namesakes and tradition

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Should the Child Who Inherited My Name Inherit Everything Else?

Each of my grandchildren have been given a family name for their middle names, two from the mother's family and two from the father's side. One of the children's middle name is my maiden name, which will not be continued other than with this child. Is it proper for me to leave this child, and only this child, with family property from that family? I can leave other equally valuable items for the other children, but they will not be of ancestorial value. - Grandmother

Names are my profession, and my obsession. So when I say this, I don't say it lightly: you're placing much too much importance on the children's names.

When your kids named their babies, they showed that family history and traditions were important to them. They spread around the family connections to be even-handed, not to divide up the territory! It would be a shame for a mere middle name to put distance between you and three of your grandchildren -- or between three siblings and the fourth.

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Can I Honor A Male Relative With a Female Namesake?

My brother, Jacob, passed away in October. I was wondering if it would be okay to give a girl the name Jacob as a middle name, since I do not like the female versions of the name Jacob? - Remembering Jacob

I’m sorry for your loss. It sounds like you and your brother were close, and that having a child to carry on his name and his memory would be deeply meaningful for you.

I can understand why you'd be nervous about the middle name Jacob for a girl, though. Cross-gender names can be confusing and even controversial. (Ask any mom who named her son Ashley in the ‘70s what she thinks of girls taking over boys names.) And Jacob isn't even a common androgynous choice like Cameron or Peyton. Jacob is America's #1 boy's name, firmly in the snips-snails-puppy-dog-tails camp.

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Does the Dog Have Dibs on My Grandma's Name?

My grandmother's name was Annabelle, and I was very close to her and would love to pay tribute with my daughter's name. Recently, my friends got a puppy and named her Bella, when I mentioned it, people have asked why I would want the same name for my baby as a dog. Is there a way to address this in a day when people are taking dog names from baby books?! - Bella Lover

If a dog steals your grandma's name, you have the right to steal the dog's name, don't you think? Fair is fair.

Seriously, there's a pecking order when it comes to names being "taken," and the number one spot is occupied by parents honoring someone who was important in their lives. In fact, you could name your baby after your beloved grandmother even if the other Bella were your friend's daughter, not her puppy.

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We Know the Middle Name, Now What?

If my husband and I have a girl, we'd like to give her a middle name after my mother, Nancy. We're having trouble finding first names that sound good with Nancy. Any advice? -Anagogic

Indeed, I do have advice. You're doing this backwards.

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How many names is too many?

I really want to name our soon-to-be daughter after my grandmother or my husband's grandmother. But my husband is not a fan of either name. We finally agreed to go with Lyla, using both of their names as middle names. Is Lyla Clara Melanie too much for a little girl? People keep telling me to just pick one but i'd hate to hurt either side of the family. - Name Pleaser


You're not alone in wanting your baby's name to do double duty. Lot of parents today want to honor two (or even three or four) relatives with a single name. That's inevitable in this era of smaller families. When you have just one or two grandkids to carry on the traditions of two whole families, those kids' names have to do a lot of heavy lifting.

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What do you get when you cross George with Edward?

We would like to use our grandfathers' names -- George and Edward -- to name our son but we don't want to call him either of those names. Can you come up with some combinations of those two names for another name to call him? - Loyal granddaughter

In the great baby name revolution, grandparents have been the biggest victims. Oh, we still love them, and we still want to honor them. But their names? That's another matter.

For centuries, the way to honor Grandpa George and Grandpa Edward was obvious. George Edward. Or Edward George, if you prefer. That's what a namesake is, right?

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