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When a Baby Name Is Not a Namesake

My husband and I are having a very hard time coming up with a name for our second son. We both like a specific name for its sound and meaning, but when combined with our last name it is the name of a celebrity. (Think along the lines of "George Lucas"). It's a fairly common first name, but this celebrity is definitely the first, if not the only, search-engine result for the name in full. Is that a deal-breaker? How awful is it to give your kid the same name as a celebrity, and does it make it more acceptable if the given celebrity is older and might not be around for much of the child's life?

–Not a Celebrity's Mom

It's difficult to weigh in on your dilemma without knowing the actual celebrity name you're considering. "Harrison Ford" has a much different connotation than "Dustin Hoffman"—or than "Bill Gates." Both the celebrity's image and the prevalence of his last name will affect how your son might be perceived in light of this semi-namesake.

I'll operate, then, as if George Lucas really were your potential kid. In this case, you need to consider two issues: how much your child will feel he "owns" his name and what strangers will assume his name communicates about you. In an age of digital branding, when parents lock down their future children's social media accounts practically as soon as they're conceived, the first issue might seem the worst. George Lucas will be the more prominent bearer of your son's name throughout his youth and maybe even his adulthood. But unless your son wants to pursue a career as a sci-fi director or digital special effects visionary, this connection is unlikely to cause a problem. A dentist named George Lucas won't be mistaken for his more famous counterpart when he's got a patient in his chair.

The second consideration is actually the more potent. Because most people who encounter you and your child—friends, future teachers, casual acquaintances—will assume you named your son George Lucas because you are huge Star Wars fans. Many people will also ask you about this, or joke about it, or treat you to various Yoda impressions. Only you can gauge whether you'll feel this as a constant burden or a fun conversation opener, a game you're willing to play or one you just want to avoid.

Comments

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November 6, 2017 10:48 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

If George Lucas is the actual name, I don't think it matters if Mr. Lucas won't be around for most of the kid's life. I don't see Star Wars going anywhere anytime soon, so your kid will likely still get comments.

I agree it is hard to answer this without knowing the actual name. George isn't an uncommon name, but it's not exactly trending for kids at the moment. So something like George Lucas would strike me (and I think most people) as a direct nod to Mr. Lucas.

Something like Bill Gates, maybe not so much. William is currently popular, which I think helps. Mr. Gates is only known as Bill, so the options of your son using William/Will/Liam certainly dilutes the association enough that I wouldn't immediately assume Mr. Gates was a namesake.

I also think strength of the fandom is a consideration. The Star Wars fandom is pretty intense, so I would not be at all surprised to meet a George Lucas (first/last or first/middle) whose name was a tribute. Bill Gates doesn't exactly inspire the same intensity in his fans. Or, for a more direct comparison, I would not assume a little George Clooney was named for the actor. I would assume a little George Lucas was named for the director.

November 6, 2017 11:19 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have over the years met Stephen J. Gould and Carrie Grant and a few other non-stars. It can happen afterwards if someone becomes famous who shares your name. My father shares a name with a semi-famous basketball coach.

But don't name your kid into it. It makes it hard to do ordinary things like make a restaurant reservation or doctor's appointment because the person on the other end of the line thinks you are joking.

November 6, 2017 2:45 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have a friend who named her daughter Mackenzie Phillips. Admittedly, she did not Google it and was unfamiliar with the celebrity. However, she still says that she would choose the same name again because 1)she and her husband both loved it and 2)anyone who thinks she named her child after someone on Celebrity Rehab is an idiot.

November 6, 2017 4:32 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It depends I agree. Did you ever watch the movie Office Space? It’s pretty vulgar so it’s not imperative, but the main character’s friend was named Michael Bolton and this young tech programmer absolutely hated it. It was meant to be comical... a running gag even. So to counter, he listened to intense rap, and only until his job was on the line did he submissively grin and bear it. Incidentally Michael Bolton in real life was a good sport about the attention he received because of the dialogue in a movie he wasn’t even a part of. I personally can think of another two reasons, the comparison (I’m thinking of a girl named Katie Perry, over one named more commonly like Vanessa Williams) and if the celebrity is found in a scandal that would make it even harder to be distinct. If you’re set in the name, your reaction will help him navigate and become his voice in the matter so stay calm and down to earth about it yourself. Best wishes!

