Naming rights - Admire But Don't Imitate Names
Lisa Glass on why you can admire, but not imitate, her babies' names
I have two girls aged four and two. I'll refer to them as "E" and "Lo" just in case you decide to steal their names. Yes, I know names are not intellectual property, unless you create a really unique one (or should that be Yooniq'k?). But let me explain; I am a Lisa. Worse, a Lisa Marie. In the 1970s there was a huge groundswell in the number of Lisa Maries across the English-speaking world, thanks to one Elvis Aaron Presley. My darling husband is a Matthew, the most popular boy's name for much of the same decade, apparently.
I don't dislike our names, but it did wear a little thin always being one of at least three Lisas in every class at school (even today in a grown-up workplace I'm still Lisa G as opposed to Lisa O and Lisa D, who were also '70s babies).
So when it came to choosing names for my girls I had two criteria: I wanted real names (as opposed to creative ones) but they couldn't be on the top 20 list. That, of course, ruled out some gorgeous names but it was just my thing, which is why I get a bit uncomfortable when people scouting for monikers show an interest in "my" names. It's funny, because if someone said they wanted to name her baby girl after me I would be thrilled, but to copy my girls' names? Thanks, but I'd rather you didn't.
But what is the etiquette surrounding baby names, or what should it be? Naming someone after a grandad or uncle equals charming. Giving your child the same name as your best friend's son? Not so much. In my opinion it comes down to a degree of separation thing. Plenty of people probably already have the name you're considering for junior-to-be. The question is, how old are they and how likely are you to cross paths? Example: you've chosen the name Myrtle for your little girl (which is, by the way, a perfectly pleasant flowering plant). Now you may well know a Myrtle, but chances are she's past retirement age. Lily, on the other hand, also a charming flowering plant, has had a popular resurgence in recent years. Personally, I don't think spelling it "Lilly" (or even "Lylly") is enough if a friend already has a daughter of that name.
There is also the dilemma of the Favorite-Names-List people. Much as some people keep a scrapbook of their idea of the perfect wedding, others have a list of favourite names they want to bestow on their offspring, should they be so blessed. So what happens if your buddy has a bubby before you do, but takes "your" name? Is it first-in, first-served? Or do you have dibs?
My two cents is that if they didn't know about your name ideas, they're just showing great taste. If they did know, well, in my opinion it's akin to stealing your boyfriend, but you already know I might be a little on the uptight side when it comes to such matters.
I definitely think they should ask whether you're okay with it, and you know what? It's one of those times when you should absolutely speak up. Be reasonable though; if it's a name that plenty of other people have liked and chosen (Jack, Ethan, Sophie, Charlotte) then you can't really claim precedence, but if you were planning on using a name from your favourite 18th century novel or your grandfather's middle name, or (gulp) the name of your favourite hobbit, then they need to back up the truck.
One thing to note about favourite names, you need to have a good deal of patience. My sister is expecting baby number two and is facing a bit of a challenge on the naming front because she used up her fave names (Jack and Stella) on her cats. (What's wrong with Mr Tiddles?) Anyway, she has to think of a boy's name and I gave her my suggestion. I'm quite fond of the name Clive at the moment. It's got a great lounge lizard vibe to it but could also be suitable for a bookish academic in tweeds. Oh, and Clive Owen might or might not have something to do with it. Sadly, her first-born is called Chloe, and Chloe and Clive might be a little bit … Kardashian for her liking.
The point is you may need to show a little bit of flexibility even if you can't possible imagine Junior named anything other than Aloysius, or Ethel or whatever. Because the thing is, a few years down the line your tiny darling will almost certainly have completely grown into his name to the point where you couldn't imagine him being called anything else. Whatever you call them, they will be special, unique people, like no other Jack or Lily before.
Oh all right. Mine are called Loretta and Estelle. But that's just between us, okay?
Lisa Glass is a mother of two. She says, while trying to choose a name for her girls her husband became like Russia at the United Nations, using his power of veto on every suggestion she made. Eventually he "thought of" Loretta four days before the due date, a name he had vetoed four months earlier.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 20 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW