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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Are the Initals PMS a Dealbreaker?

G. writes:
My husband, Austin and I were advised to visit your website for some advice and we hope you can help us out!
In 2009 we had our first and very beautiful little girl, Clara Evelyn. Since having Clara we have discussed the names of her siblings and we ecstatic to find, that we were expecting our 2nd little girl, due in December. 
Clara's name wasn't decided until a week before my due date, so our family didn't know until birth. This time around we were so prepared and had the name on the day of the gender reveal. We had decided on the name Phoebe Matilda. We just love the sound of Clara & Phoebe and couldn't wait to tell everyone. 
We decided to tell them all at a family BBQ this week. We had found this cute way of revealing it, when my sister bursts out in laughter. She quickly stopped, when she saw our serious faces and eventually told us how weird it was, that our daughter had the initial PMS, Phoebe Matilda Sharpe.
Now, my husband and I have talked about this quite a bit and aren't sure what to think. How big of a deal is this? Should we really avoid naming our daughter Phoebe Matilda? We aren't really sure and the entire family seemed to think of this as a big deal.
An alternative could be to do Matilda Phoebe Sharpe, but since this isn't our favorite option we wanted some outside opinions on how big of a problem this seems to be.
Would you ever name your daughter or son with something that gave them some odd initials?

There is a nice wide spectrum of opinion on this subject. On one end are people who even prefer for initials to spell things, and then it goes into the area of "Who cares? No one will ever notice or care," and then into "Well, I'd rather not, but I wouldn't sacrifice a name I loved just because of that," and then to the far end of definitely being willing to sacrifice a name to avoid initials.

To most of us, it depends on the initials: something like JAB or ANT is not in the same league as something like ASS or FUK. I consider the initials PMS to be toward the less acceptable end---in the BRA and PIG and B.O. neighborhood, perhaps. I would not want those initials myself, and would rather sacrifice part of the name than use them.

To me, it seems like the middle name is the clear area for sacrifice: the first name is presumably your favorite name of all options, and the surname is set, and you haven't mentioned any pressing reason to use that middle name (for example, a family naming tradition or important honor name). So if I were you, I'd keep your happy combination of Clara and Phoebe, and I would find another wonderful middle name. Phoebe Estelle? Phoebe Cordelia? Phoebe Lydia? Phoebe Eliza? Phoebe Celeste? The quest would not be for a name you liked better than Matilda, but rather for the name you liked best of all the remaining names.

Let's have a poll over to the right, to flesh out the rest of the opinion spectrum. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "The initials PMS" (604 votes total):

I wouldn't mind - 96 votes (16%)
I'd change the name - 466 votes (77%)
I can't decide - 42 votes (7%)

Name update! G. writes:
We got wonderful advice from both you and your posters. We quickly decided that letting go of this name was necessary despite of our love for it. Big sister Clara was still going to have baby sister, Phoebe but we went on a hunt for a new middle name.
Not many names were as loved as Matilda but we dug up our old list of names and found Juliette. Phoebe Juliette Sharpe sounded alright but being so focused on initials, my husband kept saying PJs. Moving on!
Vivienne, an old family name from my French side of the family, came to mind. Phoebe Vivienne Sharpe! That sounded so cute in my ears with that French touch but everyone around us pronounced it like Vivian, which wasn't really to our liking. Moving on!
Well, someone mentioned that giving Phoebe the middle name initial E would be a cute little thing to share with big sister, Clara Evelyn. Bingo! Phoebe Eleanor Sharpe. And there it was and just 4 days later, our baby girl, Phoebe Eleanor joined us.
We want to thank you all for helping us out, and we now know what to name a potenial third daughter, so Matilda is saved for later.
Thank you,


Anonymous said...

I really wish I didn't mind the initials PMS - it seems like a silly thing to have bother me - but I do think it would be a dealbreaker for me. Sometimes initials may never matter in a person's life, and sometimes they matter a lot. For example, my husband works in a lab where the many different employees label nearly everything they're working on with their initials for quick and easy identification. He writes his initials many, many times each week. You just have no way of knowing whether your child could find herself in a similar context in the future...


