 1 middle name when you could give 2 – we are experts at monogramming 4 initials) and they are all Family Names and every generation sounds practically the same as the one before it. The upside is that nothing is every too trendy or too crazy. The downside is it felt like a lot of pressure.

    Oldest DS is named for his grandfather (and great grandfather, and great-great grandfather), with a middle name from my side. Younger DS is named with my maiden name and a family name on my side. I did not go the 4 name route for them, and I feel twinges of regret.

  19. My middle name is a common middle name with no significsnce.

    We intentionally chose middle names for our kids that were in honor of a grandparent, etc.

  20. DW kept her maiden name when we got married and her given middle name dropped off everything so she’s now Mary Smith MacMurray. Her maiden name is an Ellis Island bastardization of the Italian original so though sounding genuinely Italian when said, if you read it you’d say no way that was how it was originally spelled.

  21. Middle Names – I don’t have one and can sometimes be problematic on forms. Both DDs have middle names – #1 named after my favorite aunt; #2 after the name my maternal grandmother was called, but was not officially her name. Naming DD#1 was not a huge issue, but DD#2 was tough. Mainly because of her dad who insisted (related to recent sibling post) that both names (first+middle+last) have the same number of letters. And, like someone else (eric?) noted, what you initials spell can be problematic. Those two limitations drove me nuts.

  22. ” It is a really good way to mess with the fiances when they come into the family.”

    In DHs family they all call each other names like Godmother (and nothing else), Aunt, grandfather. I started calling DH’s uncle godfather and caused quite a few chuckles. I now call everyone by their first name.

  23. I should clarify the names are in another language. I thought they were nicknames not named depicting a relationship.

    I’m not such a dolt that I’d call DH’s uncle “godfather” in English.

  24. I’ve mentioned before that I wasn’t given a middle name, since my parents assumed that I’d use my maiden name as a middle name when I married. I ended up keeping my maiden name, so I will never have a middle name.

    I never really saw the point of middle names, but we gave one to each of our kids, since overwhelmingly that’s what Americans seem to do. The middle names are the names that I would have given the kids as first names had it been entirely up to me: Alexander for DS, and Genevieve for DD. I figured that since the last name was all DH’s, and the first names were a joint decision, I should have a name in there that was all mine.

  25. Off topic for Lemon – I’ve been thinking about renovations and advice. I have another piece of advice – as you pick your finishes, have back ups in mind as well. 4 times something has gone wrong, and I’ve found myself at the showroom trying to pick something quickly. I wish I had give more thought to back ups when picking the originals.

    1 – Master bath at home – Marble slab cracked when being installed as a countertop, no comparable slab was available. Ended up picking a look-alike quartz, which we have LOVED so this was a blessing in disguise.

    2 – Master bath at home – Floor tile ordered and never arrived. It was an unusual tile and not something that could be found in-stock. Had to make a very quick decision on an alternative. Love what we ended up with, but it was a stressful afternoon.

    3 – Master bath at beach – Countertop quartz selection significantly exceeded budget, because we had been counting on using a remnant and none were available in the color I picked. Would have had to buy an entire slab when we only needed a fraction of it. Contractor went to supplier, texted me pictures of remnants available, and I picked one based on the text picture. Eek! Luckily I’d looked enough that I knew I would like it, but not ideal.

    4 – Master bath at beach – floor tile I picked was twice as much as the allowance. Quickly looked for alternatives but was under very tight time frame so just went with it anyway. Bathroom is so small that ended up not being such a big deal.

  26. Being in the South, common thing in people I know were to use mother’s maiden name (or another family name, if more appealing) as a middle name for a boy and sometimes call him that. In my generation, 90% of my female peers had a middle name of Ann, Marie, Leigh, or Catherine/Katherine/Kathryn. The remaining 10% probably had a family name as a middle name, usually something unappealing to use.

