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Does My Baby Need a Whole Name?

I want to name my baby boy J.R. as his first name. My grandfather was nicknamed J.R. and I want to name my son in honor of him. Since my husband and I can't agree on what the J and R would stand for I'm thinking of just naming him with initials. Do you think it's okay to name a child with just initials? Or do you think we should pick a name and then call him J. R.? - Initial Decision

Well, that's a creative solution to a naming deadlock: not choosing a name at all!

I can understand the temptation. You'll call him J.R. regardless, so why go through the agony of hammering out a compromise? But you planned to give him a full name. And there was a reason for that, wasn't there? I don't think it's fair to your son to punt just because the choice is turning out to be tougher than you expected.

A full name on the birth certificate has lots of advantages. It saves the boy a lifetime of having to persuade people that "No, really, it doesn't stand for anything!" It gives him flexibility for formal occasions and affectionate nicknames, too. I'm sure you know a Mike whose wife fondly calls him Michael, for instance.

You should also remember that when it comes to modern paperwork and databases, there's no such name as J.R. Punctuation and capitalization get stripped out. So your son will either be named J, with the middle name R, or Jr. Not only is Jr an awkward name, but it looks like Junior. Time and again, people will read the name "Smith, Jr" on a roster and think the first name is missing.

So I don't think you've found a loophole that gets you out of your naming dilemma. (Nice try, though!) It's time to sit back down with your J and R name lists. The good news is that you actually have it easier than most name-wrestling couples. Knowing that you won't be saying the name a hundred times a day makes the stakes lower. If you need a tie breaker, the fact that you chose J.R. in honor of your grandfather might be reason to give your husband's full-name preferences a little extra say.


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

November 15, 2010 10:53 AM
By ClaireP (not verified)

I know someone who has the first name of S, no period. This was because of a family conflict over what his name should be - not between the mother and father, but between the parents and a rather overbearing grandmother. By having the letter S, the grandmother was satisfied that a deceased family member was honored, without having to actually bestow the name of that family member on the kid. Meanwhile, the middle name of the kid is what the mother and father wanted to name the kid. So his name is S [middle] [last] He goes by his middle name. He has survived having a one-letter first name without too much trouble.

I can see how having two one-letter names might be a problem, though, especially JR which could be read as "junior".

November 15, 2010 10:58 AM
By Susan (not verified)

Name the kid Jay R. Smith. Jay R. = J.R. Problem solved!

November 15, 2010 11:12 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

JR is one of my nicknames (for my first and last names) and I absolutely love it. So, congrats on your excellent choice. But, I'm glad to have the option of using my full name or its "regular" nickname. Agree with the name lady about people calling him Junior after seeing it written down; it's happened to me. Perhaps one of you could choose the first name and the other choose the middle name.

November 15, 2010 1:11 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Remember B J Hunnicutt from M*A*S*H? He told Hawkeye he was named for his folks, B(ea?) and J(ay?).

November 15, 2010 3:47 PM
By SMA (not verified)

My sister's ex is TJ and he has a brother named JD.

Honestly, I've always thought it was really dumb that the letters never stood for anything. But I sort of wonder if it was because I never liked him?

November 15, 2010 4:57 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know someone who named their daughter Emjay. As in M.J.. Just spelled the way it sounds. Not my personal fave, but it works. JayAre Maybe?

November 16, 2010 12:59 AM
By Juli (not verified)

I dislike the idea of giving a kid a nickname instead of the full name (for example, "Mike" on the birth certificate instead of "Michael"). This is even worse.

Perhaps a compromise: Jay R., with the R not standing for anything? After all, there's presidential precedent for that (Harry S. Truman).

November 16, 2010 5:28 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I like the idea of Jay for the first name anyway

November 16, 2010 6:12 AM
By joye (not verified)

When I was in high school I had a classmate named E, which didn't stand for anything. He said that he liked his name over all but that he did get sick of the "what does E stand for" questions. He had a quirky, offbeat personality in general, though.

