Ask the Name Lady

Ask Now

My Daughter Hates Her Name!

Should I be offended that my daughter doesn't like her name and wants to officially change it?
- Wounded Mom

Of course you shouldn't be offended. What good could come of it? All you'd be doing is turning a clash between your daughter and her name into a clash between your daughter and you.

No name choice is foolproof. We choose names for our children before they're born, and we can't know what kind of people they'll grow up to be. For that matter, we can't even predict the future of the names themselves. Fashions change, and cultural associations change -- just ask any woman named Madonna before you-know-who. Names can even change from one sex to the other.

When you think about it, it's remarkable that more of us don't reject our names as we reach adulthood. Yet we don't. A lifetime of living under one name builds a bond too strong to toss aside lightly.

So assuming that your daughter is a grown woman and feels strongly enough to want a legal name change, she probably knows best. (If she's not yet a grown woman, then her name angst is a common and natural part of finding her identity in the world. You should still respect her feelings, but you can make her wait until she's of age to make the change official. Adolescent identity is too volatile to move quickly on.)

Meanwhile, as the mom who chose the original name carefully and lovingly, you have an important job to do. You have to understand that she's rejecting her name, not her mother.

I have no doubt that your daughter's name holds a special place in your heart. That string of letters may feel like a symbol of all you've done for her. But as important as names are -- and believe me, I know they are -- they're still just letters. Feel free to let your daughter know how much you love her name, but accept her decision. That show of respect will only strengthen the mother-daughter ties that go far more than name-deep.

Comments

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

February 7, 2011 8:20 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Name Lady, I admire you so much for answering every question calmly and with respect. I would not have been as nice with many of them, and I regret that.

Anyway, how is it offensive that she doesn't like her name? It's HER name, and it's not her fault you picked it out. By claiming to be 'offended' or 'wounded' you're turning this around and making it all about YOU. Playing the victim.

That's not going to help create a good relationship with your daughter. Try to look at things from her point of view.

February 8, 2011 12:16 AM
By Abby (not verified)

We choose names for strangers, little people we've barely met. Our kids grow up and turn out to fit the names - or not.

I legally changed my name in my late 20s after years of heartily disliking my name.

I can honestly say it has nothing to do with how I feel about my mother. I'm incredibly fortunate to have her as my mom; I love and respect her.

And I repeat this mantra often because my son heartily dislikes the nickname I chose for him and reminds me that he wants to be called something else.

So let's say I've been on both sides of the issue. Sometimes it really is just about the name.

February 8, 2011 8:27 AM
By ElleIreland (not verified)

What is the name? If it's trendy and common, then she can switch it up without a legal change. Brittany to Britton, Lindsey to Linden, Carissa to Charis, Ashley to Aislynn. This is something I wish more people would do. We should all love our monikers.

February 8, 2011 9:35 AM
By Elizabeth T. (not verified)

My husband changed his name (not legally as he was too lazy, but everyone knows him by the name he chose). His mother still grumbles about it some 25 years later, but as the name he chose was her father's name, she accepts it. She still mostly calls him by his original name, which rankles him.

February 8, 2011 10:37 AM
By Calix (not verified)

I changed my name several times in childhood. For a year or two at a time. I have a very unusual given name, and we moved around a lot. So a new school district meant I could experiment with a new identity.

I have also used different "go-by" names as an adult, not to mention changing last names when I got married.

I can't see any reason to prevent your child from using a new nickname - start at home and with close friends, if it sticks make the switch at school. In many states, there's nothing to stop you from using an "alias" and it doesn't require any legal hassle.

February 8, 2011 1:07 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My parents hung me with what I consider to be the ugliest name in the world. Beulah.

Anytime a TV show or movie wants to come up with an awful name, that will be it. (That 70's Show, Field of Dreams, Porky's.)

I hated it all my life, and finally, when I was about 50, I went to court and had it legally changed to the name I'd been using since I was 18.

My parents were abusive, and I think giving me that horrible name was the beginning of the abuse. So, in a way, I was rejecting my mother because of her treatment of me.

February 8, 2011 1:52 PM
By missy (not verified)

Well-answered, but I think two important pieces of info are missing from the question:

1) How old the daughter is
2) What her name is

A 15 year old named Elizabeth who wants to be called Starlette is different from a 25 year old named Starlette who wants to be called Elizabeth.

February 8, 2011 2:03 PM
By Faye (not verified)

I agree - if she's 13, she may still grow into the name. When I was 8, I hated that I was the only kid in my class named "Faye" (...I'm sure the Katie C.'s, M.'s, and R.'s were so pleased to have initials tacked on to theirs!...) and when I was 12 and 13, I wanted to be "Rayne" for god knows what reason. Now, I adore my name - it is very uncommon for my age group, has ties to my family, and an oldfashioned feel, all of which I love.

