Baby Name Advice Column: Ask the Name Lady Baby Name Blog

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Which Race "Owns" This Name?

Dear Name Lady, I'm expecting my first child, a boy, and my husband and I both really like the name Desmond. My mother-in-law is set against it, since Desmond is a "black" name. (I'm white and my husband is Latino.) I think she believes that because the only Desmond she knows is Bishop Tutu. Is there any validity to her argument? Do certain groups own names? - Frustrated Daughter-in-Law

You've asked two questions here. One is specific and straightforward, the other broad, complex and contentious. Let's warm up with the simple one: is Desmond an exclusively "black" name?

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Should I Bend Like Beckham?

My husband and I have decided on the name Harper for our baby girl. He was not 100% in love with it, but didn't have suggestions for alternatives and agreed to "just go with it." Middle name time. He wants the middle name to be Gene after his grandfather. I hate it, but our first daughter has my grandmother's middle name, so I get the sentiment. Any workaround here or should I "just go with it"? - Compromising Mom

My, what a timely question. Just this week Victoria "Posh" Beckham and soccer star David Beckham announced the birth of a daughter named Harper with an unconventional, androgynous middle name. Ms. Beckham has talked about liking little girls to look "girly," yet her new daughter is Harper Seven Beckham -- the Seven echoing her husband's longtime jersey number.

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My Boyfriend Won't Stick Up For His Name!

My boyfriend has a name that can be spelled two different ways, like Abby/Abbey or Zack/Zach. He legally spells it one way but doesn't care how anybody else spells it, and it bugs me when people spell it the "wrong" way. What should I do? - Confused GF

We all have our pet peeves, little bits of wrongness that drive us batty while others take no notice. Did you ever see a guy wearing black shoes with a brown belt? Or have somebody hover behind you, reading over your shoulder? Most of you probably have, but didn't care. A few of you, though, are seething at the very thought. It's the same with name spellings.

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Can I Adopt an Alias?

Is it possible to legally take on a "public" name while still keeping my birth name -- without having to create a business of some kind, which is all I can find on the subject? I have been thinking about adopting a new name for many years, but I don't want to cut all ties to my current name. I keep seeing where people were "born as" or "A.K.A." and I wonder if it is an official process. - Me, But Not Me

I'm a Name Lady, not a Law Lady, but I can tell you this much: you only have one legal name. (If you meet somebody with passports in two names, back away slowly.) Yet thousands of people do use aliases every day, legitimately.

How can both statements be true? The key is what you do with that alias.

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Does This Name Cross the Line?

We have daughter named Malia and a son named Tytan, and are preparing for the birth of our second son. My husband and I both like Nytro with a possible nickname of "Nyte." Is this TOOO out there? The older people we ask do not like it at all: my mom said ABSOLUTELY NOT (repeatedly). But then my husband asked a group of high schoolers and they thought it was way cool. We like unusual names and my husband was inspired by American Gladiators. Are we delusional?
- Jen (from the 70s)

Ah, Jen from the 1970s, you’ve put your finger on the key question for would-be unique namers everywhere: is this cool, or am I crazy? Your bittersweet sign-off speaks volumes. When you’ve lived your whole life as one of many with your name, unconventional choices can be tantalizing, full of that certain something your name never had. But you don’t want to go too far beyond the curve, giving your children names that go beyond edgy into burdensome.

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A Baseball Baby Doubleheader?

My husband and I are expecting identical twin boys in July. He plays for a minor league baseball team. We would like to incorporate baseball into the names we choose for our boys, but would like to stay away from the traditional Ty (Ty Cobb). Any suggestions? - Baseball Mom

A twin name set with a creative theme! Congratulations on this double play of attention-grabbing name dilemmas. There are two elements you have to consider for your Boys of Summer: how "twinsy," and how...err, "ballsy."

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Moms vs. Kate Middleton

There's no bigger celebrity stage than a royal wedding. Catherine "Kate" Middleton's special day made her a global sensation, with round-the-clock coverage of her every move and every outfit. But how much does Kate the Celebrity rub off on Kate the Baby Name?

Skittish parents, I have good news for you. The golden rule of celebrity baby naming is in your corner: it's not about the fame, it's about the name.

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The Questions I Don't Answer

I receive dozens of questions every week, so I have to make tough choices about which to answer. Then again, some of the decisions aren't so tough. Here's a sampling of questions that never made it out of the Name Lady's Inbox.


"Would it be wrong to name my daughter Eustachia? I am an otolarynologist - aka 'ear, nose and throat doctor.'"

"Me and my boyfriend of 1 year are awaiting the arrival of our daughter and I am just wondering if the name I love so is taken -- Nevaeh Tnes Elgna, which is 'heaven sent angle' spelled backwards."

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I am NOT Trendy!

How do traditional names suddenly become "trendy"? I'm pregnant with my fifth child, and my favorite names for this baby are Eleanor and Leo. I started researching them online only to find, to my great disappointment, that many sites are describing them as "trendy" names!!! They have been around for so long, and I have no intention of tinkering with the spelling or anything. I love them in part for their history. To me, "trendy" applies to names like Jayden & MacKenzie, not Leo & Eleanor! Why have my favorite names been saddled with "trendiness"? - Old-fashioned Mom

How can "old" names be "trendy"? Because of people like you, of course.

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Which is the Proper Nickname?

My husband and I are at odds about how to spell our four-year-old daughter’s nickname. Her name is Eliana, and we often lop off the "ana" portion of the name. I do not like adding letters to shortened names that do not appear in the original; my hubby doesn't see the issue with adding extraneous letters. His vote is Elli, or Ellie. I say Eli. Yes, I realize it looks like the shortened version of Elijah. However, most people who would be writing her shortened name would know her full name and likely would not be confused as to how to pronounce it. - Rebecca (Becca, NOT Becky)

You and your husband represent the two schools of thought on nicknames. One side views nicknames as shortened forms of carefully chosen formal names, and feels they should hew as closely to those original names as possible. Otherwise, doesn't all that care you took with the full name go out the window? The other side sees the nickname as having more of an independent identity. If the nickname is what your child is going to be called every day, shouldn't it be the best possible choice rather than an awkward concession to the formal name?

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