I have been a loyal reader of your blogs for several years now & am finally expecting our first on August 4th! The thing is - we already have his name picked out - Edward Joseph Surname.
My question to you is this:
My husband wants to name him Edward Joseph Surname, III because both his dad & grandfather share the name. I've been told people's opinions on the matter but am unable to verify if this is generally acceptable? Is it ok to name a child The Third if a generation has been skipped?
I have done some online research and am having trouble finding anything on the issue. I'm hoping you & your readers can help clear this up for me!
Thank you so much!
Name suffixes drive me a little bit crazy, because there ARE some rules, but since they are NEVER FOLLOWED I think it's safe to say they're irrelevant. One example: the suffixes are supposed to change as the older holders of the name die off---IV becomes III, III becomes Jr. and so on. Furthermore, Sr. doesn't use the Sr. suffix: he's just Robert Jones, and all the others have suffixes. Is anyone going to follow these rules? OF COURSE NOT. No need for anyone to leave me unpleasant remarks in the comments section (as they have continued to do on the post where I last mentioned these rules), because I already fully understand how inconvenient it would be to follow the rules, and likely I would not follow them myself if there were such a naming situation in my family. Nevertheless, the rules exist.
Where was I? Oh yes. For skipping a generation, I went to my Miss Manners books. I looked in six of the thickest of them, but didn't find a mention of how to do the numbers if you skip. As I understand it, the reason there are no rules for those situations is that in those situations the suffix system does not apply, because the suffix system is set up for descendants in an unbroken line. (It's a whole different system for popes and kings; they don't use Sr. and Jr., either.)
HOWEVER, I have heard of, for example, naming a child after his grandfather or uncle and calling the child "Robert Jones II" rather than Robert Jones Jr., to indicate that it's not an unbroken/traditional succession. And presumably a Robert Jones II would be able to name his son Robert Jones III? So what would be the difference if the break came between II and III instead of between Sr. and II?
On the other hand, it feels like cheating, doesn't it? The big deal of suffixes, and the reason they become such huge important deals in families, is the idea that it MUST be done by each generation in a very particular fashion, without messing with it in any way (for example, no changing the middle name), or else it would have to start all the way over---which is why the pressure increases with each generation. There's no "on a break" of suffix-naming: it's the firstborn son of each name-holder, and there is no skipping. And we know that we don't get to go back into our family trees and pick up the suffixes from where they left off several generations ago: we'd need to start a new line.
I think the upshot here is that no, what your husband would like to do is not traditionally/generally allowed/acceptable, but that no one's going to stop you. There is possible precedent for choosing to use the III (using "II" to name a child for his grandfather, for example), but there is significantly larger quantities of precedent for it not being legitimate (i.e., the whole rest of the tradition and how it's traditionally applied). If you choose to use III for your son non-traditionally, you'll have to be resigned to people assuming his father's name is the same as his, and people potentially acting disgruntled that a generation was skipped. If you're willing to accept these consequences, there is no Suffix Police who will keep you from using it.
Edited to add: Let's add a poll to this one, over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]
Name update! Amie writes:
I just wanted to send you an update to this Baby Naming Issue post as our little Edward Joseph was born Sunday the 7th! We really appreciate all of your readers comments & decided not to use the "III" suffix on his birth certificate. When it comes down to it, it's just plain easier - for us to not have to explain the skipping of the generation, and for him later in life on legal forms, etc.
We really appreciate your help & continue to enjoy your blog!