COMMENTARY: A President’s Day quiz


I recently read somewhere that Donald Trump Jr., refers to his father as DJT. I had never heard our current president referred to by his initials before, so it seemed odd. In as bipartisan a manner as I can muster, I can honestly say I don’t think that’s naturally a nickname the American people will ever call him, not anymore than BHO naturally flows off the tongue when referencing President Barack Obama.

Why is it that some of our president’s initials become synonymous with their names and some do not? See if you can pass this quick quiz:

Considering only the past 14 presidents, who is GRF? DDE? JEC?

If you answered Gerald R. Ford for the first one, what does the R stand for? I’ll let you wonder that one for awhile, and no fair Googling it. You might know that Dwight Eisenhower’s middle name was David, but what about Jimmy Carter’s middle name? He never actively used Earl, just like he never used Jr., even though he was one.

Among those 14 men, a few were as closely identified by their initials as by their full moniker, namely FDR, JFK and LBJ. Most of us even know what all those initials stand for, including the unusual middle names Delano, Fitzgerald and Baines. Even though everyone knew Richard Nixon’s middle name Milhous, RMN just never caught on, ending what was almost becoming a tradition.

Our first five presidents didn’t even have middle names (that I can find.) John Quincy Adams was the first, the Quincy serving to distinguish him from his father, President John Adams. Some of the greats like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln evidently had no need of middle names at all.

Then there are the ones whose middle initials are inextricably part of their names. Saying Ulysses Grant without the S just sounds wrong. His S doesn’t even stand for anything that I could locate, Harry S. Truman likewise. Rutherford Hayes minus the B or Warren Harding sans G sounds incomplete. Another quick quiz: What do the B and G stand for? Birchard and Gamaliel — not your everyday middle names to be sure.

The Bushes are an interesting case. Given that they have the same first and last names, middle initials were a must. Bush One is the only president with two middle names, and most of us know that the H.W. stands for Herbert Walker. His son’s initial is so commonly used that many did and do refer to him solely by his middle initial W, or “Dubya” in Texas speak. Certainly no other president can claim that distinction.

Most people don’t realize that Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge actually went by their middle names, their first names being Thomas and John. And even though his given name was the presidential-sounding William Jefferson Clinton, Bill sounds friendlier, less imposing.

What about RWR? Until I typed that just now, I had never seen Ronald Wilson Reagan’s initials together before. Movie stars don’t generally use their middle names. Evidently, TV stars don’t either.

Which brings us back to DJT. I’m sure a lot of people have a funny idea of what the J stands for, but it’s actually John (arguably a much more common name than Rudolph, which is what Gerald Ford’s R stands for). Despite his son’s wishes, DJT will most likely never become commonplace initials for his dad. SAD.