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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: An Honor Name That Doesn't Fit in With Sibling Names

Nora writes:
my husband and i issue. our baby isn't due til halloween (and i hope she comes that day, how great would that be!) but we are a little freaked out about the whole thing. for lots of reasons, but one of them is the name!
this will be our first child. we want to have at least 3, maybe 4. the names that we BOTH like and also would both be willing to actually use are:


so you can see, fairly classic names. Our names are Nora and Thomas, so we fit in with that kind of pattern as well. the thing is, hubs and i grew up together, and we've always wanted to honor a family that was very important to us growing up with our first child. their surname was Malone. well, it still is. we can't overestimate what this family did for us--every last one of them which is why we want to use their surname not one first name. the trouble is, Malone doesn't go with the other names that we like, and it isn't our style generally. If we have 4 kids and we name them Malone, Hannah, Edward and Oliver isnt that going to feel weird for Malone? and are we dooming her to a life of being called Baloney?
We really, really want to honor this family, though. and we don't want to use it as a middle--there is a tradition in my family that the firstborn girl always has the middle name Rose, so that will be her middle.
oh--surname is like bells but with a W (kids will have my surname).

thank you!!!!!!!!!

Considering sibling names from the very first child is one of the best ways to make the naming process smoother later on. Because many people DON'T consider it ahead of time, AND because many people have naming traditions in their families that result in using a name for their first child that would not be their usual choice, I think it's relatively common to have the first child's name not quite line up with the others. I think it can even be a bit of a point of pride for the first child.

And of course, it can also be a bit of a burden. So. It comes down to this, I think: do you love the name? Do you want to use it? Do you love it and want to use it enough to take it with its complete assortment of upsides and downsides? (It's like a marriage, isn't it? Do you take this name for better and for worse?) There are other ways to thank and honor a family that meant so much to you, if you decide not to do this particular one---though of course, this is an especially spectacular way!

Another possibility is to use Malone as a middle name for a future child, or as a first name for a future boy (though that adds risk: maybe there will be no boy). According to The Social Security Administration, the name Malone was given to 11 girls and 6 boys in 2010, so right now it's a gender-neutral surname name. Girls TEND to care more about their names, but on the other side TEND to be given a wider variety of unusual names including boyish names (even though we tend to avoid girlish names for boys)---so it's a matter of whether you think the name Malone works better as a stand-out from her sisters, or as a stand-out from his brothers. Pick various groups of sibling names and try it out to see what your own preference is.

But I think there are a number of things working in your favor if you want to use it now, and as a first name. The aforementioned commonness of a first child having a name of a different style. The TYPE of style difference Malone is, which I think goes better with your group of names than some other styles would. The coolness of the name Malone, which seems like it would work better for the child than an honor name of the "popular in another generation, hopelessly dated now" type. The middle name Rose, which gives her something traditional and feminine to fall back on if she prefers.

And most of all, I think "having a good explanation" is HUGE. Have you ever seen the effect on a crowd of something like this? A parent will mention a name that surprises everyone in the group---and then the parent adds "It's my mother's maiden name" or "It's my sister's name" and everyone visibly switches to Positive Reaction. "Oh! It's an HONOR name! That's a different story!"


Christine said...

I think Malone works as a first name though I probably wouldn't choose it except in this sort of situation where I want to honor someone. Otherwise is the person's first or middle name a possibility? You could also use Malone as a middle name for either gender and then call the child by Malone but still have a more traditional name in the first position slot.

Good luck

StephLove said...

Could you reverse it and name her Rose Malone? The family is still honored, you have your family name, and you have a first name that fits right in with your style. Plus is sounds good. Rose Malone Bells.

We did something similar with our daughter. June is a traditional middle name in my partner's family (it's hers and her mother's and her grandmother's and two cousins' at least) but we used it as a first name instead. Everyone in her family was so pleased about it and no-one said, "But it's supposed to be a middle name!"

Anonymous said...

I think it is important to honor those who have had an impact on you. Malone is a great name, and the nickname Molly would be adorable and fit in well with your other choices for future children.

M.Amanda said...

Use it. I can't think of any better reason to use a name outside your normal style than to honor someone who has a special place in your life. That this name represents multiple someones and both you and your spouse feel the same about it makes it that much more special.

Should the child grow up not liking the name, while having to repeatedly tell people "My name is Malone, but I go by MiddleName" may be a hassle, it's not the end of the world.

