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Friday, April 25, 2008

Baby Name Etiquette: Someone Else Used the Exact Same Name

Big Dreams writes:
I have a baby girl name I have been in love with for years. Whenever I think of my future daughter (no kids yet, but soon hopefully) I think of her as "the name I love". The first name is a name I think is perfect and sweet and the middle name was my grandmother's middle name. I have told some people about my love for this name, but not everyone.

This last Summer my cousin had a baby girl, and used my name! First and middle! It was absolutely a coincidence (the first name is actually a family name for my cousin's wife, whereas I just like it and the middle name was his grandmother's middle name as well). My question is, can I still use the name? If I use the first name and not the middle name does that make it any better?

I feel weirdly protective of the first name, but the middle name is Mae. If we scrap the first name (which will break my heart a bit) do you have any names that work well with Mae? I like unique names (can't be in the top 200 baby names in the social security site at minimum) and I really like old fashion names like Violet and Ruby, but my husband likes slightly more traditional names. So we're looking for unusual but not weird, sweet sounding girl names that work with Mae as a middle name. Our last name starts with C.

What if you said something to your cousin such as, "Girl Child's name is, by crazy coincidence, the very name I had in mind for my daughter. First AND middle!" and then maybe you could see where the conversation went. I'd try early on to steer the conversation in the direction of "If I did have a daughter, how would we nickname them to tell them apart?" as opposed to in the direction of "You own this name and I can't use it without your blessing." (Because they really don't own it: names are not single-use items, and they probably weren't the first ones to use it either.)

It's possible they'll be like, "Oh, cool!" and then you can use the name without further worry. Or in any case, you'd come out of the conversation with a better idea of how cheesed off they'd be if you used it, and they'd have a heads-up that it was a possibility.

If you do use The Name You Love, I do think it makes things a little easier if you don't also duplicate the middle name. Perhaps you could use the first name, and reserve the middle name Mae for a possible second daughter?

If you choose instead to give up The Name You Love, Mae is a nice flexible middle name. I think you could make a list of girl names you liked, and then just go down the list and see which ones sound good with Mae. I spent a few minutes picking names and trying them out, and I notice that names with more than one syllable sound especially good: Josie Mae, Priscilla Mae, Alice Mae, Laurel Mae, Francesca Mae, Penelope Mae, Rosemary Mae. As long as your last name doesn't create a Sentence Problem (with Mae sounding like "may"), you're all set. Oh, and I'd avoid month names such as April Mae.

If you decided for sure not to use it, you could write again---telling us The Name You Love---and we'll try to find names we think are similar.

If anyone has any advice and/or experience on duplicating names within a family, we'd love to hear it---especially if someone in your family successfully (i.e., no bloodshed or possessive feud) duplicated a name. Or answer this: If your cousin wanted to use the same name you'd given your child, what would be the best way for your cousin to handle it?


Mairzy said...

Don't give up the name if you can help it!

If my cousin wanted to use exactly the same name I used, I'd think, "First come, first served. Find your own name." Because I form very possessive feelings for the names I choose. However, assuming said cousin handled things graciously and didn't absolutely tick me off, I'd eventually realize that she has a perfect right to the name. I think steering the conversation to "What nicknames?" is the right course of action. And varying the middle name is a very good idea.

Besides, being cousins creates a little distance. My SISTERS used almost exactly the same name for their sons. Middle names different, but first names very similar (think Colby-Cody). They live, what, two miles from each other? Already the older siblings in one family have learned to over-emphasize the ending sound: "It's CoDEEEE." My mother grumbled about it, but in the end, each boy has grown into his name, and everyone has adjusted.

d e v a n said...

That's just mean to not tell us the name. I must know.

Banana said...

I know it's silly not to tell the name. It's Stella. Stella Mae.

I've been brainstorming different middle names - Stella Anne is one I really like too.

Thanks for your help with this Swistle!

Saly said...

I am actually sort of in the same situation right now. Our 3rd child, due in August, will be called Hannah. e have made no secret of it since we found out it was a girl.

We are friends with a couple who also happen to be my brother's in laws (his wife's brother and wife)who were expecting and did not know what they were having and were unwilling to discuss names. The day she was born, I received an email simply titled "Hannah Emily". Seriously, my heart stopped. I was crushed.

Bottom line, after much angst, we stuck with the name--but we are using a different (still undecided) middle name. And I sent them gift with a note that said "How funny that we've chosen the same name for our girls...." and that's that.....aside from comments from my SIL who says it will be so confusing with 2 Hannah's around. Whatev.