Similarly, my gf, who has a very common name, went by her middle name, a character's name who she loved, etc throughout school without issue (nickname fields and teachers who ask what you would prefer to be called are good things!) Now she likes being called her whole name, no nicknames, but she's okay with it.

So the kid may end up liking her name and if she's young I'd encourage her not to change it until she's lived with nicknames for a while. But, if she's 20 or 25, that's probably something she's already done or considered.

Or, does the name have any connotations, cultural references, or family ties that might be unpleasant (for example, a not-so-great [to her or other people] aunt or grandparent? A movie character she hates)?

Whatever she decides legally once she is old enough to do so, it's her right and it's what she'll have to live with joyfully or not for the rest of her life - not a reflection on you. You named her when she was barely a person, so don't attach too much.

February 8, 2011 4:22 PM
By Leigh (not verified)

I began going by my middle name as a teen and legally changed it as a adult. It had nothing to do with how much I love her or how much I feel she loves me back.

As the Name Lady suggested, the main reason I switched was something that was out of my mom's control and very hard to predict at the time---She named me a hugely popular name for the time and place I lived. And, she managed to repeat the feat with both my sisters, one of whom also goes buy an alternate name that she never changed legally.

I think the most it says about my mom was she apparently had her finger on the naming trends of the '70s.

February 8, 2011 5:11 PM
By shadelit (not verified)

I have hated my first name for many years, for multiple reasons, and began using my middle name exclusively in high school. Now, in my late thirties, I am thinking of dropping the first name legally as I haven't used it in over half my life and it only serves to generate occasional confusion with legal forms, etc. The only reason I haven't done so already is a nod to my mother. The ONLY person who still calls me by my first name is my mother, even though she goes by her own middle name because she hates her first name! I finally managed to train her to stop introducing me to people by that name by publicly referring to HER by her own hated first name, pointedly. I love my mother dearly but that's a point between us that rankles and i wish she would let it go, already. The name symbolizes a lot of things for me, all of them negative, none of them to do with her, and I'm sorry if it hurts her feelings but she needs to respect that.

February 8, 2011 5:30 PM
By val1234 (not verified)

I actually like the name Beulah; I knew a very nice older lady by that name, and I have always liked the name. It also seems to go well with the now trending Rose, Sadie, Ada, Alice etc.
However a name that is cycling back into popularity now, was decidedly out of fashion 30 years ago when current adults were kids.
I respect everyone's taste in names for their children as well as themselves. We should all go through life being called by a name that we like hearing.

February 8, 2011 6:49 PM
By Sara (not verified)

I've HATED my extremely common name ever since I can remember. I like the idea of using variants, but some names just don't have them! (Sara being a prime example--the only name close that I've found is Sarah, and that's even more common.)A name is a window into a person's identity, and if someone doesn't like their name they shouldn't be stopped from changing it. No matter how old they are. Names are personal; they have nothing to do with parents or anyone else.

Does anyone have suggestions for Sara variants?

February 8, 2011 7:25 PM
By ElleIreland (not verified)

The perfect variant for Sara is Sadie.

The only Bible name uglier than Beulah is Dorcas. I'm proud of Beulah for changing her name and her life.

February 8, 2011 7:40 PM
By Karma (not verified)

@Sara: You could try "Sahra" or "Sarai". One of my best friends in highschool had a younger sister named Sahra (pr. Saa-rah) and Sarai (pr. Sar-eye or Saa-rai) was the original name of Abraham's wife Sarah in the Bible. :)

February 9, 2011 8:58 AM
By Gina (not verified)

I had my name changed on my birth certificate when I was thirteen. My mom signed the certificate in order to grant permission (so we didn't have to go to court). The wrinkle that makes this so relevant here is that my given name was my mother's name (Jean). Only, since I can remember, nobody ever called me that--they called me the Italian version of Jean, "Gina," to differentiate me from my mom. So as far as I knew, all my life up to that point (and it was only 13 years, of course), my name was Gina.

What bothered me that particular year and started the name-change thing rolling was a teacher in my H.S. who flat out refused to call me Gina. Ever. She wouldn't call any student by a name not written on her roll sheet--that means anyone named David who went by Dave, got called David. If someone went by their middle name, it didn't matter--she called them by their first name. I couldn't take another year of someone calling me Jean--not because I hated the name, but because it simply *wasn't my name.*

I give major kudos to my mom for recognizing that I was not rejecting her, or even the name she'd chosen for me, and allowing me to get the paperwork in order so that all teachers would call me by my "real" name in the future.

