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Monday, June 13, 2011

Discussion: Duplicating a Name Within a Generation; Using a Namesake Name for a Non-Firstborn Child

Stephanie writes:
What do you and your readers think of re-using or repeating a name within a generation? We, and DH's siblings and parents strongly prefer what I'll call classic names (others would call boring). When we discuss baby names, DH will suggest names of our nephews. Now, the cousins would be pretty far apart in age (specifically, 17 years apart) and live in different (but neighboring states). We see them several times a year, and in fact, the father of the nephew (our child's uncle in this case) is the godfather of our other children. Last name would be the same too. I say, no way. DH sees no problem. ??? (This is actually getting close to being one of those ridiculous recurring fights in our marriage like your recent post on your other blog. It doesn't get me to 11 yet, but man, it will soon!)

Related, but different issue, DH keeps throwing his father's name out there as an option. We already have a son, whom we did not name after his father (or any family member for his first name, although it is the name of one of DH's uncles, but come on, large catholic family, it was bound to be somebody's name!). DS, DH, and DH's father all have the same middle name, a family name, it was maiden name of DH's great great or great great great grandmother or something. I think it seems weird to use his dad's name for a second son, and I wouldn't want to use the middle name again, so then he's not a Jr or the second (whatever it would be anyway), he's just another _____.

In answer to the first question, I don't mind repeating names within a generation, as long as everyone's okay with it (that is, as long as it's not going to lead to silly feuds about someone "stealing" someone else's name). I think even in groups that see each other frequently, the confusion is minimal/negligible and can even lead to fun in-jokes and nicknames, and to additional bonding between the people sharing a name.

But this seems to me like the kind of issue where it doesn't matter one bit what _I_ think: if it bothers you to name your children the same names as your nephews, those names should be out of the running.

In answer to your second question, I think there are ways in which it's BETTER to give an important namesake name to a non-firstborn child. For example, a friend of mine had twin boys in a family where passing on the father's first name was a tradition---so she gave the father's name to the secondborn twin. That way they each had something: one was the firstborn, one had the family name.

And although we feel it to be the case, the firstborn child isn't any more special or important than the other children. I think the reason it feels that way with names is that it shows that you used the name at the very first opportunity---but that doesn't mean using it later on is meaningless or silly, and I like the way it decreases the "firstborn takes all" feeling.

But again, this is a situation where it doesn't matter what I think about it: if it bothers you, the name should be out. One parent can certainly try to talk the other parent around, and can even try it a few times---but if the other parent continues to be opposed, the issue should be over.

Nevertheless, it is fun to discuss. So what does everyone else think about the two questions? How do you feel about duplicating a name within a generation? And how do you feel about using a namesake name for a non-firstborn child? And polls are fun, too, so let's put two polls over to the right. [Polls closed; see results below.]

14 comments:

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I'm fine with both situations for all the reasons Swistle said. BUT I also most strongly agree with her point that if it bugs YOU, the names should be out. Just because one spouse has a good reason for wanting a name doesn't mean that the other spouse should have to live with a name s/he hates.

As a compromise to your husband, could you use the family name or father's name as the middle name?

Trina said...

I think if you don't like it, it should be out. Because we all know if you suggested a name or names that he didn't like they would be out also.
I agree with Swistle on naming your 2nd or later child after the father. It will give that child something special.

Sabrina said...

I also agree with Swistle's reasoning--if everyone is okay with reusing a name, there is no reason not to do it. But, if you don't like it, then don't! (...But, it does sound like you would otherwise like the name. You mention that many people in the family have a strong feeling for classic names. So if you like the name, think it's a good name for a son, I just don't think that others also having it, no matter what generation, should nix it.)

As for the second-born child having a family name, I also agree with Swistle. It is potentially something special for a child that otherwise always comes in second place! Especially since it is the grandfather's name and not the father's name, I definitely don't see a problem with it.

But, I do want to throw this out there as an example of dysfunctional family relationships and the possible contribution of naming issues. My DH is a second-born son. And he is named after his father. Not a junior, but same first name. (Which I find to be weird anyhow, don't care for it, is confusing as child grows up and you don't know who the mail or phone calls are really for, blah blah, entirely different issue.) I have NO idea how his parents came to this naming arrangement, but there were (still are) some very strange dynamics there. First Born Son (FBS) is a clone of (no good alcoholic gambling addict) Grandfather. Grandmother, having some sick devotion to Grandfather, worships FBS. When FBS was a child, she always accused DH's parents of neglecting FBS and loving the other children more. GOSH, I wonder if this only started AFTER DH was named after his father?!?! Because while FBS was a baby, how could Grandmother have known he was to be a clone of Grandfather, but as FBS grew and looked and acted more and more like Grandfather every day, she fell more and more in love, and then perhaps DH's parents insulted him by naming younger sibling after his father?? But the dynamic is there to this day. FBS, who is a drug addict, has been to jail, still lives with parents who support him fully (at age 36) (and yes, that is THEIR fault and it's an awful situation all around, everyone is to blame), can do no wrong in Grandmother's eyes, and his parents still treat him like sh*t and they are the ones who screwed him up, etc. etc. And DH is spoiled, has been coddled all his life, etc. etc.

