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Monday, July 28, 2008

Baby Naming Issue: Someone Stole Our Name

Heather writes:
My husband and I have recently decided to start trying to start a family. My husband has a unique name, Lincoln Cash, which was given to him by his parents, at the time he was born his mother named him after two very special and important people in her life. The thing is a couple months ago my husband and I read in our very small town newspaper and baby was born and given my husband exact name. Turns out this baby's parents are friends of friends or my mothers and had overheard my mother talking about myself and my husband. My husband and I feel offended and disrepected by these peoples actions. His name has great meaning to us as well as his mother and now I fell I have been cheated the opportunity of passing that meaning along to our son. Please respond back to me when possible. I need help getting on and\or whether I'm all bent out of shape for nothing.
P.S. Due to my husband name being so unique he has been approached several times already about whether he has recently had a child. People are thinking that because this baby's name is Lincoln Cash that it is my husband son. What do we do? Thanks for your time.

Let's see if we can sort this out, issue by issue. I am afraid you are not going to like any of this.

* Names are many-time-use items. No one owns exclusive rights to a name---and it's a good thing, too, or we'd be resorting to random combinations of letters and numbers by now.

* If someone younger than your husband has the same name, that is irrelevant to whether or not you can use the name for your child. I will say this again, because this is important: it is irrelevant to your future use of the name. No one has cheated you out of anything; no one has stolen anything from you: they don't somehow own the name now, nor do they own the meaning of the name you hope to pass on to a future son. Names are many-time-use items.

* People who choose the same name have no obligation to use it for the same reasons. One person's reasons don't invalidate another person's reasons: if another family uses the name with a different significance in mind, it does not suck the significance from your husband's name. Their use of the name does not make the people your husband was named for any less important to his family.

* Many parents have special reasons for choosing a child's name. Having special reasons for choosing a name doesn't create a greater claim to the name. Everyone else is still allowed to use the names, even if they don't have the same special reasons. They may even use it if they have ZERO special reasons.

* The other family did not name their baby Lincoln Cash in an attempt to offend and disrespect you. Can you imagine them sitting in the hospital, thinking, "You know what would really offend those people? Giving our baby his name! Let's do it! *rubbing hands together with evil glee*." Naming a baby after someone is considered a serious compliment and a high honor. At the very least, it's a compliment to the name. It is never, ever done as an insult. Your reaction (feeling insulted and offended) is inappropriate.

* In answer to your question about what to do when someone asks you if that child is your husband's baby: you answer, "No."

The thing is, I believe you agree with me already. I will show you what I mean:

Your husband was not the first to have his name, any more than that new baby is. In fact, you say he was given the names of other people. Did your husband's mother steal the names of those special and important people, would you say? Did she take away the significance and meaning the parents of those special/important people felt when they named those two long-ago babies? Should the parents of those special/important people have been offended and insulted that your husband's mother used their babies' names for her baby, your husband? Should those two special/important people have been furious with your husband's mother, because now they could not pass on their own names themselves?

Of course not. She did not steal the names. She did not sap the names of significance and meaning. She did not insult and offend the special/important people's parents by reusing the names they had used for their babies. She did not prevent the special/important people from using the names themselves. She chose a name she liked for her baby. That's what this other family has also done. And that is what you will do, when you name your future babies.


Nancy said...

I don't think Heather's feelings are "inappropriate," necessarily. Maybe a little over-the-top, given the nature of the situation, but not wildly out of order. I mean, it is irritating to hear that someone close to you (e.g. same family, same small town, same social circle) has used a name you had intended to use.

Otherwise, though. I agree. Names are non-proprietary, and (except in extreme cases) other people's choices should not have any affect your own.

(Sorry in advance if this double-posts. I'm having some issues with the comment form...)

Steph said...

as someone, somewhere said "imitation is a form of flattery". hey, they really liked his name, nice. these people may move to alsaka next week and you may never hear from them again. use the name for your baby if you wish - in the long run it really doesn't matter - it is a truly great name!

Fine For Now said...

You are RIGHT, no one owns a name and no one should feel slighted if someone else chooses the name also. It is flattering, this family is looking at this in all the wrong ways. I hope they still use the name.

Thanks for being so honest in your answer to her.

Swistle said...

Nancy- Oh, I totally agree! I would be VERY irritated! And also I'd have an awful adrenaline feeling about it. When I was expecting Henry, my cousin and his wife were expecting a boy a few months ahead of me, and we were both keeping the names secret. I was horrified at the idea that they might use the same name we were planning to use, and if they HAD used it, I would have cried.

So I do understand feeling awful if someone else uses the name you were planning to use. But I think feeling "insulted" and "offended" is inappropriate.

Nowheymama said...

Excellent, excellent post, Swistle.

moo said...