Anyway, I know this is long; I think you should stick with the name you love. What if you name her something else, and her personality is that of a "Stella"? You'd regret it, right?

I love Stella by the way. It's a gorgeous name.

Good luck!

Clarabella said...

Oh man! 1) Stick with your name. If it was an accident that your son and his wife named their baby the same, then it's an accident. Don't give up something that will break your heart a little. Sheesh; and 2) Stella sounds good with SO MANY names, if you're willing to give up Mae, you've got options galore. You said Anne, but you could also (sticking traditional) do:
Stella Jane
Stella Claire
Stella Marie
Stella Rose
Stella Kate
I could go on and on--ooh Stella Madeline. But I'll stop. Also, if you wanted and could stand it, you could always consider Estelle/Estella. Just a thought.

Clarabella said...

I'm sorry, I meant your COUSIN and his wife. Duh. It's Friday.

Kimberly said...

I've never understood the one-person-per-family name rule. But then,I have 2 cousins named Julie (parents are siblings). One of the Julie's named her son Jack, and at the moment that is our top boy name. We'll mention it at some point, but not in a question...more a "yeah, our top name is Jack...isn't that funny" kind of way. Apparently, my little sister (not married, not pregnant) wants to use Jack too. Doesn't bother me in the least.

W/ my Julie cousins, we just called them Julie Smith and Julie Jones (not the real last names). It wasn't confusing:)

Bird said...

I don't believe in name ownership--use the name you love. Cousins are definitely distant enough if you ask me. My uncle Eddie has a cousin Ed and they get along famously. Didn't occur me till I was over eighteen that they probably both have the full name Edward, and they were born within months of each other.

Kate said...

I think that it also depends on how close you are physically and family-wise. do you see them every week? once a year? Will your kids have the same last name? When I was younger, my first cousin and I went by the same first and last name -- Kate X. (we both changed our last names when we married). Our actual names were different -- I am a Kathryn Margaret and she is a Martha Katherine, but still, EXACT same names. I was "big kate" and she was "little kate". I didn't love it, but we only saw each other once a year or so. If we lived closer and had the same first and last name, it might've been more bothersome for me. You could also think of switching the names around, like Mae Stella (although that doesn't really sound that great). Both girls could still go by Stella, but have different names.

I still think that you should name your theoretical daughter whatever you'd like, but I would think on it a little more if the cousins would have the same full name or if you would see them very regularly.

Katie said...

My dad has cousins (who are also cousins themselves) who have the exact same first, middle, and last name. Both are men, so they still have these names. And both are now doctors in the same city. So there's two Dr. Steven Lee P___'s - except one treats humans, the other treats animals. It can cause some amusing mix ups, but it never seemed to be a huge problem in the family, besides a little short-lived resentment on the part of the older Steven's parents.

Susan said...

I wouldn't mind if my cousin used the same name I had used, and in fact I'd be honored. And I wouldn't mind having my child be the second cousin with the same name. I think it's perfectly okay even for siblings to use the same name, let alone cousins.

I do think Swistle is wise to suggest telling the cousin ahead of time to see if she might have strong feelings about it, since not everyone feels the same. I might change my mind if I found out the cousin would be angry and upset. I'd want to know this ahead of time to factor it into my decision -- which might STILL be to use the name, but I'd want to know what I was in for. I hate having people mad or upset at me, and at the very least I'd want to be braced for it. It might even make me change my mind about the name. Though I would think my cousin was being pretty silly to think she owned the name!

Anonymous said...

How about Grayson Maye (Grace, for short)
Emma Mae
Katheryn Mae
others I like....
Leighton Mae
Delaney Mae
Ainsley Mae

fairydogmother said...

I don't have any advice on duplicating names within a family really, simply because it hasn't come up (yet) in my family.

I do, however, really like Mae as a middle name. It was my grandma's middle name, and (on the other side of the family) my mom's aunt's name. I think it is a really classic, pretty name that works really nicely with other classic names. My suggestions:

Yvonne Mae
Emma Mae
Isabel Mae
Lydia Mae

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

This blog has been an eye opener for me (the whole of Swistle's naming blog) because my middle name is "Mae" and growing up I always felt it was an odd name to have... but now I see how darn common it is! hahaha.

Mae is a FANTASTIC middle name, so if you don't get to use Stella, I still think Mae will work with almost every other name choice (and middle names are for sure allowed to be used again and again, especially in honouring a family member).

