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Can bad initials sink my baby's name?

I am pregnant with my fourth child. My previous three children have names beginning with, in order, T, B and A. My favorite names for this baby are Gerard if a boy and Genevieve if a girl, but my husband says that the kids' initials taken together will spell something that has a negative slang meaning. I didn't even know about this slang until he mentioned it, but what do you think? Does it matter what the kids' initials spell when taken together? - TBA mom

Many a fine baby name plan has run aground on rocky initials. I've heard from lots of anxious parents fretting over the wisdom of names like Emily Zinn and Andrew Stephen Summers. Your full-family question, though, is a first. Before we start digging for every possible baby name acronym, anagram and inversion (Lana?), it's time to set some limits on how much we let letterplay rule our naming decisions.

I say a single first-last pair of initials shouldn't sink a name you love. Even in the toughest cases (say, Fred Upton), a middle initial can soften the sting and leave you with a faultless monogram. So go ahead and name your daughter Emily Grace Zinn with confidence.

When the full monogram is unprintable, though, you may want to think twice. A glaringly bad trio of initials can be a small, lifelong thorn in the side. In the case of Andy Summers, you might as well not even give him the middle name -- he's going to avoid using it at all costs.

As for the initials of four kids as a group, you have my permission to ignore that factor altogether. Think of it this way: when you meet a large family, do you ever stop to work out the kids' initials in age order and see what they spell? And for that matter, did your husband ever complain that his first three kids spelled "To Be Announced," as if he hadn't named them at all?

So your husband's objection is a stretch, especially with such an obscure bit of spelling. That's the good news. The bad news is that he felt the need to stretch for objections to Gerard and Genevieve at all. To me, that says that he simply doesn't like your favorite names. Be prepared to find alternatives, problem initials or not.


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February 15, 2010 10:41 PM
By kc_hardt (not verified)

I have to agree with the answer given. I've been a part of my siblings lives for 32+ years and have never even thought to put all our initials together and see if they spell anything. If I haven't thought of it, what are the odds someone else is going to do all that work. For that matter where does it end, do you have to consider your parents initials or maybe middle initials. I also, agree with the fact that your husband probably doesn't like the names you have chosen. I mean how many guys figure out initial groupings like that unless they are really thinking about it & looking for something negative.

February 17, 2010 12:25 PM
By TBA mom (not verified)

I am the "TBA" mom who sent the original question... Thanks for this reply! It does help me think things through from here. I asked my husband, and he said that it's true that he isn't especially fond of "Genevieve," but he does really like "Gerard." That is good to know explicitly. Also, he was in the military for a while and he said that the particular slang term the initials would spell was a big problem and the action would be used as a serious insult, that's why he noticed. So it was good that we talked about it more, thanks for prompting me to bring it up to him directly. I guess I need to start thinking of new girl names at least :) I do think "Genevieve" is pretty, but oh well.

February 17, 2010 12:40 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know someone from my hometown who knew she wanted to have six kids and chose their first names - as they came along - to spell HARLEY. Amazingly it worked out for her that she was able to have six and follow this (IMO) odd plan. But I've never heard of anyone else even thinking about the initial combination of their kids' names.

February 17, 2010 12:53 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It may not be the first thought, and certainly not a big enough deal to not go with a favorite pick. But it may come up, I have cousins that we simplify to RED when talking/writing about all 3 of them; and a sister who is looking forward to having a girl to use her siblings initials in order for the name JEMA.

February 17, 2010 1:27 PM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

If you take the first initials of the females in my family (me, sisters, and mom) and put them in age order, you get SMEAR. The youngest was, I don't know, 12 before we figured this out. It's never mattered in the least or bothered us the tiniest bit-- we think it's kind of cool that we all come together to spell a word! Maybe it's not the most awesome word ever, but oh well. :)

February 17, 2010 1:56 PM
By Caitlyn (not verified)

hmmm....well, ours all begin with consonants, so I doubt they spell anything - but this is certainly the first time I've thought to check

I had a friend in college who went by Echo - her name was Eleanor, but her initials were ECO, so she used Echo. It fit her much better than Eleanor :)

February 17, 2010 2:18 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

SERIOUSLY!? No one is going to put together the initials of your children. They'll look at the initials of each individual child. But I've NEVER heard of someone looking at how sibling initials line up. I say go for Gerard or Genevieve.

February 17, 2010 2:37 PM
By Valerie (not verified)

I don't know if I'm strange, but I would avoid those initials at all costs. Just think about the number of times your kids' names will be listed, like when they're written on Christmas cards, when people are remembering the kids' names in order, etc.
If I read a list like "Tabitha, Brady, Alice and Gerard," it might take me a few passes to notice the initials, but once I saw them, that's all I'd ever be able to think of.

