etiquette

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Please Help My Friends Use My New Name!

Hi! I'm a transgender boy and have started going by the name Kellin. My friends have said they support me, but they keep on referring to me by my old name. I don't know how to correct them without seeming rude. How can I be more assertive with my name?

–Kellin, Please!

Sometimes, a change like this just takes a lot of gentle, but persistent reminders, as when a teenager or adult wants to shed a childhood nickname. It’s not rude to say "It's Kellin now, thanks!" when friends forget. Just keep your tone cheerful and polite.

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Can I Give My Baby the Same Name as My Friend's Baby?

Last year, a lifelong friend of mind used a name I really wanted to use. I was just getting married at the time, but now I am pregnant, and I still love the name. I don't want to upset her by copying, but I have always loved the name and didn't know she liked it too. What do I do? Find a new name? Ask permission? I don't want to make it awkward, but my husband and I really have a hard time agreeing on any names, and this is the only one we absolutely love. Help!

–Potential Copycat

You had it in two: Ask for permission. If you do it carefully, it won't be awkward. Most people appreciate being asked and are happy to give their blessing. And it's certainly worth trying before you skip right to finding a new name.

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I Have the Same-Name Blues

I'm sure you've gotten questions about this before, but what is the etiquette for same or similar baby names with friends and family? I've loved a specific name since childhood. My husband and I haven't been able to have children yet, but my cousin just used that name for her fifth child. And my second favorite name was used by a friend from high school. I have a HUGE family, too. There are going to be no names left that I love!

–Worried About Stealing

Wading into the waters of name "stealing" is always tricky. While it's true that no one owns a name, and theoretically you should be able to use any name you like, you specifically asked about "etiquette." Etiquette means caring about other people and trying to be considerate of them. It means not making the (arbitrary) decision that your claim to a name is more legitimate than someone else's, and that therefore you have the right to hurt their feelings.

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I Don't Want To Be Rude!

Many people choose unique or unusual names for their children, or names that can be pronounced in different ways. Then there are ethnic names with combinations of letters that don't normally occur in English. I don’t judge, but as a substitute teacher, I daily face the dilemma of taking a stab at the correct pronunciation or just asking outright. Which tactic is more polite?

--Tongue-twisted Teacher

Substitute teaching is a special challenge, and figuring out how to say your students’ names is the first hurdle.  Miss on the name and you're fighting an uphill battle for your students' respect and attention for the rest of the period. I salute you for taking the names seriously.

I believe it’s never impolite to ask about an unfamiliar name.  (Well, hardly ever!) It saves you both of you the potential embarrassment of a wrong guess. Just as importantly, you’re showing courtesy and caring by making the effort to get the students' names right.

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Have I Missed My Chance at a New Name?

Is there an age beyond which changing your first name becomes too peculiar a thing to do? An age when people would expect you to have resigned yourself to it by now, and past which they would find a sudden change too much to get used to?

An 18-year-old seizing the first opportunity of adulthood to file an application could be easily understood. But thanks to choice paralysis and a craven case of "Whatever will people think?," I'm nearly thirty!

Have I left this dream too late? And assuming I can find the nerve to do so ... how do I drop a bombshell like this so long after the logical time to have done so?

-- Anna-to-be?

As you approach age 30, you're kicking yourself for not pursuing your dream of a new name a dozen years ago, when you were 18 and had your whole life ahead of you. Well, I'm going to make a prediction. If you don't go ahead and do it now, in another dozen years you'll be 42...and kicking yourself for not pursuing your dream when you were 30 and had your whole life ahead of you.

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Am I Being Rude About Names?

I have an interest in names, even though I am not choosing a name for a child. When I see a baby, I often ask the parents what the baby's name is. If it’s something I have never heard before or is very interesting, I would like to ask a follow-up question. But saying, "Oh, that's an interesting name—how did you think of it?" does not feel polite. Some people interpret "interesting" to mean "weird," and if they just picked the name out of a baby name book and there is no story to tell the parents might feel put on the spot. Is there a better way to ask?
--Politely Curious

P.C., I suspect that many Name Lady readers can relate to your dilemma! Happily, your good intentions go a long way in these situations. I find that most parents are delighted to share their  “how we chose his name” story with an eager audience. Even those who simply stumbled upon a name they loved in a book can enthuse about what made that name special to them.

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Help! He’s After My Name!

We had been trying for years to get pregnant and we finally did. My coworker and his wife got pregnant shortly after us. This coworker is super competitive -- I try to limit the baby talk as not to incite this part of him. One day, however, he came up behind me and announced that he and his wife have decided on a name. It is the exact name I had told other coworkers weeks before, and have been referring to my baby as this ever since-- same first, same middle! They had some other names picked prior that were very modern, whereas my chosen name (which is uncommon) is not. The middle name is a family name I had already told him we were using, regardless of the first.

I know he only told me in order to "claim" the name, but I have no idea how to react. Our baby is due three weeks before my theirs. Do I abandon the name I've fallen for or move on? How do I respond to him at work? I didn't know I had to claim my name in order for it to be valid.
- Cornered

You’ve called your coworker “competitive.” “Competitors” have the drive to take themselves to the top; “saboteurs” take more pleasure in sending others to the bottom. This fellow sounds like the latter.

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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.

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They Want My Baby Name!

Close friends of ours want to use our son's name for their soon-to-be born baby. My son is just 14 months, and he is their godson. They asked us what we think and to be honest with them. I have yet to answer, because I am hurt and do not want them to use the name. I feel they should have taken it off their list 14 months ago when our little guy was born, as I would have done for any close friend or family member. I know we do not own the name, but I do not think it is right. Am I too close to this to be rational, or are my feeling justified?

- Why MY Name?

Last week I published a letter from an expectant mother who was concerned about using a baby name that a relative had already chosen. I advised her to simply pick up the phone and call the other parent. There are no official rules to when names are "taken"; it varies based on relationships, culture, and the names themselves. (Two boys named Jupiter might be a bigger deal than two boys name James.)  Asking permission is the direct approach, and the considerate one. 

Your friend has already taken my advice, yet you still feel hurt. Even the idea  of close friends encroaching on your name space feels like a violation. I understand where you're coming from, given that the friends are your son's own godparents. Nonetheless, I think you're being a little unfair with this mom-to-be.

 
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My Boyfriend Won't Stick Up For His Name!

My boyfriend has a name that can be spelled two different ways, like Abby/Abbey or Zack/Zach. He legally spells it one way but doesn't care how anybody else spells it, and it bugs me when people spell it the "wrong" way. What should I do? - Confused GF

We all have our pet peeves, little bits of wrongness that drive us batty while others take no notice. Did you ever see a guy wearing black shoes with a brown belt? Or have somebody hover behind you, reading over your shoulder? Most of you probably have, but didn't care. A few of you, though, are seething at the very thought. It's the same with name spellings.

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