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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Baby Naming Issue: Name More Common Than Expected

Angie writes:
I originally wrote you back in December (Baby Boy or Girl Drizzle) for help with the names Ruth or Penelope if our baby was a girl. Well, baby is a boy and we named him Henry Isaac. While we understood Henry is by no means an unusual name and has certainly had a resurgence, we had NO idea how many Henry's there would actually be. We have met quite a few other Henry's and many of your readers have mentioned Henry as a potential baby name. Even the nurse at our peds clinic who sees an awful lot of babies, said that Henry is the new name around town. Since yourself and your readers were so helpful with our girl's name, I feel compelled to write again for help with our boy's name. I need some nickname help for our Henry. I just don't want him to get to kindergarten and be one of 5. We like both Hank and Hal equally, but neither really sparkle for us or seem to fit our little guy. What are your thoughts and your reader's thoughts on Hank or Hal? What are people's impressions of men with those names? Any other suggestions? His initials as an acronym won't work.

Ah! Paul and I had something similar happen with the name of one of our children. We KNEW the name was common, and in fact we LIKE common names, but we hadn't realized that it was SIGNIFICANTLY MORE COMMON in our state than in the nation at large---like, almost Top 10 in our state, as opposed to Top 50 in the nation. So although we'd signed on for a Popular Name, it was a bit of a worrying surprise to have (1) another baby with the same name in the maternity ward, and (2) another baby with the same name in the pediatrician's waiting room, and (3) another baby with the same name in the waiting room at the portrait studio, and (4) etc.

In his preschool class of about 25, there were two other children with the same name. We started looking into nicknames/variations of his name, but he didn't really want to change to anything else, so we just left it and he went by his first name and last initial---as did the other two boys.

When I registered him for school, the registrar said, "Heh! We've seen a lot of THOSE today!"---and then heard herself and added, "....Er, it's a lovely name."

But! Time for the good news! He hasn't had another child with the same name in his class since preschool. I looked up how many boys were born with his name in his birth year, and compared it to the number of Henrys born in 2008 (the 2009 info isn't yet available), and Henry is only about 1/4th as common.

So I think you can wait and see. If your Henry seems like a Henry and not a Hank or a Hal, I don't see any reason to force yourself into a change. If he IS one of a group of Henrys in his class, perhaps the others will already be going by Hank and Hal.

What does everyone else think? What do you think of the nicknames Hank and Hal, and can you think of other nickname possibilities? Do you have experience with this issue you can share?

24 comments:

Barb @ getupandplay said...

I prefer Hank to Hal but I agree with Swistle- if he's just Henry to you, then go with that!

Marla said...

I love Henry... Go with that.

Melio said...

You could call him Issac. Hi (instead of H.I.) is kind of cute too ... might earn him a reputation later in life though. I do think Henry is just nice on it's own, though. I don't think you can really "force" nicknames. If it happens, it happens. While it's not your real last name, maybe he'll be one of those boys that tends to go strictly by their last name - Drizzle is cool for that :)

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

I like just Henry myself, I'm not really a fan of Hank or Hal... they still sound like old man names to me. Just one opinion of course, but I like Henry itself. If he has to be a Henry D., it won't be forever.

I'm a 1985 Stephanie, I've lived with A Super Common Name for 24 years now. It's not too bad, really. Maybe he'll do like I've done with my best friend (whose name is Stephanie) and other other good friend from high school (named Stephanie), and he'll be Henry1 and have friends called Henry2 and Henry3. lol.

Diane said...

I prefer Henry to Hank or Hal. Another option might be Harry, a traditional nickname for Henry (as in Prince Harry, whose given name is Henry).

Christina Fonseca said...

I don't really care for Hank or Hal, but that's probably because I'm not really into nicknames. Stick to Henry - it's a classic.

Rayne of Terror said...

We have a 4 year old Henry and while there are 3 others we know, none of them goes to school with ours and I don't know any in our town. So I'd wait and see. As a 1977 Jennifer, suprisingly I did not have another Jennifer in my grade until middle school, while my sister Leah had to be Leah J all through elementary. Of course by the time I got to law school, like 20 percent of the women in my class we named Jennifer, but you go by your last name there anyway.

jt said...

You may want to ask your child, when the time comes, how he feels about going by a nickname. By the time he is starting school he will have identified with the name Henry, and may not want to go by something different. I agree with some of the other posters--if you love Henry, stick with it, and don't choose a nickname just because of hypothetical situations that may or may not pop up later on. Plenty of us survived and were fine with knowing others with the same name--and we often thought it was kind of cool when someone else shared a name with us. It created kind of a bond or something. Just my two cents.

Frazzled Mom said...

I had no idea Harry was a nickname for Henry. I thought Harry was a given name in its own right. Well, Harry can probably be both - like some people user Kate as a nickname and others as a given name.

While I really love Hank and Hal, if they're not for you, I think the Harry suggestion is a great idea. But I also agree with the others that the other Henry's may start going by a nickname, leaving Henry for your son.

Bethtastic said...

Maybe just call him H. My husband's name is Harold and he has hated it his entire life. A friend dubbed him H, and it stuck.

Abby said...

If our second had been a boy, Henry with the nickname Huck was a contender.

We named our son Alexander back in 2004. It is a family name - there was no doubt it was our only choice for a boy. We planned to nickname him Alexei to distinguish him from all the other kiddos with the same name.

