Ask the Name Lady

Ask Now

How Bad Are These Initials?

Dear Name Lady,
My husband and I are expecting our first child. My husband especially likes girl names that start with "V", but our last name starts with "D", which instantly makes me think of the common abbreviation for "venereal disease"! I just can't give my child the first and last name initials of "V.D.", but would it be acceptable to still use a "V" name for the middle name, or would that still bring up the "V.D." connotation? We're also considering a first name starting with "E", but will "E.D." make people think of "erectile dysfunction"? I'm probably over thinking this but I know children with the initials "B.S." and "B.M." and couldn't help but think that their parents should have thought about the initials a little more.
- Initially Challenged

These are challenging times indeed for the initial-sensitive.  Between text-speak, marketing speak and good old-fashioned slang, these days there's an acronym or abbreviation for just about everything.  Pity the poor parent who sees the worst possible meaning in every set of initials. If you look hard enough and are good enough at wordplay, you'll find unsavory associations in countless pairs of letters, not to mention name anagrams and spoonerisms.

With the last initial D you're in particularly hairy territory.  Even if you choose a "clean" initial pair today, there is no guarantee that tomorrow the medical community -- and its pharmaceutical marketers -- won't discover some new "Disorder," "Disease" or "Dysfunction" that KOs your perfect initials. 

Because two-letter pairings are so limited and can carry so many different meanings (does BS mean spewing nonsense, or a bachelor of science degree?), I tend not to worry too much about first-last initial pairs. The initials B.O. didn't stop Barack Obama from becoming President of the United States, after all. Look around and you'll find plenty of successful people past and present who have borne your feared V.D. and E.D. initials without you even noticing. Try V.D. movie stars Vin Diesel and Viola Davis,  or E.D. poet Emily Dickinson and tv host Ellen DeGeneres.

So instead of focusing on pairs of letters, look closer at trios. You can get away with almost any pair better than a three-letter initial set of, say, Philip Ignatius Gordon or Amanda Sophronia Simms. In your case, look at the middle name as an opportunity to soften your problematic pair to a lovely monogram like V.J.D. or E.F.D.

P.S. -- that "common" abbreviation V.D. isn't so common any more. For your child's generation, the initials to watch out for are S.T.D.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

January 16, 2012 11:50 AM
By Allison (not verified)

I wouldn't worry about first/last initials, but more first/middle initials.
My sister's initials are BJ and she hates that. But her first/last initials are BA.

Don't overthink it. I wouldn't think much of someone named Victoria Davis or V. Davis at all.

January 16, 2012 11:58 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

You are totally fine with VD. I teach high school physics, and when we get to the Doppler effect, Vd (velocity of the detector) is in the equation. None of the 17 year old boys even blink. I may be trying hard not to blush, but they totally don't even think about going there.

January 16, 2012 1:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It's commonly called STD or STI anyway. VD is a somewhat dated term.

January 16, 2012 2:57 PM
By Melissa (not verified)

One other easy way to safeguard: Don't give your daughter a very common first name.

I've been Melissa W my entire life. It was inevitable that people would start shortening that to MW (no one ever calls me "Melissa W" anymore, but I do get "M-Dubs" quite a bit, which I find pretty hilarious). I know quite a few other people who tend to colloquially go by initials like that (especially in writing/email), for the same reasons. I doubt my name would have been shortened as such if I'd been named Matilda.

January 16, 2012 7:53 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My 14-year-old was reading this over my shoulder and didn't know what VD or venereal disease meant. I clarified "STD" and she immediately knew what that was. (phew!)

January 16, 2012 10:48 PM
By mk (not verified)

I work in health care and I've never heard anyone use VD. The common abbreviation today is STD. I highly doubt any of her peers would recognize VD by the time she is in school. You're fine.

January 17, 2012 1:12 PM
By Elisabeth (not verified)

If it makes you feel any better, my initials before marriage were E.D., and no one has ever once mentioned the connection to erectile dysfunction. In fact, this is the first time I've ever noticed it myself! V.D. is probably fine, too. It has been thirty years since we've been using the term 'sexually transmitted disease' instead of 'venereal disease'.

January 17, 2012 1:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

WHat do people think of the suggestion above "VJD?" Wouldn't the "VJ" part of it provoke teasing, too? (As in, "va jay-jay.)

January 17, 2012 1:29 PM
By Paula (not verified)

I've heard country music legend Barbara Mandrell say onstage many times: "I love my name. I hate my initials." It's always been done with a smile, completely tongue-in-cheek. SHE didn't let a set of less-than-perfect initials stop her from becoming all she could be, for sure! And, let me add, anytime I'd hear her say that about her initials, I'd add, sometimes yelling out from the audience, as country fans are known to do at concerts, "Mine aren't any better." My last name starts with a P.

What I'm saying is, somewhat the same as the Name Lady said. There's no way to completely avoid all potential bad initial combinations, so keep a sense of humor about it and name your child whatever you want to!

