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The Quick 10: People With Fake Middle Initials

Maybe fake isn’t exactly correct – some of the people on this list really have initials for middle names, they just don’t mean anything. But others have made them up entirely. Read on to see what I mean.

1. Harry S. Truman. His parents were trying to please both grandpas – Anderson Shippe Truman and Solomon Young. To avoid playing favorites, they simply gave Give ‘Em Hell Harry an initial for a middle name. Harry had to correct Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone when he was sworn in as president during his first inauguration, actually – Stone asked Truman to repeat, “I, Harry Shippe Truman;” Harry responded with “I, Harry S. Truman.”

2. Michael J. Fox. To be totally accurate, Michael J. Fox does have a middle name… but it doesn’t start with J. It’s Michael Andrew Fox. According to Screen Actors Guild rules, you can’t apply for a card using a name that has already been used, and “Michael Fox” was taken. The future Alex P. Keaton didn’t want to go with “Michael A. Fox” for obvious reasons, so he chose the initial J. after character actor Michael J. Pollard.

3. Ulysses S. Grant. Born Hiram Ulysses Grant, the 18TH president was accidentally nominated for the United States Military Academy under the name “Ulysses S. Grant.” It’s thought that the man who submitted his name, Congressman Thomas L. Hamer, may have picked it up from Grant’s mother, Hannah S. Grant (the S. was her maiden name, Simpson). It stuck – his military academy cohorts liked to say it stood for Sam since Grant shared his first two initials with Uncle Sam.

4. J.K. Rowling. It was a fear of sexism that made Harry Potter’s creator choose her middle initial. Not wanting her to be pigeonholed as girls-only author, Rowling’s publisher asked her to writer under androgynous initials instead. Not having a middle name, Joanne (Jo) picked “K” to honor her grandmother, Kathleen.

5. David O. Selznick. Gone with the Wind producer David O. Selznick was born with no middle name, but added the O. just for the heck of it.

6. David X. Cohen. Futurama fans no doubt recognize this name – he’s the head writer and executive producer of the show and has also written for The Simpsons. Like Michael J. Fox, the name David S. Cohen was already taken by another Writer’s Guild of America member, so David Samuel Cohen had to pick something else. He decided to go with something that sounded sci-fi, which has certainly served him well.

7. Alfred E. Neuman. An associate editor at Mad magazine has suggested that the “E” stands for “enigma,” because we’ll never know what it stands for.
8. Booker T. Jones. He was named for Booker T. Washington, which you might have guessed. But unlike Washington, whose middle name was actually Taliaferro, Jones’ doesn’t stand for anything.
9. Jennifer 8. Lee. The journalist was born with no middle name, but chose the number eight herself as a teenager. I think it’s funny that as a journalist, she chose the number eight instead of writing it out. Most style guides recommend writing numbers under 10 and using numerals for 10 and over.

10. Iain M. Banks. Banks writes his science fiction novels under the name “Iain M. Banks”. His parents intended to name him Iain Menzies Banks – Menzies was a family name. But his dad made a mistake on the form and failed to fill in any middle name at all. Banks adopted it during his writing career when he wanted to differentiate between his mainstream novels (which he writers under “Iain Banks”) and the sci-fi ones.


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