I don't know if any of this is the situation with your daughter, but I agree with the previous post by missy: it matters whether she's 25 and wants to be called Elizabeth or 15 and wants to be called Starlette.

February 9, 2011 9:04 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I wish more of you would post what these horrible names that need to be changed are. That way we can all avoid using them.

February 11, 2011 2:49 AM
By Nic (not verified)

My name, Nicole-Marie, is long, hard to spell correctly, and quite boring. It always took too long to say, so everyone just started calling me Nic. This nickname is nice because it is short, to the point, and doesn't require me to change my name.

February 11, 2011 1:10 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Nic: how do people misspell your name? Is it the hyphen? That's my friend's name (first and middle, no hyphen). It was a common name growing up so she knew a bunch of girls with the same name, but I think it's pretty!

I know two people who changed their names:
Jennifer and Bertha. Jennifer because it was too common for her, and Bertha because she hated it.

February 12, 2011 1:42 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

If my name was Bertha I'd change it too.

February 12, 2011 10:35 AM
By hyacinth (not verified)

If it involves a crazy spelling or doesn't sound like a name or is not traditionally for that gender, or if your friends and relatives hated the name, odds are that those are some of those names you should avoid using.

I think many people are willing to just throw down the scrabble letters and name their kid whatever they think sounds cool, without a whole lot of thought as to how hard it is to go through life with people misunderstanding that your name is in fact a name, or how it is spelled.

I recently found someone's kid on facebook named Kennedy [Irish-origin surname] and I thought that was pretty dumb, it sounded like a lawyer's office or a company name or something, not a girl's name. That and the name Kennedy means "ugly head" in Irish.

February 13, 2011 1:46 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

born in 1975, i was given an obscure welsh name. when i was 12, i insisted that my name be changed to CHRISTINE or CHRISTINA. i am so glad my mom said "no", gently.

i love my name, it's uniqueness, and the fact that i didn't have to be distinguished by a last initial. ever.

February 13, 2011 6:31 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

A friend named her baby Sera (as in angel) - a little different. Sally is a nickname for Sarah from way back and not so common where I live. The original biblical Sarah was called Sarai before her name change. HTH

February 14, 2011 2:43 AM
By Emmy Jo (not verified)

I love the name Beulah, too. And there are PLENTY of biblical names uglier than Beulah -- take Hephzibah, for example, or Hagar or Hoglah. :) But I agree completely with val1234 that Beulah was not ready for a revival when you were born 50 years ago. At that time, it was still perceived as an ugly old lady name. Now, though, I think Beulah has some comeback potential, as it's of the same era of names that are currently making a comeback.

February 15, 2011 3:51 PM
By grlkckbxr (not verified)

Sadie is a nickname for Sara or Sarah(double checked in BabyNameWizard.com!)
Has that old-fashioned feel that's coming back - I like it!

February 17, 2011 2:26 PM
By Staci (not verified)

I went through the same issue, and so did my mother. My older sister hated her birth name, Nora. She changed her name to Jill and everyone accepted her new name. It wasn't the same when my daughter, Carleigh, wanted to change her name to Alexandria and we call her Alex. My side of the family agreed with the change but my husband's side didn't. They fought about the change of their granddaughter and niece's name. I have two other daughters, Valeria and Samantha, and a son, Bradley. My daughter didn't think her name matched her brother and sisters' names, but mainly, she just didn't like her own name.

February 21, 2011 5:45 AM
By Michael (Michael ANN) (not verified)

I changed my name to Michael after almost 30 years of hating my birth name. I hated the sound of it, the way people shortened it, everything. As a teenager,when I asked WHY she had named me that, I found out that it was NOT my mother's choice. 1st I was told that she had wanted to name me Nanette! I love Nanette Fabre (SP)but, no,thank you. Then, as an adult she told me that she had REALLY wanted to name me Michael! I loved it,it suited me,but she had named my youngest brother Michael. I whined about it off and on for years, and then when my husband & I separated..and THEN I got pregnant (yes, it's my husbands,LOIS)I asked my brother how HE felt about it, since it was HIS name. He gave me his blessing and my life changed.I too, had moved a lot and always had a nickname, given, not chosen. By my mother & stepfather; Chauncey,which I liked; by new "friends"..Ralph, because of an experiment w/curlers that left me looking like a Cocker Spaniel, and thus, the puppet dog on the Jimmy Dean Show, not exactly lyrical, but, still, okay.And my mother? Tried to start a family feud about it/for years used my birth name anyway/and then (after another heated argument) called me MICHAELANN. We are not "close". And my brother, Mike? He's still fine with it. And my other brother? calls ME his other brother(remember the Bob Newhart Show?).

