names & romance

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Did Romeo Have a Brother?

My daughter is due with her second baby boy soon. Her first son is named Romeo Louis. Romeo was his daddy's nickname when he was little. At first, not too many people liked the name, but when he was born, he looked every bit his name. It's perfect for him, and now everyone likes it!

My daughter would like to keep up with the same theme, kind of, and has been thinking about Valentino or maybe even Casanova. Most everyone can't stand those names, and she isn't sure of them either. I have suggested Royce, Rhett, and Ryker—going with "R" names. I even like Lorenzo, keeping up with the "O" at the end. Any input, advice, or name suggestions would be much appreciated!

–Romeo's Grandma

You've made some smart suggestions, Grandma. Romeo is a tough act to follow! Steering your daughter toward complimentary names that don't fall into the category of "notorious romantic fictional characters" seems wise. And Romeo has much more familiarity, and usage, as a contemporary first name than Casanova does (according to the U.S. Social Security Administration, it's given to fewer than 10 baby boys a year).

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We Have The Same Name!

I'm soon to be engaged to a wonderful man who has two children from a previous relationship. It's a second marriage for both of us, but I have no previous children. I am nervous about becoming a stepmother, but adding to that is that my first name is the same name as his daughter.

We plan to have more children together, and it's always been important to me to change my name to my husband's so that everyone in the family has the same last name. But I'm really torn here. I don't want his 8-year-old daughter to feel like I'm "stealing" her name, or to resent me for it now or later in life. I also expect that it may cause some confusion with mail, official documents, etc.Unfortunately our name is so short that going by a nickname isn't a possibility.

Am I dooming her (and us both) to a lifetime of confusion: "Nooo, thats my Stepmother, Marie B Clark, I'm Marie A Clark." Or am I overthinking this?

- Evil Stepmother, the Name Thief

Rest assured, you're no Name Thief. You and your soon-to-be stepdaughter are just the victims of bad name luck. But as in so many family naming dilemmas, the right path will depend on relationships as much as names.

You've mentioned that you're nervous about becoming a stepmother, which is natural. How well have you gotten to know the kids? Do they know yet about their dad's upcoming marriage, and if so, how do they feel about it? And critically, how does Dad himself feel about the name conflict?

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I'm Getting Married, Do I Need To Change My FIRST Name?

I've always looked forward to ditching my unwieldy last name for something short and sweet. I'm getting married next summer, and my fiancé has an awesome last name that I happen to love. Yay!

The problem is, it basically rhymes with my first name. I don't want the actual name printed, but think, "Ashley Blimey."

My middle name is Laura, which could sufficiently break up the rhyming. Should I change my first name to Ashley Laura, and introduce myself as such -- even though it's a mouthful and risks annoying people or coming across as pretentious -- or just include Laura whenever I say my full name, and risk people leaving it out and calling me "Ashley Blimey?" Are there other solutions I'm not thinking of?

- The Future Mrs. Blimey

When we name babies, we custom-select first names to pair attractively with our surnames. Marital names, though, are pot luck. The wheel of romantic fate spins, and the new name candidate may be lovely, ridiculous, or anywhere in-between.

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Is My Ex "Name Stalking"?

My 7-year-old daughter has a pretty unusual name, Zel. We picked it because we wanted an old-fashioned name and got stuck debating the merits of Hazel vs. Zelda, before realizing we really just liked that one syllable.

Last week, an ex of mine had his first child and named her Zella. While the age gap, and the fact that we don't see each other much, makes this less awkward, I've been flummoxed as to what to say to him and his wife. It gives me a little bit of the heebie-jeebies. He's been a good ex, but maybe a bit more intrusive than I'd have wished.

- Zel's Mom

The question you've asked is what to say to this couple about their new daughter. The answer to that is simple: "Congratulations." There is no social obligation to comment on a child's name. Given your feelings, you're best off avoiding that subject and turning instead to topics that don't give you the heebie-jeebies: family resemblances, perhaps, or getting enough sleep.

The question you haven't quite asked is, "Is this name-stalking?" That's where things get interesting.

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He's Not The Dad. Can I Give the Baby His Name?

I'm due the end of next month with what techs lead me to believe will be a girl. When I was with her biological dad, who I lovingly refer to as "sperm donor," we had decided on Mia Sage with his last name but since he no longer talks to me and has no plans on being there in any sense, do you think it okay to give her the last name of my current boyfriend, who promised he'd be daddy to her no matter what, even if we break up? - Stuck on Surnames

Pregnancy can be an emotional time for any mom, and so much more so for the mom who's been left by her partner at such a vulnerable life juncture.  Despite your best efforts to show your strength and sense of humor, Ashley, it's obvious -- and natural -- that you feel hurt and angry.

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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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My Husband's Nicknames Make Me Squirm

My husband calls me the same 'pet' names he calls his three adult daughters from a previous marriage. Before the word jealousy is brought in to play...he uses these names during our intimate moments too. It makes me feel a little sick to my stomach. I've mentioned it to him and he still does it. I don't want to over-think this, but I believe that because of his bad first marriage, he made these daughters into pseudo-spouses instead of having a parent/child separation. Do you think there is anything a little odd about this or am I way off base? - Confused Second Wife

Girl! Yes, you are reading too much into this. Let me share something with you. I call my children a silly nickname I first invented for our dog. Years of crooning the name's nonsense syllables in an affectionate tone have made it leap naturally to my tongue when I feel affectionate. To leap from shared pet names to "sister wives" is to leap too far.

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Is He Name-Flirting?

My formal name is Christine. My friends all call me Chris. I like the name Christine, but I'm use to being called Chris. I have a male interest at work who insists on calling me Christine. Is he trying to be formal or is he flirting? - Chris

Is he trying to be formal, or is he flirting? Both, dear. Isn't that lovely?

Affectionate nicknames can work equally well in both directions -- more casual, or more formal. Ben's wife is just as likely to call him Benjamin as Benjy. In the early flirting stages of an acquaintance, though, formal is the way to go. It's respectful, admiring and a bit mysterious, rather than presumptuous.