November 16, 2010 7:20 AM
By Alex (not verified)

When I was born there was conflict as to whether I should be named Axel or Alexander. The compromise reached was that the family would call me Axel, but on official documents (such as the birth certificate) I would be Alexander. This worked fine. However, eventually everyone who knew me as Axel died, and now I'm simply Alex to all who know me. So, what I'm suggesting is that the family goes with J.R. informally, but on official documents, there should be some names attached to those initials.

November 16, 2010 1:07 PM
By Andrew J (not verified)

I totally agree with Alex.
Remember that though you may like the idea of just having the initials, and initially it may be okay, but it is your son that is going to have to live with it in the end, neither you nor your grandfather.

I really had my heart set on a name for our son too, but in the end it turned out not to suit him. Instead of sharing the same name or initials of that someone, we found a name that had the same meaning as the name we were honouring. So now he shares that linkage between the honoured person but he also has his own name and a chance to be his own person.

I know you want to honour his grandfather, but also do something to honour him. Give him a name.

November 16, 2010 1:16 PM
By Andrew J (not verified)

And a name with a meaning. Having a good sounding name is one thing, but having a name with a great meaning makes it wonderful.

No offence to your father, but to name your son just J.R. is a bit meaningless and I am sure that if you were to ask your father he would want his grandson to have a good strong name with a meaning to support it.

November 16, 2010 1:23 PM
By paula (not verified)

More than 30 years ago, a couple in my church had decided to name their daughter P. J., and when she was born, they put the name Patricia Jeanette on her birth certificate, but called her P. J. from the beginning.

Is there any chance that the TV show "Dallas" could turn up in reruns on some cable channel during your son's early years? If so, you MIGHT want to rethink calling him J. R.! I think it's a safe bet that most of us who remember "Dallas" have an automatic image of a mean-spirited character played by Larry Hagman come to mind whenever we hear the name J. R.!

Definitely come up with some "real" names for the initials J. R. so that if your son runs across too many "Dallas" references, he can easily choose to go by something else! Maybe make the "J" name something like James, Jason, Jacob, etc., for which the nickname Jay is common.

November 16, 2010 1:26 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Just having the initials is a super idea. Take Hitchcock's "North By Northwest" wherein upon reading Roger O. Thornhill's card:

Eve Kendall: What does the ‘O’ stand for?
Roger Thornhill: Nothing.


November 16, 2010 1:28 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'd suggest a first name of J.R.R. (after Tolkein), and then J.R. is truly a nickname!

November 16, 2010 2:22 PM
By Christie (not verified)

My FIL's name is Lynn D, with the D not standing for anything. With a 30 year career in the Army it gave him no end of red tape trouble. And then there have been those that have thought Lynn was a woman (and/or named Lynndee or something like that). Our little boy is called JEB for his initials, but has a perfectly normal name to fall back on.

November 16, 2010 2:25 PM
By Alma V (not verified)

Johnny Cash had the same problem. His parents named him J.R. but he had to pick a name when he joined the military, so he picked Johnny.

Maybe that's something the child can pick on later? Like you name them J.R. but give them the choice of changing the meanings of the name when they get older since they have no real attachment to the names you may place on their birth certificate?

November 16, 2010 3:17 PM
By Althea May (not verified)

I wouldn't stress about what the J and R stand for, but you should put something there. My parents named me for the nickname ("Alymay"), but they wanted me to have a formal name so they decided Aly would be short for Alyson, and May would be my middle name. My high school teachers and friends all called me Alymay and it was easy to forget that Alyson was my legal first name (I actually remember erasing the "m" I automatically bubbled in on the SATs). I knew that I wanted to have a more formal name for professors/professional contacts when I got to college, so I started going by just "May" at first, but I decided that I wanted my "formal" first name to be Althea. Now, it's legally Althea May *last name*, but most people still call me "Alymay". Changing my name barely phased me besides the paperwork for that month or so, and if he goes by J.R. all of the time but he hates what the J and R stand for, it won't be a difficult transition at all.

