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Her Baby Name Sounds Like a Bad Joke

An acquaintance who's due in two months just announced her choice for her baby's name. I immediately noticed the potential for a pun in the name, but I don't think she realizes it's there. Should we tell her, so at least she is aware and makes her choice with all the information, or should we just let it go since she has already fallen for the name? - Trying to Avoid Ben Dover

A creative schoolyard bully can make a teasing nickname out of almost anything. Some names, though, are like giant bullseyes for taunts. It takes a strong kid to live with a name like "Benjamin Dover" or "Candace Barr."

If you noticed the pun in this baby name so immediately, there's a good chance that other friends and family members have already made your point for you. The mom may have have decided that her love for the name outweighs any teasing drawbacks. Still, there's a chance that "Mrs. Dover" is both clueless and pun-averse, and it would be a kindness to warn her -- tactfully -- of the likelihood of "bend over" jokes in her family's future.

What you need is an "elevator button" speech. You know that pressing an elevator button more than once does nothing to make it arrive faster, right? Giving advice often works the same way ... and unlike elevators, people get annoyed when you keep pressing them. So plan to make your point once, wait for it to have an effect, and never, ever bring it up again.

Based on your knowledge of the mom's personality, decide on the best way to broach this subject: off-hand, like you just realized the pun; jokingly, like you think the connotation is humorous, but not necessarily undesirable; or frankly, acknowledging that you've been considering this for some time. Whichever strategy you choose, make sure to compliment her name choice and assure her that you think it's fine and lovely.

Then stand back and wait to see if the elevator arrives. If it doesn't -- if she sticks to her puns (ahem) in spite of all your wisdom -- you'll have spoken your mind and preserved your relationship, which ought to give you comfort as you struggle not to giggle at the birth announcement.


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

March 9, 2010 1:08 PM
By DameCatoe (not verified)

I'd assume she knows the potential teasing and just ask her how she decided her love of the name was worth it.

My son's initials are CDC. I felt that a random linking to the Centers of Disease Control didn't warrant changing the name we chose for him. She might feel the same way.

But you still will have broached the subject on the off-chance that her name-love has blinded her to the bully bait.

March 9, 2010 1:58 PM
By Maureen (not verified)

If she really loves the name but didn't realize the pun, you can always suggest she simply swap the middle and first names (if it is an initial pun). One of my best friends was named Andrew Russel T---- (initials ART) instead of Russel Andrew T---- (initials RAT)But his parents and everyone else has always called him Russel, since that is what they (and he) feel is truly his first name.

March 9, 2010 2:23 PM
By Sabrina (not verified)

My daughter's name is potentially a pun, and while we thought about not choosing it due to that, the pun involves a mispronunciation anyway, and the first name was just So Right for her that we chose it anyway. I think if you're avoiding 'Ima Hogg' territory, it all works out. Agreed that a brief, humorous check with the parent-to-be is reasonable; though we got very tired of the 'Penny Loafer' comments during pregnancy.

March 9, 2010 3:12 PM
By Toni (not verified)

HAHAHAHA!!!! I actually HAVE a friend with the married name Candace Barr...and she has always gone by Candi. We all call her Candy Bar, and she just runs with it! Also, my high school sign language teacher's brother-in-law was named Albert Binau.

March 9, 2010 3:57 PM
By Anon E Mouse (not verified)

Toni-I don't get the Albert joke.

I think the parents should be made aware of it as NameLady stated and I also agree to some people it doesn't matter and others it does.

March 9, 2010 4:51 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I would personally advise telling the mum. I know of 2 occasions where the parents-to-be were unaware of the possible teasing their desired baby could result in, and both were VERY relieved that someone warned them in advance.

March 9, 2010 5:17 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

You should tell her.
You don't want the kid to end up like one of the many Michael Hunts in the world.

March 9, 2010 7:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Anon E Mouse: Albert Binau, Al Binau, Albino

i think. :)

March 9, 2010 7:17 PM
By Nicholas Hentschel (not verified)

I hear you, DameCatoe, about the CDC joke: my own initials parallel those of the National Institutes of Health. However, I was 25 before anyone threw it up to me, I only heard it once, and then only because someone, seeing my sign a UseNet post with it, wondered if it meant that I was a doctor! Some puns aren't worth sweating over. However, if my initials had been "BLT," or something like it, then we could have worried.

March 9, 2010 8:18 PM
By Kristin (not verified)

I know a Fredric Ben Ittic and his step sister Beth Alice Uno. FBI and BAU are both fans of Criminal Minds, thankfully.
Ben Dover and Eline Dover both live down my street. As do Jenna and Talia, Amanda Huggencis, and Gunner Tinkell. Seymore Buts and Tu-Na live in the condo two streets over.

March 9, 2010 9:52 PM
By Lissa (not verified)

We named our son James. His initials spell JEW, and we were teased about it a little. I LOVE Name Lady's advice about the elevator button. I think everyone worries that the Mom will get really huffy - EVERYONE's been saying that! If she does you can apologize and then join in her thinking of pithy statements she can say to everyone who tells her that in the future...
"We think he'll grow up to be a plumber!"

