name stealing

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Is It “Name Stealing” When It's a Surname?

I'm expecting boy twins, and want to name one of them Holden Jasper. But we have a friend with the last name Holden. Is this inappropriate?
- Cautious Mom

When it comes to “surname stealing,” it’s all about the name. If your friend's last name were Raffaniello and you wanted to use that for a little namesake called Rafi, you might raise a few eyebrows. But no one would even make the connection if the friend’s surname were Thomas or James. Today, Holden is so well-established and fashionable as a first name that your choice should come across as a coincidence, not a poaching of someone's family name.

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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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Am I a Name Thief?

When I was young my parents died and I moved in with my oldest brother who had kids of his own. We were never really close, but whenever my sister in law comes to town she tries to include me and treats me like family. She usually only comes to town once or twice a year, but most of her kids live with in 30 miles of me. Last year, my niece named her son Tyler, which is the only name my husband and I can agree on for a boy. Now we're expecting a boy, and my husband thinks we should still use the name. I think even though we don't see each other super often, the relationship is complicated enough that naming my son Tyler would just make things weird. Am I overreacting?

-Auntie Confused

I often hear from parents worried that their name choice might, hypothetically, step on somebody's toes. Arguments are presented on both sides, trying to break the situation down in logical terms. How close is the relationship with the other parent? Are they relatives? Friends? How often do you see them? How far away do they live?
These questions are generally misguided.
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I'm Not a Name Thief! (Right?)

A few months ago my beloved brother told me he had fallen in love with a particular baby name. As it happens, this name is one that my husband and I had considered for our first baby, and now that I'm pregnant again we'd like to use for this baby. It's not like we would be "stealing" my brother's favorite name. After all, there's no guarantee he'll have kids at all, nevermind kids of a particular gender, and this may never be a name that works out for him and his theoretical future partner. It seems like a lot to ask for us to give up the name for this hypothetical future nephew. Is first come, first served a good family naming policy?

-Big Sis

It's all too common for family members to want the same baby name.  Shared cultural backgrounds and personal reference points lead us to the same choices. In fact, it's a wonder that more Big Sisses and Little Bros aren't at each other's throats over "stolen" names.

Assuming nobody has a unique connection to the name, the Name Lady's rule of thumb is generally what you suggest: first come, first served. As you rightly point out, just because your brother likes the same baby name as you, doesn't mean he'll ever actually have the chance to use it. 

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Does My Brother Have Dibs on My Favorite Name?

I am having my third child and plan to name the child (if it is a boy) after my father. My older brother has two daughters, and is recently remarried. He has talked about having more children. My father is the only boy in his generation, as is my brother. Am I allowed to name my child Michael or am I supposed to save it for my brother in case he ever has a boy? - Mom to be

I suspect that many of my readers will find your question flat-out baffling. Of course a daughter is allowed to honor her father with a namesake grandson, why not? But a few of you are thinking, “Whoa girl, not cool! You’d better get your brother’s OK first or you’re begging for a family feud.”

That’s because this question takes us beyond the realm of baby naming rules, into the twisty world of family traditions.

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I'm the Victim of a Baby Name Thief!

I had a baby name picked out for about ten years. I made the mistake of telling someone about it, and then they took the name and used it: not just the first name, but the first AND middle name I picked! It's completely uncommon. I never heard it in the ten years I had it in my head. I know full well that I have no ownership of the name, but whenever I see this person writing their baby's name I actually feel betrayed. Is this completely insane? - Confused in NY

Name thieves are the scourge of the baby-naming world. Visit any messageboard devoted to expectant moms to see how many cousins, colleagues, and in-laws are guilty of breaking and entering into personal name storehouses.

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Your Baby's Name Is Not a Battleground

Last time, I wrote about the desperate need for baby name manners among strangers. Today, I'd like to bring that closer to home. The most heated -- and saddest -- baby name conflicts I hear about happen within families.

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Is The Name I Love "Taken"?

I have always loved the name Jack, so when I got pregnant I chose Jack as a boy's name. My boyfriend and I never even considered other names. I've told all of my MOM'S family and my friends the name for four months now, but just found out that my cousin on my DAD'S side has decided to name her baby (due two weeks before mine) Jack, completely by coincidence. Can I keep the name or should I give it up?

It's admirable that you're prepared to give up a name you've loved all your life to promote family harmony . But I'm glad to tell you it's probably not necessary.

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