November 16, 2010 4:03 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

what about Jay-ar? ;)

November 16, 2010 4:19 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My grandfather was the youngest of 9, he was named Willie C. We've always assumed that his mother just ran out of names by the time she had him. He was called Bill his whole life. When he joined the army at 19, he was told by the recruiter that he wouldn't be able to just have a letter for a middle name. He was told to pick a name starting with C, so he picked Clay.

November 16, 2010 9:49 PM
By Lisa (not verified)

What did the JR stand for in your grandfather's name?
Definately find a full name, not initials and IMO not Jay-ar or something similar.
Jay for a first name would work, then a middle name starting with R. Jay Raymond, Jay Ronan, Jay Raphael... there are heaps of name options out there :)

OR... what about Jared. My Jared sometimes gets Jar as a NN, you could say JR instead :)

November 16, 2010 10:06 PM
By Julie (not verified)

If you want to name your child after your grandfather, why not pick your grandfather's full name, not just the initials? It's fine as a nickname, but the kid needs an actual name. How is it going to look on his wedding invitation? "Elizabeth Ann Sinclair and J.R. [Your Last Name here] cordially invite you..."
It just doesn't have the right ring to it. Give him a name he won't be ashamed of and then call him J.R.

November 16, 2010 10:06 PM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

It may seem like a small consideration at first, but I'm not keen on the possible psychological consequences of the poor kid spending year after year explaining that his name doesn't stand for anything. Doesn't that start to seem really sad after a while?

November 16, 2010 10:32 PM
By Julie (not verified)

My cousin was named after my grandfather, who was called by a name like "Johnny"totally unrelated to his real name, like "Laurence David" So the cousin was named on his birth certificate "Johnny L. D. Lastname". He didnt mind that his name was a dim. or nn.

Then another gal (age 30)I know had the same thing...Her middle name was only initials, and when I told her about my cousin, she said "I thought my mom was the only one that hated me enuf to do that!" So she obviously didnt like it.

November 17, 2010 6:18 PM
By Jen (not verified)

My legal name is Jenny after my grandmother, but I was born when everyone and their dog were naming their daughters Jennifer. It frustrates me to no end that people always think my name is Jennifer.

My parents lived in a small mining town, so they had no idea that Jennifer was the it name.

Because people always call me Jennifer I absolutely hate the name, it would have been much better if that was my legal name but I choose to shorten it. Therefore my advice would be to find a name that you can put as the legal name and then just shorten it for his nickname.

November 18, 2010 2:24 AM
By deevaa (not verified)

My ex husband and I decided to name our son Tokunbo, with the intention of calling him TK. In his culture it is customary for the eldest son of the eldest son to have the prefix 'Ade', so we named him Adetokunbo, but only ever call him TK.

We are often asked what TK stands for, and I must say it is a bit confusing to say 'Adetokunbo'... because they then wonder where the TK came from.... and his 'official' mail comes addressed to A. L. (last name). It's not a problem though, and we don't have to explain it very often.

SO, maybe a name from which JR can come from that aren't actually initials, could be found?

Jeffrey, Jeremiah, Jefferson?

November 18, 2010 6:11 AM
By becky w (not verified)

If it's too hard to find a J name and an R name, I like the idea others have suggested of choosing a J first name with an R in it: Jeremy, Jared, etc. br

November 19, 2010 9:19 AM
By Kim (not verified)

GREAT ADVICE ANDREW! My husband doesn't have a middle name and constantly is asked about it or given papers back with companies, banks, IRS saying "We need a full name" and I have filled out paperwork before that says specifically says "No initials." Give the kid a name.

November 19, 2010 10:44 AM
By Kimberly Holland (not verified)

In fun we decided to give our son the initials CASH.. But we couldnt agree on the actual names, so we polled our friends and family on facebook and then picked two and held a contest to see which name won.. So now we have a Cade Alexander Steven Holland, whom we all refer to as Cash. It got all of our friends and fam involved, it was a fun way to solve our dilemna..

November 19, 2010 4:44 PM
By lesli (not verified)

As a wife, I will tell you that I am often annoyed as all heck at my MIL because my husband is named Ricky. Not Richard. So when I am angry, I can't yell Richard and let's face it, Ricky just doesn't have the same ring to it. And adding his middle name does not help the situation.