January 17, 2012 1:31 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My sister's name is E.D. and nobody I know of has ever made the connection of erectile dysfunction. At the most, when initialing group homework as a kid, people would ask, "Who's Ed?" :)

January 17, 2012 2:34 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Anonymous: Vee-jay (with or without -dee) is not the same as va-jay-jay, so no, I don't think it is a problem. Plus, while this is mostly hope on my part, that term may very well be outdated by the time the kid is in school.

January 17, 2012 2:52 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I wouldn't think anything of it if I heard the initials VD. The Name Lady is right, STD is the abbreviation to look out for. I also agree that most young kids don't even look at first/last initials. It's usually first/middle/last that gets attention.

January 17, 2012 3:30 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I work for a sexual health organization. Nobody uses the term VD anymore. In fact, we have a law in our state that refers to VD and I always have to explain what it means. Only older people know it, and they're too polite to bring it up. If your baby's initials are STD, STI, or HIV, you might want to reconsider... But you'll have no issue with VD.

January 17, 2012 5:56 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Well,there you go. To me, STD is a long-distance phone call!

January 17, 2012 6:00 PM
By Pamela S. (not verified)

If the initials were an issue, the child's attitude is probably the chief factor in whether or not it becomes problematic, but of course you can't very well know that at birth. My youngest brother's given name is William, but he goes by Bill. He was adopted into our family and his previous surname began with K, so there wasn't any thinking behind him ending up with the initials of B.S., that's just how it worked out. He's got a fairly obnoxious, cheeky personality and LOVES the fact that his initials also stand for... you know. He even named his business "B.S. ___"

That said, I'm with everyone else. The only people who call it VD anymore are way too mature to even consider teasing anyone about those initials.

Go for it.

January 17, 2012 6:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My initials are BM, and it's never been an issue. Kids don't typically have any idea what BM can stand for, and by the time someone is old enough to know, they're usually beyond the point of making fun of someone for something as silly as their initials. Kids are more likely to know words than initials, I'd think -- so I agree that it's probably more important to be cautious about three initials spelling an undesirable word (in my case, it's BAM -- and I've never had anyone think that's anything less than awesome, frankly. It's a nickname a lot of my friends call me).
I tend to think that if people have an issue with something so stupid(like, honestly, the woman asking the question-- who admits outright that she judges parents of people like me!) that it's more their issue than mine.

January 17, 2012 7:29 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that no one says VD anymore. I also however do not hear people say vajayjay. Maybe I don't hang with the right crowd?? Anyway, the initials dont matter unless you monogram stuff. I would totally stay away from words like PIG, COW, etc.

BTW, my dd's initials are NRA. No one has ever noted that this is the acronym for the National Rifle Association except me and I did NOT plan that either.

January 18, 2012 3:33 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My favorite name would have given my daughter the initials BM, and I originally eliminated it for that reason. But then I thought about how many people I know with those initials (including many Brian Mc____s and Bridget Mc_____s). And I never found any other names that I liked nearly as much. I finally decided to go with that favorite name. If she is ever buying a house, she can initial things "BMcD" or whatever.

January 18, 2012 7:38 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I, too, am very initial-sensitive. My last name starts with 'F,' so I know I can't choose any 'M' first names, but since my favorite girl name starts with an 'A,' that limits me as well. I refuse to give a daughter the initials ARF OR ALF.

That being said, I don't think VD sticks out as much as BS would. But you might consider first names that have a V in them, but don't necessarily start with that letter (Ava, Olivia, Genevieve, etc.) that might satisfy you both and avoid the initials issue.

January 18, 2012 7:38 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Valentine's Day...that's what VD made me think of...and that's a very nice thing, indeed!

January 18, 2012 2:48 PM
By Rusty (not verified)

My teen and her friends made VD cupcakes last Valentine's day. None of the girls could figure out why we adults thought they were so funny.

I read E.D. as eating disorder, but that because I use that acronym at work. I'd think most Americans would associate E.D. only with education.

January 19, 2012 2:23 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think your okay with VD, lol. I'm a teenager and have never even heard of those initials!

January 19, 2012 4:00 PM
By Craig K (not verified)

I gave great thought before naming my daughter. I recalled in high school when the duffel bag for my band unifom had initials. We named her Kimberly Cayla (with a C) K.... to avoid having the initials KKK.

January 24, 2012 3:52 PM
By Ayla (not verified)

I associate E.D. with canned pumpkin, and anything close to pumpkin pie is good in my books. I had to look up V.D. to see why it was so bad - it's very dated so I wouldn't worry about it.

January 25, 2012 9:51 AM
By Erin (not verified)

I worry about initials all the time. I never know whether it stands for something harmless or if it's potentially upsetting. The two that I can't decide on are MPG and WIG...

January 27, 2012 5:36 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know a girl whose initials were KKK and she changed her middle name to start with a C just because of that. But my son-in-law would not allow their son to be named Aidan Oliver because their last name begins with L and his initials would have been AOL.

