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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Baby Naming Issue: Keep Them From Stealing Our Baby Name!

Emily writes:
PLEASE HELP!!! I wrote to you back in July asking for help naming our second child. Now I need help saving our unused boy name from being stolen! My brother and sister in law are due with their first child in the middle of October and want to use our boy name. We decided on the name Porter West for a boy, but had a girl. (On a side note, we named our daughter Adelaide Marie. My mom suggested it a day or two before you posted my letter. We loved all the nickname possibilities and the classic, ambiguous European sound it has that goes so well with Evangeline. Now we have our little Addie and Evie.) I wouldn't mind, except we are already trying to conceive baby number three and still love Porter. I feel like I should have the claim to it since I came up with it. SO, I need you to help me come up with another name for them!

They have shot down just about every name I have suggested. They either think it is too popular (Mason), too out there for their taste (Atticus), or too old man (August). They are really outdoorsy, and I think a name along that vein would work better for them, but they tend to like last names as first better. I have also suggested Jasper, Remington, Archer, Brody...All of which they liked, but still preferred Porter.

My husband and I have SUCH a hard time agreeing on names I can't bare the thought of starting from scratch on name selecting for BOTH genders when we already have a boy name we both love. So, PLEASE help me find another name for them!

The first point I need to make will sound harsh, but I think we must start with it in order to re-center perspective before beginning to tackle the problem: The name isn't yours and can't be stolen. Names are multi-use items, and others have thought of the name before you, and you haven't even used it yet.

With that out of the way: You have my full and heartfelt sympathy, because they should be CHOOSING not to use the name, knowing how you feel about it, knowing YOU thought of it for YOUR baby. And I, too, would feel the aspect of "stealing" if I were you. And of course an immediate-family "copy" is different than knowing the name has been used at other points by strangers. I think reasonable people can be expected to understand that it is wrong to use someone else's baby name idea in whole or in part, when that person is still actively in the business of naming children. Sure, TECHNICALLY they can do it, but not without creating hard feelings---and surely they ought to want to avoid that.

On the other hand, remember I just said that names are multi-use: if you have a boy later, you too may use the name. It will be galling to have it look as if you are copying THEM, but everyone involved will know the real story. And here again I have a wave of sympathy for you, because I wouldn't want to do that either.

At this point, it's not your job or mine to come up with an alternate name that they will prefer: this presents the situation as if they have the perfect right to use the name UNLESS you/I do the work to come up with something better for them, when only the first part of that is true. Instead, I would use the approach of telling them frankly that you and your husband nearly tore your hair out thinking of the name, and you are still planning to use it for a future child; that you realize they have the perfect right to use the name, but that you are asking them please, please not to; that you think of that name already as "your baby"; that it will damage their relationship with you if they use it knowing you feel this way. Cry a little, maybe.

Or: let the name go. Maybe you will never have a boy, and then in retrospect an emotional confrontation/ultimatum will seem to have been a bad move, and it will be nice to have a nephew with a name you love so much. And many people find that the names they consider for one pregnancy are completely different than even the finalists they considered for another pregnancy---which, again, if you were to have a boy and NOT name him Porter West after a confrontation that resulted in your brother not using the name, could make an emotional confrontation/ultimatum seem to have been a bad move. The name may have already been spoiled for you at this point by this distressing situation, whether or not your brother uses it.

My primary reason for not sharing baby name candidates with friends and family is that I don't want to hear negative remarks. But another good reason is to keep someone else from using the name, if you belong to a family/friends circle in which people would do that (in other circles, it would be more appropriate to put dibs on the name by revealing/claiming it early).


M.Amanda said...

I agree with Swistle that you don't own the name and can't control whether they use it and that making a huge deal about it would only cause problems. However, it's not out of the question to explain how much heartache/headaches went into you and your husband agreeing on Porter and to request they at least listen to some more possibilities before using it. The key is to stop before they get really annoyed by it.

You didn't say what their last name is, but I picked some names on the assumption that this is your husband's brother and the name is the same.

From the Wiki link in the original post, some jazz-linked names:

From a link I found by googling "outdoorsy baby names":
Vaughn - On both lists! Surely this is a sign. I say you let them have Porter and keep this as your secret boy's name so no one else you know falls in love with it, has a boy before you and uses it first.

Also from the "outdoorsy" list, but beginning with K, but might tickle someone's fancy:

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

So sad, but I agree with Swistle - say your peace and then let it go. Easier said than done...
What about Sawyer?

elckd said...

Ugh! I also feel your pain. If I were you I would probably tell them in a kidding (no-I-am-not-really-kidding way) that you will be pissed if they use it. Practice laughing while saying "I will totally F*CKING kill you!". (Then kind of lean-in and whisper "No really", then laugh again. But that's maybe just my style. It does seem more constructive to come up with a name for them....How about?


Alison aka Baby B said...

What an unfortunate situation! I really do feel for you and you husband. But here's my two cents: If you were currently pregnant with a boy to be named Porter, then I feel like making a huge deal of it would make sense. Porter would be here, in utero but here.

