Gabriel B.

I’ve been thinking about the first name Gabriel with a last name beginning with B ever since Emily’s consultation — though so many of you liked the idea of Gabriel for her, for Simon’s little brother, there was the strong opinion that the possibility of Gabe B__ — and the resulting sound of Gay B__ — rendered Gabriel unusable (here, here, here).

I hadn’t thought of that possibility when I suggested Gabriel, and I do agree that it’s something to be seriously considered. And it also made me think of two famous men who are Gabriel B., and how one of them is a perfect example of how times change.

First off: the actor Gabriel Byrne. He is so great, I just love him, especially in Little Women. And he’s Irish. (You know me and Irish!) (And, btw, he has a son named Jack Daniel! How funny! And a daughter named Romy Marion, which is striking me as really cool and faith-y all at once.) (Also, he received an honorary degree from the National University of Ireland, Galway, which is where I studied abroad. 🙂 ) At least professionally, he’s circumvented the Gay B__ possibility by going by the full Gabriel.

Second, less well known to Americans but a BIG DEAL in Ireland is TV personality Gay Byrne whose given name is … wait for it …

Gabriel Mary Byrne.

Ohmygoodness I could die of happiness over that combo. Gabriel and Mary in one boy’s name? Love love love!

And I love that he too is Irish — because of these two men, Gabriel has always struck me as an Irish name (“Irish” meaning “used with some frequency in Ireland”).

Anyway, he hosted The Late Late Show from 1962 to 1999 (“the world’s longest-running chat show”) and he was “the first person to introduce The Beatles on screen,” among other things. Like I said, a BIG DEAL.

And he’s always gone by Gay. Or, affectionately, Uncle Gay, Gaybo, and Uncle Gaybo. I know this all started in a time when Gay wasn’t fraught with its current meaning, but it’s sort of hilarious how over-the-top his nicknames are, like he just decided to heck with it.

Mr. Byrne is still around — I had the privilege of chatting with him when I represented New York in the Rose of Tralee Festival and he was a judge — and still goes by Gay. It’d be so interesting to hear his thoughts on his name! Especially as times have changed.

Do any of you know a Gabriel B.? How old is he, and has Gabe B__ been a problem?

42 thoughts on “Gabriel B.

  1. I don’t really see the problem. In fact Gabriel is on our short list for future boys and I’ve already told my husband that I’d be calling him Gabe-be the baby which I guess is open to the same Gay B sound but I never notieced it. Undeniably the name Gabe sounds a lot like Gay, but given the number of Gabes in this generation I doubt it would be a problem for a Gabe.

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    • I definitely, nothing wrong with Gabe! It’s the specifically Gabe + B last name that’s the problem — Gabe B– sounds a lot like Gay B–, as in people mishearing the name as Gay — the last sounds of Gabe gets swallowed by the beginning of the last name. Otherwise, I think Gabe’s a great name! I have a little Gabriel/Gabe in my life, and Gabe could NOT be a more perfect nickname for him — and he went by Gabey as a baby, and still does sometimes. Gabe has always reminded me of Jake, Sam, Ben, Nick — solid, friendly boy names. I love it!

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    • For example, the person my husband knows named G@be Beach (alternate character used to protect privacy since that’s his real first and last name, he wouldn’t want a Google search for him leading back here!). The elision makes his name sound like “gay beach”. We have a last name that would create a similar terrible connotation if used with the name Gabe. It’s not the nickname “Gabey” that’s the trouble, but the elision to a “b” last name making the first name sound like “gay”.

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  2. Funny about the Gay B sound. My husband’s paternal grandfather was actually named Gaylord and went by Gay. I never thought about it when we did the consultation. Maybe Gabriel could be some kind of tribute to him without actually having to use Gaylord?

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  3. So I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I was reading that comment thread that was on Emily’s consultation and I’m so happy you decided to do an entire post on this!

    Basically, I think it’s really not a big deal for a few reasons:

    1. How often is he going to be called the full Gabe Barnes (using Emily’s last name as an example, hopefully that’s fine)? I rarely, if ever, call my friends by their first and last name, so I feel like the whole issue of Gay Barnes would rarely if ever come up. If he was called Gabe Barnes it would be during attendance, and let’s be real, nobody pays attention during attendance in school except to hear their name, so I don’t think that other kids would pick up of the Gay Barnes thing.