March 10, 2010 3:56 PM
By Valerie (not verified)

I once knew a James Ball, and one day, joking about his last name , I said at least it wasn't like my Mum's friend who had a Hannah Ball. "My sister's name is Hannah," he replied coolly.

March 10, 2010 9:24 PM
By Kristin (not verified)

What does the 'Hannah Ball' and 'James Ball' do? I don't see the pun, but I am a tad slow!

March 11, 2010 12:22 AM
By SilentOne (not verified)

I don't know about James Ball, but I think Hannah Ball --> Hannibal.

March 14, 2010 5:55 PM
By Allie (not verified)

Really, people will come up with ANY excuse to hate on the name you choose for your child. If it's not the initials in the first-middle-last order, they'll harp on it in "monogram order." Oh, that meas RAT. Oh, that means ART. Oh, that means TAR!

Seriously, when you meet a person, do you start translating their names into acronyms? I sure don't!

If not that, then it's that it rhymes with something, or that a nickname (which is not the nickname you are planning on using) is less than flattering. Or that someone who was famous once was a bad person who had that name. Or it was the name of a TV character. Or someone knew someone who had a dog that name.

At a certain point, you just have to tell everyone to SHUT UP.

There are three people in my family who all have the same initials (DP), and I was in my late twenties before I saw anyone go to town on the topic, for it turns out they are the initials used to describe a particular kinky sexual act on internet forums. I think that says more about him than about anyone in my family.

March 17, 2010 2:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

"Seriously, when you meet a person, do you start translating their names into acronyms? I sure don't!"

I do, and I know heaps of other people who do the same!

I'm glad that the asker of the question is concerned. I would hate to have a pun name.

I wouldn't want to see a Dr Ben Dover, even if he *were* a proctologist... but a pun name of any kind also makes the person with that name seem unprofessional, which isn't fair. Yeah yeah, we shouldn't judge, but it happens and I don't think we should just name people a certain way "because people shouldn't judge about that"-- well, they DO judge about that. I believe in naming a child for the real world, not for Utopia!

March 19, 2010 12:51 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

One of my science teachers transferred in when I was fifteen. Mr Dean wasa nice man, most of the girls crushed on him, but the running joke around school was that he was "SAD". He had his intials embroidered on his labcoat you see.

March 23, 2010 3:54 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Ha! 'Round here, DP is short for Dr. Pepper.

March 23, 2010 3:56 PM
By Lady at Home (not verified)

We considered naming our daughter Hannah Maloney. My friend said it sounded like Ham-n-Baloney. We kept in on our list despite the sandwich monniker, but we ended up chosing something else. Looking back, I'm glad she told me what she thought.

March 27, 2010 10:27 AM
By Temper Trap fan (not verified)

I have to agree with Allie. I can't think of EVER having considered someone else's three initials. A) Who cares? B) Who knows people's middle name unless you are close to them? I think it's a bit silly of a consideration unless we're talking ASS or something. If your kid is going to get bullied, it will be regardless of what his or her initials are.

March 30, 2010 7:34 PM
By Marbles (not verified)

My brother- and sister-in-law chose a first-middle name combo for our younger neice that was quite suggestive combined with our last name. I did tell them that she would get grief as soon as she started school. Apparently, they heard this from enough sources that they changed her middle name.

April 10, 2010 3:42 PM
By Nicole (not verified)

@Temper Trap fan - Believe it or not, where I come from (Maine), almost everyone has L.L. Bean backpacks with their initials on the back, which is the main reason so many of my friends know each other's middle names. In fact, in third grade, I had a friend whose initials were ARM - yeah, she was bullied a lot for that. So, around here, all of us know each other's initials (even though we're in high school now), so it's not that uncommon for bullying to be because of that. Though I can see why it might not even be considered when your initials aren't on display.

May 4, 2010 12:22 AM
By Mrs. W (not verified)

Tell the mama!

I went to school with twins Peter and Anna Ness (P.Ness and A.Ness) and they HATED the names. Also, we LOVED the name William for our firstborn, but decided to leave it for those with other last names after our family pointed out that Wee Willy Wagner would be an easy teasing target.

June 8, 2010 9:26 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Definitely say something before the kid pops! I once was asked to baby sit for kids named Bree and Colby, a brother and sister pair, aged 3 and 1, respectively. "Like the cheeses," I said delightedly, being a fan of cheese. The mother's face went shocked and I knew that she had NEVER considered that connection before.

January 8, 2011 9:18 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Wow -- the cheese names are hilarious.

I knew a girl who really liked the name Jack for her first born son. Luckily someone pointed out what it would sound like with her husband's last name (Hoffman), and she quickly crossed it off her list.

I think being aware of bad jokes or puns that can be made out of your baby's names or initials is definitely important, though realistically you probably can't ever fully avoid the creative cruelty of young children.

My husband said he went to school with a boy named Dwayne, but the others would call him "Duh-wayne" because he apparently wasn't very bright. There's no way that boy's parents could have expected that!

July 23, 2013 7:39 AM
By davidwarner15 (not verified)

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September 12, 2014 3:54 AM
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