I personally think the slang term is pretty common knowledge. (Although I guess not everyone is aware of it, because of those Republican "tea party" meetings last year where they used that exact same word to describe themselves. That showed an amusing lack of awareness, imo.)

Good luck, hope my comment wasn't too depressing!

February 17, 2010 2:44 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

While it isn't an every-day occurrence for kids' initials to be put together, it does happen. Before my youngest sister's bith, my dad named his business after my younger sister and I using our first initials. When simplifying in letters, or gift tags, initials are used.

Now a part of a military family, I recognized the issue with "TBAG" before I read past "Genevieve." While it isn't likely that anyone outside of the family or circle of friends will put the initials together, I can't say it would be unlikely, and the chance alone would make me uncertain of making that particular slang term a permanent part of the family.

February 17, 2010 3:30 PM
By Danielle (not verified)

I have three sisters. I order, we don't spell anything (DJRA), but our parents bought a small boat a couple years ago and wanted to name the boat after us somehow. We ended up mixing up our first initials to use JRAD. Doesn't really mean anything, just ordered so we can pronounce it. We had never thought about our initials together before that though.

It seems that, from what everyone has said, it is not everyday that anyone thinks about total sibling initials, but an occasion can come up. I suppose whether or not it can be overlooked depends on the word and the family.

February 17, 2010 3:31 PM
By Jen (not verified)

I think some people are honed into that kind of thing, others are not. When we had our daughter, I was sold on Claire. For most of the pregnancy and up until her birth she was Claire. Then she was born and just wasn't a Claire. I said, "She looks like an 'M' name" -- after three days, she got one! 18 months later I find myself pregnant with our son and realize (for the first time) our initials, me first, then hband, then daughter, spell J K M -- so of course our boy had to have an L name, right? Well, it just seemed to fit, and now we are J K L M -- I use that for our return address on our cards and in our moving announcement, etc. And -- but of course -- she we ever have a third, the name will begin with an I or an N. I think it just gives a sense of unity.

February 17, 2010 3:54 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Wow, it's great to get different opinions on this, because clearly how one person thinks can be dramatically different to how another person thinks.
A friend of mine recently stopped her friend naming her son Anu (Babylonian god of the sky/heavens/stars) after she pointed out that with a surname beginning with S, it could lead to possible problems in the future. She only noticed this because at her work, all email addresses are your first name and then the first letter of your surname. The poor parents who loved the name Anu hadn't even thought of this or other similar possibilities, even after months of considering the name! Just goes to show, sometimes it's a good idea to get a second (or third and fourth!) opinion! Sure, maybe only one or 2 people are going to notice these things, but it could lead to a whole lifetime of teasing for your child once someone does point it out. If you do decide to go with it anyway, then at least you're doing it with awareness and won't get any nasty surprises later!

February 17, 2010 4:05 PM
By Amanda (not verified)

They're only going to think of the initials together if you write them together most likely. For instance, my brother, sister and I were known as the ABC's because that's how my parents signed their christmas cards... Eddie Cathey and the ABC's... made for a cute holiday stamp, but TBAG obviously isn't one you'd wanna use like that ;) hehe

February 17, 2010 10:26 PM
By Charly (not verified)

My sibs and I are CGI--coming to a theater near you. ;)

February 18, 2010 6:28 AM
By Not a T-bag (not verified)

I just wanted to clarify, as someone who has attended more than one Tea Party, that I've never heard anyone who is part of that movement use the name T-bagger to describe themselves, although some in the media like to use that term. And also, it's not just a Republican group. I'm not a Republican, and I know others who have attended who are not either.

But now that you've considered that possible connection with your siblings' names, I'd probably consider Genevieve as a middle name, unless you were already going to use a nickname that doesn't start with G. It doesn't matter whether anyone else sees it; you will.

February 18, 2010 10:06 AM
By Kristina (not verified)

My kids initials', in birth order, are CAE, so I guess if we wanted to play around with them, we could make them spell ACE. :) But I hadn't even thought about that until reading this article.
I really wouldn't worry about the initials spelling something negative. I would be a lot more concerned about an individual child's initials spelling something, as was dealt with in the original answer.

@Amanda: My kids go to school with a family of 4 kids, who in birth order, are ABCD. :)

February 18, 2010 10:43 AM
By JoyceJoann (not verified)

One thing I don't see mentioned often is that kids grow up, move away, get married. Only a small percentage of their lives are spent with their parents.

In 20 plus years, their initials will be paired with their spouse, kids... makes matching sibling names seem less important.

