Managing Editor, Allison Tien.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Calvin Tolbert? Tall and lanky, smart, and you’ll never see him walking. Calvin Tolbert goes about his casual day knowing a personal piece of just about everyone in Casady’s Upper Division: their middle name. How, exactly, does he know all of our middle names? I met with Calvin to uncover just that and more about his personal project.
I hear you have a project with middle names.
I do. It is my goal, basically, to know the middle name of everyone at school. And I’m already pretty well on my way – I know most people’s. This year, with the newer freshmen, it’s a bit harder. Just ‘cause, I learned a lot of them last year when I started yearbook. I got this – they gave me a list of everyone’s names so that I could tag people in yearbook photos, and back then it was everyone’s full name. Or most people’s. So I saw the majority of the school’s middle names for the first time then. And then, my brother is a freshman, and last year, when I was at his 8th grade graduation, they gave us the program [which] had the middle names of everyone in his class on it. And so I memorized that, which actually wasn’t all that hard, because for a lot of them it make sense, because – what I’ve noticed after a while is that a lot of middle names – you see a lot of – there are some very common ones like “Elizabeth” and “Marie,” for girls, and “James” mostly for guys. Plus, there are some people who go by their middle name. So, makes it easy. And then, with the new people from […] other schools besides Casady, it was a bit harder, but I already knew some of them just personally. So I knew a couple of them and… So yeah, I’m pretty well on my way.
What inspired you to look for middle names? Or was it something that just came out of nowhere?
It kind of came out of nowhere, but at a certain point, I guess, about the time it really started was when I was in 7th grade – when they gave us our class schedules and had posted them on our lockers, they had our full names on them. And I was in 8th grade algebra that year, so I would be in their pod a lot. Whenever I had to go to the bathroom, I’d walk right through their locker room, or locker area, I mean, and I’d see people’s middle names right there on the wall, and there weren’t – I don’t know why, they just stuck in my head. I’m not easily – all that good at memorizing particular facts, but… I don’t know, it just clicked.
What’s the most common middle name that you think you’ve come across?
“Elizabeth.” There are five girls in the sophomore class with that middle name. There were actually no seniors last year with that middle name. But I noticed one syllable ones tend to be very common. Like “James” for boys, and names like “May” and “Ann” for girls. Other than that, a lot of the other com– I noticed that there [is] a bit more repetition with girls’ middle names. Because they are less likely to give them family last names as middle names. But a lot of girl common names I see are short-long, two syllables, like “Danielle,” “Marie,” “Nicole,” stuff like that.
What do you do when someone doesn’t have a middle name? Like they don’t have it listed, or they don’t have one?
Well, when someone’s middle name wasn’t on that list, I often thought it was because they didn’t have one or, I noticed that there was – last time I got that sheet, I noticed that, particularly people from Westminster, they, for some reason, didn’t have their middle names on the sheets. So I was less likely to assume that they didn’t have a middle name. But with other people, like, I don’t know if you remember Camilo Haller? You probably do. And Kush. Neither of them had a middle name. And they were both shocked when I knew that. But with Camilo, it made a little more sense, because, Camilo and Kush, neither of them are American by birth. Was Kush born here? I don’t know, but his family is not American by birth, and it’s less common in other cultures to have middle names.
So, I heard from other students, that you would call them “Elizabeth,” if they don’t have a middle name. Is that true?
It wasn’t even just for people’s middle names I didn’t know. It was just for people whose middle names I did know and I thought “Elizabeth” sounded cooler. Like, Anoop got really weirded out by that last year. His middle name is “Erwin,” and he – I don’t know, he just, he, of course, was not an “Erwin.” Must be real here. But in his senior speech, he said that on the embarrassing things about him. And the whole rest of the class started calling him “Anoop Elizabeth D’Souza” even though I knew his middle name wasn’t – he knew that his name was…
What’s your favorite middle name that you’ve come across?
Hmm, well that’s a toughie… I like “Sing-Xuan” by the way. Think, who else? The coolest one…
Or the coolest or prettiest one?
