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Friday, August 27, 2010

Baby Naming Issue: Changing a Naming Tradition After the Birth

J. writes:
I need help. My son was born 3 months ago. His name is William George Karsten V. We are calling him Will or William. My husband is the 4th and goes by Bill. Neither of us felt strongly about the name, just didn't think of anything else and decided it would be nice to carry on. He was born on May 9, 2010. This was a nice date because it was mother's day and also my paternal grandfather's birthday. His name was Fagan Smith and he passed away 16 years ago. My father's middle name is Fagan. He had only daughters . From the first week I came home from the hospital I have wanted to add Fagan to Will's name making it William George Fagan Karsten. This would honor both my husband's father who is the 3rd and still living and my grandfather with whom Will shares a birthday. But...it would take away the honor of being the V. I don't want to hurt my father in law's feelings. I just really would love to honor my grandfather that way. He would still have the whole name, just a little extra. Add to this the fact that my husband's parents divorced when he was a toddler. We have wonderful relationships with both his mother's and father's families and mine too. Should I add Fagan as a second middle name? I have thought about it so much it's all muddled! I kind of think I would also like Will to have something that distinguishes him from the others with his name.
Thank you for your help! I need to move on and spend my time loving this sweet baby boy!!!!

I think you should leave his name as it is. Adding Fagan would remove the V---and while I wish families wouldn't start naming traditions like this, once they HAVE, and once you've agreed to do it, I think messing with it will cause problems. And particularly if you change it now, after the child has already been named and everyone has breathed a sigh of relief that the tradition has been continued.

While it would be nice to honor your grandfather, he is not alive to receive the honor, and the name is not a strong tradition in your family: it's your father's MIDDLE name, and you haven't mentioned any tradition of passing it down. And as a name to be passed down, it's an awkward one for a boy. If you have more children, you can honor a name (or even two names) from your side of the family then---and in fact Fagan might work better for a girl, reminiscent of both Fay and Maegan. Smith, too, would make a good first name for a boy, and would honor that whole branch of your family.

It may help to remember that although naming a child after a relative IS an honor, it's not the only way to honor someone you love---and it doesn't convey DIShonor to NOT use a name. It would have been fun to use the coincidence of your son being born on your grandfather's birthday, but it's also fun just that he WAS born on the birthday, even if you don't commemorate that by using your grandfather's name. It's common to have some Namer's Uncertainty after a baby is born, but you have given your son a wonderful solid name that will serve him well his whole life as well as pleasing your husband's family. My advice is to leave it.

11 comments:

Linda said...

Agree!

Patricia said...

Swistle said it well -- your son has a fine name, most likely everyone is happy with it, changing it would bring more angst than you're feeling now. What a grand name - William George Karsten V, carrying on a tradition that would have started well over 100 years ago, back to his great-great grandfather. And yet a very current name too -- William "Will". Lucky boy!

If you have a second son, you might want to include Fagan in his name, or if you have a daughter, perhaps the name of a female ancestor on your side.

A'Dell said...

Also important to note is that a lot of people feel that when someone dies, the others with same name get promoted. So, there could only be a William George Karsten V if all five are living.

The idea is to distinguish between father/son/grandson (while all alive), which is where you get the Junior/Senior stuff.

Some people also use the II to mean that a man does not have his father's name (in which case Junior would be normally used) but rather that he has an uncle or other male relative's name.

It's all kind of murky as to what's "appropriate" and the colloquial meaning usually is what people take from it anyway - that this kid is the fifth person in the family to have that name.

Long way to say that if she's aiming to keep the "V" because she thinks it's important, maybe it's really not.

Practically speaking, I also dislike 4-name names. Save Fagan for another child or find another way to honor them.

Katie M said...

Well, I wouldn't use Smith as a first name--then you'd have a Will and a Smith and that makes me think of Will Smith. But, I totally agree that you should keep the name as is. The quote from Swistle about not showing DIShonor by NOT using a name is a good one!!

Mrs. Haid said...

J.,
I understand your point of view a lot.

I felt intense pressure to name our son in the tradition of his father's entire name... and so my son is the 7th Daniel H. It bothers me now that he does not have a unique name. It bothers me that his grandpa calls him 7 and that he doesn't have my side of the family represented.

But my son is 9 months older than yours, and it would be really hard to change his name now. I think you still could, maybe.

I understand your point of view about "getting over it". I think I will need to do the same! I think it will take me asking my FIL to call him by his name or his middle name, and it will take another child being named after my side to make things "even". Good luck with mourning your grandfather and also the name you cannot change.

StephLove said...

I think I'd let sleeping dogs lie and leave the name as is. BUT, I think if you have another child, you should use Fagan or another family name from your side of the family.

Rayne of Terror said...

It's such a pain to have the same name as your father and grandfather when it comes to practical things like your credit. I'm going to go against the grain and say change it up. William Fagan is a very nice name.

For my eldest we used the middle name that has been used for the first born son for 4 generations in my family because I felt strongly about using it, but gave him a first name from my husband's side. For our second son we also picked a name from each side.

I think we're done, but if by son happenstance we have a third son we'll do that again. I'm thinking Lawrence Louis and call him Lars.

R said...

my husband is a III and we were adamant that we were NOT going to have a IV - we lucked out having a girl :) (we did compromise though by choosing my deceased MIL's maiden name "Clay" as a boy name if we'd had a boy instead of a girl)...

my maiden name is Smith and my sister will be using it if she has a boy in the future :) (although I do see the point about Will and Smith also)

good luck and best wishes - whatever you decide!

Nancy said...

My daughter was also born on May 9th, and I am also wanting to add another name to hers (to honor my paternal grandmother). But I also think it won't be easy to do, and you have the added layer of changing a long-standing naming tradition.

So I'm going to suggest something fairly out there. Keep his legal name the same, and call him Fagen, or Smit, or Smitty, etc, to honor your grandfather. (Many families call the third one "Trey")

Or you could keep the name for another child, but that does somewhat miss the point of the birthday sharing.

One way or another, I think the next child should honor your family names.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Swistle. Leave your son's name as is - it is a great name! And use the equally great names of Smith & Fagan for your next child(ren).

Jess said...

Leave it. Your son has a beautiful name. It would be a good idea to consider another nn that is different than his father's name. While I suppose it seems v. presumptuous to suggest that you have another child when I don't know you...have another baby. :) If it was me, I wouldn't want to use all of the names I love on one child.