November 6, 2017 4:33 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It depends I agree. Did you ever watch the movie Office Space? It’s pretty vulgar so it’s not imperative, but the main character’s friend was named Michael Bolton and this young tech programmer absolutely hated it. It was meant to be comical... a running gag even. So to counter, he listened to intense rap, and only until his job was on the line did he submissively grin and bear it. Incidentally Michael Bolton in real life was a good sport about the attention he received because of the dialogue in a movie he wasn’t even a part of. I personally can think of another two reasons, the comparison (I’m thinking of a girl named Katie Perry, over one named more commonly like Vanessa Williams) and if the celebrity is found in a scandal that would make it even harder to be distinct. If you’re set in the name, your reaction will help him navigate and become his voice in the matter so stay calm and down to earth about it yourself. Best wishes!

November 7, 2017 1:05 PM
By Christi with an i (not verified)

Mackenzie Phillips wasn't only on celebrity rehab. She was on the original One Day at a Time and is the daughter of John Phillips of the Mama's and Papa's. It is entirely possible for someone to have named a child after her if they watched the show growing up.

November 7, 2017 2:11 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree. I also think Mackenzie Phillips would be a nice example of a celebrity I can imagine someone naming a kid after (or at least being inspired by the name) and then later finding that the celebrity's personal scandals ended up tainting the name. I realize I'm old, but I can remember when Ms. Phillips was considered with some regard as a young actress.

November 8, 2017 11:21 PM
By name nut (not verified)

It depends on just HOW the famous one is known. Believe it or not, I have never seen Star Wars (not a science fiction fan) and probably never will, so though I might recognize the name George Lucas as being the name of a celebrity, I wouldn't know who he is/was. If you and your family aren't around people who would recognize the celebrity name, I don't think it's a big deal. In spite of what things look like now, Star Wars will not be around forever, and it's doubtful that any other celebrity-name-generating entity will be, either.

I knew, as well as being a huge fan of, singer Lynn Anderson of "Rose Garden" fame. Sadly, we lost Lynn to a heart attack just over two years ago. But with a name like that, she ran into bunches of people with the same name! Also, Lynn is still considered somewhat unisex; I follow a male Lynn Anderson on twitter and occasionally respond to his tweets with a mention of "your country music namesake."

I think a bigger issue might be, if your last name is Smith or Jones or something equally common, giving your child a name like John Smith or Mary Jones! Years ago, I worked in the hotel business, and ran across bunches of people with names like that, and they had a rough time with people not believing they were their real names! (And as an aside, I know a mother and son named Mary Jones and John Jones - real names!)

I say go with it. It's unlikely that the celebrity with the same name will be around or at least will be famous as your child grows up.

November 9, 2017 1:41 PM
By anonymous (not verified)

I have a friend whose name is Bruce Willis. It is a huge pain as he can't have a Facebook page in his own name, has trouble making reservations, etc. While these things certainly aren't the end of the world, they are worth taking into account. Do an informal poll among your friends and family and ask if they know of the celebrity in question. If most do not, you're probably safe. But if the celebrity is known by almost everyone, I'd choose another name.

November 10, 2017 4:36 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The celebrities today may be the nobodies of your child's generation. Mackenzie Phillips is a good example. I know her from One Day at a Time; I never heard of Celebrity Rehab. I bet many kids don't know her at all.

Having a good sense of humor about it is helpful. I know someone named Katy Perry and she laughs about it, uses her name on social media, etc. Perry is her married name, and she changed her name already knowing about the singer.

November 11, 2017 11:01 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Please don’t. Some celebrities have squeaky clean reputations, then become even more famous when they go off the rails—like Amanda Bynes or Miley Cyrus. It’s a gamble. There are plenty of famous people whose PR teams do a great job of hiding their messes, only to be discovered much later —like Bing Crosby.

To be perfectly frank, naming a child after a celebrity without it actually being an homage to the celebrity makes you as parents look out of touch and ill-informed...which also does not reflect well on your child.

Because of the burden of celebrity, Your child will likely change the name you love so much to a nickname. Just be prepared for little “George Lucas” to start going by Luke to dodge the burden you’re giving him.

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