So, maybe this would have all been the same no matter what, but I think it is worth checking for any potential crazies who might resent a second child for his whole life because he was given a family name and someone else wasn't.

(Sorry. Longest comment ever!)

RaisinCookies said...

I wouldn't repeat names within the same generation of my family. I have used family names (in the middle name slot), but they have always been named after grandparents or beyond. Never within 2 generations.

I think there are just too many lovely names out there to limit yourself with a small pool of names that are already in use by someone you will see on a fairly regular basis for the rest of your lives.

As for using a namesake on a non-firstborn child, we kinda did that. My second child is my only son, and we gave him his father's name in the middle slot. He is six now, and doesn't like having his father's name in there -- there is already one of them! There shouldn't be two! (it's pretty good reasoning, actually) So we've made a deal with him and said that when he turns 16 and can get a job, if he wants to pay to get his name changed, we'll sign the paperwork.

I'm not a fan of Juniors, though.

RaisinCookies said...

Oh, and as a PS, it seems like I contradict myself in the above comment, but we never use family names in the FIRST name slot. Middle names are family names for us, so we've used more contemporary names in there.

laura said...

We have 3 sons. The first was given his grandfather's (my DH's father) middle name as his first name.(That middle name is shared with many men in the family.) The second was given a name from my side of the family. The third was given my DH's name, John (which is also his father's name - so the grandfather got 2 grandsons named after him!)

I think it's nice to give the 3rd the "family name." They all have different middle names. Makes the 3rd son feel pretty special, and wouldn't you know that it was him who is the spitting image of his father and grandfather!

laura said...

Oh - let me clarify. All the Johns - my husband, my 3rd son, and my husband's father - have different middle names. No juniors in the bunch.

Tommie said...

I like Swistle's reasoning too. I'm from a very big family too, but, like Stephanie, I'm not a big fan of repeating names in a generation. So we didn't. But...when my older daughter was 18 months old, my first cousin approached me at a wedding. His wife was pregnant with their first child. He said that the only girl name his wife liked AT ALL was the name I'd given my daughter. What could I say? I said, "Yeah, it's a great name, huh?" And two months later, the second Alyssa was born into the family in the span of 20 months.
I never made a big deal about it but I will say that when she got pregnant with their second child a few months later, who was also a girl, I snippily said, "Well, since the only name in the whole world she likes is Alyssa, she better name this one that too." I know...bitter much? Except not really. It's just a choice I wouldn't have made. It't not a big dea at all when we see each other.

Carolyn said...

My friend is the 2nd of 3 daughters, but she was the one named after her mother. I never thought about why the eldest daughter wasn't given the mother's name, and I know my friend really liked sharing her name (although her mother went by her middle name, so it wasn't as confusing).

MelissaInk Designs said...

I wouldn't do it, but I know families that seem to have cousins who are multiple Michaels, Williams, and Andrews. If you use a name like Emma or Jacob, I don't think you can make accusations of "stealing" when they are so popular to begin with. When you choose a common name, you know going in that there will be duplicates. If you're fine with that, then fine. If you're not, then go with something else.

Mairzy said...

A repeating name will get some comments and suggestions that you're not very creative, but it really shouldn't be a problem.

As for using his father's name, we named our second son after my husband's father. None of the other grandchildren share first names with any grandparents, but we liked the name and went with it. My FIL was so touched when my son was named that he was teary for two days. :) But nobody ever asked why the name hadn't been used already.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie here :)
Thanks for the perspectives. Both of our kids have family middle names and any future kids will too (that's probably part of the issue, I have a middle name picked out from my side if we have another boy). Interesting to see how things play out for others too :) I think the real heart of the issue is that we disagree and that is the bigger problem! I don't really object to repeating names from further afield, but cousins with the same first and last names...just feels wrong. Using my FIL's first name for a second son after using his middle name for our first, just feels odd to me. Sort of a we liked your bil's name better than yours so we used it first, but now that we have another boy to name, eh, your first name seems fine. It all comes down to just feeling weird to me and well, I hate all of the nicknames associated with FIL's first name. Having grown up a Stephanie and had a period of my life where I rebelled against all nicknames, I just don't want to fight that battle for my child.

Thanks for all the input!

Anonymous said...

I think naming a child a name that someone of the same generation has is not a good idea, especially if they share the same last name. (and especially if they live in the same area) There can be too many mix-ups. I have a friend whose cousin has the same name and the cousin was picked up for DUI!
I'm with the other commenter. With so many wonderful names, why repeat names within a generation. If you don't love the father's name, why should you use it at all? Save it for the middle name. Perhaps there's a name from YOUR side of the family that you think is swell... How would DH feel about that?! (after all the children have HIS last name, carried on from DH's father)

kimma said...

Im with Stephanie that naming two children of the same generation the same name is just plain confusing. Speaking as someone who married into a family with 3 Vincents, 2 Joes and 2 Carmens (its a big Italian family) I had an awful time keeping track of everyone for the first few years.

I vote for using your FILs name as the middle name and finding something you both like for the first name.