Baby name consultant: Benedict Arnold or Robert E. Lee?

This week’s consultation is a bit different, in that the mama who wrote to me had specific questions about two names she and her husband are considering for their son. She writes,

My husband and I are down to two names for our second boy but see potential issues with both. The first is Benedict Joseph for Pope Benedict. The second is Robert Edward for my paternal grandfather and my father in law. We worry that because we live in the Washington DC area, both names could cause issues because of Benedict Arnold and Robert E. Lee. Obviously Robert Edward wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t for our last name that sounds similar to Lee.

Are we just being crazy? I should probably mention that my husband, my father in law, and I all obtained degrees in Political Science with varying emphases on American history and law.”

Interesting questions, right?

Objectively, I love both names — saintly, handsome, really great. Regarding the Benedict Arnold conundrum — I don’t know! I know some might make the connection and have a problem with it, but in my world Benedict Cumberbatch and Pope Benedict are the two overriding associations.

Regarding Robert E. Lee, I would never think of Robert E. Lee if I were to hear of Robert LastNameThatSoundsSimilarToLee (no mention of middle initial). But maybe I would if I heard Robert E. LastName? Even so, that association wouldn’t bother me one bit, since Robert E. Lee is so far away from any potential baby name inspiration on my part. But in this mama’s world of American history and law and her geographic location? It’s a great question! I really wanted to post this dilemma in order to get feedback from all of you!

Another thought I’m having is Bennett instead of Benedict — Bennett is a medieval form of Benedict, so they would be able to honor the man in a less politically charged way and still use the nickname Ben. Or Robert Benedict, which is so handsome, and I think solves all their problems above and below.

I do have some other thoughts though, that the mama didn’t ask for but I feel is my duty as a name consultant to point out! So sorry in advance! I loooove Pope Benedict so much and I love to see babies named after him! But I find that middle names for Benedict are kind of hard, as the initials can be problematic and I do feel like I have to point them out to parents, just so they know what they’re getting into. BJ and BF have sexual connotations; BM has toilet associations; and BO has body odor associations (though I had a friend BJ in high school and I don’t remember anyone teasing him about his name, so if they don’t mind it and just own it, it could be just fine. I definitely want to hear all your thoughts on this issue as well!). BR however is a great combo — maybe Benedict Robert could work instead? Or Benedict Edward?

So, to recap, my two heartiest suggestions are Benedict Robert/Edward and Robert Benedict. 🙂 Robert B. LastName is especially great to me — they get our Pope Emeritus in there without any Benedict Arnold associations, they retain a family connection with Robert (and I’ve seen Ned as a nickname for Benedict, and it’s also a traditional nickname for Edward, so maaayyyybeee they could spin it that Benedict is for Ratzinger AND Grandpa Edward? I know that’s a big stretch), and there would be no Robert E. Lee issues.

Or use Joseph to honor Benedict instead, in either the first or middle spots? Robert Joseph? Joseph Robert?

What advice do you all have for this family?

36 thoughts on “Baby name consultant: Benedict Arnold or Robert E. Lee?

  1. I think this is one of those situations where you have to decide if your love of the name/the positives of the name outweigh the negatives, and that’s something that only you and your husband can really determine. For example, my husband is in the military, so he has already said that Benedict and Robert are off any potential name lists because, for him, the connotation with traitors is just too strong.

    Between the two names, I’d go with Robert. I also like the suggestions to mix up the names. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have a Benedict Augustine Joseph as our third. Our consultation was just last week. My husband outright refused to the initials BJ. Our compromise was to stick another name in there to avoid the initials. The funny thing was that my husband thought that Benedict was a normal name . . . . we got more reactions out and about when he was a baby than we did for our older two, who are named Blaise and Ambrose. I think people were like, did you seriously name your child after the pope. Now, occasionally people will overhear his name and tell us how nice it is. Also, we try to avoid nicknames, but half the time he goes by Ned. I did not like Ben. He will tell you, though, to call him Benedict.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Not our Catholic friends, but just random people we would run into . . . our extended families who aren’t Catholic who asked us where we got our other names didn’t even ask . . . but Benedict was the pope . . . we did get a bunch of comments when I was pregnant with our fourth if we were going to name the next one Francis or Francis . . .