I understand where she is coming from. Her husband's name is unique and special in a small town and they were hoping to name their son after his father. It must feel like stealing when someone who isn't even a part of the family "takes" the name for their child. I think the key here is that they live in a small town and she's already getting comments from people asking if this child is theirs.

But maybe they'll only have girls and the point will be moot.

Kristi said...

Love the post, Swistle.

I understand being a little bummed about the situation, but I think it's useless to dwell on it. Don't waste energy being "offended" and "insulted". Use the name that you love when the time comes and don't worry about it.

Bebe said...

I agree with your response, Swistle. I'd also like to add that since Heather had to read about this baby's name from the newspaper, obviously the families are not close enough to cause redundancy if they too named their child "Lincoln". Small town or not.
Ooh, and also, if my sister's baby had been a boy, they would have named him Lincoln. I don't think it's a name that's as uncommon as perhaps it was in Heather's husband baby days. They should be prepared to hear it more often.
Heather and Lincoln, name your child Lincoln It's a great name!

Anonymous said...

I guess I can understand your feelings a little bit, but fact that some other kid in the same town has the same name, doesn't make your husband's name any less meaningful or it won't change anything if you want to name your child that.

I can also understand the other point of view too. I have a sister named Kimbra. Kimbra is a very unusual can rarely find it in name books even. My mom got the name from a girl that attended our church. So I guess, she essentially stole the name from this girl's family (although I don't think they had the same middle name).

Anonymous said...

While I agree there was no name-stealing going on, the whole thing is a bit odd. I do wonder why that other couple used the exact name combination. However, there's nothing that can be done to change it, and there's no guarantee Heather and Lincoln will have sons anyway. I will say that it really stinks that people are asking the husband if he recently had a child...*that* actually seems offensive to me.

This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which George wants to name a future child "Seven" then another couple does just that!

Tracy (lurker)

DirtyHippy said...

I agree with you, Swistle, 110%. A name like Lincoln Cash might not necessarily be common (though that's the sort of trendy name I'd be likely to encounter in my neighborhood) but it's not unique and certainly not the sole property of the writer's husband. She's over-reacting.

However, I will say that I have a lot of sympathy for people who are irritate to see their family names used as first names solely because they sound good. A name like Connor might mean a lot because of ancient family history and to hear it thrown around on hordes of little boys because it sounds "cute" would be totally irritating. Still, there's really nothing to be done about it, is there?

Lara Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lara Jane said...

(whoops! I think I deleted my post!)

I've been in Heather's shoes.

My father died when I was a baby and my mom remarried a few years later. From about puberty I planned on naming my first son after both of my fathers. A close friend of mine got there first. (And yes, she knew.)

I agree with everything you're saying, Swistle, but it doesn't make it hurt any less.

Frazzled Mom said...

I can certainly understand Heather's frustration. If the name was John William or something a little more common, it wouldn't seem as irritating. And it really shows a lack of imagination on the part of the copying parents. They couldn't at least switch the two names or use only one of the names, but they had to use the exact combination of names. What a bummer. I would probably be irritated too.

However, I have to agree that no one can copyright a name, and the fact this family "stole" the name should not take away from the meaning, and prevent Heather and her husband from using it in the future.

Something else to consider when it comes to having kids is that there are bigger tragedies besides someone else using "your name." For example, there are families who struggle with infertility. I don't want to sound like a downer. I just want to add some perspective.

Anonymous said...

I understand her too. I have an irrational worry of telling pregnant women my daughter's name, for fear they will STEAL it. I know it is stupid. But I like that her name is uncommon.

shoeaddict said...

I think that Heather's feelings are not inappropriate because no feelings are inappropriate. No one can help the way they feel. However, no one owns a name. In fact, that is how we name our children, we hear a name and like it and pass it on, right? Heather should still name her child whatever she wants.

Swistle said...

Shoeaddict- I agree that we can't help how we feel. "Appropriate" refers not to whether the feeling can be helped, but to whether the feeling matches the circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Here's what you do -- add something to the name that makes it more "yours" than the original stolen name. Lincoln Cash Best, Licoln Cash Junior, Lincoln Connor Cash, whatever. It's a name that sounds great no matter what. And then, in the birth announcement, make a big deal about NAMED AFTER HIS FATHER LINCOLN CASH etc.

shoeaddict said...

Swistle- I understand that. Gotcha. :) Thanks...

wwbd said...

Great post, Swistle!

I understand the irritation, but I almost have the opposite response. I love my daughter's name and I think it is cool when I hear of other people with it. The brother of one of my friends heard her name [my daughter] and thought it was nice. She asked me if they could use it, and I said, "Of course!" I was flattered, in fact. They ended up going a different way, though...

Nicole said...

Regardless of the name issues...I'm wondering why, in such a small town, people are confused as to who's child it is. I mean the child is most likely with one or both parents all the time. So why is the posters hubby being asked whether or not he's the father?

Gigi said...

I completely agree with Swistle. I say still use the name!
Good luck!:D