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We Don't Want an Homage!

Oh no! My husband and I have already decided on the name we want to give our second son. It’s a three-part name (two middle), all family names that are important to us. I just discovered today that a trending author has that exact name—all three names, and in the same order.

I dislike the author's works and don't want people to think we are naming our baby after this author. Is there any hope? I'm not a fan of switching the middle names, but might if it would create enough of a distance. Any advice?

- Not a fantasy nerd.

The "accidental namesake" is a slippery naming dilemma. The strength of the pseudo-homage depends on the particulars of the name, and on the celebrity's place in our culture. Not knowing the exact name you're grappling with, here are some general guidelines:

1. The more distinctive the name, the harder the link is to shake. Taking examples from your realm of fantasy and science fiction writers, the name Orson Scott, as in Ender's Game author Orson Scott Card, sounds more like an homage than Arthur Charles, as in 2001: A Space Odyssey author Arthur C. Clarke.

2. It's not just what they're named, it's what they go by. The name Clive Staples is certainly distinctive, but only hardcore fans will recognize it as Narnia creator C. S. Lewis. Similarly, if your son only uses his first name on a daily basis, the middle-name match is less consequential.

3. How complete is the namesake? George Raymond Richard doesn't scream "homage" unless your surname is Martin, as in Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin.

4. How iconic is the celebrity? Most celebrity names fade from memory, often more quickly than you'd expect. Yet an iconic writer like Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter can still be a powerful name influence generations later.

From your letter, it sounds like the worrisome author matches your chosen given names, but not your surname. In writer terms, that would be a John Ronald Reuel, but not John Ronald Reuel Tolkein. And since you're mostly concerned about the triple match, I'll assume that the first name alone doesn't point to the author, like an Aldous Huxley.

If both of those assumptions hold true, and if you're planning to call your son by his first name, the author association shouldn't be a an everyday issue. On the rare occasions that someone sees his full name and remarks on it, you (and later, he) can just laugh about the coincidence and explain it's a family name. Which brings us to a final issue:

5. How much does the association bother you? If the celebrity link is borderline, your attitude will be the determining factor in whether it's a just an amusing quirk or a nagging irritation.


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

April 14, 2014 2:04 PM
By Not a fantasy nerd (not verified)

Thank you! Your points were helpful. You even covered the name-George R.R. :)

April 14, 2014 5:20 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm curious: if you don't want the association with George R.R., is there a particular reason not to name your son George Richard Raymond instead of George Raymond Richard? It seems like reversing the order of the middle names would make a big difference, at least in terms of things like Google autocomplete.

April 14, 2014 6:50 PM
By Not a fantasy nerd (not verified)

Raymond is a family name shared by 3 family members, Richard by one. Also, we like the sound better. Might switch.

April 14, 2014 8:26 PM
By Jenny (not verified)

I have read most of the books and watched some of the series, but am not a superfan. I had no idea what the R's stood for, so changing he order of the names wouldn't make a difference to me. If I heard of a friend who named their kid George Raymond Richard Smith, I wouldn't think of the author. If I saw a George R. R. Smith, I would, and would guess it was probably intentional.I don't think First M. Last comes up all that much in life, but sometimes it does, and when it does, some people will think of the author. Just my two cents!

April 15, 2014 10:21 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I had no idea what the R.R. even meant. I suspect it's only something hardcore fans will know off the top of their heads. FWIW, I tried typing the full name into Google, with author was only the 4th or 5th autofill selection.

He's mostly going to be George Lastname anyway, so it's not going to be an everyday issue. I'll think you'll be fine.

April 15, 2014 12:06 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think it should be fine because (1) none of those names are particularly unusual or distinctive and (2) as mentioned, almost nobody knows what the Rs in the author's name stand for anyway.

If I knew what the author's middle initials stood for, I would probably think that your son's name could be an homage, but might very well not be. Someone wishing to honor the author would probably be more likely to name their son George Martin Lastname.

And I do think the Game of Thrones trendiness will die down fairly soon.

April 15, 2014 12:07 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that only hardcore fans will know what the R. R. means. I think you're safe. You shouldn't worry about the comparisons and go with the name you love. George R.R. Martin will still be newsworthy for the next ten years probably but I suspect it'll die down once the last books are out and the show is done. This fantasy nerd thinks your name is great and you should give George R.R. Martin's work a second chance. He's mainstream hit and the stories are universal. but I digress.

April 15, 2014 12:53 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I doubt most people even know what the Rs stand for. Maybe some hardcore fans, but in that case it will be seen as a positive to them.

April 15, 2014 10:37 PM
By Keith G (not verified)

Even better, I'm a librarian, and I'm guessing that most people have never heard of Game of Thrones, and even if they did, would have no idea who wrote it.

People tend to know the authors in their particular genre, and if you're not a big fantasy fan, you're not gonna know George RR Martin. In fact, if you say George Martin to me, I think of The Beatles.

The subset of people who might see a connection is so small as to be meaningless.

April 16, 2014 11:37 AM
By Chrispy (not verified)

I agree that most people don't actually know what the Rs stand for. Also, although lots of people are into the tv show right now, the books have been around for rather a long time. Those who will connect the name with the author AND hear or see both middle names will be few and far between.

April 16, 2014 1:45 PM
By lothelena (not verified)

We're huge nerds in this house and we have a lot of his books but I didn't know what the R's stand for (though I guessed it might be him). Just go with it. People won't make the connection.

April 16, 2014 10:02 PM
By anon (not verified)

I think you'll be fine. Especially as the name George becomes a quirky but trending choice among Ivy leaguers (it's probably not the next Henry, but I imagine it will gain in polarity over the coming years.).

April 18, 2014 1:35 PM
By Nedibes (not verified)

I'm going to *slightly* disagree with the crowd--I think the fact that people don't know what the RRs stand for makes this name a slightly harder sell, just because middle INITIALS are a lot more likely to be used publicly than entire middle names--and George R.R. Smith is going to sound a bit like a tribute even if the R.R. actually stood for Reynaldo Rachmaninoff. Even without the 'George' in front, I might think "fantasy fan" with double-barreled R initials; for years I thought of George R.R. Martin as the J.R.R. Tolkien wannabe on that basis.

None of which is to say you shouldn't use the name, just to add another data point.

April 18, 2014 1:45 PM
By Nedibes (not verified)

Should have added--if you want him to be able to use both middle initials without fear, and don't want the fantasy connection, I think Dixon (Dickson) is a pretty good tribute name for an ancestral Richard, especially if he went by any form of Dick; George R.D. Lastname isn't going to ring any celebrity bells (even if there's someone famous out there with those initials they're just not as distinctive as the double-R).

May 18, 2014 4:44 AM
By friv (not verified)

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September 5, 2014 8:45 AM
By yepi3 (not verified)

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September 5, 2014 8:46 AM
By friv10 (not verified)

Thank you for sharing information. it is new and useful to me

September 26, 2014 6:07 PM
By Danny (not verified)

If I heard of a friend who named their kid George Raymond Richard Smith, I wouldn't think of the author. If I saw a George R. R. Smith, I would, and would guess it was probably intentional.I don't think First M. Last comes up all that much in life,

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