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My Mother Hates My Baby Name!

My husband and I love the name Agnes for our little girl. I made the huge mistake the other day telling my mother about "our" name and she made a big deal about how much she doesn't like it, and how my dad will "hate" it. I still love it. However, I have spent the last two days on the Internet trying to find alternatives. Nothing like the words from a mother to cause guilt and anxiety. Help! - C


When you choose a name that goes against the fashion tide, you can expect mixed reactions. How should you react to nasty comments? You can take them to heart and reconsider your name choice. You can ignore them and hold fast to your own opinion. Or you can try to understand where they come from, to prepare an effective response. Let's try to understand your mom's reaction to Agnes.

We like the names we like partly because of the associations they bring to mind. In your parents' baby naming days Heather and Melissa sounded like fresh, youthful names for girls. To you and your friends, those names sound more like moms than babies. The same thing happens at the other end of the age spectrum. We hear names from our grandparents' generation as dowdy because the people we know with those names are, well, old. (When was the last time you heard an expectant mom trying to choose between the names Norma and Doris?)

Meanwhile, our great-grandparents' names ring forth with a sweet freshness. Agnes has been out of fashion long enough that you may never have met anyone with the name. To you, it is association-free. The trick is that your great-grandparents are your mother's grandparents. To your mom, Agnes probably summons powerful associations of blue hair and dentures.

Because of these different associations, naming clashes are common. Keeping a controversial choce a secret is one way to avoid an assault on your favorite name. Introduce the name when you introduce the baby. Who can make nasty comments to the face of a loveable newborn babe?

Since you already have told them, and gotten an earful of their "true" feelings, try to make your peace with it. If you can get past your hurt and just accept your parents' generational viewpoint, they're likely to come around in time ... thanks to their new grandbaby. That adorable infant will give your parents a sparkling new generation of associations to make Agnes youthful again.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

January 20, 2010 10:40 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Agreed. My mom HATED my brother's babyname choice for his first daughter. She didn't say anything to his face, but instead told everyone else. Nice. But as soon as that little baby was born she forgot all about that and embraced the wee one with open arms. Names are just names. But the love a grandparent has for a new grandchild is the real deal.

January 20, 2010 12:01 PM
By M (not verified)

My grandmother hated my sister's name and never accepted it. She always called her a nickname. However, everyone in the modern world hears her name and says how it's beautiful and fits her so well. She is in her early 20s now. I

January 20, 2010 3:53 PM
By Sabrina (not verified)

my mother-in-law hated the "new & unusual" names that have become popular over the years. When my brother-in-law named his daughter Keylee she didn't leap for joy. Now she loves than name and says it suits her perfectly. Go figure. I'm sure your parents will associate Agnes with their grand baby and not the old lady that lived down their street in no time. Next time don't tell anyone the name until the baby is born. That's what we did.

January 20, 2010 5:36 PM
By Alicia (not verified)

She'll come around is my theory. My mother HATED the name we picked for ours (Clara) when we first told her. Apparently she knew a lot of cows named Clara? I dunno. But once she expressed her displeasure, she has pretty much moved on. She's just so happy about the baby, I think we could have named it anything. :D GL and hope she comes around

January 21, 2010 9:19 AM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

Then again, sometimes people hate a name because it's just plain hideous. I'm 25, and I've never known an Agnes-- but the sound of it is still so ugly to me that I literally don't know if I could call a child by it. I'd have to come up with a nickname. My point is that, while the Name Lady makes a very good, and undoubtedly accurate, argument about generation gaps and name taste, that's not the only explanation for why someone would dislike a name.

Still, I'm sure that once Icky Name is attached to Adorable Grandchild, it will become less of an issue.

January 21, 2010 8:12 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Wouldn't worry to much as there will be more Agnes(s) around that are under two so people will get used to it. The name is gaining momentum on name pages and the playground (as are Esmee, Gloria, Maude, Leo etc) names that folks formerly thought of as moldy and not so attractive are having a serious resurgence!

January 21, 2010 9:01 PM
By Agnes (not verified)

I'm an Agnes and I love it! It's a name that divides people - I can't tell you how many people have told me to my face that they hate my name and find it ugly and horrible. My new policy with baby names is not to tell anyone until the baby has arrived - but I learnt that the hard way. Keep it on your list and see how you feel about it when your daughter is born. Good luck!

January 22, 2010 12:52 PM
By Kerri (not verified)

There is a little boy named Clarence in my son's daycare. I tried hard not to laugh. These names are making a comeback!

January 25, 2010 2:58 PM
By Kellie (not verified)

Perhaps it's because my husband went to Texas A & M, but I love the name "Agnes", and I think that you should go with what you feel is right regardless of what your mom might think. She had her round with baby naming when you were born; now it's your turn.