Also, I wouldn't worry about nicknames like Baloney. Kids who want to use a nickname to tease another kid will find something even if you give your child the most mean-nickname-proof name. Likewise, it's possible to fly under the school yard radar even with a name that begs for an unfortunate nickname. It's impossible to predict.

Geeni said...

I agree with StephLove, Rose Malone (B)ells sounds so wonderful! All the honorifics are still there, and I can't imagine a cuter name. Moving a traditionally middle-slot name into the first slot gets you fresh and classic all at the same time.

Plus I think having a cool and unique middle name is fun, a secret that comes up occasionally when people learn of it.

Over the Rainbow said...

I think it's a fantastic name made even better by the story. Definitely use it. She can always go by Molly of Mallie. I grew up with a Mallie, and I always thought it was a cool but familiar nickname.

You could also name her Malone Rose and call her Rose, but that's a back up plan to me.

Anonymous said...

Longtime reader, first time commented. I had no idea Malone was a girl name! I know two men with the name Malone. One is a first name, the other as a double name middle name. I like the name and think it pairs well in your boy set of names. For the girl set, not so much, but I would still go for it. I love the story of why you want to use it, and I don't think the nn Molly is a stretch, or Malli. Maybe even Lola or Nola? I think nn Molly fits best with your future sibling set names. What about calling her Molly Rose? I also like the idea of Rose Malone.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I love "Malone Rose Bells." And I love an earlier poster's idea of calling her Molly. Molly Rose. It's perfect.

Patricia said...

The suggestion of Malone with the nn "Molly" immediately brought to mind the song about Molly Malone; per Wikipedia: "Molly Malone" (also known as "Cockles and Mussels" or "In Dublin's Fair City") is a popular song, set in Dublin, Ireland, which has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin City.

I don't think Malone goes well with your other name preferences and your preferred naming style. And I'm wondering if a daughter named Malone, a stand apart name from her siblings' names, would like that or feel some unhappiness that she was singled out as the bearer of her parents' gratitude to the Malone family. I'd give her one of the names on the list and add Malone as a middle or second middle name, e.g. Caroline Rose Malone Bells. It seems to me that the Malone family would find this an honor, with no need to give their surname to your daughter as her first name. And it could be that the Malones would NOT think their surname is especially appealing as a first name for a little girl. (What is/are their naming style(s)?)

Patricia said...

>>And most of all, I think "having a good explanation" is HUGE. Have you ever seen the effect on a crowd of something like this? A parent will mention a name that surprises everyone in the group---and then the parent adds "It's my mother's maiden name" or "It's my sister's name" and everyone visibly switches to Positive Reaction. "Oh! It's an HONOR name! That's a different story!"

What else can people SAY when they hear a name is an honor name? But they may be THINKING quite the opposite, along the line of 'poor kid, having that as his/her name'. I certainly have had that experience myself.

I'm not speaking specifically about Malone, but just my experience with "honor" names in general.

The Mrs. said...

I'm in the camp for using Malone as a middle name. I've only met gentlemen with Malone as a name, and having a masculine middle name is sometimes quite cool for a girl.

Something else to consider: the nickname of 'Mal' is bound to be put on your daughter if it is her first name. Do you like that nickname? If not, it may be wise to have a different nickname (Molly, Lola, etc.) firmly in place by the time you announce her name to the relatives.

What if you waited to bestow 'Malone' on a son? Is there a timeline on honoring the Malone family?

And, finally, one other suggestion... Malone reminds me strongly of Mallory. Would that be an option? "We chose Mallory after the lovely Malone family that means so much to us." Mallory seems to fit a bit more with your lists.

All the best to you and your husband and daughter!

rae said...

I like Malone for a girl! Though it's unique, I find it familiar for some reminds me of Melanie/Melissa type names.

It's quite a strong sounding name. The nickname Molly would be a plus to me. Wouldn't it be easier if we had a glimpse into their personalities before they arrived!

If you love it, use it. It's unique, but not strange. (at least in my opinion)

Lynnette said...

I do know a gorgeous 10-year-old girl named Malone, and therefore think it is a wonderful name, regardless of sibling style.

Megan said...

I also think Malone is a great name. It definently isn't my style, but it is really special that you are naming her after such a special family. Either Molly or Mally are cute nicknames, and Malone Rose is so cute. As for 'clashing' with future siblings, I think that honoring somebody important to you is a higher priority than style. In my humble opinion, anyway. Good luck, whatever you choose!

Jessica said...

Do you have a nickname on mind or do you plan to call her Malone all the time? Will you nn your other kids?