But there weren't any other Alexanders in our circle of friends, at his day care or at our church. I relaxed. My son referred to himself as Aly, and *that* stuck. Without me insisting on the unusual nickname, many people assumed he was Alex. And Alexei was hard for Aly to say as a small child - and hard for his little friends to say. So Aly was reinforced and I relaxed about the times he was called Alex - including at nursery school.

Fast forward to summer camp - and he's one of THREE Alexes in his group.

If I had it to do over again, he'd have been Alexei immediately. If you're going to go with a non-standard nickname, you really have to start young.

Sarah said...

I have a Henry and we only sometimes call him "Hank".

I would just keep calling him Henry, if it seems to fit. We thought it would be a little more unusual, too, but we had some slight aquaintences who named their boy Henry, plus there was another Henry in the hospital after our H. was born, and everywhere we go people will say, "You know, that name seems to be making a comeback!"

Personally, I'm ok with this as long as the name continues to be popular. I really wanted to avoid a 'time stamp' on our children's names more than I wanted to avoid popularity. In 30 years, I don't want him to have the naming equivalent to (please forgive me if this is your name) Stephanie or Michelle. Henry is a great name! I think he'll do great with it.

Patricia said...

Just the other day my 6-year-old grandson Andrew told me that at his day camp with children from age 6-11, he's called "Andrew C". He likes this and seems to feel important with the initial of his last name added to his name! Since there is no other James in the group of 30-some kids, "Andrew C's" twin brother James is just "James".

I want to suggest you continue to call your son by the name *you* chose for him -- "Henry" -- and not change his name (even using a nickname is changing his name -- maybe forever) if Henry is who you want him to be.

Our Andrew is not Andy or Drew; he's Andrew, even if sometimes a "C" will follow his name. And he even likes being "Andrew C" rather than just "Andrew". Like other kids he's known -- Adrian C. and Adrian R. in his preschool -- he gets to have his initial with his name this summer too!

Susan said...

I have a very common name ("Susan," born in 1949), and although there are pluses and minuses, I'd say the pluses win out. Like most people with "Top Ten" names, I did have one school year with 3 Susans in my classroom. And now as a teacher, I often find other Susans on the staff -- though never as students, of course! One of the best things about a super-popular name is that almost everyone loves the name. Even when it goes out of style, very few people find it offensive. I think a dated name that was popular in its era usually sounds way better than a dated name that was unpopular. I've always loved my name and still do -- and I expect your Henry will too.

Katie V. said...

I'm not such a fan of either Hank or Hal, sorry. But Abby's suggestion of Huck is great! I love the name Huck (although it does have an unfortunate rhyme).

But like many others say, a nickname usually just happens, he may want to continue using Henry. More anecdotal evidence, as a 1985 Katie I should have always gone by Katie V. but I never really knew any other Katies (kind of surprising, I know many now). Actually, now quite a few of my friends call me Katie V. and we don't even have any other Katies in the group!

Lara Jane said...

I agree with Rayne. Maybe there won't be any other Henrys in your son's class!

Our Henry is 9 and there aren't any Henrys in his school, and though I hear the name a lot through my internet friends, I don't know of any other young Henrys in real life.

Jan said...

I like Harry - Prince "Harry" is officially a Henry. Huck doesn't seem like a natural nn for Henry to me but I don't think it's too far of a stretch if you like it.

I say go ahead and use a nn as long as it's one that you like since it does seem to bother you that there are so many little Henrys around.

Anna said...

I like just Henry not fond of any of the nicknames

Jennifer said...

I love the name Henry! While the nickname options are alright - Harry being my favorite - if he feels like a Henry to you, I wouldn't force the issue. As a Jennifer in an era of Jennifers (yes, there really were 4 in a class in my early elementary years, though it got better later on), I would say wait and let Henry choose a nickname if he wants one, when and if the situation arises (or, if a nickname evolves naturally, that can work well too). My parents firmly used my full name, but when I hit the classroom I gave myself a nickname, and kept it ever since. As a child, I enjoyed the fact that it was my decision, and it was not a big deal to be one of however many. That's just my experience, of course, but I've found that nicknames that are used JUST to have a nickname seldom stick.

StephLove said...

I'd stick with the name you like best. If that's Henry, so be it. You never know what names will get repeated in a class. My son, who is going into 3rd grade, has had two Jameses in his class since kindergarten and one started going by his first and middle name (James Raymond) to differentiate himself. The solution will come when/if you need it.

Karen said...

A neighbor of ours has a nephew named Henry...they call him Henny.

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone! You guys are so great! I have to say, I LOVE Huck, and even thought of it as a possible nickname when considering Henry. How we forgot about it, I don't know. On the other hand, I also agree with all of you that said you can't force a nickname. When I was younger and couldn't stand my name, nothing would ever stick! I have a feeling our Henry will remain a Henry, but Huck is sooo cute.... :)

jennifer b. said...

I am the mom of an Emma. She's 11 and while at the time I knew it was often used, just after she was born, it seemed like everyone we met had an Emma or knew an Emma. But, she's never had another Emma in her class and I know of only 3 others in the whole elementary school. I know it's now more popular than ever, but she is happy with her name and has never felt like there are too many Emmas.

I can also totally relate to the previous Jennifer commenter- agreed with everything she brought up.

I love the name Henry, if our baby had been a boy, I probably would have chosen it as well. I say stick with it. :)

Emily R said...

I know of a guy that went by Hen. It's not for everyone, but I think it's fun.