Oh the other hand, I understand that heartbreak you feel when you tell your parents what you're naming your baby and they make a face, comment, ask you to spell it or keep saying it over and over as if it's something so unusual they can't imagine where your head was when you thought of it.

If you love the name, and love the idea of naming your child that, then you should follow your heart.

January 25, 2010 11:14 PM
By Christy (not verified)

While my Australian family and friends LOVE the name we chose for our daughter, Elsa, (named after a late grandparent Elizabeth, also reflecting a childhood love of the movie Born Free), the family of my Canadian husband hate it and make a big show of not being able to remember or pronounce it. All cards were sent to "Baby" and I have never heard one member of the family say her name correctly.

The other names of children in this family are: KrisDee, Keven, Kloe, Kaitlynn (one sibling set) and Joshua and Brogan (the other. Everyone loves these names and they are constantly brought up to us as beautiful children's names.

January 27, 2010 10:56 AM
By Adele's mommy (not verified)

Agnes is precious, and Aggie would be a cute nn. I was lucky to have supportive parents and in-laws when it came to baby naming, but hubby and I made it a policy not to reveal our choices until we considered them to be "final." In other words, we did not give our families a list of choices we were contemplating -- we just revealed the final choice when we were ready. One of my friends really wanted her family's approval and kept telling them the names she was considering, then the grandparents felt like they had veto power and kept nixing all of her favorite names. Bottom line - it is your kid and you have to choose what you think is best for her. This is only the first of many decisions you will have to make as a parent, and you just can't please everyone. (Just wait for all of the opinions you will get on breast vs bottle, sleep training, immunizations, etc, etc, etc )My own grandmother informed me that she hated my daughter's name Adele because she had known an Adele in school and never liked her. She said she would call my daughter my her middle name, but now 2 years later, her precious great-granddaughter Adele has eclipsed any negative associations with her name. I predict the same would be true with your little Agnes.

January 27, 2010 11:01 AM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

BTW- To Christy, I love Elsa. We considered this as a name if ever had a second daughter bc it was my husband's grandmother's name. So sorry your family does not like it, but I think it is a beautiful classic, and if she ever wants to sound less formal she can go by Ellie.Just curious, what is her middle name?

January 27, 2010 12:43 PM
By Amber (not verified)

To the mother of Elsa: I think it's a beautiful name. I have a colleague named Elsa, and she is a beautiful, intelligent woman.

January 27, 2010 11:20 PM
By Christy (not verified)

Thank you Elizabeth and Amber. Her middle name is Helen. I got a big collective roll of the eyes for that one too!

Helen is my mother's name and I always liked it! Helena too, but Elsa Helena is a bit much with the 'a'.

January 28, 2010 3:19 PM
By Paula (not verified)

About 10-15 years ago or so, a friend told me that her minister and his wife had named their new daughter Agnes Lucille, which pretty much shocked everybody, as both names then and now were/are considered "out of date." When I asked what they were calling their daughter, thinking Lucy would be the only possibility that would go over well, I was floored when the friend answered "Aggie Lou"! I thought of poor little Aggie Lou who would be going to school with Jennifer and Jessica and Caitlin and Nicole and Sarah and Rebecca and Elizabeth and Amber and so on. By now that Aggie Lou must be a teenager, and unless younger siblings have come along and tagged her "Sissy," I bet she hates her name with a passion! Baby name choices are up to the parents, of course, but I think the parents should keep in mind the child's likely feelings as he or she grows up. If the name the parents give the child is likely to bring on other kids making fun of him or her, the parents need to reconsider their choice.

Alicia, I have an Aunt Clara, who is 89 years old and was named after her grandmother. A few years ago I met a family at church who had a small daughter named Clara, and I loved being able to tell her that I have an Aunt Clara.

Christy, I have a distant cousin with a daughter named Sarah Helen, who by now is in her early teens, and I love the name!

As for the so-called "old lady" names making a comeback, Emma is one that comes to mind. Not so long ago, you never heard of a young person named Emma, but now it's a very popular name for baby girls!

January 29, 2010 12:21 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I for one love the old names but do feel that some of them need to die with the ancestor - I do genealogy and wanted to name our daughter a family name (but one that she wouldn't hate us for as she grew older) So out of all the names I chose Laura Jane for my fathers grandmother (it also covered his sister and Jane was a common name on my husband's side - so we covered all bases) Still had a few comments about not liking the name to which I replied "you named your children what you wanted and I get to do the same" end of argument. the only problem was at the time I named her for a gggrandmother there was a famous soap opera couple by the name of Luke and Laura so there ended up being a bunch of Laura's in her classes over the years but we knew our name wasn't a soap opera name.

