This afternoon I read in an academic paper on Latino Studies this paragraph beginning with " Daniel Cooper Alarcon(1997) calls the legend of Aztlan, '[p]erhaps the most enduring legacy of the Chicano movement''(10). Cooper Alarcon asserts that...." When I came to "Cooper Alarcon" at the begining of the second sentence of the quote, this "middle name plus the last name" reminded me of something my doctoral class teacher told me and my classmates last semester. He said that we cannot say "Allan Poe" for "Edgar Allan Poe" and that only the full name "Edgar Allan Poe" or simply the last name"Poe" are allowed. Now the above quote got me confused again. You see, in the quote, the author of the paper Dr. Brenda Watts, Assistant Professor of Spanish at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, uses "Cooper Alarcon" for the full name of "Daniel Cooper Alarcon" when she mentions the quoted author's name for the second time in the second sentence of this paragraph. I cannot find out whether this professor has made a mistake or my professor is wrong in his assertion. Edgar Allan Poe or Allan Poe or Poe--that is the question, but not for a native speaker of English or a nonnative whose English is better than mine.
I am not a teacher.
In Spain and in the Spanish-speaking countries of the Americas, the surnames of both the mother and father are applied to the children. They in effect have two last names. Maria Ruiz and Carlos Gonzales would have children with the last name Ruiz Gonzales or Gonzales Ruiz. Normally, they pick one or the other and use that, but sometimes they use both all the time.
Allan was the last name of Poe's adoptive family, who gave the name to him as a middle name. Often, a middle name is the mother's family name, but it is just a middle name and not part of the last name as it is in Spain. English-speakers usually do not use their middle name at all, except perhaps as an initial and in monograms.
Thanks for your enlightening explanation.
However, for some reason, the middle name of certain well-known people is used - I gave Poe as Cooper as examples.
Various reasons, I guess. It's not a universal cultural thing. Some people are proud of their middle name, sometimes because it is part of a famous name. We have George Washington Carver and John Wayne Gacy, to name two (who couldn't be more different otherwise). There seems to be a tendency to use middle names in the American South---Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Bob Thornton---though those start to look like double-barreled first names after a while. Sometimes the mother's maiden name carries a cachet---Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Sometimes it just sounds good---James Earl Jones. Pity me---I have a first initial, like T. Boone Pickens.