By Gossip Goose
Chief Investigative Skeptic
On Jan. 20, a new United States president was sworn in. After the highly anticipated and polarizing 2020 election, Joseph R. Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. Typically, the inauguration is a time for Americans to anticipate a new era for their country. But as I watched the inaugural festivities, a dark cloud hung over me.
I was not concerned about the politics or the stipulations of the new president’s inauguration. As I heard Biden being introduced for the first time, it dawned on me: it was Biden’s name that I found so disconcerting.
Respectfully, what sort of name is Joseph R. Biden?
Let’s begin by dissecting Biden’s middle name – Robinette.
Many Americans are generally unaware of what Biden’s middle name is. I myself was unaware until writing this article, when I googled what the R. in “Joseph R. Biden” stood for. This sentiment is shared by some Washington College students.
“I was unaware of what Joe Biden’s legal name was, much less his middle name,” freshman Ashley Kreitz said. “I always just called him ‘Joe.’ It wasn’t until I saw a Joe Biden themed candle in Delaware that I realized what his full legal name was. The candle stated that his favorite car was a corvette and that his middle name was Robinette, and I was honestly shocked.”
Robinette is a fine name. It was his paternal grandmother’s middle name before it was Biden’s middle name. However, in contrast to other middle names, it is just average.
Names like George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy put power in the middle initial. The same cannot be said for Biden’s humble R.
Whereas words that begin with letters such as W and F — winner, wonder, future, and fascination — invoke feelings of power, R words do not share the same association — regret, reset, repeat.
In addition to the discourse surrounding “Robinette,” there are a number of complications surrounding Biden’s first name.
The shortened, more common nomenclature for the 46th president is “Joe.” This places Biden in the position of the fun guy, the warm grandpa, good old Mr. Joe. However, there is no power behind this name.
Nameberry, a baby name resource website, published a list that states powerful boys’ baby names. Included on this list are names such as “Ethan, Gabriel, and Angus.” Nowhere on this list does the name Joseph appear, nor does Joe.
This is not to shame Biden. Not everyone has a powerful name, and that’s okay. However, these elements are things that should be brought into consideration when ranking presidential names. Joseph Robinette Biden doesn’t hold a candle to John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
This all comes back to power. JFK is a name of presidential power — and an airport in New York City. Joseph R. Biden has none of the same notoriety.
However, despite these drawbacks, Biden does have something going for him name-wise. He is a part of an exclusive club made up of presidents named after their fathers.
“Joe Biden’s full name is Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. He is one of ten other commanders-in-chief through history named after their fathers. Others in the group include James Madison Jr., Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and Calvin Coolidge Jr.,” CBS said.
The exclusivity of this club offers the name a few “cool points.” This raises the issue of Biden being a junior, however.
“…Because what is the word junior but diminutive? It’s saying you’re lesser something, or at the very most you are a copy of something,” Jeffrey Engel, founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, said.
While Joseph R. Biden does have its setbacks as a name, it is neither the worst Presidential name, nor the best. It’s simply okay, mediocre at best.
Featured Photo caption: President Joseph R. Biden’s lackluster name has raised some eyebrows. Photo courtesy of Flickr.