But since baby #3 is a much-longed for dream right now and its sex is unsure, I would personally avoid serious confrontation but explain that Porter is on your (very) short list for soon-to-be baby #3 and that you would struggle to name a son anything other than Porter. Maybe a very subtle "We shared with you all how much Porter really means to us." At that point, it's up to them. There is a chance they will have a delivery room change of heart (we hear about those all the time, "He didn't seem like a (original name here)!"). Or maybe they will find another name they adore more, or maybe they will respect your wishes and choose something else.

If all else fails and they have a son named Porter and baby #3 is a boy in need of a name, come on back and we'll try to help! :)

The Schwant Family said...

Well said, Swistle. I would feel the same way if someone used my name, especially a unique name like Porter (so cute). Honesty is the best policy, I think you need to put it out there and just let them sit with the this point it seems like you are the one carrying the weight of all of this.
I had a friend in your shoes, she and her husband approached it directly and while there was some drama involved with the confrontation and it's aftermath, they got to use the name.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

I agree with what the others have said. It would be best if they understood that the name was meaningful to you, and chose something else... however, you don't even know that you'd have a Porter of your own EVER... and so, it doesn't seem like you should create extra conflict.

I'm a little surprised that they are sticking to the name Porter after you've already explained to them that it was a name you wanted to use... usually, that starts to turn a name off for me immediately (UNLESS it was a name I'd been dreaming of naming my child for A LONG TIME myself). I would just automatically think, "Oh, then she'll think we're stealing her name, let's choose something else".

Anyway, maybe they won't end up using Porter... but I'd try to avoid major family conflict over a baby name that you might not even get to use yourself either.

Anonymous said...


Good luck!

Anonymous said...

It's too bad there's nothing to be done. If you haven't, I would definitely find a way to clearly express how Porter is your choice if your third baby is a boy. Then I'd let it go and try to enjoy having a nephew with a nice name.

It might seem like there is no other name out there that will suit you and your husband. I'm sure that after some time has passed and you've been able to let go of your initial choice that another name will settle into it's place.

I was in a similar situation with my SIL. She is a number of years younger than me, and still unmarried when I was pregnant with my first. My husband and I wanted to name our first born after his father, if it was a boy, but she felt that she had laid some sort of claim to the name due to a previous conversation (that I don't think she remembered accurately). I felt like there was simply no competition--she wasn't even in a relationship, much less looking to become pregnant (with a boy!) and I was actually pregnant (with a boy!) and wanted to use it. It was The Name for us.

I think it still smarts 7 years later that she didn't get her way, but I know that she's found a couple of other names she and her now-husband like a lot. For the record, we are still very, very close.

Not that we ever have mentioned the disagreement since. :)

Anonymous said...

Okay, some ideas:

Eamon (AY-mun)

Karen L said...

Like Swistle, I wish they would choose another name in consideration of you.

But in your shoes, I'd just use Porter if I ever had a boy. Have you even considered that as a possibility?

I know a lot of people disagree but I really have very little problem with cousins sharing a name. It's just a minor preference for me. So, if it were me, I would just let them know in good faith that whether or not they use Porter, I will (given the opportunity). Kinda fair warning that I am perfectly willing to "copy them." And yes, I would be secretly hoping (but not emotionally investing in the possibility) that that "threat" would encourage them to find something else. But I also wouldn't harbour any hard feelings if they did go with Porter.

For me it wouldn't be a bluff or manipulation or turnabout-is-fair-play because I truly believe that neither use of Porter is wrong.

On the other hand, I don't think that there is anything wrong with calmly ASKING them not to use Porter but as a favour to you (and then letting it drop). I don't think though that guilt-trips or ultimatums or any other escalation is constructive or worth it.

Good luck!

Karen L said...

Sorry about the previous ramble. But I also meant to suggest:

Reid or Reed

Jessie said...

I'm thinking outdoosry appeal here. So sorry to be in your position.


I don't know. Porter was my maiden name and thought about it too for a boy, but you're safe. We have another one in mind and no we don't share name ideas before birth!

Patricia said...

Apparently your situation of having someone 'steal your name' is far from uncommon. I just came across this article from a British online newspaper: "The middle class name-nabbers: How parents are only too happy to steal baby names"

"...But it seems a growing number [of parents] are simply asking other parents what they have in mind for their children – and then stealing the idea.

A poll shows a quarter of mothers-to-be claim another parent pinched the name they had chosen for their new-born."

I'm sure it's little consolation to know your situation is far from unique. But I'm wondering if your brother and SIL were just acting on their admiration for you by choosing the name you didn't use and that by the time they learned that you wanted to 'keep' the name for a possible, future son, they already felt that's who their baby is.

As others have said, there's not a lot you can do beyond letting them know you had planned to use that name for your next child, if a boy (which it sounds like you've made very clear to them), and then wait to see if they actually name their son that.

I hope you'll let us know if your nephew is named Porter West or something else.