I personally wouldn't want those initials. When I was younger I loved having my initials on everything (lunch box, pillows, towels, etc.)and would have been heartbroken to be made fun of something that I had no say in choosing. But it's really up to the parents. If it doesn't bother them they should go ahead with the name. It's an adorable name, by the way!

Anonymous said...

Mostly when a person goes by initials I think it's only the first and last that are used. The initials "PS" aren't bad at all. And Phoebe Mathilda is an adorable name. If you love it, I don't think you should let it dissuade you. And some day when she's old enough to know about the significance of PMS you can laugh about it and tell her that you just loved her name too much to let it bother you and you hope she won't let it bother her either. I think it shouldn't be a dealbreaker the way ASS or something like that would be.

Annika said...

Ugh, this is HARD, because I ADORE the name and want them to use it, but I would hate for her to have a tough time over something as easy to control as initials. UGH UGH UGH. I want there to be an easy fix, but switching the names doesn't seem like the right thing.

I don't suppose it helps that 90% of the time her initials will just be PS?

Anonymous said...

I would definitely not want the initials PMS for myself (or for my daughter). As a commenter wrote, you never know when she'll need to use her full initials. I think it's worth sacrificing a middle name you love for one you really, really like in order to spare your daughter.

Anonymous said...

Second middle name? Phoebe Matilda June Sharpe, Phoebe Anna-Matilda Sharpe? Phoebe Hilda/Tilda Sharpe? I thinke Phoebe Tilda Sharpe maintains much of the charm of the original name. Or to preserve the rhythm: Phoebe Regina, Pheobe Virginia, Pheobe Georgina, Phoebe Aviva?

Holly said...

I thought of using Tilda instead also, but then PTS...D. Came to mind. My initials as a kid were HAL, mostly used HL. When I got married, the L changed to E... Suddenly I'd be HE. Bah. I, too, work in a lab where my initials get used a LOT and I'm pretty much the only one who uses three - HAE, simply to avoid the HE. SO, there is that option too - she just never uses all three, just as I never use the two.

Ruthie said...

Oh, I feel so qualified to comment on this one because my daughter is Phoebe Claire S. – and she would have been Phoebe Mary S. (with the Mary for my grandmother) if not for the initials PMS. I mourned the name, especially because my other daughter’s middle name is my other’s grandmothers, and I would have loved for them to share that middle-name connection. But I felt it was unusable, and I loved the name Phoebe and didn’t want to change it just to use Mary.

Lucy said...

This is a hard one, but I have to agree with Swistle on this one. I want to say you should do it, because it is a darling name, but unless the name has significant meaning to you (as in it's an honor/family name), I would recommend you finding another name you could love as much as Matilda. Or add another middle name.

Michelle said...

I am not usually bothered by funny initials (ASS may be different and I can't even bring myself to type the other example). PMS would not bother me so much- any monograms would just have to be the kind with the large central letter,as that letter is always the surname initial- pSm. But if it bothers you, I like Phoebe June, Phoebe Olivia and, oooh, Phoebe Louise(Louisa if you want the nummber of syllables to match sister's)

hillary said...

I am torn on this one. Phoebe Matilda is so darling. Personally I have never had anything monogrammed in my life so I don't think initials are that important. But then a few weeks ago we were considering a name that would give our new baby the initials EAR and I was waffling because it just seemed I probably wouldn't use PMS. Phoebe June, Phoebe Jane, Phoebe Eloise, Phoebe Louise...I think you'll find a Matilda substitute that you love!

Jocelyn said...

When I was young my initials were JES but then my step dad adopted me and they became JEW. JEW isn't a bad word at all but it was really weird for writing initials. In highschool I was in the marching band and we all had our initials on the bags that held our uniforms so we could tell them apart. I think I was the only one who had just two initials on there because there was no way I was going to have JEW on it.

I also have friends who recently named their daughter with the initials CDC which I thought was funny and wouldn't have done it but they obviously didn't care. CDC (center for disease control) is probably a lot less obvious though than PMS though. Phoebe Matilda is a lovely name but if it were me I would also avoid it. I agree with Swistle and think that if you can come up with another middle name that you love to try that.

jess said...