When my stepdad adopted me at age 10, my new last name started with a Q so my initials became HQ. Just a few close friends in high school noticed and would call me "headquarters."

February 1, 2012 8:13 PM
By Megan (not verified)

I don't think that initials matter so much. As a kid, the only time I noticed them was if a friend told me "hey, my initials spell out HAH or BAM or SAT". In terms of first/last name initials, I don't think they're important. By the time kids are old enough to understand what they may spell (BS or BM or VD or ED), they're old enough and mature enough for the most part to not say anything. The first/middle name initials are more important to your particular child (again, most girls don't appreciate BJ as initials), but middle names aren't often used in schools.

Again, like I said, I don't think kids pay attention to initials as much as we, as naming adults, do. I know that when my husband and I were trying to pick out our son's name, we OBSESSED over possible teasing nicknames before we finally just calmed down and said we'd name him what we wanted to regardless.

I will second what Melissa said. I was in a class with three OTHER Megans and I always had to be "Megan W" because I didn't want to go by my middle name. I do believe that if you give your child a common first name, it makes the last initial more pronounced because the teachers will have to add last initials to help differentiate between them.

Hope that helps!

February 10, 2012 10:17 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

You definitely need to be careful with the trios! My parents gave me the name Meagan Eileen N--- so my initials spelled MEN. That wasn't as bad as my sister who was originally Samantha Irene N---. My parents had to add a middle name afterwards. :/

February 11, 2012 11:17 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

In a similar vein, any thoughts on the initials HRP?

February 11, 2012 9:58 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have no idea why HRP would be a problem.

Both MPG and WIG from another poster are also fine. As long as it isn't offensive I don't see it as a problem. Growing up, we thought it was cool when someone had initals that spelled a word (sat, for example).

February 19, 2012 12:06 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think you over worrying a little. Nobody is going to hear your child's initials and start thinking of random medical illnesses and diseases it could stand for. Unless it's just obvious like if they spell a word I.e. C.O.W or E.G.G. After all my cousins initials are B.M and (as far as I know) he's never been made fun of.

February 19, 2012 2:23 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Interesting that you guys are not worried about VJ as initials. Here in Australia, although not common, VJ is used about as much as va jay jay, if not more. It definitely means the same thing!

February 22, 2012 8:34 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Oh, this is just silly. Before reading other people's comments, I wasn't even sure myself what VD stood for! I grew up with the initial DV, and quite often got called 'Designer Vagina' because of this. Didn't bother me, thought it was funny. Everyone gets teased about their name, whether it's the initials, how old fashioned it is, nicknames etc. It's just a normal part of growing up.

February 26, 2012 12:20 AM
By Zoe (not verified)

One of my favorite, favorite name combos is Margaret Susannah. But my last name starts with G as does my boyfriends. Is MSG doable? I also like Margaret Elena but that would give MEG, which is a nickname for Margaret (even though I'd use Maggie).

March 27, 2012 2:41 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

This has been an issue for us. Our last name starts with a D, and there are a ton of three letter D words that we've had to avoid. With my son, we had settled on Spencer Thomas Dean before we realized that his initials would be STD. This time, we've had eliminate names because we realized we were spelling OCD, OLD, ODD, SAD, MAD, BAD, etc. Now, when we find a combo we like, we run through the initials to make sure we aren't accidentally saddling our future daughter with a terrible set of initials.

May 5, 2012 5:55 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The strongest people had the hardest names to over come. I have put a lot of thought in this and I really don't think it matters as long as you instill the root and beauty of your angels name.The child will make there name Not the initials! Parental wisdom and attitude is a bonus and necessary!

May 12, 2012 1:17 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My initials are also BS, and i was never teased in school about them. In fact, most of my friends didn't even notice until i myself called attention to it, and they found it rather funny!

May 18, 2012 6:24 PM
By Caitlyn (not verified)

You shouldn't worry, it can't be as bad as my daughter's initials. P.M.S. By the time we realized, we were both already so set on the name that we couldn't bare to change it.

May 18, 2012 7:26 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My oldest stepdaughters initials when she got married became ASS (Amanda Sue)

May 19, 2012 8:57 PM
By David (not verified)

They have to be careful with middle names as well as first. This letter makes me think of the movie "You Again," where the protagonist was named Marni Olivia Olson, and was teased immensely for it. IC should be thankful that her last name doesn't begin with an H, and they're not thinking of a W name - they'll be free to think of a middle name that begins with A. After all, if you give your child a name where the initials spell WAH, people will be chasing after her, making crying sounds like babies. Imagine the nightmare!

May 27, 2012 1:52 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know someone whose child had initials FAG. I would definitely stay away from that. Don't know if it's caused problems

June 2, 2012 1:52 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Ah - those happy school days! Geraldine Taylor was fine - until we knew her middle name was Iris .... Pity her poor sister Jennifer whose name was shortened to Jenny

June 19, 2012 12:02 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

i have that issue. i was born with the intitials L.S.D. and i still constantly get made fun of for it. i cant wait till i graduate to make that go away.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.