Anonymous said...


a person hired to carry burdens or baggage, as at a railroad station or a hotel.
a person who does cleaning and maintenance work in a building, factory, store, etc.
an attendant in a railroad parlor car or sleeping car.

I've wondered why parents are so taken with very common occupation names for their sons.

It may be that when it comes time to choose a name for your third child, you'll want a boys' name that's a closer match than Porter with Evangeline "Evie" and Adelaide "Addie", names with antique charm and classic sound.

TheWayWeSeeIt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jodi said...

I think if you've already expressed to them that you love the name and hoped to use it someday, it's probably time to let it go. It isn't nice of them to 'steal' it, I agree, but not worth tearing a family apart over.

We have four girls and have had a different boy name chosen for each one of them. Had we pressed the same issue when in your shoes and successfully talked someone out of using "our boy name", we would have found ourselves down the line in the awkward situation of (a) not needing the name after all (b) not wanting to use it even if we had needed it and (c) having talked people we love out of using a name that they loved *and* we loved. What a waste!

I do feel your pain, honestly, but I think the situation will, one way or another, sort itself out in time if you leave things alone.

Mrs. Haid said...

Ten years ago I named a son Jack. Well, in my head. And talked about it to a friend.

Ten years later, she has a 4 year old name Jack and I think the name is over used.

I have a son who does NOT have the name Jack. I have been annoyed at that friend for a long time, but now he is one of 6 Jacks in his kindergarten class, so I don't mind all that much.

Bummer that they are doing this!

Mrs. Short said...

That really sucks. Especially since it is family. Now if they don't use it you absolutly would HAVE to. Even if you come across a name you adore more. Also you WILL feel bad if #3 is another girl. Hmm you could just use it anyways and joke that there will be two Porter's. But I like that you're trying to find a name that is theirs and not yours.

Carson, Rhys, Dylan, Chase, Harper, Grayson, or Easton.

I would suggest the MN Forrest for them.

Good luck and keep us updated!

The Foxymoron said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this dilemma! Swistle, I think you've made some great points.
I have 2 personal experiences to share that might help (I hope!):
1) I know a girl who had her heart set on the name Olivia. She and her sister were pregnant at the same time. Halfway through their pregnancies, the sister announced that if she had a girl, she was going to name her Olivia. My friend just calmly told her sister, "That's fine, I can't stop you choosing the same name as me, but just so you know, I will still use the name Olivia, so I hope you're fine with our daughters having the same name." She left it at that, and the sister decided to go with another name. Maybe your brother and his wife would also be less inclined to use the name if you told them that you will still use it, even if they use it first, because you have your heart set on it. Not many people like the idea of their brother/sister having a child with the same name as their child's.
2) I had my heart set on the name Scarlett for a girl. One of my best friends was pregnant with a girl and had cut her list down to 2 possible names, Gabrielle and Leni. Then she asked me what I would call a daughter if I had one, and I told her Scarlett. A few months later, she told me "I'm sorry, but we've decided to steal your name. We're going to call our daughter Scarlett." At the time I was gutted, but you know what? I never had a daughter. Imagine how I would feel right now if I'd made a scene about it, and somehow persuaded her not to use it, and then I'd never been able to use it anyway? Instead, I have a beautiful god-daughter with a name I love :)

Frazzled Mom said...

I realize I'm weighing in kinda late : ) I don't know if the writer will even see this, but in the event she gets email updates or RSS feeds, here is my take which is unique. I wouldn't bother at this late date if I didn't feel I had something new to add.

I agree with what everyone else said, but wish to add:

First of all, I think when someone "steals" a name they are showing such a lack of imagination. I mean - I just want to tell name stealers, "Find your own darn name" - right? And I find it ironic in this day and age of everyone wanting to give their kid a "different" name that snatching names also happens to be a trend - don't you?

Now with all commiserating aside, my main point is that another technique you could use would be to ask your brother and SIL what they would pick as a brother name for Porter West. They may have more kids and could want their kids’ names to coordinate. Since they didn't think of Porter West on their own, they will most likely get stuck, and maybe they will get the hint that perhaps they should find their own darn name! But maybe if they can think of some other names, that will get them to discover an alternate name for this boy and save Porter for you OR...

...they will come up with another name you like, and if you have a boy you can steal it! Hah - see how they feel when the tables are turned!!! (Evil maniacal laugh - heh heh heh.)

All joking aside, Swistle makes a good point when she says it is not your job or hers to come up with an alternate name. Maybe theoretically, there is nothing against the law about them using your name, but to me it smacks of tackiness. And on top of that now YOU are the one racking your brain to name THEIR baby. Try to get them thinking on their own by asking about brother names.

Good luck - oh and I also really agree with the poster who suggested an antique charm boy name to go with your daughter's names. I like Theodore / Theo with your daughter's names.

Frazzled Mom said...

or... how about Louis / Louie or Lewis / Lewie? George / Gordie? Alfred / Alfie? (although you would repeat the A). I love antique charm names for boys - they are respectable in any profession but still have funky/fun nicknames.