On traditional monograms, which I highly prefer, she would be pSm. This is no big deal. Plus she could sign emails as PS. Most people only initial with two letters anyway. Finally, she will likely change her last name when she gets married.

StephLove said...

Like so many others I really do like the name, but probably wouldn't use it. I'd keep Phoebe and choose a new middle. I tried it with a 1, 2, 3, and 4 syllable middle to help you see what sounds best to you so you can expand from there.

Phoebe Kay Sharpe
Phoebe Simone Sharpe
Phoebe Amanda Sharpe
Phoebe Elizabeth Sharpe

Peyton said...

As someone with the initials PMS, it's not that bad. Some teasing in middle school (thank you, sex ed), but before then, kids didn't even know what PMS was. I even chose to keep my maiden name (and original initials) when I got married. I think it's a beautiful name, and you should go for it.

Jill said...

I love Phoebe Tilda! Or Phoebe Clothilde for a French variation. I really think Tilda is the perfect compromise, allowing you to keep most of the name you like while avoiding a potentially embarassing set of initials. Phoebe Tilda Sharpe has a great sound!

Allison said...

No, I wouldn't use those initials.

You can ask your family if it changes their mind to realize her formal monogram would be PSM. It doesn't change mine at all.

Peyton said...

Though, as a note, in picking my "grownup"/professional email address, instead of the traditional FirstInitMiddleInitLastName@whatever format, I did opt for FirstNameMiddleInitLastInit@whatever.

Lanie said...

I love Phoebe too, and would sacrifice Matilda to make the initials work in another way.

I would not want those for my initials, and be reminded of that every time someone made the connection.

I'm sorry that everyone thought it was such a funny/big ordeal at your gender reveal though. :( Not very nice to point it out then.

I love your baby naming style though! Cute little girl names. :)

Patricia said...

Especially since your family is making such a big deal of the initials, I would recommend that you find another middle name to go with Phoebe. How about another middle with the same rhythm as maTILda and also ending in an 'a'? I like Swistle's suggestion of Eliza; some others:

Or a three syllable name with the rhythm of Evelyn:

Or the spunky Phoebe Jane.

My favorites:
Phoebe Louisa
Phoebe Annabel
Phoebe Jane

I hope you stick with Phoebe as the first name: Clara and Phoebe are darling together!

Rita said...

The easiest option for me is to add a second middle. You keep your lovely combo and avoid the PMS initials.

Helena said...

I'd avoid it, even though, as others have said that traditional monograms are PSM.

Phoebe Mathilda is SO CUTE though... tough one.

Anonymous said...

Phoebe Matilda is a great name, but I do agree with Swistle. PMS is not a set of initials I would want for myself, and it seems particularly problematic for those initials to belong to a girl. Phoebe Tilda is a great suggestion, and PTS is fine (I don't think the PTSD is an issue since the D isn't there). I also really like the idea of something like Phoebe Eliza or Phoebe Estelle. The shared middle initial E seems like a sweet thing for the sisters to share.

Issas Crazy World said...

Mine spell MAD forwards or DAM backwards...a fact that has been told to me a zillion times. I'd say, go with the name you love. It's truly a gorgeous name. Her initials could always end up spelling something or being an acronym for something else.

British American said...

Phoebe Matilda is a beautiful name. But I wouldn't use it with your last name. PMS initials would be a dealbreaker for me. It's too much of a negative association and I wouldn't want to be a teenage girl with those initials.

If Matilda is an honor / family name, I would add a second middle name. If it's a name that you like the sound / meaning / flow of, I'd switch it to a different middle name.

Patricia said...

London Telegraph birth announcements often provide interesting middle name 'suggestions'. Here are some of the Phoebe pairings I found most appealing:
Phoebe Arabella
Phoebe Charlotte
Phoebe Joanna
Phoebe Eleanor
Phoebe Alexa
Phoebe Rosalind
Phoebe Alice
Phoebe Jane
Phoebe Clementine
Phoebe Alexandra
Phoebe Elizabeth
Phoebe Helen
Phoebe Tallulah
Phoebe Olivia
Phoebe Constance
Phoebe Annabel
Phoebe Katharine
Phoebe Amelia

And one little Phoebe Matilda (last name begins with H). Also, several sister sets with Phoebe and Matilda/Matty/or Tilly: Phoebe and Matilda DO go very well together!

