I come from a culture where middle names don't really exist. All you have here is a first name (which also cannot be anything, like in the more idiotic parts of the world - but that's a topic for another time) and a last name and you better like it, buddy boy. And here's the kicker: it works. Sure, our laws permit having more than one first name, but almost nobody does that, and I think the only person I've ever met in real life that had more than one was from Saudi Arabia. Great guy, by the way. So as you can imagine, I don't understand this whole culture built around middle names, why, I'd even go as far as to say that they're stupid and useless. I am, however, a progressive little kangaroo, so I set out to do a little research (read: a five second Google search) on the matter before dismissing it completely.
Middle names, as this page tells me, have first seen major use in the 18th century by aristocratic families before spreading out among the plebian crowds, until the end of the 19th century, when nearly every baby was given one. Well, at least in the USA. So, in other words, middle names are the product of the upper class's attempts to be different from the middle and lower class and their attempts to be equal to the upper class. Lovely.
When I asked Jacob about the "why" of middle names, he said pretty much what this Wikianswers page says: Middle names are means to "honor" your ancestors or other important people. I suppose I see the point of that, but really, if you want to give your son your dead grandfather's name, just give it to him as a first name.
However, most of the reasons to give your baby a middle name that I found come from this article over at FamilyEducation.com. The article itself lists five reasons, though it's more like two reasons, one of which is really stupid, for the reasons I shall outline below.
1. It's commonly accepted. Right off the bat, we have the stupid argument of "you should do it because everybody else does it" that permeates the whole list. Isn't this something the stereotypical TV mother warns against? "If everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?" And don't give me shit about how "everybody else is wearing clothes, does that mean that I should go outside naked?" If people do it because they have a good reason, you should do it because of the "good reason" part, not the "people do it" part.
2. It fits on most legal forms. Now bear with me, because I'm going to lay some pretty heavy logic on you. It fits on most legal forms because everybody has one because everybody does it. See? This is just like reason 1, except rephrased and more stupid. "omg theres a spac 4 it on dis form, i must hav 1"
3. It prevents your child from receiving the middle name Nmi. The article explains how computer programs in the past were coded to recognize exactly three names, and if you didn't have a middle name, it would file you with NMI (short for "no middle initial") instead. So, not only is this pandering to bad programming practices, which by the way are practically nonexistent nowadays, but it's also just a rephrased reason 2, which itself is a rephrased reason 1. Jeez, it's like Stupidception in here. "We have to go dumber."
4. It gives your child more flexibility when it comes to deciding the name he or she wants to be called by. This is the only reason on the list that isn't just "you should do it because you should do it", and while it does have some logic to it, it still feels pretty lackluster. For one, it can be applied circularly, as in "why should your child choose from two names when it can choose from three" and so on, and for another, it feels like something that arose from the common-having-of-middle-names thin in the first place. As I said before, I come from a culture where people don't usually have that choice and I have never encountered anybody having a problem with it. You just get used to it, I guess. Plus there is such a thing as a "nickname".
5. Not giving your child a middle name can set him or her apart from the
rest of the kids, just like an unusual or an uncommon name can. Little kids are shits and will make fun of each other for absolutely anything, so if you don't have a middle name, you will be ridiculed for it. Does that mean that if you do have one, you will be spared? Hell no! They will tear into you no matter what it is, and if they can't find anything wrong with it, they'll latch onto something else. You can't escape it. Also, the smarter of you have probably already noticed that this is another one of those "everybody else does it" reasons. If you can't see why, I'm not going to explain it to you. Use your head.
So yeah. My first hypothesis of "middle names are dumb" has not been disproved so far, and I doubt it ever will be. But don't let that stop you from permeating their use, I guess. After all, we have to be tolerant of the stupid people, too.
Don't know why, though...