    2. Similar to point one, how often is he going to be called Gabe B.? Maybe in elementary school if there’s another Gabe in his class? But then to me at least, it doesn’t sound like Gay B. when said out loud, it wounds like Gabey, like a little pet name for Gabe (kinda like calling me Gracie).

    3. In terms of him getting made fun of if some bully picked up on the whole Gay Barnes thing….I also kind of see this as a nonissue. I feel like, this might be an unpopular opinion but, if a child is going to get bullied, sadly they’re going to get bullied, so simply giving your child a certain name won’t exactly cause bullying, it will just give a the bullies something more to play with. For example, I was bullied in middle school for be a quiet, very religious, slight cubby girl. I fully believe whether I was named Grace or something embarrassing I would have been bullied, mainly because the most popular girl in my middle school was a not so bright girl named Athena, goddess of wisdom, there was majoring bullying potential there, and she NEVER was. I feel like sometimes parents worry too much about bullying potential. Yes, you shouldn’t purposely name your child something silly (I’m looking at you Kim and Kanye), but if you look hard enough at any name, you’ll find bullying potential.

    I think if someone has a B last name, and Gabriel nickname Gabe is their favorite name, they shouldn’t let what the name might sound like take over their love for Gabriel nickname Gabe. And who knows, maybe when little Gabe is 4 he’ll tell his parents he doesn’t like Gabe, and he wants to be Gabriel. That happened with a friend of ours and her little Samuel, he was about 3 and he said to his mom “I’m not Sam, I’m Samuel!” and he’s been Samuel ever since!

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    • I don’t think the sound of the nickname “Gabey” (“Gay B”) is the problem. It’s the elision created between Gabe and the B last name, as in the real-life example I have of G@be Beach, which does sound like “gay beach” when spoken. And people do get called by their first and last name a lot. Not to their face by friends, but when spoken of, introduced, professionally, etc. The G@be Beach we know is a musician; his first and last name are announced from stage every time her performs.

      So, I have to disagree—this IS kind of a big deal and since there are sooo many wonderful names out there, I think it’s wise for parents to use criteria like this when ruling out a few.

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      • I think it’s good criteria for if maybe parents are on the fence (like Emily and her hubby were) when they were choosing a name. But I feel like if the parents are 100% sold on the name then maybe it isn’t that big of a deal.

        Also, maybe it depends on the last name? Maybe if it’s a noun (like Beach) it’s a bigger deal then if it’s not (like Bennett). Because Gay Beach creates a phrase whereas Gay Bennett doesn’t?

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      • Hmm … I was right with the other Grace re: first-lastname combos not being used often, but I hadn’t considered the perspective of an adult professional … good point … I am still agreeing with Grace’s third point though, the kids I know who have been picked on were picked on because the bullies were determined to do so not because of their names … BUT — thinking about it a bit more — having an unfortunate name or combo does gives ammunition to those who want to be mean … it’s a lot for parents to consider! There are names I certainly would never give my children because *I* think it would be cruel, and names that I absolutely would, even though I’ve had other adults raise an eyebrow because they think it’ll set the children up for negative reactions from others. Very subjective! And hard to know, before a baby’s born, how a name will affect him or her as he/she grows up. So end point I think: pray that whatever name you give your child doesn’t become a tool of bullies!

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      • Um okay, I’m going to have to think of a new way to tell you two apart! Grace and grace isn’t quite cutting it … and you both wear sunglasses in your pic … maybe Red and Brown? Long and Short? Ha!

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  4. Re:the idea of names in the professional sphere. I don’t know exactly how I feel about someone going by a nickname in a professional sphere. Maybe I’m more old fashioned with this, but I feel like people should go by their full names, and not by nicknames in the professional sphere of things. Maybe I don’t know that much because obviously my name isn’t that nickname-able and my nickname is very unprofessional, but I just feel like nicknames are more for friends/family, and less for the work world. Like, I would expect a Gabriel nickname Gabe to go by Gabriel once he become a professional while still maintaining Gabe around family and friends.

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    • I have struggled with this back and forth and up and down for YEARS! Haha! I feel very much like a Kate, and prefer to be called that, even in professional situations, though my given name is Katherine. BUT on business cards etc., I waver on whether I prefer Katherine (so professional! so serious!) or Kate (friendlier, more accessible, but no less professional I think). Also, for a musician or anyone else in a more creative field, I could see a nickname being more “normal” even than for an accountant or a lawyer … but of course there are exceptions all over the place …

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    • I missed this whole discussion a month ago because work got the best of me…. (thanks for linking it in Dwija’s post!)