  27. In the home country the default was to put your father’s first name as the middle name. For women this got changed to their husband’s first name as middle name upon marriage. I had to watch each official form carefully, remove my father’s name and insert my own middle name.

  28. Louise, if using a middle name was not a practice in your home country, why did you choose to use it? As a corollary, where the practice is not to use fathers name as middle name, one would not ordinarily choose to use fathers name as middle name. Curious

  29. Anon – the middle name custom differed by religion. The majority religion tended to use father’s name. But we didn’t do that in the religion I follow. You were free to override the default if you chose to.

  30. DS1: First name is my maternal GF. Middle name is my FIL. DD: first name is for one of DH’s great grandmothers. Middle name is my first name, which is also my mom’s middle name. DS2: First name is DH’s paternal GF. Middle name is MIL’s maiden name. DS3: First name was picked out of the baby name book. Middle name is pretty generic, but has ties to my Dad’s side of the family. DS4: First name is for DH’s maternal GF. Middle name is for uncle’s on both sides.

  31. My original middle name was Michele (which I associate only with *really* being in trouble, because of course “Laura Michele!” was only ever said in anger — really, my birth certificate should include the exclamation point). But I informally took my mom’s last name in HS and officially changed it a few years ago.

    DD has my last name as her middle name — I was bound and determined to have my name in there somewhere, since I did all the work. I think it kind of flows, because her full name comes out as two syllables – three syllables – two syllables. DS’ middle name is Cole, because his first name is very common and we wanted him to be able to choose something more distinct if he wanted; plus it is sort-of related to my mom’s last name in a very tangential way. And I like the two-one-two syllables, too.

    We didn’t bother about giving DD a really “usable” middle name, because we thought we were picking a highly unusual girl name for her; I had literally never heard of a girl having that name before we chose it for her. Of course, it turns out we were just on the leading edge of a new trend, and she’s had someone else with that name in every single class since she was about 3. Oh well.

  32. “I’m not up on biblical names so I didn’t know Asher was from the Bible.”

    All I know is that he goes with Gad.

    “First name is DH’s paternal GF.”

    I originally read that as “girlfriend.” I thought, wow, that’s very open-minded of you. :-)

  33. Another Marie middle name here, it seemed fairly common growing up in New England. I dropped it when I got married, opting to use my maiden name as my middle name.

    Both kids have family surnames as middle names, both are Irish “Mc” names, one from each maternal grandmother, intended as a tribute to the grandmothers. DH and I both liked them as first names, but weren’t willing to give them as first names given our long surname. Each child got a short first name, followed by the Mc and then the long surname.

  34. In my ethnic culture the custom for naming is:
    First name is the given name. Example: Maria
    Middle name is father’s surname: Example: Rodriguez
    Last name is mother’s surname: Example: Ruiz
    So the name would be Maria Rodriguez Ruiz.

    The complication is that the middle name (father’s surname) is actually the legal last name, so it can be confusing when used in the US and other places. I did not follow this custom for my kids. However, I regret not giving them my surname as middle names.

    My younger kid actually does not have a middle name due to a mix-up when the adoption and citizen documents were prepared. Believe it or not, I did not notice this until fairly recently. I had been using what I thought was her middle name, Marie, up to that point. Major parenting fail.

  35. I did not know Asher was a Biblical name. I thought it was just a trendy name but not biblical.

  36. Lemon – In response to Lark – Know how your contractor works. Ours has us select and buy the main materials (like floor tile, but not grout) and he installs and provides the routine materials/supplies (thin set, grout, etc.). It can make a big difference in your project. Ours generally has us buying a month or so before we are scheduled for installation. Has worked well for us.

  37. DH and I both have middle names that start with O (Olivia and Oscar) and both are in honor of grandparents. We decided to give both our kids middle names that start with O. DD is also Olivia and DS is Oliver (another family name). They also have my last name as a second middle name. I kept my last name when I married DH.

