Not To Be Trusted With Knives

While working on my Prime Ministerial Series, I’ve noticed that several of our Prime Ministers go by something other than their real first name:

  • Wilfrid Laurier’s name was Henri-Charles-Wilfred
  • Lester B. Pearson went by the nickname “Mike”
  • Pierre Trudeau’s name was really Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott
  • Joe Clark’s first name is Charles
  • Brian Mulroney’s first name is Martin
  • Kim Campbell’s first name is Avril (she gave herself the nickname “Kim”)
  • Jean Chrétien’s name is Joseph Jacques Jean

That’s 7 of 22.  Or 32% for you mathophiles.  Is it just me, or does that seem unusually high?  What percentage of the general population goes by something other than their real first name?

I’m particularly aware of people not going by their own first names because I’m one of them.  My name, as many of you know, is Mary Elizabeth, but I’ve been referred to as “Beth” since the day I was born.  I think I was in kindergarten by the time I found out that Beth wasn’t actually my name.  My parents named me “Mary” after both my grandmothers, but then thought it would be too confusing to have a third “Mary” running around, so decided to refer to me as Beth.  Because, you know, having documents say your name is “Mary” when everyone knows you as “Beth” isn’t confusing at all. </sarcasm>.

My ex-husband also goes by his second name, as he shares his first name with his dad and his parents had the same “it would be confusing to have two Williams” excuse.  My grandpa is Charles Desmond and goes by Des, one of my cousins is Desmond Andrew and goes by Andy1. My good friend Therese also goes by her second name and, to further complicate things, both she and her sister share the same first name (Grace Therese and Grace Elaine). When my sister was pregnant, I told her that I didn’t care what they named their baby, so long as they called her whatever her name actually was2.

So, the questions are: Do you go by your first name?  If not, why not?  Would you give you kid one name and then call them something else?  If yes, why oh why would you do that?

1I also have three cousins named Robert, but that is neither here nor there.
2For a little while after she was born, we actually referred to my niece Madeline as “Meg” as her initials are “M.H.Z.” or “MHz” – megahertz, hence the short-form, “Meg.” But then my sister decided she better start actually referring to her as “Madeline” so she would know what her real name is!

et cetera