J.R.R Tolkien and his many initials....

What gives with the J.R.R., and what kind of screwed up family has three names preceding their family name?

Just curious…

What about W.E.B. Dubois? Not sure what they all stand for, though.
And George Herbert Walker Bush.
And Mordecai Peter Centennial “3-finger” Brown (the 3rd name was given b/c he was born in 1876).

It’s “John Ronald Reuel” Tolkien.

I suspect it has something to do with colonial European way of giving people Big Long names. Maybe we could get some European dopers in on this?

Incidentally, I heard an interesting story about Tolkien and his life as a boy in South Africa. Ever wonder why the scariest, nastiest, ugliest creatures in LotR aren’t the dragons, Nazgul, or the Balrog? As a child, he was bitten by a Big Hairy Spider; it scarred him for life!

Long time RGMWer and ardent AOLer

Catholics will pick up a middle name when confirmed. Also, in many cultures it is common to have more than one middle name.

And then there are some families who will do it out of tradition. My middle name is my grandmother’s middle name and last name, and it is my mother’s middle name as well.

Kristen R. A. Foery

His full name was Johnny “Red Rooster” Tolkien, an apellation he gained during his early career as a blues guitarist.

One of the first guys to send data at 5 bits per second:
Samuel Finley Breese Morse

That’s nothing. King Edward VIII (the one who abdicated) was blessed with a given name of Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Windsor. But then, the royal family is not exactly known as being un-screwed up.

Number of forenames used to be a good indication of social class in England. Often, working class tradition used to be just one forename, lower middle classes tended to have two names and the professional classes tended to have three names. Of course, this was not absolute, but it was a good guide to class that if a cricketer had three forename initials he would be an ‘amateur’ (i.e. self financing and middle class) and if less he would likely to be a professional (paid and working class origin). The upper (aristocratic) class often have multiple forenames for dynastic commemoration reasons.

The above led to some aspirant people to add initials to their names.

This would place J.R.R. Tolkien as firmly in the upper middle classes, as he was.

Nowadays you cannot make these distictions so well, and they are counteracted by the occasional tendency to give multiple names for unusual reasons (all the first names of your favorite soccer team for instance) which tells you nothing except about the oddity of he parents!

IMHO naming traditions differ from language to language, from country to country, from family to family, and the English speaking American habit of having one “first name”, one “middle name” and one “surname”, is not a universal standard. It is rather a very ethnocentric way to view things to assume that it is.