The Democrats are ready to nominate a presidential candidate with Hussein as his middle name, and some Barack Obama backers are even adopting Hussein as a middle name to show support. Here are a few more fair-to-middling facts:
1. Middle names are a somewhat recent tradition in Western civilization. No person aboard the Mayflower had a middle name. Only three of the first 17 U.S. presidents had one.
2. The "T" in educator Booker T. Washington's name stood for Taliaferro. The former slave added the middle name in his later years after learning that his mother had once called him Booker Taliaferro. Even today, the significance of Taliaferro is not known. Washington's father was a white man whom he did not know, leading some to speculate that the father might have been from a nearby family named Taliaferro. But there is no evidence of that, and Washington seemed to believe that it was simply a name his mother liked.
3. Retailer J.C. Penney had an appropriate middle name: Cash.
4. Cal McLish, who pitched for the Cubs, White Sox and five other major league baseball teams from 1944 to 1964, was named Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. He once wrote: "The only thing I was ever told (by my mother) was that of six previous children my dad was not involved in naming any of them so he supposedly tried to catch up, using me. He named me after a president, a Roman emperor and an Indian chief. Being part Indian, I guess he felt he had to get an Indian name in there somewhere I've always claimed he had to be in the firewater to give a kid a name like that." So what did McLish's family call him? Buster.
5. Tom Cruise's middle name is Cruise. His birth name was Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. When he moved to New York to pursue acting after high school, he adopted the last name of Cruise, which was the name of an ancestral family matriarch.
6. When Reginald Kenneth Dwight changed his name to Elton John, he took the middle name Hercules.
7. Frances Bean Cobain, 15, daughter of rockers Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, got her middle name because her late father thought she looked like a kidney bean. While serving as an intern this summer at Rolling Stone magazine, she was the victim of a leak to the New York Post's gossip page. An unnamed source accused her of calling in sick too often, failing to get coffee for employees and wearing "funny outfits."
8. When readers of The New York Times began seeing a byline of "Jennifer 8. Lee," they might have thought it was an attention-getting career gimmick. In fact, Lee took the name in her youth to distinguish herself from other Jennifer Lees and to celebrate her Chinese heritage. The number 8 stands for prosperity in China witness the starting date for the Beijing Olympics: 8-8-08. Lee's friends call her "Jenny 8."
9. Tennessee politician Byron Anthony Looper legally renamed himself Byron (Low Tax) Looper and ran against state Sen. Tommy Burks in 1998. Then he murdered Burks two weeks before Election Day. Sentenced to life in prison, Looper has fought his conviction. But the evidence was solid. A former high school classmate testified that Looper declared a few hours after the murder: "I did it, man! I did it! I killed that guy I was running against!"10. In 2005, comedian/magician Penn Jillette named his daughter Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette, joking that if she ever got stopped for speeding, she could say, "But officer, we're on the same side. My middle name is CrimeFighter." To those who criticize such wacky baby-naming, Jillette declared: "Everyone I know with an unusual name loves it. It's only the losers named Dave that think having an unusual name is bad, and who cares what they think? They're named Dave."
SOURCES: "Treasury of Name Lore," by Elsdon C. Smith; "Booker T. Washington: The Making of a Black Leader 1856-1901," by Louis R. Harlan; "Kurt Cobain," by Christopher Sandford; "Tom Cruise Unauthorized," by Wensley Clarkson; Orange County Register; Ventura County Star; "Baseball Letters: A Fan's Correspondence with His Heroes," by Seth Swirsky; Sports Illustrated; and Tribune news services.