    To Denver’s question – when we were deciding what to name our first kid, DH asked if we wanted to give her a middle name. I said yes – otherwise how will she know when she’s in really deep trouble? My mom would trot out our full names when she was really upset at something we’d done. We don’t use our kids’ middle names very often.

    Interesting factoid – my mom was named after me. Her original first and middle names were Olive Gladys – but she was always called by a nickname (no resemblance to either Olive or Gladys). When I was born, she gave me the full name of her nick name (think Beth/Elizabeth). At one point we were moving and she decided to legally change her name to Elizabeth (and continue to be called Beth). So I like to say she was named after me (which is factually true).

    My brother’s middle name is Vane (family name) which he has always disliked. I think he will be the last family member with Vane somewhere in the name. He and his wife gave their three kids unusual first names so they have more run of the mill middle names (e.g. John) in case they want to switch at some point. My youngest brother has an unusual first name. In middle or high school, he switched to his middle name (Andrew) – but then in college, he switched back.

    DH has a name and common nickname (think Robert/Bob.) He always goes by “Bob” and has Bob on his driver’s license, college diploma, not sure what else. But his passport is Robert. Post 9/11 this has caused a little confusion. If he was going to do it over again, he would still have everyone call him Bob – but would have made sure all his documents had the same name (Robert).

    I have a friend whose son’s full name is easily shortened (think Robert/Rob). He took the SATs twice – once under Robert and once under Rob. When it came time to submit the test scores for college apps, he had an issue getting the higher test score tied to his official record (they had created two separate records for him – one under Rob and one under Robert. My son has a similar full name/nick name so I’m going to have to make sure he remembers to take all tests under his full name and not his nick name.

  38. Among my siblings we have full name/nickname combinations that have caused problems, especially because the two names don’t obviously go together, at least to most people in the US. Imagine something like Elizabeth/Tessie. I used my nickname for years before realizing it wasn’t my given name. One of my brothers legally changed his name to his nickname.

  39. Lemon, who is still at work but thinks she must have missed the memo about leaving early on said:

    Thanks Lark. I didn’t think about having a good second choice for the “just in case” moments. In a few weeks we are having a big all-day pick out options., The company i’m using includes designers who will help guide me in selections, which is worth it because I don’t have a good design sense.

    Tomorrow I do have to pick out the appliances – We are not doing the high end range, but is the upcharge worth it for an electric oven with the gas range? Or should I stick with gas only?

  40. I never use DD1’s middle name, but I often call DD2 by her first and middle name. I have a small twinge of regret for not using her middle name as her first. When we were choosing names it didn’t occur to me to use Frances as a first name.

  41. We did electric oven/gas cooktop only because natural gas is shockingly expensive where we are, much more than electricity, and I didn’t want to have to pay so much every time I turned on the oven. If that’s not a consideration for you I don’t think it’s worth it.

  42. Lemon's girls giggled this morning when asked "who wants the butt end with their PB&J" on said:

    Gas and Electricity prices aren’t even on my radar. I never even thought about it.

  43. July, I also used my maiden name as my oldest kid’s middle name. Second kid got my grandfather’s name as his middle name. Third kid had her original orphanage name moved to her middle name. I had to kind of laugh at the mixup for your daughter. The paperwork is so confusing. And we have the additional fun that lots of it is in Chinese. You could of course do the official name change to reflect your actual usage.

  44. Asher and Gad are two of Joseph’s brothers. Of technicolor dreamcoat fame. I don’t know any kids named Asher. The trend must not have made it to the sticks yet.
    DS1’s middle name is DH’s dad’s middle name. DS2’s middle name is my dad’s first name. DS3’s middle name is DH’s mom’s maiden name. It is 3 syllables long and kind of weird. He hasn’t really forgiven us. DS2’s first name is my mom’s maiden name. He hasn’t really forgiven us, either. But he goes by a cool nickname.