Huh, well that’s a toughie. Let me think about that… You know Livy Gross? Her brother, Jack, his middle name is “Maddox,” and that’s a cool-sounding name, but this year I was actually a camp counselor at a summer camp in Maine, and one of the campers was named Maddox and he was terribly behaved and all the counselors hated him. And so, that, kind of, made me not appreciate the name as much. But, it does sound cool.
My brother’s is “Crosby.” Which is one I’ve always liked, just ’cause I’ve known for a while that there are a lot of Crosby’s in our family that’s why he has that name.
Mrs. Zesiger has a really interesting middle name, although I’m not supposed to tell it.
Is it that you’re not supposed to tell the teachers’ middle names? Or is it just for –
No, it’s just [that] Mrs. Zesiger asked me not to tell people because she’s kinda embarrassed by it. But I know […] a couple teachers’ middle names. Not nearly as many as students, but…
Like, whose do you know?
Coach Shelley’s is “Edwin.” Oh, and Dr. Wardrop has a cool one! Hers is “Rankin.”
What do you think makes a middle name fit a person? Like, why would you say that this name doesn’t fit that person?
Well, I mean, part of it is just ’cause it’s just not the name you know them by. Like Anoop D’Souza. No one ever called him “Erwin.” He was always Anoop.
Looking at those freshmen walking into the building, I just think [that] those two aren’t named – their names are not “Jane.” They are not nearly the same enough person to have that name. ‘Cause, I mean, a lot of names – I guess that, with girls, you have a lot of one syllable names. Then with guys, you have a lot of family last names that you wouldn’t have called them. ‘Cause, like, it’s a last name and you wouldn’t be comfortable. And well, a middle name can’t fit a person. […]
Last year, we were studying Ovid’s “The Metamorphoses.” In Latin, we started learning about scansion. And I really do think that that is a factor, that parents [use] in choosing middle names. Well, they may not realize it. Like, “this combination of names sounds cool.” And it’s ’cause of the way the names are scanned. I don’t know if you know what that word means. I mean, you were in AP Latin, right. But like I said, the common scansion for girls’ middle names is often one syllable ones or ones that are short-long. And then, “Elizabeth” is kind of a dark horse. But it goes better with longer first names. Like “Sheridan Elizabeth Carter,” for example. Like, I don’t think I’ve ever known someone whose middle name is “Elizabeth” who had a one syllable first name. It just doesn’t work. ‘Cause long-short-short, long-short-short, sounds cool. Like in names like “Mary Elizabeth.” […] Then, the one syllable names are more common for girls whose first name ends on a short.
I feel like the two syllable middle names work better, and are more common with girls whose first names are either long-short, or long. Like Kaitlyn Barthell, her middle name is “Marie.” And it’s “Kait-lyn Ma-rie.” So that works well. I also know a women named like “Ann Marie.”
Is there anything else you found very interesting in this little expedition?
See Kamran Steppe out there? His mom’s whole side of the family is from Iran, and most of their middle names reflect that. Like Cyrus’s is “Seradge,” which was her maiden name. And then, Kamran’s is “Amir.” But then Kian’s is “Reinhold” which is the same as their dad, who is of German descent. Then, like, your middle name is Chinese.
It’s my Chinese name.
So, do you go to China a lot? Do people call you – is that what they call you?
It’s not exactly like that. Mostly, my cousins usually call me that, or a variation of the name. What I’ve found, is that, from mostly Chinese families, they have either their Chinese name as their first name, and then the name they go by as their middle name, or the other way around. So it’s always incorporated that way.
Yeah, and then, with people like Tim and Barry, whose English names aren’t legally a part of their name. Like, you just have “En Yau Lee,” or “Yijing Zhang.” But yeah, I mean, I never call Tim “En Yau.” It’s just not how I know them. Plus, he always introduces himself as “Timothy.” But I’m kind of glad he’s got a nickname now. It’s sort of helps to show that he has become a part of our culture and that he’s not just a quiet kid who doesn’t speak much English anymore… That’s kind of off-topic…
Who knew that there could be so much behind a name between our first and last? Does Calvin know your middle name? Find out when you see him in the hallways!