Give him a full name, not only for this reason but he might hate his name later on and there's nothing there to informally change it into. Like a Robert can later become a Bob or Rob or even Bert.

November 21, 2010 1:34 PM
By Julie (not verified)

My husband and I were considering the name Ani for our second daughter, after a family friend who passed away. Her full name was Anita, but her nickname when she was younger (before my husband or I knew her) was Ani. We liked the name and it seemed like an appropriate way to honor her.

However, after everyone saw the spelling of the name, the most common question was "what is that short for?" We figured she was going to spend her entire life being asked that, so we switched the spelling to Annie. It's still generally the same name, but hopefully there won't be too many questions as to if that's her real name.

November 22, 2010 6:06 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Don't take this the wrong way, but I associate any name that ends with R, as an initial, as being a pirate name. Jay Arrrrrr! Perhaps that is just me though. I would recommned giving the kid a name like Johnathan Robert or something- run of the mill and call him J.R.

November 23, 2010 1:26 PM
By Alma (not verified)

One of my most wonderful uncles had the name "R K". He was born about 1920, and named for one of his uncles. When we were little kids, we heard his name as "Archie", but the adults would spell it out as "Arkie".

A good fellow will make any name sound wonderful. Just raise him well so as to make his name known far and wide as a good name.

November 23, 2010 1:32 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I don't like the idea of letters as a name. If you must, I guess you can...but there are LOTS of great J and R names..I'm sure if you keep searching (and if you tell your husband your favorites...they might even grow on him!!), you'll be able to find something you both like. That is kind of what happened with my husband for our third, actually. He didn't like the name I LOVED at first...but we kept talking about it, and I said the name in certain circumstances, adding a description of an image of our little girl telling someone her name, things like that... and eventually, he loved the name too! hehe. Sometimes it just works like that. Even if you just name him least give him an actual first name! But here are some great names that you might consider:

Jackson (or Jack)
Jacob (Jake)

R is harder for me, but here are some:

Ryan (a great, short middle name)
Robbin (as in, Christopher Robin?)
Rider/ Ryder
Reed (or Reid)

And since middle names are rarely used (often only middle initial anyway), you could even maybe let your husband pick the middle name, and you pick the first name? I know couples who have done that.

I don't know if this helps you at all...but good luck!!!

November 23, 2010 1:50 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with the above post-er. Maybe Josiah Ryan? Justis Ray? Jasper Ridley? James Ryder? Judah Riley? Jeremiah Reed? Those flow nicely as formal names, and then you can just call him J.R.. But like others have said, there are a lot of legal problems that will arise if you only give your son initials for a name.

November 23, 2010 5:00 PM
By Alma V (not verified)

Hello, I just wanted to say that it's great to see another Alma around the internet.

November 23, 2010 6:31 PM
By Amy (not verified)

If it makes it any easier to find a name you like, why not name him Jay (or any other name starting with J) and then instead of a middle name that starts with the letter R, use one that starts with the SOUND "ar"...

Jacob Archer
Jay Archibald
Jayden Armstrong
Jason Arnold
James Arthur

That way, the name itself lends itself to the JR sound and the nickname makes sense when you hear it, not just on paper, but he still has a full name for official documents.

November 23, 2010 9:29 PM
By Erica (not verified)

I have a childhood friend whose father's given name was W.A. (insert last name here). The initials did not stand for anything and he was called by his nickname Fritz. When he joined the military they told him W.A. was unexceptionable and he would have to choose a "real" name. He wound up just changing W.A to Fritz with no middle name.

November 24, 2010 1:39 AM
By Lisa (not verified)

Oh, I like Jay Archer :)

November 27, 2010 6:41 AM
By elleireland (not verified)

I hope you don't use the name Jay, it's just not creative at all.

But the names Judah and Jonah are wonderful, classic, and meaningful. There are so many superb names with the initials J.R.

It's a privilege to bestow a name on a child. Go for it!

January 18, 2011 5:56 PM
By Rowelin (not verified)

How about Jai R.

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