  45. Of course Beth is a diminutive of Elizabeth (Elisheva). But in my case, my mom picked it to be part of a southern style double name. She called me (not my first name) Ella Beth my whole life. My daddy (sic) was from Alabama, so maybe that is his remaining influence on me. So to me it lost any Biblical association long ago.

  46. Ds’s middle name is his paternal grandfather’s first name. We have never used it. So much so that it was just recently that we found out that he didn’t know how to spell his own middle name. It has two very common variants, but he didn’t know how to spell either. So we made him learn!

    My middle name is Lynn, which is generic. I don’t know why my parents picked it. My mom says she wishes she had picked Anne instead, but it doesn’t really matter. It is never used except in monograms. Which I use rarely anyway.

  47. I just learned that my kid was not invited to birthday parties of 3 of his classmates. Now I don’t feel like inviting them to my kids party. I am annoyed that they would do this in kindergarten already. Am I being too petty? My kid does not care either way

  48. Anon – my observation based on my kids experience was that the whole class wasn’t invited but a good number were, so out of say 25, 15 kids were invited mostly because the parents didn’t really know the parents of all the kids. As they get older the kids want to invite specific friends.
    I used to feel bad that my kids couldn’t do the numerous play dates that their friends did but it has not made a difference because they have made their own friends without parental intervention.

  49. We named our kids with last names as middle names for #1 and #2. They were my mom’s maiden name (#1) and my grandmother’s maiden name (#2). We didn’t want to use any names from my paternal side (too many silent consonants) for #3 and the name we picked for the first name was too alliterative for DH’s grandmother’s maiden name (Kahn) so she ended up with Anne as a middle name. Oh well!

    I also have a last name as a middle name (my great-grandmother’s maiden name) and I didn’t drop it when I added DH’s name, so now I have 2 middle initials. It makes my name VERY long. ;)

  50. Anon, did they invite most of the class and just leave a few kids out, or did they invite just a handful of kids? If it’s the first, then it’s really crappy. If it’s the second, then it’s no big deal.

  51. My sister and I have middle names of the “-ette” variety. Basically picked because they sounded okay with our first names. My mom gave both of us first names that started with the same letter as her first name.

    My DH is a full out Jr. He hates his name, and had zero interest in passing it along to a make a III. I think his parents were hoping for it. Besides being an old man’s name, his first and last name are each one syllable and his first name doesn’t have a hard ending, so it kind of runs into his last name when he introduces himself.

    We just picked names we liked for both the first and middle names for both of our sons. We picked a more unusual name for our eldest (common enough last name, easy to spell, just a bit edgier as a first name). My MIL was horrified. For the rest of my life I will remember her reaction when we introduced her to her first grandchild….this is ‘X Y’. She responded, oh I guess he can go by Y-nickname when he’s older.

    Funniest thing, her next door neighbor had a grandson about the same time. Her daughter named their son Y X and he goes by X too.

    These are the moments I tell myself to remember when I’m the MIL.

  52. I’m Beth, which is shortened from Maribeth. In my Catholic high school I had several Mary Beth friends, some of whom went by Mary, so I was happy enough that I had been called Beth growing up. When I asked about the origin of my name, my mom said Little Women was always her favorite book, so she chose the name from there. Imagine my distress when I read it in 2nd grade and found out that (spoiler alert) Beth died. Explain that mom!

    My son is named after my grandmother’s two brothers. He is a red-head, so it made sense to use Irish names. We wanted to use family names but didn’t like some of them (DH father was Cecil Clyde, and DH’s name is more associated with females now. Every male I’ve met with his name was born in 1962, which I know because some of them have asked me his birth year.)