February 21, 2011 8:24 AM
By Michael (Michael ANN) (not verified)

I changed my name to Michael after almost 30 years of hating my birth name. I hated the sound of it, the way people shortened it, everything. As a teenager,when I asked WHY she had named me that, I found out that it was NOT my mother's choice. 1st I was told that she had wanted to name me Nanette! I love Nanette Fabre (SP)but, no,thank you. Then, as an adult she told me that she had REALLY wanted to name me Michael! I loved it,it suited me,but she had named my youngest brother Michael. I whined about it off and on for years, and then when my husband & I separated..and THEN I got pregnant (yes, it's my husbands,LOIS)I asked my brother how HE felt about it, since it was HIS name. He gave me his blessing and my life changed.

I too, had moved a lot and always had a nickname, given, not chosen. By my mother & stepfather; Chauncey,which I liked; by new "friends"..Ralph, because of an experiment w/curlers that left me looking like a Cocker Spaniel, and thus, the puppet dog on the Jimmy Dean Show, not exactly lyrical, but, still, okay.

And my mother? Tried to start a family feud about it/for years used my birth name anyway/and then (after another heated argument) called me MICHAELANN. We are not "close".

And my brother, Mike? He's still fine with it. And my other brother? calls ME his other brother(remember the Bob Newhart Show?).

February 21, 2011 8:36 AM
By Michael (Michael ANN) (not verified)

Why? I get what you are saying, but, I think you're missing the point..it's HER name.We don't know what the reason is, we don't need to, it's about HER.

The answer about just letting her try it and then seeing if it sticks, makes so much sense.

1 of my standard questions to my kids (& husband) is, "what will it cost you?" as in what will it cost you to just let your sister say "roast beast" instead of roast beef? etc.

February 21, 2011 8:36 AM
By Michael (Michael ANN) (not verified)

Why? I get what you are saying, but, I think you're missing the point..it's HER name.We don't know what the reason is, we don't need to, it's about HER.

The answer about just letting her try it and then seeing if it sticks, makes so much sense.

1 of my standard questions to my kids (& husband) is, "what will it cost you?" as in what will it cost you to just let your sister say "roast beast" instead of roast beef? etc.

February 21, 2011 2:18 PM
By Zoe (not verified)

I think it depends on the age of the child. When I was younger (about age 7-13) I didn't like my name because it was uncommon but there was another Zoe in my class so I was Zoe G and it wasn't unique. Worst of both worlds. But as I got older I've found myself loving my name more and more. While it's not really a name I'd probably choose if given the chance to change it I'd turn it down.

February 23, 2011 9:07 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Jennifer and I hate it. All through school there was always another Jennifer. I go by Jenn and even went by my middle name Lynn for a short time in middle school.

I named my son Desmond which isn't that common and not that weird. I wished my parents had done the same thing.

February 25, 2011 10:11 PM
By Elisa (not verified)

Sara-- howabout Saraya, Sarita, Sari, Sierra, Seraphine, Zara??

Ehh-- shame on the letter writer for trying to start beef where there isn't one and then trying to ask the Name Lady to "bless" it. Some people have more identity issues than others, and names are a big part of one's identity. Your daughter needs your support and to know that you will love her no matter what she calls herself.

February 27, 2011 11:29 AM
By James (not verified)

Children (under 18 years old) wanting to change their name and being granted their wish is probably more common than you think.

C.S.Lewis, Author of Narnia and many other books, dislkied both his names and while still a child asked everone to call him Jack. As an adult, he continued to use Jack, and asked his publisher to use only his initials (C.S.) so he wouldn't become widely known by his disliked given names.

Likewise my grandfather (born about the same time a C.S.Lewis) disliked both of his given names so much that as a child he asked everyone to call him by his family name, Kirby. (Not Mr Kirby, just Kirby) and everyone agreed to do so. He only used his given name for legal papers that required both a first and last name. Interestingly enough, one of his granddaughters named her son Kirby, after him.

And for some unknown reason, my mother named me James but always called me by my middle name instead. In my late teens I ran into more and more situations where people insisted on me signing something with my "real" name, which to them meant my first name. By the time I was 18, I decided life would be a lot simpler if I started using my first name, James, all the time.

To this day, all my relatives call me by my middle name, but everyone else calls me James or Jim. I like all three names, and I've never regretted "changing" my name to James, because it saves a lot of explaining.

