A reader mentioned to me the difficulty she and her husband have finding names for their children that haven’t already been given to one of their 20+ nieces and nephews, or are the names of their own siblings or siblings-in-law. Sharing already-used names isn’t something she cares to do — she wants her children to have his or her *own* name within the family.
I’ve read and heard other discussions about how to deal with this, and whether, as my reader asked me, it’s ever appropriate to give your child a name that’s already been used, and if so, how to do it without offending anyone. We had to deal with it ourselves: We wanted to give one of our boys a name that my brother could argue he had a prior claim to. The name was my grandfather’s name, but it’s also my brother’s middle name, and a distinctive one — so it would really feel like we were taking a name that was rightfully his. Though I’ve always appreciated the opinion that there are no dibs in baby naming, I do think sometimes there are. At least if you want to be a good sister/brother/aunt/uncle etc. So we asked my brother and sister-in-law (married but no children yet at the time) if it would be okay if we used the name, and we told them that if they preferred that we didn’t, we wouldn’t.
They were lovely about it, and assured us it was okay for us to use the name. Whew!
So that’s what I would recommend, if there was a particular name parents wanted to give to their child that was already used or potentially claimed by someone else: Just ask. But sometimes it’s not that easy, and I’ve liked the thoughtful ways in which the question was handled by some of the naming experts I admire:
Baby Name Wizard: page 8
- Does My Brother Have Dibs on My Favorite Name?
- Your Baby’s Name Is Not a Battleground
- Do My Relatives Own This Letter?
- I’m Not a Name Thief! (Right?)
- We All Want the Same Baby Name!
Particularly for big families, as Laura Wattenberg says, “In a really big family, something’s gotta give. Among your ten brothers and sisters and thirty nieces and nephews, you may have to accept an occasional duplicate name.” I would just heartily recommend that you go about the whole thing as respectfully as possible.
Have any of you had to deal with this? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?