Malone, Hannah, Edward and Oliver sounds fine to me, but Malone, Hannah, Ed, and Ollie...well, I guess that sounds fine, too, but only because the other girl name isn't shortened. My point is, Malone and Elizabeth is one thing, but Malone and Liz (or Beth) doesn't sound as good.

Anonymous said...

I would have thought of Malone as being a boy name.

Would it work to name her Melanie, derived from Malone?

Janelle said...

My list is almost identical to yours, so I think I can see where you're coming from.

I, too, initially thought you meant to use Malone for a boy. As a surname, I think it fits in quite well with your other boys names.

If I were in your shoes, I'd either use Malone as a middle name for a daughter, or save it for a son. Best of luck to you!

Kas said...

I wasnt so sure about the name Malone for a little girl when i first read your post, but a previous comment suggested using the name Mally which is so cute and i think is very nice on a little girl!!

I honered my sister when i named my daughter but i used my sisters name as my daughters middle name, she was overwelmed that i named my daughter after her even though it was the middle name!! i often call my daughter by her first and middle name any way! I believe middle name will be just as special to your friends!

congrats and all the best x

Leslie said...

I'm hesitant on this one, so it's been so interesting to see everyone's responses. I think your reasons for choosing the name are wonderful, and would probably work well for your daughter. I've also never thought it was a big deal if siblings' names "matched" perfectly or not, so, if you and your husband love the name in every other respect, I don't think it should stop you from using the name (and you can always give future children meaningful names, so they match in spirit if not in style).

My ONLY hesitation, and it shouldn't necessarily be yours, is that I'm not crazy about the name Malone for a girl, just based on the sound of the name alone. Having a nickname like Molly or Mallie in place from the start, as others' have suggested, might be great solution, though.

Really, it only matters if YOU guys love the name: if you do, use it! Your daughter will appreciate the care and love put into her name no matter what. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

This dilemma reminds me of a fairy tale in which the parents must give up their child -- in this case, give up choosing the name they love best for their child -- due to some outside obligation -- in this case, an obligation they feel, not one imposed on them by others, ie, the Malone family, nor necessarily even appealing to that family -- having a little girl called by their surname Malone all of her life as a clear sign (sort of a verbal tattoo) of her parents' deep gratitude to them.

There are other -- and I would say better -- ways to show your affection and appreciation for this family. The most obvious would be to ask two members of the family to be her godparents. If you don't want to choose which two, you could have the family decide which members would have this honor. If you're not religious, than you could call them something else - honorary grandparents or mentor parents, etc. Through a church ceremony or party, you could honor her Malone godparents or mentorparents and invite the whole Malone family to be present for this special occasion.

The list of names that you both like is amazing. So often those who write to Swistle have very few, if any, names that they both love. Any one of those names would be gorgeous with Rose, and your surname is easy to work with. Choose the name you love best, for her sake. Give her a name from the style and list you love best, add your family tradition of Rose as her middle name, and include the Malone family in every special occasion in her life.

Frazzled Mom said...

I really like the idea of using Rose as the first name. I did this with my son. I used a popular middle name in my family as his first name.

Why are so many names relegated to the middle spot in many families generation after generation? Taking a family middle name and promoting it to the first spot is a great way to dust off a name and give it new life, in addition to putting your own spin on a family tradition. I have gotten nothing but positive reactions from my family regarding my son's name. I can't imagine any reasonable family member complaining if Rose is the first and not the middle name.

Remember you are not obligated to continue the tradition and use Rose in your daughter's name at all. Nor are you obligated to use Malone in your daughter's name. As others have pointed out, there are many other ways you can honor the Malone family besides naming your first born after them.

Plus, I personally like that Rose has fun nicknames like Rosie and Roz.

Frazzled Mom said...

P.S. I also feel while Malone Rose Bells flows fine, that Rose Malone Bells sounds and looks better.

Frazzled Mom said...

P.S.S. I just realized that if your last name is really Bells with a W, then Roz as a nickname would lead to Roz Wells (Rosewell). Maybe if you are the geeky type like me, that would be a bonus, not a dealbreaker, but something to consider.

Marjorie said...

I agree with the one commenter above. Nothing against Malone as a name, but people change to a "positive reaction" when you tell them it's a honor name because they don't want to offend, they can't say anything else. They may really be thinking "I hate that name." They won't say it to you, but to others they will be truthful. You have to be careful.

