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Harry Truman's middle initial is rather unique because, unlike most middle initials, it doesn't just represent the first letter of his middle name - it is his middle name.

His parents chose the name Harry after his mother's brother, Harrison "Harry" Young (1846–1916).[2] They chose "S" as his middle initial to please both of his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. The "S" did not stand for anything, a common practice among the Scots-Irish.

Harry S. Truman - Wikipedia

It appears that the period after the "S" is generally either included or omitted based on the author's preference alone. This brings forth some interesting questions:

  • Can a letter be considered an "initial", or part of an initialism, if it isn't actually "short" for anything?
  • Is there technically a "right" way to treat initials like this, or is the inclusion or omission of the period entirely a matter of preference so long as one is consistent?
  • Is there a specific word to describe these sorts of initials?
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  • Kind of like Homer J. Simpson --> Homer Jay Simpson.
    – Andy
    Jun 9, 2014 at 18:42
  • @Andy No. In Homer's case, "Jay" is his middle name - not "J".
    – Iszi
    Jun 9, 2014 at 18:52
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    I know, but that was a great episode.
    – Andy
    Jun 9, 2014 at 18:52
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    People who write the period might simply be unaware that it's not an abbreviation, as this is uncommon among Americans.
    – Barmar
    Jun 15, 2014 at 3:56
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    Somewhat related, as it is another special case situation: english.stackexchange.com/questions/154315/…
    – MrHen
    Jun 25, 2014 at 18:07

2 Answers 2

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See J Allard for a real life example - note that Wikipedia omits the dot.

In a list where everyone is getting first initials only it would not be wrong to include the dot (K. Gregory, J. Allard, etc) but otherwise leave it off in my opinion. You can put a dot after "Chas." because it's short for Charles but then don't use that logic to call me "Kate." because my name is only 4 letters long. That's how it feels to see "S." for Truman and "J." for Allard - the dot is being added based on the length of the person's name and not the fact that some of it has been omitted. I think that's wrong in most cases.

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Strictly anecdotally, I know of one case of an acrologic name, and the bearer referred to both his initials as his Christian name. Interestingly, during WW2 the government did not allow this practice, and gave him a ridiculous moniker.

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  • Was it something like a guy named "R. B. Jones", and the Army would not accept just plain "R" as a first name, so he entered "First name: R (only)", "Middle name: B (only)", "Last Name: Jones"... and ended up being called "Ronly Bonly Jones"?
    – Hellion
    Jun 28, 2014 at 1:57
  • @Hellion It was just 'A. B.' initials, he was never Christened with a name -oddly so, for a very religious man. After establishing the initials did not represent a name, the army just filled-in-the blank and changed 'A' to Apple and 'B' to 'Boston' (example of)
    – Third News
    Jun 28, 2014 at 10:49

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