      Cat has been the name on my business card for at least 2 jobs now. It’s also my email address as cat.lastname@company.com I just don’t go by my full name! So, nicknames are important, even in the professional world.

      Also, for the elision thing with Gabe B (since I started it!), I work in sales and EVERY time I am introduced or introduce myself it is by first and last name. And for a boy, it’s even more important since he will probably not be changing his last name at any point.

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  5. I think this falls in the same category of choosing a first name that rhymes with your last name, or one that makes a phrase. I think it’s slightly worse than initials that spell something, because initials are used less frequently (and people could certainly choose to omit an initial if they wanted to avoid the word spelled by them).

    People can certainly name their children anything they want, but it’s wise to look at it from all angles, including life as an adult, professional, etc.

    And as for the bullying thing, yes, bullies are gonna bully. On the other hand, if G@be Beach’s name didn’t make the phrase “gay beach”, a bunch of name nerds he’s never met wouldn’t be discussing it right now. Our names do matter, and even if he’s never been actually bullied for it, the fact that people make the connection is still unfortunate. My first + maiden name make the phrase “gray snow” thanks to elision and I always hated that. No one ever teased me for it, but it was something I felt helpless to change. I liked my name, I still think it looks pretty in print, but I always hated speaking it. It was always just a tiny subconscious wince as I carefully enunciated it. Other people might not be bothered by this experience at all—I always was. I think it just means that as parents, we need to be conscientious about our choices and think long and hard before naming a child something that’s difficult to pronounce or embarrassing.

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  6. So there has been a development on this issue for me since our last conversation. I was thinking of the little Gabe I know in my life, and it hit me… His last name DOES start with B! It NEVER even registered to me that he could. E mistaken for “Gay B!” That said, his last name is not a noun and has several syllables. So I stand by my original comment that for most folks, our brains go to what is familiar/makes sense. Most folks will head “Gabe” – a well-known male name. With the caveat that if the last name is a noun that completes a phrase, it gets trickier.

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  7. Sidebar: I just love how on this blog, even though two of us disagree, it’s still respectful and a good conversation. I’ve been on so many forums where when two people disagree, it turns into a screaming, naming calling match, and I love how that hasn’t happened now, and even though grace and I disagree, we can still have a good conversation.

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  8. Yip Gay Byrne is a big deal here. And no one ever made a fuss over his name. I knew a Gabrielle (Irish and of an older generation) who went by Gaye, like a female version of Gay.

    I love Gabriel, plus Gabrielle / Gabriella. Just such elegant sounding names.

    What year were you a rose?! That’s so cool!

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    • So awesome that you commented Carrie, so cool that you know who I’m talking about! Funny — Gaye doesn’t strike me as nearly as troublesome as Gay … Gaye has a certain allure, at least in writing … the Gabriel- names are some of my faves too, love them!

      I was the 2001 NY Rose 🙂

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  9. Ah, you hit on one of my big naming dilemmas. Gabriel has been my number one top favorite name forever. Our last name starts with a B and not just that but Be…key. Before we were even pregnant with our first, I ruled out Gabriel because of the Gay Be..key potential. My sister heard that I couldn’t use Gabriel and she scooped it up. She hasn’t had a child yet but Gabriel is her top name and she has a completely different last initial. Would I ever reconsider Gabriel if my sister didn’t claim it? Maybe. It’s such an amazing name. But then again, the teasing potential is so obvious that I don’t know that I’d ever get past it. So, it’s in my name dreamland unless I have a nephew.

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      • Yep. She has her heart set on it. I know she’s been trying to get pregnant so she’s actively in the baby naming sphere. I have 2 boys already and I haven’t used it yet. (Plus, I know how painful it is when a relative can have a baby and you’re still trying for your first). And I love names so I have others on my list. Gabriel is a beautiful name but my relationship with my sister is a lot more valuable.

        I’ve been thinking maybe Dominic or Nicolas if we have another boy. I love the nickname Nico.

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      • Oh Colleen, you made my morning. I know how easy it is to get fussed and angry about names, but your approach is a model to follow! How lovely that you’re thinking so much of your sister and your relationship with her. I love both Dominic and Nicolas, and Nico for either is so cool!

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