I fully understand why you love that combination. I think it was unkind of your sister to burst out in laughter when you announced your baby's name... and while it may be the initials that came to her immediately, I wonder if the old-fashioned-ness of Phoebe and Matilda made her think you were joking too. I know in my extended family some would love the name Phoebe Matilda, while others wouldn't get the appeal of it at all. I'd say to use Phoebe Matilda anyway, but your daughter may not love the name as much as you because of the unfortunate initials.

Jina Chan said...

My last name begins with C and my husband's last name begins with P. When pregnant with our daughter, I was drawn to the name Petra, which has a lovely sound to me and goes well with Nikolai. But then I realized her initials would be PP or PCP, so we ditched that idea. :)

vanessa said...

dealbreaker for me, mostly because as a child (and, OK, still now at 27) I LOVE my initials (VSVS). LOVE. i adored writing my initials to sign things. I feel like if it spells GAP or JAZ or even GAG that's one thing, but PMS...
I do think, though, that Clara and Phoebe is pretty damn perfect. Author Jennifer Weiner has a daugher named Phoebe Pearl, which is cute. I like the idea of giving both girls E names tho...
other ideas:
Phoebe Elspeth
Phoebe Eleanor
Phoebe Eliza
you could also do Phoebe Tilda if it's an honor name....

AirLand said...

I just don't think it's a big deal... my initials are ANL after taking my husband's last name. I thought about it a lot, but really, no one notices unless I tell them, and we have a laugh. I do have to put my initials on things at work, but I'm just AL.

Sally said...

I think it's a h-u-g-e deal. I'll never forget my shock when someone I knew gave her newborn daughter the initials PMS because she thought it was "so funny." You're obviously caring parents who are putting a great deal of thought into your daughter's well-being, so I would STRONGLY urge you to find another middle name, especially if there is no particular significance for using Matilda. Your little girl will thank you.

Anonymous said...

It's a fabulous name!!! I'm with a commenter above who suggested a second middle name or adding a hyphen name to Matilda. I don't suggest it because I'm bothered by the initials but simply because I want you to love the name as much as you did before your sister laughed. It's so fantastic. Please use it!

Jessica said...

I'm a little more lenient with initials for girls, because they're likely to change it when they get married. (Don't get me started on how much I hate that practice, though.) I think this one is just...too much. I wish you could use it and I wouldn't really be that bothered if you did. I can't recommend it, though. I'd change the middle name.

Also, I have to initial every page of work that crosses my desk (I'm an auditor, we're big on paper trails), but just use my first and last initial. If we happen to have two employees with the same first/last initials, though, they're supposed to use the middle initial as well.

Eva.G said...

I love the name as well, but also think it's a Huge deal to have the initials PMS! Someone above said that your daughter may not like it, but that if you, as parents, love it, then go for it. I think the opposite. Don't choose for you. Think of your teenage daughter having those initials and decide if you want to put her through that or not.

I've always loved my full name and have gone by my first and last, my middle and last, and all three names my while life! And I love my initials too. There are many places we use our initials, or even have to use first, middle initial, and last - think grade school and even college, which is a long phase of one's life. You never know what career she'll have, if she'll even marry, or if she does marry, if she'll change her maiden name. I wouldn't give her those initials banking on the fact that she'll change her name someday.

She could decide to be Phoebe M. Sharpe, P. M. Sharpe, or even Phoebe Matilda Sharpe. I'd highly suggest not giving the initials PMS. Woulld you consider a double middle? Such as Phoebe Matilda Jane Sharpe. That's lovely!

Ellie said...

I think Tabitha is similar to Matilda if you are looking for an alternative.

You can't always predict what initials will be a problem. My friend's initials are BSE which became a massive issue in the UK where we are in the 90s because that was te acronym for what you may know as 'mad cow disease'. There's no way her parents could have know this in advance though. There was some teasing but not enough to ruin a name.

