namesakes and tradition

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Is It My Name – Or My Dad’s?

I'm considering giving our baby, due this spring, my maiden name as his first name. The problem is that my dad is not a very nice person (that may be an understatement). Our family and close friends know this. The rest of the family that bears the name is great, as is the name itself. But if we give it to our baby, will people think I'm honoring my dad? Or me and my family in general?
--Not Daddy’s Girl

 

Your maiden name is just that—your name. Sure, your father wears it too, and always will. But you have an equal claim to it and, as you noted, so do many other loved ones. While giving your son Dad's first name would be a personal tribute, his last name belongs to the whole family.

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Do Two Half-Names Make a Whole?

My great-grandma was named Henrietta. I think it's a beautiful name, but not quite up with the 21st century. If we have a girl, we would like to name her Henri Etta. The few people I told think Henri as a girl's name is atrocious. What do you think?
-21st Century Mom

Henrietta is certainly an old-time name. But if this is your first child, you might not realize how many babies are now crawling around with names once considered hopelessly outdated. Amelia is at its all-time peak, and even names like Matilda and Hazel – 19th-century favorites which had dropped off the popularity charts completely -- are climbing. Henrietta experienced almost exactly the same rise and fall, but no triumphant return (yet!). That may just mean that she’s ripe for a comeback, and your little girl could help make the name fresh again.

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We're Fresh Out of Family Names!

Our son's first name is my maiden name, and his middle name is my husband's first name. Should we try to come up with another name with family connections for baby #2? There aren't really any other family names that I like, but just coming up with random names without any family significance doesn’t seem fair. Any suggestions?
- Out of Namesakes

I like the way you're thinking. As anyone with a brother or sister knows, fairness is king in sibling relationships. Since big brother has such meaningful names in both the first and middle slots, it's thoughtful to consider family connections as you choose a name for your next baby.

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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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I Don't Like His Family Tradition!

My partner's family has a name tradition for first-born sons that means a lot to him. I've made it clear that I am not a fan of the tradition (because I don't much like the name and because I don't like being told what I'll name my child!). Both of us feel strongly about this. How can we resolve this? - Ms. M

Ms. M, welcome to the no-compromise zone. This is the territory where all of our normal baby name decision-making techniques -- brainstorming, list making, discussion, compromise -- go out the window. In here, it's all or nothing.

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But This Name Means So Much To Me!

My best friend died in a car crash when we were teenagers, and I vowed I would name my daughter Jamie Julie after her. A few years after that I found out that I couldn't have children. Now I'm pregnant, and it's a miracle! I just found out that I'm having a son. I was thinking of naming him Jamie Julian, but my husband thinks Jamie is "just a girls name". How can I convince him how much this name means to me and that Jamie is not "just a girls name"? - Best Friend

Dear Best Friend,

It's clear to me how much your naming vow means to you. Naming a child after someone who was important to you is one of the most heartfelt ways to honor that person's memory. The fact that your pregnancy is a wonderful miracle must add to your feeling of obligation to that long-ago vow. You've made your feelings movingly clear to me...so I have to assume you've communicated them just as effectively to your husband. "Convincing him how much the name means" to you, then, is probably not the real issue.

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Should I Bend Like Beckham?

My husband and I have decided on the name Harper for our baby girl. He was not 100% in love with it, but didn't have suggestions for alternatives and agreed to "just go with it." Middle name time. He wants the middle name to be Gene after his grandfather. I hate it, but our first daughter has my grandmother's middle name, so I get the sentiment. Any workaround here or should I "just go with it"? - Compromising Mom

My, what a timely question. Just this week Victoria "Posh" Beckham and soccer star David Beckham announced the birth of a daughter named Harper with an unconventional, androgynous middle name. Ms. Beckham has talked about liking little girls to look "girly," yet her new daughter is Harper Seven Beckham -- the Seven echoing her husband's longtime jersey number.

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What if I choose ALL the names?

We want to honor both sides of the family with our daughter's name. I came up with the name Sue Mae (my side) Rose Marie (his side). Sue Mae Rose Marie. Is that too long? I love the name, but everyone else hates it. In my heart I just want to honor our Grandmothers. Nothing else felt right. How else can you make Susie Mae and Rose Marie chic and /or current? Help! - Loyal Granddaughter

Many parents try to honor multiple relatives with a single name. In the past, I've given my blessing to various creative approaches to the problem. But I'm afraid your friends’ and family’s instincts are right: Sue Mae Rose Marie is just too much.

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No, He's NOT Named For His Uncle!

I want to name my son Christopher. My boyfriend's brother's name is also Christopher. I don't want people to think he is named after my future brother-in-law. What do I tell people who assume that, and what do I tell my child? - Cuppy-cake

Cuppy-cake, close your eyes for a moment and…well no, you're reading, so keep your eyes open but imagine this scene as vividly as you can:

Your friend "Stephanie" has just become a grandmother. Her son and daughter-in-law have a brand new baby girl. You attend the christening, and learn that the little girl, too, has been named Stephanie. "Oh, how sweet," you remark to the new mom. "You named her after her grandma!"

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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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