I personally am not a fan of family having the same name, HOWEVER... the distance thing plays a huge factor. I have an Uncle Mike and a brother Mike, and there's no issue there. I can also get on board with two cousins having the same first name, pending they don't see each other every day. Having a new middle name for Stella would probably be your best bet though, as it does provide a distinguishing factor.

This is why I do the following: Before anyone has a baby I say things like, "Oh, well the name I'M going to use is...blahblahblah" and that way I hope that maybe they'll feel like, "Oh, we don't want to end up with the same name" and they'll (even subconsciously) choose something else. ;-) See how I win without even having had a kid yet??? LOL.

But in all honesty, go for it. If it's the name you've loved forever, then its yours to use. I like the idea of having the conversation beforehand... the "It's so funny that you chose 'Stella', I know that I'm going to be naming my future daughter 'Stella' as well, I've loved that since I was a little girl, it's a gorgeous name"...

I think it conceals the motivation in complimenting her baby name choice a lot, so she'll be in a more positive mindset about the idea. And also, it might make her feel less inclined to be mad at you... since you've now revealed to her that you've already decided on this name many, many years ago (she might feel guilt over stealing your sacred name, so how can she be mad at your for still using it?... see what I mean?).

Last summer I reconnected with my mom's cousin, who happens to have a son named Owen. It actually threw me off for a minute, because I decided three or four years ago that Owen is my number one boy name choice... so I had a moment of "but now people will just think I'm copying J"... I got over it though when I thought about the fact that we're still distant enough that it will work out fine, and if I tell people that I've loved the name since before I met J's Owen then they'll know that I didn't "steal" or "copy" the name.

I guess it all boils down to the fact that we all shouldn't care so much what others think, but we're human so we do. Just do what's right for you... if it's the name you've loved forever, I wouldn't give it up because of this circumstance. But if you don't feel comfortable using it, for sure Mae is still a wonderful middle name choice. :-)

Leash said...

I am obviously of the "If you love it, use it" school of thought. Despite protests from nearly all parties involved, I stuck with Devereaux as my son's name because I loved it.

If you love Stella, name her Stella. I find that it's really that simple. I would most like just look for options for the middle name.

Stella Avery?

Tammy said...

You could name her Estella Mae and call her Stella. I have seen women not use the name that they had loved because of a family member using it and they always regret it.

Elizabeth Mae is beautiful. I am not sure if Elizabeth is in the top 200.

Audrey Mae is pretty too.
My grandmother's middle name was May, but unfortunately her name turned out to be a real sentence and she was teased.
Good luck.

Sherry said...

I have VERY strong feelings about this whole "Somebody else took my baby name" nonsense. Your cousin doesn't own the name. And besides, your daughter and your cousin's daughter will be second cousins, they'll hardly interact.

In fact, I am the fourth of five children, and my husband is the third of five. We already have 10 nieces and nephews with one more on the way, and I have made it very clear to my siblings and their spouses that I don't care if they choose a name that I already picked out. I will still name my child that name. It's not that I believe in calling dibs, it's just that I don't think it matters if cousins have the same names. Especially if the last names are different. So, when a niece was due and the parents hadn't chosen a name, but were thinking about Ellen, I said, "I don't mind if you name your baby Ellen. Just know that Elena WILL be a name for my daughter. So if it bothers you, then don't do it."

Perhaps that's a little harsh, but I do genealogy, and oodles of people shared names with their cousins, not to mention their deceased older siblings, so I don't really know what the hullabaloo is all about.

Anonymous said...

I do have strong opinions about people copying names. My daughter now 15 is called Helen. My son James. My brother called his daughter Helena 4 years ago. Then 18months ago my sister called her daughter Ellen. My Mun gets the names all muddled and Helen gets so upset. Then as the final straw my brother called his son James.

We now have nothing to do with my family.

Amanda said...

I'm curious to know what happened with the original poster of this issue. Did you have a baby girl, and did you name her Stella? I have a similar conundrum.

My husband and I have a 16-month-old son. We chose not to find out the gender until the day he was born. We had both a girl name and a boy name decided. Had he been a girl, he would have been Evelyn Rose. Everyone in both our families knew the name for either boy or girl.
Evelyn was my grandmother who passed away almost 3 years ago, and Rose is my husbands grandmother who passed away the same week my son was born.
My younger brother and his fiancee are expecting and found out the gender of their baby the other day. They are having a girl and naming her Evelyn Irene (Irene is my future sister-in-laws grandmother)

My husband and I are trying to conceive again and are hoping for a girl, and we still want to name our daughter Evelyn. Not only because we like the name, but because my grandmother meant a lot to the family (my brother included).