Anonymous said...

I really love the sound of Phoebe Josephine.

Here are some other alternatives that I also think sound lovely:

Phoebe Juliet
Phoebe Rosalie
Phoebe Marion
Phoebe Lillian
Phoebe Emily
Phoebe Amelia
Phoebe Sylvia
Phoebe Adele
Phoebe Lorraine

Good Luck!

Suki said...

I think the initials PMS would be a dealbreaker for me, just because I can imagine how much that kid would get teased in middle school. And I know that middle school is a relatively short time in one's overall life, but it's also a time that having something about you that's easy to pick on can just be really hard. And while most people grow up after adolescence, there will always be a few people who see the initials and feel the need to make a "clever" remark about making sure to avoid her certain times of the month or some such nonsense. I had a friend name Sara Amanda S___, who was almost named Amanda Sara S___ until her parents realized the initials issue- she was so glad that they had changed it up!

I agree with Swistle et al that tinkering with the middle name is the way to go.

rebeccaeee said...

My daughter is Phoebe Rose, last name begins with C. I wanted Phoebe Victoria but couldn't live with PVC (like the pipe) for initials and I would steer you far away from PMS as well. Phoebe is an awesome, spunky, original and beautiful (and not too common these days) name in its own right. Matilda might be pushing the envelope a bit. Might I vote for Phoebe Jane? Phoebe Tilda? Phoebe Claire? Phoebe Estelle? But not PMS.

Anonymous said...

If you decide to change the middle name, I would also stay away from names beginning with : B, I, N & U

Although, as someone else said, you can't predict what TLAs (three letter acronyms) may come in the future. When I was born the initials PCS might not have meant anything, nowadays I would immediately think PCs. Just something to consider.

Good luck.

Katie said...

Such a beautiful name...but because it IS going to be a girl, I would stay away from it. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Phoebe Anne Matilda Sharpe

Ashlie said...
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Ashlie said...
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Anonymous said...

I would NOT use those initials. Poor girl will definitely be made fun of. I actually like Matilda more than Phoebe.

Ashlie said...

It doesn't bother me, but I'm in the all girl gaming clan, PMS. My Xbox gamertag is PMS LoveLetter. It's what I'm called by in plenty of situations.

I think it's all about maturity, but kids obviously aren't always the most mature. I think if you really love it, you can bring your daughter up to do the same. She could very well dislike any name you give her. And she probably will at some point, as do a lot of people.

Sunk Costs said...

I'd say either throw in a 2nd middle name (a family honor name or one your husband or daughter particularly like) or choose a different middle name. Some Matilda-esque middle name substitutions:


the hills said...

i don't think pms matters at.all. but whatever you do please puhlease don't ditch phoebe. ADORE with clara!!!

C C Donna said...

My husband who is 59 has those initials. When he was born the condition, PMS, was not named. It has been an annoyance and people do grin when they hear it. He can't have his initials on dress shirts (not that he would...but I might have it done for him) or his his suitcases or briefcases initialed. Anyway, I certainly wouldn't burden a girl with the initials. Can you imagine trying to explain to a distraught 6 year old what the initials mean after being made fun of by older kids!?

Anonymous said...

I know it is a hard choice but, as many others have said, I would not want those initials for myself or my child. As a teacher, I have seen children get teased for many different things, including their names, last names, and initials. I wouldn't want a blatantly obvious reason for children to tease my child, especially when children can be so cruel! I am due with my first child in November and my husband and I have been careful to avoid potentially unappealing nicknames and initials.

Other people who responded have made comments along the lines of "if the parents like it, that is all the matters". If you listen to the Baby Name Wizard, this is not necessarily true. You are picking your child's name and need to think about what they would want or like. Also, if your sister burst out laughing right away, this is a good sign that it will be picked up on by others pretty easily. Sorry, just my opinion! :/

Patricia said...

Congratulations on the birth of your second daughter and on solving your initials dilemma by using Eleanor as her middle name. Great choice! And not only do both of your daughters have an E middle name, but the rhythm and syllables of their names match -- a subtle coordination. Clara Evelyn and Phoebe Eleanor -- wonderful together!