    My sister has the same name as my mother, and my brother has the same name as my father, and we decided not to replicate that. DD has a name with no family origins, and I regret that a little. For DS, I wanted to use my mother’s maiden name, but DH did not. My sister used it so was very happy we had not. One downside of the repetition of names is it makes genealogy research so much more difficult. Once I get two generations back in Ireland searching for info on my great-grandfather, the number of Patrick Irishname born in the county in the same general time frame is ridiculous. It was also problematic when my brother was struggling financially and not paying his student loans, and it kept showing up on my dad’s credit report. Since he was an adult, my brother would have greatly preferred my dad not know about that.

  53. I am just catching up on the last few days posts. Related to Milo’s wikipedia posting on dip – my brother was recently visited in LA by some college friends with kids, so he took them to what he was working on (popular with kids) and to dinner. When they finished eating, one of the guys put in a dip and actually spit on the floor of the restaurant. My brother said before he could stop himself he yelled at the guy “you can’t do that here!”. It’s not the White House, but I’m certain you can’t do that in a restaurant where we’re from either – I don’t know what the hell was wrong with that guy.

    And I love Barnes and Noble. My favorite casual date with DH is to go to dinner then wander around Barnes and Noble. I am happy among books. They have magazines related to DH hobbies that you can’t find anywhere else, and I lot of my favorite authors end up on their $6 clearance table in hardback. I make myself buy a full-price book every now and then because I want them to stay open.

    I have no middle name – I guess it was assumed I’d use my maiden name as my middle name. Both of our kids have middle names, and both go by their first names. Both their names “fit” their appearance and personalities. Like someone else mentioned, my MIL did not like DD’s name. I recently found some home video of the first day we were home from the hospital and MIL was visiting. You can hear MIL say “we don’t like her name. We’re not going to call her that.” That is added to the list of how-not-to-MIL.

  54. I was named after my two great grandfathers. My middle name uses the initial J and many of the cousins on my mother’s side of the family have kids with names that start with J to honor my great grandfather, Joseph.
    My first name is to honor my grandfather’s father.

    We gave DD a middle name that honors both of my grandparents that passed away before she was born. We needed to use the letter A and we chose Aimee. She dislikes her middle name and especially the spelling of her middle name. We’re fortunate that she does like her first name and associated nicknames.

    We

  55. DS3’s middle name is the dorm name where DH and I met freshman year. It sounds like a family name. Let’s say its Smith – It’s an inside joke because this dorm had a “Smith North” a “Smith South” and a “Smith Middle.” We lived in Smith Middle. Recently DS3 visited our college and took a great photo next to the “Smith Middle” sign.

  56. Anon – Around here, very few families invite the whole class to birthday parties. From pre-K – 3, the teachers allowed the kids to celebrate at school with cupcakes (or similar) (making sure to avoid allergies). Outside of school, I don’t think my boys were ever invited to a girl’s birthday party and were not always invited to boys’ birthday parties. We tended to let the kids have age +1 kids at the party, so for age 5, that meant 4 friends plus them (twins). My boys sometimes invited girls, but mostly it was all boys. If your kid is not close friends with the other kids, who cares?

  57. I just found out that the Golden State Warriors’ champ’s full name is Wardell Stephen Curry. No wonder he goes by Steph!

  58. SM – I think Wardell is his Dad’s first name but his Dad goes by Dell Curry.

  59. $91,000 per year for tuition alone at dental school??? Holy crap.

  60. RMS – Thank you for another timewaster. BTW, Foster Dad John’s current crop of kittens are the most entertaining in a long time.

  61. The one thing about medicine and dentistry that is very different in the U.S. is the requirement to get 4 years of an undergraduate degree and then go on to medical school. It makes the period of study without earnings very long. In addition to this the cost of a medical education is very high, even if undergrad is paid for. I would say shorten the overall time it takes to practice medicine.

  62. Mémé, yes, I’ve been watching them! They’re darling!

  63. Bethanon, your kid must’ve been born with a lot of hair for you to recognize the color and name hm for it! “Explain that!”—hilarious. My dad’s family is the same as your Irish family—extremely common first name, repeated over generations, married to a b ch of Marias, Marys, and Elisabeths.

