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Do We Need Permission to Use this Name?

My husband and I want to name one of our twins after his grandpa who passed recently. We want to use the first and middle name exactly, and of course the last name would make it identical (but we would do without a Jr., II, etc.) Do we need to voice this to his siblings and ask if they're ok with it? I feel like if we spring it on them at birth, they might feel like, "It's not fair that you took the name, he's our grandpa too."
- Namesaker

I appreciate your thoughtful impulses -- both to honor your husband's grandfather, and to honor the importance of his name to the rest of the family. Too often, we fall prey to the tempation of focusing on "rules" and whether we have the "right" to do something according to formalized etiquette. Having the rules on your side is comforting, but it doesn't change the reality of hurt feelings among the people you love. A dose of common-sense thoughtfulness is always in order.

Of course, the best rules of etiquette are based on common-sense thoughtfulness. For instance, there's a reason why the rule of thumb for grandparent namesakes is "first come, first served."

Yes,  Grandpa has other grandkids, too. No, you don't have any more claim on his name than they do. But neither do they have any more claim on it than you. How do you move past that deadlock? You certainly don't want cousins and siblings jockeying for position, trying to prove they're more worthy of the name; that's a recipe for familial disaster. The thoughtful, common-sense tiebreaker is to take the path that's most certain to yield a namesake. Thus the first-born baby gets the first shot at the name.

I suggest you follow your considerate instincts, with a small tweak. Do get in touch with each of the the other grandkids and let them know you're planning to use Grandpa's name, and that you hope they feel that's a suitable way to honor him. Listen to their responses, and try to be open to creative compromises if they say they'd like to use the name in some way, too. But don't quite ask their permission. As thoughtful as that may seem, it's an invitation to open this orderly, loving namesake process to a world of trouble.

Comments

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July 16, 2012 1:23 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Aren't there any people from your side of the family you'd like to honor, at least in the middle spot? Or perhaps you have a favorite literary or historical figure whose name (first or last) would go well in the middle spot.

I hope the other twin is getting a family name too, especially if it is a girl. I've seen too many twin sets where the boy is PaternalGrandfather II and the girl is FrillyPrincessNameWePulledOutOfOurBehinds.

July 16, 2012 1:51 PM
By Anonymouse (not verified)

I completely agree with Name Lady and the first poster. Let the relatives know what your plan is in a thoughtful way, but PLEASE give the other twin the same consideration in terms of the honor naming. I think having a family namesake is wonderful, but having that unevenness isn't fair to your children.

July 16, 2012 7:09 PM
By DaisyLune (not verified)

I agree with all that has been previously written. The only thing I can think to add is looking into any problems your child may have by having the exact same name as a relative, even if that relative is deceased. It seems like there shouldn't be any trouble, but I have heard of such things happening.

July 17, 2012 11:54 AM
By Allison Margaret (not verified)

I don't think you need to ask your husband's siblings' (or cousins') permission to use Grandpa's name - but you can't get upset if someone else also uses all or part of the name later, either. But I don't see any problem with saying "we're naming one of the babies after Grandpa" and seeing what the family has to say.

July 17, 2012 11:59 AM
By Pamela S (not verified)

Two of my cousins and my middle brother all have sons named for my older brother who died at age 11. No one was offended by that; on the contrary, it was touching.

My Spanish sister-in-law is the daughter of a man with 9 brothers. All but one of them named their firstborn sons after their dad, and the next generation has also made ample use of the name. Family reunions in Spain are a bit confusing. You call for Marcelo and half the men respond. With the way surnames work there, none of them has exactly the same full name since the very last name each uses is his mother's.

Anyway, if this turns out to be a problem, then you'v got people creating drama where there doesn't need to be any.

July 17, 2012 1:53 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The way names work these days there are many ways to share the honoring of a loved one amongst all involved. Say grandpa's name is Charles Joseph. Well if you have twins you could use:
Charles X + Joseph Y
Charlotte X + Josephine Y
or some combination of that. You could also do something like Charlene and your cousin could do Charlotte nn Lottie, etc. It will work if you use a creative process of sharing rather than a defensive claim to the name. Best wishes.

July 17, 2012 4:16 PM
By Thomson (not verified)

I think you should consider the fact that you're having twins. Giving one of them a name that is SO special to you and your husband might serve as a wedge between your children.

I'm not a twin, but I'm not a stranger to sibling rivalry either, and I know that if my sister had been given a name that was really important to them and they'd just picked a random name for me, I would always wonder about it. They made sure that both of our names had important familial ties.

I think that the best way you could honor your husband's grandfather would be to give each of your twins a name that related to him in some way, instead of using his entire name on one of your sons, i.e. having a Thomas and a William versus a Thomas William and an XXX. This might also ease tension between your husband and his siblings.

July 17, 2012 9:13 PM
By Sally Odgers (not verified)

It's possible the other twin is getting another g'father or g'mother's exact name, but that there is/can be only one claimant... (only child). For example, I am the only child in my family to have children, so if I'd chosen to call one by a family name no one else could/would have had a claim. However, my husband is one of six sibs with children, so there would have been a different scenario there. As it happens, we used family names from much farther back and closer in- James was my g-g-gfather's name and Maria my g-g-grandother's. Alan was my husband's second name and Farrell my maiden name.

July 17, 2012 9:14 PM
By Sally Odgers (not verified)

It's possible the other twin is getting another g'father or g'mother's exact name, but that there is/can be only one claimant... (only child). For example, I am the only child in my family to have children, so if I'd chosen to call one by a family name no one else could/would have had a claim. However, my husband is one of six sibs with children, so there would have been a different scenario there. As it happens, we used family names from much farther back and closer in- James was my g-g-gfather's name and Maria my g-g-grandother's. Alan was my husband's second name and Farrell my maiden name.

July 21, 2012 4:30 PM
By Anon (not verified)

You don't have to ask anyone's permission and anyone else who also wants to use their grandfather's name can do so. If that means several cousins with the same name, then that's how it is.

(The other twin may very well be getting a special name, just not one that requires advice from namelady).

August 16, 2012 7:10 AM
By Johnson (not verified)

I don't understand the big deal here. In many families, it's not unreasonable to have several cousins/uncles/etc with the same name. (ie "Tony" in Italian families). My mom and her first cousin were both named after their grandmother, so one has the Irish version of the name and the other has the Americanized version of the name. They both had the same nickname for their names when they were young. My mom's SIL had the Americanized version of the name and used the same nickname as well.
If you love the name, use it. If someone else loves the name, they can use it too. It's not rocket science. :)

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