If you want to use an honor name you really have to put yourself in your kids shoes and think "would I want this name?" My real name (Margaret) is an honor name after my mom, her mom, etc. Funny enough none of us were ever called by it, we all have different nicknames. Makes me wonder why did they all use this name if no one goes by it? We will be the 1st in my family to break the tradition.

Swistle said...

Marjorie and Patricia- This is an interesting surprise to me, and not something I'd experienced. For me, my reaction actually DOES become more positive. If someone says their child's name and it's a name I dislike or find surprising for some reason (so overused, so unusual, misfit with sibling names, etc.), and then I hear it's a name that was used for a very special reason, I suddenly feel much more positive toward it---and actually like the name better for that family.

You two say you're just lying or faking it, but don't you feel any differently at all about a name when you find out it was chosen for a special reason? That it's a family name, or has some other special emotional connection for the family? It makes a huge difference to me. I might still not like the name (that's going to be true of many names, of course, but we each get to name our own babies and not other people's), but I suddenly UNDERSTAND the name, and that changes how I feel about it.

Marjorie said...

Okay, now I see what you're saying more clearly Swistle. I would say sometimes it changes or slightly makes me think more positively about a name. Depends on the name for me. Some names (I'm not saying Malone) are just so unappealing to me that it doesn't matter who/what it was after.

Regardless, I would NEVER say anything negative to a parent about their child's name (but to other people I would be honest).

I've always felt I had an "old person's name" growing up and that my parents didn't really like my name either, hence why I was always called by my nickname. Now that traditional names are "in" I've moved to acceptance of my name and even pride :)

I just wanted to bring up this issue from someone who's name was an honor name. You have to think of the child as well as your own preferences.

Frazzled Mom said...

I recently had an experience where someone named their baby a name I actually liked, but felt lacked substance as a given name, and wished the parents had used one of the formal versions on the birth certificate. But then I found out the name was for a beloved grandmother, and then I grew to respect the choice. I still didn't like it, but I felt kind of judgmental and shallow for caring.

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of in the same boat, actually, as I promised my husband I would continue the tradition of naming my first boy after his father and grandfather and great grandfather! So I'll have a Gunnar the 4th even though my naming style is more along the lines of Eleanor and Cordelia and James and Anthony.

My husband does go by Gunnar, and people generally are puzzled until he explains that he's actually Gunnar Frederick III, named after his Finish grandfather who immigrated to America as a young man. Then they generally tell him that he has an awesome name with a cool story behind it, and tend to remember him very distinctly. He has always loved his name.

So I definitely agree with swistle on both points; people react more positively once they hear a story and meaning behind the name, and that honor names are allowed to bend the "sibset" style. You're not alone!


Patricia said...

Swistle, for me a name is both a very special gift for one's child and sort of a 'poem' -- first and middle names combined. If parents don't really love a name, but confer it on their child -- especially as her/his first name -- because of their desire -- or obligation -- to honor someone, I think that's rather unfair to the baby/child/adult. Yes, the parents -- and when (s)he's older, the baby -- can explain that the name is an honor name, but why give the child such a name needing an explanation in the first place? It just doesn't seem fair to the child to have to bear a name that's strange, out-dated or unappealing to most people in order for her/his parents to honor someone. If the parents share that they chose the name to honor someone, that EXPLAINS why they gave that name to their child and sometimes that makes the choice of that name somewhat more appealing, but I'm usually still feeling sorry for the child who has to bear that name. And of course, it would be unkind to say anything negative about the 'honor' name, so the polite and kind thing to do is to make some positive comment -- something like "how special", acknowledging the honor given to someone else without actually saying that one likes the name any better FOR THE BABY after the 'honor' explanation.

Patricia said...

That said, I'm very much in favor of giving children family names, particularly as middle names, although I've often thought of these names in our family not so much as "honor" names but as names that acknowledge the continuity of the family. "Rose" is that sort of name for this family. Honoring someone outside the family can be very special for parents too, and one of our daughters has the same middle name as a dear friend.

I understand why these parents would like to include Malone in their first child's name, and I hope they can do that and still give their little girl a name they both love. For me the best solution would be to chose a name from their list of favorites with Rose and Malone as her middle names:

Sophie Rose Malone Bells

Hannah Rose Malone Bells, etc.

With their very short surname, including a second middle name would not be a concern. Too, there would be no need to give subsequent children two middle names, because including Malone is a special 'case'.

Anonymous said...

haven't read all comments, sorry if repeating, BUT what about using MARLOWE instead of Malone?