    Louise, I knew his dad was Dell, but had never considered where it came from. A usable middle name is much better than “Junior” (except for handles on anon blogs, of course!)

  64. That typo is funnier than any jokes I can write intentionally. Of course it would be “a bunch of” women, not b*tch.

  65. That orthodontist story is crazy and those people need to be smacked. I continue to be amazed at what reasonably intelligent people do/not do. What would keep me up at night is that they could change the loan forgiveness.

  66. I had no idea that it was such a terrible idea to become an orthodontist. 3 years paying 90k (instead of making 150k, and debt accruing interest at 20-60k) – so that the cost of the specialization is closer to half-3/4 million dollars in actual cost plus opportunity cost. Crazy! After reading the article, I actually looked at the costs of various programs – USC is high, but there is a lot in the 50-70k range. Super crazy.

    Birdie – the part that would keep me up at night is the 700k tax bill from 2mil of loan forgiveness on the horizon. I suppose if you bankrupt yourself right before that, Uncle Sam might discharge your obligation (since the student loans can’t be, but tax bills can, right?) I think at that point you move to Belize.

  67. Ada – I am sure this Dr isn’t doing it, but he could pretty easily save up the $700k he will need on his $13k take home pay. What is that? $1500 a month over the 25 years at a pretty achievable rate of return? He really should be considering his payment the actual payment plus the amount he needs for the taxes. And still a good deal for him considering his actual payment is over $10k/mo! But anyone who has made the choices he has is unlikely to do that, I would guess.

  68. Once you know your repayment is capped at 10% of future income for a specified number of years, it’s basically “free” money (ignoring the taxable loan forgiveness). You’d be better off maxing out your loans and banking what you could.

    It is really frustrating to think of how I scrimped by to know that there are people borrowing like this and living well while my future self was going to fund it.

  69. I am definitely starting to see why my dentist insists that I have to have ALL my teeth crowned.

  70. I would think the orthodontists are doing well since almost every child I see now gets braces.
    And kids are starting at earlier ages. How much of this is really be necessary and how much if this is recommended because it is lucrative is very hard for the average parent to determine.

  71. “By the spring of 2009, the end of his fourth year, Mr. Meru’s loans had reached about $340,000, still in line with the original estimates from the financial-aid director. That would change as he chased his dream.

    After graduating from dental school that spring, Mr. Meru began orthodontics. Unlike doctors, who usually are paid to perform residencies at hospitals, dental specialists often perform their residency at universities that charge tuition.”

    So this is where the plan derailed.
    But, given this business model, it’s hard to see how any young person could become an orthodontist without racking up huge debt, unless there is family money involved.
    The used Mercedes purchase was a nice touch though. Also the home purchase in the wife’s name.

  72. Also the home purchase in the wife’s name.

    I doubt they would have qualified for a mortgage if his name was on the application.

  73. “I am definitely starting to see why my dentist insists that I have to have ALL my teeth crowned.”

    I am also starting to see why a lot of dentists’ offices seem to have gotten into the Botox business.

  74. Re. the home purchase in the wife’s name — I don’t think this is unusual for physicians or dentists. You put the home (and often other assets as well) in the name of the spouse who is less sue-able.

  75. I agree that the dentist really went off track when he decided to study orthodontics.

    I was recently reminded here of the first law of holes, and someone should have reminded him of that also.

  76. NoB, I was surprised at the $91k tuition too. I’d recently looked at law school COA for good law schools, and they were running about $90k for COA, not just tuition.

    But what really gets me is the $46k/year living expenses, and how we taxpayers will be on the hook for that.

  77. Don’t orthodontists have the same types of financial advisors (there are firms that specialize in advising docs) and malpractice insurance that MDs have? I agree that paying for your residency sounds crazy, but if that’s what every orthodontist out there has done, then it would be hard to argue against it.

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