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Do My Relatives Own This Letter?

My husband and I have picked the name Matilyn for our daughter. The problem is that four of our nieces on one side of the family have names beginning with the same letter: Macy, Mckenzi, Malia and Melinda. I do not think the names are too similar, but thought I would ask for others' opinions. What do you think?
- Anonymous

You've entered a fascinatingly murky realm of name "dibs." If one of your nieces were named, say, Madalyn, then her parents could quite reasonably expect Matilyn to be off-limits for a cousin.  But can one branch of a family rope off an entire letter of the alphabet with a "no tresspassing" sign? And does adding a fifth M girl to the family put you in the running with the headline-grabbing Duggars and their 20 J-named kids?

I'm happy to reassure you that your name choice isn't tabloid fodder—and not only because you'd need fifteen more children to give the Duggars a run for their money.

First off, cousin-name sets aren't sibling sets. Siblings’ names appear together on school rosters, holiday card signatures, and playground roll calls. Unless your neices live in the neighborhood, any confusion should be limited. Second, all initials aren't created equal. M is one of the most popular name initials of the past century, from Mary and Martha to Madison and Miley. Five cousins with names beginning with X would raise eyebrows, but the letter M doesn't leap out at you the same way.

Finally, you didn't mention whether there are any other cousins in the family, or if you hope to have any more children. Add a couple of L-, S-, or J- names in the mix and nobody's likely to notice one more M.

So your name choice doesn't strike me as inappropriate, if that's your concern.  Sharing the same first initial could even be a special bond among the cousins.  If your real worry is that the name won't stand out within the family, or will get mixed up with all the other M girls, then yes, that's likely to happen. But if you can cut the grandparents some slack on the occasional name slip-up, feel free to go with the name you love.

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