namesakes and tradition

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Is It Too Late For a Junior?

Is it acceptable to name our third boy after his father? Would he be a junior? Or would his older, non-junior siblings make him something else?

- Junior Perplexed

This question only sounds complicated. The answer is actually quite simple: Yes, your third son will be a "junior" if you give him his father's exact name. Any son named after his father is considered a junior, regardless of the order in which he appeared in his family.

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Is This One Rhyme Too Many?

I'm thinking of naming my daughter Lucinda. But the more I think about it, the more I'm starting to worry because my name is Belinda and my Mum's name is Linda! At first I didn't mind the connection, though I was certainly not looking for it; I just liked the name. Is it all a bit too weird?

- Rhyming Mum

Carrying a rhyme across three generations is a first in my experience, but that doesn't necessarily make it "too weird." In fact, if all three of you embrace it, it could be a unique family tradition: a rhyming version of namesakes.

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We Don't Want an Homage!

Oh no! My husband and I have already decided on the name we want to give our second son. It’s a three-part name (two middle), all family names that are important to us. I just discovered today that a trending author has that exact name—all three names, and in the same order.

I dislike the author's works and don't want people to think we are naming our baby after this author. Is there any hope? I'm not a fan of switching the middle names, but might if it would create enough of a distance. Any advice?

- Not a fantasy nerd.

The "accidental namesake" is a slippery naming dilemma. The strength of the pseudo-homage depends on the particulars of the name, and on the celebrity's place in our culture. Not knowing the exact name you're grappling with, here are some general guidelines:

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Can We Honor the Man Without Using His Name?

Suppose you love or admire someone very much, and would love to give him/her a namesake ... except that you can't STAND this person's name! My husband and I love Pope Francis but don't like the name Francis, and as we are not of the proper ethnicity we don't feel comfortable naming our son "Francisco" or "Franz" or some other variation. We would love advice on this name in particular and this problem in general.

--Not a Francis Fan

You've run into a classic problem of modern baby naming: when your heart and your fashion sense point in opposite directions. Many parents have run into this with a beloved Grandpa Herbert or Grandma Bernice, but Pope Francis has made his chosen name (the 2013 Name of the Year) one of the most debated in the land.

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Am I Still a Junior?

I have always been a junior. My father just remarried and changed his surname to hyphenate it with the name of his new wife. I'm curious: does this at all affect my being a Junior?
- Junior without a Senior

Juniors, 3rds and beyond are all about tradition. That makes them the most rule-bound corner of the baby name world, a place where a George W. Bush is decidedly not "George H. W. Bush Jr." 

Most of the namesake rules are throwbacks to an old patriarchal social order. So not surprisingly, these old rules have little to say about your very modern family naming dilemma. The good news is that even in the hidebound world of namesakes, "rules" are trumped by the dictates of love, kindness and common sense. 

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Am I a Diva Mom?

My husband and I are expecting our second child, a girl. We are considering giving her my middle name as her middle name, mostly because it sounds good with the first name we have chosen for her. We gave our son my surname as his middle name. Is it too narcissistic to name both children after myself? Both names are very unique and it's obvious that they are mine.
- Making it All About Me?

In naming, the lines between family traditions and narcissism can get a little blurry.  Some people think naming a son Junior is unforgivably egotistical, others that it’s classic and charmingly old-fashioned. But until we cross over into George Foreman territory (five sons named George!), it’s pretty clear that differences of opinion on family names are just that—opinions. Everyone’s entitled to one, no one is objectively right.

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Which Twin Gets the Family Name?

I have a pair of three-day-old boys with no names! Before they were born, we planned to call them Calder Blayz and Dexter James. It's the tradition in my fiancé’s family that the firstborn son of the firstborn son be named some form of Blaise. But now we don't know which baby should get which name. I really think our firstborn looks like a Dexter. The Blaise tradition is a big deal to my fiancé's family. Do we just name the boys how we originally planned and hope they grow into the names (this is what his family wants us to do) or do we switch them (like we want to) and hope the family gets over it?
--Who’s On First?

I see a couple of solutions to your dilemma. A simple way out would be to switch the babies’ first names only. The "firstborn" would be Dexter Blayz, and his brother would be Calder James. Everyone wins: the tradition is upheld, and the boys’ first names match with your sense of each one’s look and personality.

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Can "Junior" Skip Generations?

My grandfather is named Charles Albert Jr. My father is John Louis, I am John Ryan, but I want to name my son Charles Albert after his still-living great-grandfather. Can I call him Charles Albert III? Can it skip generations?
- Not a Junior

Assuming your son is not heir to a royal throne, his name will not be Charles Albert III but simply Charles Albert. Unlike monarchs, we common folk don't keep historical score with suffixes. We use them solely in the case of unbroken lines of namesakes, father to son.

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How Do You Spell James?

My grandfather James recently died. I want to honor him by naming my daughter after him, but I want to make James look more feminine as her first name will be Jacquelynn. "Gyames" is how I would like to spell James, but I'm worried that people are going to screw up my baby's name.
- Creative Namesaker

Your heart is in the right place: you want to do right by both your grandfather and your new daughter. But your effort is making a straightforward homage more complicated than it has to be. If you want a middle name that will honor Grandpa James, look good with the first name Jacquelynn, and be spelled and pronounced correctly, the answer is simple: James.

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Do I Have a Middle Name?

My dad's name is Joe Peter Smith. My birth certificate says Joe Smith, Jr. DO I have a middle name?
- Just Joe

Joe, your question is a deep and mysterious one. The Jr. after your name implies that you are your father's exact namesake, and he had a middle name. Thus you must have a middle name. Yet your birth certificate bears no middle name, so you must not have a middle name. It's a veritable koan, the baby-naming equivalent of "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

Do you have a middle name? I've meditated at length on this naming paradox, and I have made peace with an answer. The answer is:

Nope.

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