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Can I Go Back on a Namesake Promise?

My husband and I are expecting our first child. If we have a girl, we had planned on giving her my grandmother's name as a second middle name. My grandmother was always there for me while I was growing up. Recently, though, my grandmother has been treating my mother (her daughter) badly and saying cruel things about her. I don't think I could use the name of someone who acts like that. But I already told my grandmother we were thinking of giving a daughter her name as a middle name. Would it be rude of me to back out?

–Having Second Thoughts

You're in a tough situation, and I sympathize. You made a namesake plan at a time when you wanted to honor the grandmother who meant a lot to you. Now that circumstances are different, can you renege on this offer? That could cause a further rift between you and your grandmother (and maybe make things worse for your mom too). And yet sticking with your plan feels wrong too, since a namesake is meant to pay tribute to someone you love and admire—not resent.

I suggest discussing this issue with your mom first. How does she feel about the way her mother is acting? My expertise is in names, not geriatrics, but it's possible that a medical condition is contributing to Grandma's behavior (especially if it’s something that's come on recently and suddenly). Maybe your mom isn't bothered by Grandma's comments, especially if she feels they are out of character. She might even like to see her granddaughter carry on her own mom's name, if she has more pleasant memories of her than unpleasant ones.

If your mom does feel hurt by her mother's behavior, then you certainly have the right to reconsider or even cancel your namesake plans. Of course, your grandmother may be hurt by this. It's a choice between two bitter pills: your grandmother's anger, or your daughter bearing a name that doesn't have the meaning it once did, one that could cause pain to your own mother too. A child's name should never be a reminder of conflict and discord.

To smooth things over with Grandma, you might be able to say that you decided against two middle names due to length. Or, would you consider using your own mom's name in place of Grandma's? Then you could remind Grandma that you're choosing the very name she once picked out for her daughter.


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June 8, 2015 11:45 AM
By Pika Chu (not verified)

It's a SECOND middle name. You could use MongoTheSheepHerder in that spot and it wouldn't make a lick of difference in your daughter's life.

Here's an idea: use your mother's name as the first middle name (where it will actually get some use, albeit usually as an initial) and your grandmother's name in the Siberia of the second middle spot.

June 8, 2015 1:41 PM
By Brooke (not verified)

I planned for a long time to use my never-met grandfather's highly unique name on my first son. Then my first son was born, and we didn't even use it as a middle name. My grandmother didn't mind. Plus, you told her you were considering it. If she complains, you could say that you decided against it based on flow or wanting to save it for later.

June 8, 2015 2:45 PM
By Meg (not verified)

Brooke has a good point, so many people change their minds with names, it's rare for people to be committed. So if she brings it up, just say you considered it and it just wasn't going to work out after the final name cut. If she prys further she's being nosy. No need to say: well we were considering it until we discovered who you really were.

On the other hand, I wonder if Grandma's anger is just a pathetic way to voice frustration at the decisions your mom has made. Sounds like she still is a good person but is just hurting inside since some of her dreams for her daughter didn't come true and is just being immature about it. Maybe when she dies your perspective will be a little different and you'll be glad you kept the name, after all she's a great-grandma now.

June 8, 2015 4:12 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

First, you told her you were "thinking" of using her name as a middle. You didn't say you would. I don't think it's actually going back on your word if you never actually committed.

I also agree with the first comment above. As a 2nd middle, it's not going to get a lot of use. Sounds like a perfect solution if you want to avoid any possible fallout.

June 9, 2015 1:36 PM
By Meg (not verified)

Okay, I do sympathize, if I'm wrong and grandma really is a horrible person then you don't want her to be stuck with a second middle name you hate. Even if nobody finds out about the name, your daughter WILL know the story and it will be on official records for the rest of her life. The person with Mongothesheepherder for instance will get it on their gravestone and it may still get noticed. People say don't worry about the second middle name because it's not "their" name to deal with, and most won't see it but it will be a real thing to your daughter and she will know it was thrown in there for peace reasons and that you don't consider it an honorable name.

June 9, 2015 3:07 PM
By Christi with an i (not verified)

I agree with the Name Lady. There are a lot of medical reasons why an older person might have a behavioral change. She is probably also facing losing some of her independence (which would be decided by your mother and any other children she might have) due to health concerns. And none of it changes the very special relationship you had with her when you were a child. Find out more about the situation or choose to honor your memory of your grandmother. I am named after my grandmothers and I always hated my names (I hate my middle name so much that almost nobody knows what it is) but now that they are both gone, I appreciate carrying on their legacy.

June 9, 2015 9:03 PM
By Sarah (not verified)

You could compromise by using either Rose or Mary, thereby honoring your memories of your grandmother, but giving your daughter a name entirely her own.

June 10, 2015 4:40 AM
By Thomas (not verified)

Oh! Dear,

You are going through a tough situation but as we all know that old people tend to behave like small children when they grow older.
Another thing is that every person has a good and bad qualities, there no one like perfect in this world. So, I would suggest you to keep in mind the good side of your Granny while naming your little good one.
But you are the ultimate decider. If you need any help you can visit

June 12, 2015 10:23 PM
By pypop (not verified)

I am 8 weeks pregnant. Currently we have not found a suitable name, we really headache, this is really difficult

June 18, 2015 4:31 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Gravestones in my state usually only have first and last name, sometimes middle initial.

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