February 18, 2010 11:37 AM
By Camille (not verified)

Wow, never really thought of that...when I was about 11 I realised that the initials of the four people who live at my house (me-Camille, brothers-Andrew and Reuben, and dad-Paul) form PARC, and then if you switch it around, CARP or in reverse order (youngest-oldest) CRAP.
But I did not mind it in the least...and I am the only one who ever figured that out--probably just because I loved acronyms at that age.
My family's initials are CLH, RSH, ASH, and PSH. Not very interesting, though ASH sounds nice.

February 18, 2010 1:17 PM
By Jen (not verified)

Jen of JKLM here... further to the initial discussion, I also used my father's first name for my son's middle name, so his initials spell LRN. While considering a variety of names, and finally landing on an L name (filling in our J K __ M) - I ran all of the possibilities of his future initials -- and liked LRN the best - sounds like "learn" :)

But in all, some people notice the minutia, some do not. I also know that both my kids are a “6” in numerology based on their birth dates. Useless? Fun? Superstition? Who knows :) But I do like that we together spell a string of the alphabet (happenstantially, obviously he & I just so happen to have intials next to each other in the alphabet, and naming my daughter with an M left an unintentional gap for a later “L” which I didn't notice until I was pregnant with him) – anyway, based on some of the above comments (the family of ABC & ABCD), see I’m not alone in my quirkiness!

February 18, 2010 6:20 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Like another commenter above, my dad named his business after his kids' initials--JSD Communications. Easy enough to avoid, though, if you want.

February 19, 2010 5:11 PM
By Stephanie (not verified)

I grew up the only S among all the other grandchildren (including my brother) who were all E's. Further more all of their initials were EAR. I was SAR. So, I would think about initials. It just always made me feel like I was different from the rest of them, and I turned out to be very different in what I did, while they went along very similar paths. Nothing to get too worried about though. But if your kids think about that kind of stuff (as I did) it could potentially affect them in some way they don't realize for many years.

February 22, 2010 1:35 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Gerard and Genevieve are both gorgeous, and your husband is overthinking it. My siblings and I are BRAS (or BARS, if rearranged) and no one, not a single person, has ever said anything about it. I do have to disagree with the writer's opinion on first-last name initials. I would consider it cruel and unusual to give a child the initials FU or EZ. People are going to notice that-- plus, I have to initial things 100 times a day at work. Is it really reasonable to make him/her write FPU or EGZ to avoid that? It's my hill to die on, I guess.

April 5, 2010 12:49 AM
By Serena Griffin (not verified)

Even if someone were to put that together, what would be the result? a chuckle? a mention to you and your husband what the initials spell? What harm is in that? I understand the military slang aspect, but really...

All I can think if someone brought that up to me is "wow, you put a lot of thought in to that."

or "hum, never thought it would be an issue. since all our children are individuals"

April 21, 2010 1:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think people will look at the initials. It is certainly something we do in my family. My brother, and I all get called by our first initial by our dad. So when he is calling all of us for something, the initials were said together. A word forming out of them is not an issue because they are all consonants, but it is definitely something I thought about when I was younger if there had been another sibling or something. I think you should reconsider Gerard. If his kids initials combined make your husband uncomfortable, you may want to rethink them.

July 9, 2010 10:15 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

In my family, our initials do get used. Sometimes when people are writing cards, referring to us in emails, addressing presents, etc. they will just abbreviate and say K&D (which doesn't spell anything). So, our initials do get used, and someone might notice in your family.

January 8, 2011 9:39 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

seems like the fact that the father thought of putting the initials together means that they should avoid names that start with G ... if he hadn't thought of it, then it wouldn't matter. if the mom pushes for the G name anyway, then it seems like she's not taking her husband's concerns into consideration.

but i definitely agree that if you give your child a set of initials that spell out something embarrassing, then they will never be able to have anything monogrammed -- which may not matter if you're not the type to monogram things -- and will likely avoid telling anyone their middle name (which usually creates the offending 3-letter combo). that's what happened to my cousin whose initials before she got married were PMS ... nobody really knows her middle name!

and if it's the first and last that offends (EZ or FU) then, like Felix Unger, you best better prepare them to have a stiff upper lip, or a stiff upper cut!

May 3, 2011 8:27 AM
By disability lawyers (not verified)

I guess I need to start thinking of new girl names at least :) I do think "Genevieve" is pretty, but oh well.

May 4, 2011 3:34 AM
By Bryce (not verified)

it's time to set some limits on how much we let letterplay rule our naming decisions.

May 4, 2011 4:43 AM
By Bryce (not verified)

suppose whether or not it can be overlooked depends on the word and the family.

August 19, 2011 9:49 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Our family initials spell out "bake" with my husbands name in it and "cake" with my name it. :)

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