A reader recently asked me for thoughts on how to find compromise names when Mom’s and Dad’s tastes are vastly different. I’ve mentioned before that I have found over and over that the absolute height of baby naming satisfaction for me is when my husband and I hit on that name that we both agree on. It might not be my very favorite name or his, but I find that I’m much happier and more peaceful with our choice knowing that we agreed on it together. I think I would actually hate it if I got my way, if my husband gave in – I want him to love his children’s names too.
But how do you find that name that you both agree on? For my reader, her preference is Joseph/John/Patrick-type names – names traditional to our faith that “don’t raise too much of an eyebrow.” Her husband loves heavy-hitting uncommon super-Catholicky Catholic names — think Church Father type-names: Polycarp, Irenaeus, Eusebius. Here are three ways I could see working with this:
(1) Nicknames—usual or unusual
To me, a good nickname can solve the vast majority of he likes/she likes disagreements. If the proposed name is too exotic for the other parent’s taste, could a friendly, “normal” nickname be tricked out of it for everyday use? Or the proposed name is too vanilla for the other parent, could a more unusual nickname be fashioned? To tone down the more exotic, Augustine could spend his days as Auggie or Gus; Ignatius as Nate; Cajetan Joseph could go by CJ. To jazz up a more common name, you could try Finn as a nickname for Francis, or Bede for Benedict (a two-for-one saint bonus here! St. Benedict and St. Bede in one little guy), or even something like Rory for Robert or Toby for Thomas Bernard.
(2) Use a saint’s full name as a first and a middle
Like Justin Martyr, Philip Neri, Peter Damian, Anthony Mary Claret (bonus points for Mary in the middle for a boy!), Charles Borromeo, John Chrysostom, Francis de Sales, Nicholas Owen, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, John Fisher. Totally heavy hitting but the “crazy” part is hidden in the middle. This article, which I linked to the other day, good naturedly pokes fun at the Catholic tendency to do that, but there is a reason it’s done!
(3) Otherwise compromise
There are a few different ways to do this, of course, and I’m sure you all know them already. For example, for Baby #1 Mom gets to choose the first name and Dad gets to choose the middle; next baby vice versa. Or decide together to have Dad go nuts in the middle name while Mom chooses a more conservative first name. Or find names with overlap – in this case, to bridge Patrick and Polycarp, such overlapping names might include: Augustine, Dominic, Benedict, Simon, Nathaniel, Roman, Adrian, Jude, Matthias, Sebastian, Gabriel, Thaddeus, Jerome. Names that hit you in the face with their Catholicism, but don’t require you to have read The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection (3 volumes) to know who they are.
What about all of you? How have you handled the inevitable disagreements in baby naming? Do you have a system worked out (e.g., Mom names this baby, Dad the next; Dad chooses first names, Mom chooses middles)? Will you share some of the names you disagreed over?