Now our daughter, who btw, has gone through many nicknames, LJ, Luke (her father's nickname) and Hershel (her grandfather's name) among others, is planning on having a child and wants to name it for her great grandmother, Goldie and Kay for her husband's mother, she has had many people knock Goldie, but I to back to my original position - I got to chose her name and she get's to chose her child's name - unless it is something absolutely horrible leave it alone - most kids just accept a name when they hear it unless someone else makes something of it -

if you check names from around the turn of the 20th century they were either gems (Ruby, Pearl, Opal, Goldie, etc) or flowers (Rose, Daisy, Camellia, Iris, etc) so that's something to conider also

January 29, 2010 12:18 PM
By Charly (not verified)

I think the French Agnès (pronounced awn-yes) is much prettier than the English version.

January 31, 2010 1:54 AM
By Meg (not verified)

I am not a fan of Agnes, sorry, but when my parents told their relatives that I'd be a Meg, short for Margaret, they thought it was horrible and old fashioned, but as soon as I was born, they saw me and the name suited me well. Good Luck.

February 2, 2010 8:44 PM
By Liz (not verified)

We're naming our son (slated to be born next week!) Henry Reed, despite the fact that my mom has declared Henry to be musty, fusty and old-mannish. I keep telling her that the old classics are back in style (and emphasizing that the name has a long and distinguished history among British royals!), but she apparently hasn't seen too many little Henrys in her part of Southeast Texas. Though my cousin did name his newborn son Walter a few weeks ago, so she has encountered the trend...

I'm shrugging it off-- she'll get used to it! Now if I could only get my dad to stop referring to him as Hank. =)

February 3, 2010 1:27 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I always ask my mom about my name choices-she grew up with the name Robin when Rockin' Robin was a new hit song and she somehow always knows associations that kids will find that I never thought of. But, at the same time, I wouldn't completely change my mind unless she had a valid point. For example, my son's name is Xander. I wanted it to be Alexander, but she asked me if I liked the nickname Al, because it was a possibility that it would stick at some point...I hated the nn Al, so we shortened the name to Xander and everone loves that name, and I don't have to be worried about him telling me someday that he wants to be called AL. Sometimes, parents can have valid points on a name, but it's your child and you'll be saying their name ALOT so make sure you love it more than anyone else :)

February 4, 2010 12:36 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

To Christy - I think "Elsa" is a beautiful choice.

I'm not crazy about "Agnes", partly for euphonic reasons and partly because the story about the saint really makes me cringe. (I agree that the French version is prettier.) But I think that if "Agnes" is what you want, then you should go for it. She's your baby, not your mother's; like other people have said, your mother already got to name her babies. And anyway, "Agnes" is a classic. It's not like you want to name your daughter "Talula does the hula from Hawaii"!

February 4, 2010 8:32 PM
By Melina (not verified)

Agnes is gorgeous, I've always loved it! I'm sure everybody will love the name when they meet your little one, so don't worry, go with your heart, afterall, your mom already had a chance to pick the name when you were born ;)

February 5, 2010 12:50 PM
By Laughing Lady (not verified)

I can't believe some of the whacky names these people saddle their kids with. I can only wonder what they call their dogs?! Parents have one shot at choosing a name that will stay with a child from her birth certificate to her head stone. Girls want to be pretty. Boys and girls want to be popular. Your guideline should be to avoid names that are androgenous, unusual, odd, rhyme with body parts/functions, create initials that refer to somethinng unpleasant, or was never associated with a pretty/handsome or famous person.

February 5, 2010 1:25 PM
By dodger (not verified)

i went thru the same problem with my son i told the family it was my wife n my choice what we called our son
they had their chance to name their kids, you can,t please everyone all the time, i feel if your family can,t respect what you name your child do you want theim in the childs life,
it,s about the child not the parents and family members

February 6, 2010 9:37 PM
By Kara (not verified)

We actually didn't decide on my daughter's name until 10 minutes before she was born. Her name is traditional, but with slightly different spellings than the norm: Clare Elisabeth. Even then, both families made a BIG stink about the spelling.... I might as well have named her "Abeegayle." What can you do? :)

February 9, 2010 11:57 AM
By Diana (not verified)

I have a friend named Annis, which is the Scandanavian form of Agnes. I always thought it was a very beautiful name. It's pronounced like the spice Anise.

February 9, 2010 9:34 PM
By Melanie (not verified)

I think that there's a difference in Not My Style and Terrible Baby Name. Agnes is NMS. Elsa is NMS. Okay. So what? It's your baby!

But its not like you're wanting to name the child something crude or horrendous. Or with an awful misspelling - I knew a kid once named Micheal, and he hated that his mother misspelled Michael on his birth certificate. I think he had it changed when he turned 18.

