namesakes and tradition

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Does My Baby Need Her Own Special Name?

I've had a first name chosen for a girl for years: Elliana. I'm struggling with her middle name. My mom's name is Kathryn, and I would like to honor her. Should I go with Elliana Kathryn? Or use Elliana Kate as a way to honor my mom, but still give my baby her "own" name?

–Like Mother, Like Daughter

It seems to me that your baby would already have her own name: Elliana. But let's look at the question of what constitutes an homage: What's the best way to honor your mom in her granddaughter's name? Generally, the standard is: Will the honoree (or if she is deceased, the people who loved and remember her) feel suitably honored by the name you choose?

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This Old Family Name Is Too Old!

My husband's name is Charlie, and he is named after his father, whose name is also Charlie. I am now 6 months pregnant with a boy. My husband wants to continue the tradition and name our son Charlie, but I think the name is too old. What do I do?

–Not Sure If III Is the Charm

First, let's talk about whether Charlie is "too old." It’s true the name has been around forever, but Charlie—and Charles—are perennial classics, not so-retro-they're-out style duds. But of course, "old" is in the eye of the beholder, and the point is, you don't care for Charlie—at least for your baby.

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It's My Family Tradition vs. My Wife's Wishes!

Everyone in my family has a name that starts with M. My wife is pregnant with our first child. It's important to my family to carry on the tradition of the M names, but my wife isn't too crazy about it. What should I do?

–Maleke

We don't always get the perspective of the guy caught in the middle of this kind of naming dilemma, so thanks for writing in. What you didn't mention, though, is how you feel about the M-name tradition. Do you want to continue it, or are you ready to move on?

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Are These Twin Names Too Much Alike?

My husband and I view family namesakes as very important. Grandmothers Ellen and Norma made Eleanor an easy choice for our first daughter, with my husband's late sister filling in the middle name. I'm now expecting twin boys, and I could so easily name them after our fathers. My dad is Eli and my father-in-law is Sylvester; he goes by Sy or Syl.

Early on, I said we'd name the boys Silas and Elias and that was that. Then I got told by several people they were too similar. While they certainly are, I don't know if they rise to the level of "matchy" the way Iris and Lily or Holden and Hayden would—and they are named after their grandfathers! Am I wrong here? Should I pick new names? For the record, the grandfathers both approve.

–Twin Trap

I often hear from worried parents-to-be about matchy twin names. While sibling pairings are frequently a concern too, having twins seems to up the ante (and the stress level) even more. As in many of these cases, your pair is borderline: Some observers will call it way too much of a match, while others will see no issue at all.

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The Trouble with Two First Names

I want to give my son two first names, James Michael. Both names are significant because they are the names of my fiancé's and my older brothers that have both passed away. So we think it's sweet to name our son after our brothers. I was just wondering how two first names work. Do I need a middle name as well or can you drop a middle name all together?

–It Takes Two

The Name Lady sees a lot of confusion about Juniors, and that's with a fairly well established tradition to follow. When it comes to the double first name, the waters are even murkier, especially for boys. The good news is that almost anything goes. The bad news is that, well, almost anything goes, so how are you supposed to decide?

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Can I Go Back on a Namesake Promise?

My husband and I are expecting our first child. If we have a girl, we had planned on giving her my grandmother's name as a second middle name. My grandmother was always there for me while I was growing up. Recently, though, my grandmother has been treating my mother (her daughter) badly and saying cruel things about her. I don't think I could use the name of someone who acts like that. But I already told my grandmother we were thinking of giving a daughter her name as a middle name. Would it be rude of me to back out?

–Having Second Thoughts

You're in a tough situation, and I sympathize. You made a namesake plan at a time when you wanted to honor the grandmother who meant a lot to you. Now that circumstances are different, can you renege on this offer? That could cause a further rift between you and your grandmother (and maybe make things worse for your mom too). And yet sticking with your plan feels wrong too, since a namesake is meant to pay tribute to someone you love and admire—not resent.

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Why Doesn’t Anyone Want This Name?

My dad died when I was young. He was the most amazing person I have ever known. He went by Herb or Herbie, which was his middle name. I'm pregnant and want to name my baby after my dad. We like Phoenix Herbert for a boy and Phoenix Herbie or Herby for a girl. I have several nieces and nephews but none are named after my dad. Is there a reason? Do you think it's weird to use that name? Should we choose something else?

– Audrey

Audrey, I'm so sorry for your loss. It would be lovely—not weird—for you to use your father's name as a middle name for his grandchild. Honoring a grandparent with a namesake is a time-honored tradition and a sweet remembrance of someone you love and miss.

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Should I Be Traditional or Trail-Blazing?

Is it too cliché to name a baby with dad's initials when all his children from previous relationships have been named that way? Should I stick with the tradition, or blaze a new trail?

--Angel

A tradition can be a beautiful way to bind a family together. Or it can be a constricting tie, one that brings more conflict than comfort. The real question here isn't about whether this tradition is a cliché. It's whether this tradition helps cement a bond—or tries too hard to establish one that isn't really there.

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To Junior, Or Not to Junior?

My wonderful husband has apparently wanted a Junior his entire life. Although I respect his passion, I have been completely against naming a child Junior my entire life. We currently have compromised with deciding to name our baby when we meet him (12 weeks away). I have a name, and my husband has Junior. He's not crazy about the name I've chosen. So basically, one of us will be unhappy with the name that's picked. Advice, please?

- Nameless for Now

You are in a tough spot, aren't you? You say you've compromised, but what you've really done is put off your decision—and you've rescheduled it for a time when you'll be under more pressure to make a choice, and have far less energy to think rationally. The time to solve this quandary is now.

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Will This Nickname Do?

I'm wondering if you've ever heard a junior nicknamed "Dos." It refers to the number two in Spanish.

--Mami-to-Be

I haven't heard of it, but it's a timely update on tradition that could certainly work. After all, there are Juniors called Deuce for "second" and Thirds called Trey and Trip. That style of nickname can help distinguish father and son better than "Big Tim" and "Little Tim" -- and they're often more stylish than traditional nicknames, too.

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