Thursday, June 24, 2010

What's In A Name

Why do poets use their middle names? I thought about this from time to time. Maybe its for the name recognition, to sound more important or distinguished or to distinguish themselves from the thousands of other names that sound similar. Then there are some writers that use initials for their first name, middle name, or both, like Frank X. Walker or R.T. Smith. As a fledgling writer, I once thought of penning my name as D. Wayne Hampton, but it reminded me too much of my Freshman dorm-floor nickname, so I chucked that idea. I don't know about other folks without asking them, but I do have a reason why I use my full name.

My father's name is David Wilson Hampton. He wanted so much to make me a Junior, but my mom would not hear of it. As a compromise, he named me David Wayne Hampton. However, as I grew up I became more aware that only my middle initial was requested when filling out forms, so people always asked, "Oh, so are you a Junior?" to which I would vehemently reply, "No. I am not!" It got on my nerves pretty quickly.

When I was 13 my family physician picked up my father's folder by mistake instead of mine. I was there for a routine physical, and when the doctor walked in with a chart in his hand, he said, "Whoops. I think I got the wrong one. You didn't recently have a vasectomy, did you?" Not something a pubescent boy really wants to know about his father. The images conjured up in my mind that day are still etched in the back of my skull.

As a teenager I was very self-conscious about being my own person and not wanting that association with my father. When I opened a checking account, I insisted using my full name as my official signature on my checks. When I got my driver's license, I signed my name in full. As I've gotten older, though, I regretted making such a fuss about it, especially in front of my father whose pride was probably hurt a little each time I wanted to distinguish my name from his. I'm still glad I'm not a junior, but I'm proud now that I share my first name and middle initial with my father. An added bonus -- in college he would sometimes let me cash a check originally written out to him, and my AAA account states I've been a loyal member with them since the sixth grade.

As a writer, I admit I wanted my name to be less common. David is such a common name, and everywhere I've lived since college there has been another David Hampton in the phone book. When I began working at the Appalachian Journal at ASU, where I attended college, I noticed how many other writers I met or came across in my work had the same middle name as me: Jim Wayne Miller, Richard Wayne Hague, and longtime editor of the AppalJ Jerry Wayne Williamson. As a joke to pass the long office hours of proofreading and transcribing, Jerry and I came to the conclusion that it was the perfect middle name. We even tossed around the idea of giving everyone on the editorial board the middle name of Wayne in an upcoming issue just to see if anyone would notice. We never did, but it became the running joke for a while.

I hope when people see my name in a journal or literary publication, they won't think I'm being pompous or self-important because I use my full name. It does take up more space on a line, but in one way I'm just carrying on a tradition of literary nomenclature, right?

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