February 12, 2010 9:30 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Well said! It's definitely a generational thing. I love "Augustus" - but my mother absolutely hates it. She can't imagine a baby with that name, though all my friends in my generation all seem to like it.

When you ask your parents' generation about what the popular baby names are, they are likely to give you names from your generation, not the current one. Unless you look at the stats, you wouldn't know. I mean, the name "Nevaeh" is three times more popular than "Mary" right now! Who would have imagined?

February 16, 2010 3:17 PM
By BR (not verified)

If you love the name Agnes then name her Agnes!!!! It's simple really. She will be your daughter and you have the privilege of naming her. I'm sure your parents named you whatever they wanted so they have already been there and done that. Don't let them choose your baby's name as well. Trust me... the family will get over it soon as she comes and will love her for who she is. I'm from Eastern Europe and we moved to the States in 95 so my parent's are still very traditional. My husband is from here and we decided on a name people will be able to pronounce... Our daughter is Ava Elizabeth. We both liked Ava and Elizabeth came from my grandmothers name Elizabeta. Our son is due in June and we had his named picked out when I was pregnant with our daughter. We both fell in love with Miles and his middle name Christopher comes from my country's traditional spelling Kristofer. My point is my parent's would have liked traditional names for my children (Mine is Bojana, my sister is Tamara, and brother is Ognjen)... see what I mean? On the other hand my husband's father is insisting that we name our son David after him and we both truly dislike that name. We are sticking to our guns and what will be will be. It doesn't mean that the kids are or will be loved any less.

February 17, 2010 12:47 PM
By Blakelyn (not verified)

I know of 2 different pronunciations of Agnes - the American, which is probably what people associate with older generations, and the French (ahn-yay). I absolutely LOVE the French pronunciation!

I agree the best route to go is to keep the baby's name a secret, not only because people won't be able to give their unsolicited opinions, but also so the name doesn't get stolen before baby arrives.

February 17, 2010 10:36 PM
By kc_hardt (not verified)

I agree with one poster that Agnes is NMS, but that's just personal. The one thing I would suggest is that you do a little detective work and make sure that your mom's reasons for disliking the name are as simple as a generational gap. You'd hate to find out later that Agnes is the name of the floozy that almost broke up your great grandparents relationship (just an example!) and that your mom hates it because it is a truly painful memory. In a case like that you might want to at least consider the possibility of abandoning the name. But baring something truly awful like that, name away. It's your turn and chance to gift your child with a name her parents love and obviously chose carefully and with a loving heart.

February 20, 2010 12:45 PM
By Kristin (not verified)

My mom says her grandmother hated the name 'Kristin' because people would call me 'Kris' and then people would think i'm a guy. But they never did.. I've never been a 'Kris', only a 'Krissy', 'Kitten', and a 'Kissy'. I would love to be a 'Kris!

February 22, 2010 10:14 PM
By Liz (not verified)

I highly doubt anyone will make fun of a child named Agnes. In fact, she'll probably be happy with a name that is unusual, because she will not be one of many, like the Emily's, Sarah's, Michael's, and Alex's are now.

I would agree with Laughing Lady on the rules of what to name your child, in order to protect them later in life. I would like to add that parents should not name their child an extremely popular name. I have grown up with so many Liz's and Lizzie's that I feel as if I am just one "another Liz," and not as unique as someone with a less popular name.

January 8, 2011 9:46 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

If she doesn't like Agnes, maybe point out worse names that you could have chosen instead?

I have some grandmothers and great-grandmothers who had 3 or 4 middle names, and some of them were pretty bad. If my mom doesn't like the name I ultimately pick, I might smugly ask, "What, would you prefer I call her? Gertrude Dorothy Agapita?" Might help put things into perspective...

March 29, 2011 7:53 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My mum hated my daughter's name (Nora), but after she was born and we refused to change our choice, she became reconciled to it. I figured that she had her chance to name a baby girl (me), and did so with uninspiring banality (Jennifer in 1980). This time it was my turn. This child is yours and ought to have a name that you love to say.

May 5, 2012 3:32 AM
By Jeremy Scott Adidas (not verified)

Thank you for putting into words what I have been feeling.

February 12, 2013 3:47 AM
By mm xbfksdf (not verified)

my dad hates most names

November 29, 2014 10:43 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My problem with Agnes is less about its age associations (I find many classic names beautiful) than its harsh and unappealing sound. It starts with the short A, a nasal vowel arguably the ugliest one in the Enhglish language, followed by the awkward and unattractive consonant pairing "gn." Taken all together, first syllable of this name sounds like a stifled sneeze. There's nothing melodious and beautiful nor strong about this name, to hear or speak it. Agnes is a milquetoast.

April 22, 2017 4:04 PM
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