April 12, 2011 8:14 PM
By Zoe (not verified)

My sister was born Andrea but starting at age five or six she started going by her Hebrew name Arielle. By the time she was sixteen she was Arielle and only aging relatives ever called her Andrea. When she was sixteen she had her name legally changed so it would be Arielle on her license.

That was a case of her picking a name and sticking to it for a decade. By the time she legally changed it my parents had accepted it.

I however came up with the idea at age eight that I wanted to be called Jessica. As a Zoe I hated that no one knew how to pronounce it and as a shy child I hated correcting adults and often let them call me Zo or (if they had heard it instead of reading it) Joey or Chloe. Jessica was so utterly common. Everyone knew how to pronounce it. There was Jessica Wakefield from the Sweet Valley High books. Jessica in my mind was a beautiful athletic girl with long blonde hair who the boys all wanted to date. Makes sense that shy, awkward me would desire that. Anyway, after three days I had forgotten my name change and have been Zoe ever since. And have since grown to love its quirky charm and lament its growing popularity.

April 26, 2011 12:52 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Gosh, I hope not. I never used it and I don't know anybody, other than my old maid aunt, who did. She used her initials at work, though.

When I read the obits, anybody who has that name is usually called something else.

July 7, 2011 3:38 AM
By Sucky Name (not verified)

Hello, i'm 33 year old female with an embarrassing name, that i've been loathing about for a few years now. I really don't want to continue with this name because I feel that it will interfere with my happiness. I am wondering from all of you that have changed your names, how did you get the courage to do so and how did you deal with the change, having to tell other people, etc. and are you glad you did it?

April 6, 2012 9:55 AM
By Thabita (not verified)

Nobody asked a child when they gave his name. There is a risk that the child does not like the name he received. I do not think that is a big problem if your child wants to change the name.

April 27, 2012 9:01 AM
By Rhiannon (not verified)

Speaking of name sets, my mother named her four kids all unusual names.
Rhiannon, Grant, Sinead, Tori.

I (Rhiannon) had a name-hate situation in high school. I just could not stand the way my roll call teacher would pronounce it. She screeched it. She said ree-ANNE-non. I get goosebumps thinking of it. Another gripe is spelling/Pronunciation. Reannon [x] rihannen [x] Rheannan [x]. Spell it like the song people! And if I have to answer the phone I get called Leanne or Brianna or Ryan. However I have come to accept my name will never again be popular (Thankyou eighties)

Grant doesn't mind his name.

Sinead LOATHES her name and wants to change it when she is 18. Its mostly because of spelling and pronunciation. And it's extremely uncommon.

Tori is just Tori. It is not short for Victoria. Or Astoria. Or anything. She is just Tori. not Tory or Torie either

Also I think my mum has a thing for English Isles.
Rhiannon - Welsh
Grant - Scottish
Sinead - Irish
Tori - English

And she never wanted us to have things with names on it e.g. pens, keyrings, cups etc that "common" named people have...

July 29, 2012 10:29 PM
By It's Short for Joey (not verified)

I hated having the name Joey for the longest time (My sisters Elijah and Dylan shared my sentiment). Now, I'm glad it wasn't Josephine or Joelle- I love Joey just fine.

February 10, 2013 10:20 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

How do I confess to my parents my new middles name? I've wanted my old middle name Vivienne changed for over 10 years and both my parents are overly protective. Also my new middle names represents who I am. My major concern is, now that I have changed my old middle name how do I get them to respect it without them 'going mad'? Any ideas will be appreciated. Thank you.

March 2, 2013 6:19 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Anonymous, just say the middle name doesn't describe you and isn't what you want to be. A name is a description so it's important for someone to fit it. To soften it, possibly you could say that middle name doesn't describe you "any more".

April 30, 2013 10:30 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Wow you should have done it sooner!
Congrads on asserting your own identity.

June 1, 2013 1:36 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Anonymous - there is no reason to villianize the mom for being concerned or even a little hurt. She might wonder about the reasons her daughter wants to change her name and she might even worry that the daughter is rejecting parts of her life by rejecting the name. You relly shouldn't be bent out of shape over the mom's reaction. That's not necessary. I think it's totally normal to be somewhat concerned when your child makes a bold declaration about wanting a name change(especially if they're 12-13). The girl might live with her mom becase of a divorce situation and then would need to notify the dad about the name change, which could stir up a family drama. There are so many reasons the mom might have felt unsure about this, but ultimately if the daughter still wants to change her name, the mom will probably understand.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.