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Also, there will always be negatives to a lot of names. We have an Anastasia as well. There is that whole 50 shades thing, but no one thought that was where we got the name.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know a little Benedict Achilles and the Benedict Arnold thing has never come up for him as far as I know, and I think the initials B.A. are rather cool 🙂 I also know an adult B.J. (don’t know what it stands for) and he just owns it, is very professional and those initials seem to be a non issue for him. What a niche naming question though!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have had only one or two Benedict Arnold jokes (and always in good fun) since my ten month old Benedict was born. Mostly I have gotten “That’s so handsome.” Super positive reactions from Catholics and a couple “that’s different” from non Catholics.” My parents were worried about Benedict Arnold, but it doesn’t come up much with younger people. So far, I would do it again in a heartbeat. His middle name is Xavier and his nickname is Benny (which actually got us the most negative comment from a tactless uncle who said it was “too New Jersey.”)
    I agree that Benedict Edward or Benedict Robert or Benedict Robert Edward are all nice choices that avoid the BJ initials.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I went with Bennet in place of Benedict. I admire Pope Benedict, there are lots of good saints named Benedict, and my uncle is a Benedictine abbot. However, my husband did not like the name at all. Presented with Bennet as an alternative, he liked it; maybe it’s more streamlined? For a middle name, we went with Kilian. No initial issues. (For my daughter whose name starts with B, I gave two middle names as I did worry about the BM thing. So she’s Brigid Maria-Therese.) ( And I did accidentally give one son the initials PU, but no one’s ever mentioned it. So maybe you shouldn’t sweat the initials too much?)

    I think with Benedict Cumberbatch around right now, most people will think of him and not Benedict Arnold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your perspective! Bennet’s great, and I love it with Kilian, and Brigid Maria-Therese is gorgeous! I’m also really glad to hear your PU experience!! I really wish the objectionable initials thing would just go away. :p


  7. I do think of Benedict Arnold. Robert E. Lee was apparently a gentlemanly man, even if he is strongly associated with the Confederacy, so he might not be as negative an association, especially if they have ties to the South. I think Bennett is a good solution or one of the other foreign variants of Benedict.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My husband is Benedict James. I didn’t know him in junior high but so far as I know he’s never gone by or been made fun of for BJ. He’s always been Ben. I had never met a Benedict before meeting him (in college). Benedict Arnold flashed in my head for around 3 seconds and I’ve never heard anyone else mention it. Mostly he just gets “oh cool” when people incorrectly call him Benjamin (or Bernard once!) and they find out it’s really Benedict. I guess I wouldn’t worry about Benedict unless Arnold was the middle name.

    I’m from the northern Midwest so Robert E. Lee isn’t really on my radar. I guess it wouldn’t be strange to me unless he would regularly go by Robert E. NameThatSoundsLikeLee, and even then it would be fleeting.

    All of their names are handsome choices!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My son’s name is Benedict Kolbe. I wanted to do Benedict Arlo, my husband’s middle name, but that crossed the line into Benedict Arnold for me. I also wanted James or John as a middle, but couldn’t do BJ. Our last name starts with M, so he already has to deal with BM. We named him after the Saint-monk, but people assume the Pope. And no one has brought up Benedict Arnold!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I tend to think that initials bother parents more than they’ll ever actually bother the kids lol. I’m sure there are some instances where kids are made fun of for their names/initials, but I’ve never seen it become a problem. (I know an A.S.S. who obviously doesn’t GO by the initials lol and I’ve met a BJ who goes by BJ and is totally fine.) I’d maybe avoid problematic initials, but not if it meant sacrificing THE name, if that makes sense.

    As for this particular problem, if the last name sounds like Lee I’d be more likely to avoid Robert E ___ than I would Benedict. I think Benedict has been reclaimed and so B Arnold isn’t the first to spring to mind. Robert is a good name, but Robert E Lee isn’t someone I’d necessarily want to bring to mind with a kid’s name. I doubt he’ll go by his full name all the time, but if he becomes a lawyer or a doctor he will always be Robert E. Sounds-like-Lee. I like your ideas of using Robert or Edward in different ways, though. Both are great names. Literally every name in this post (their choices and your ideas) are sooo handsome and manly.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love the name Benedict. If your last name were Arnold I would rule it out, but otherwise I’d keep it on the list. I would think of the Pope more than Benedict Arnold at this point.
    It pains me to say this but the way history is taught (or not taught) now, I doubt most people will even make the connection. Also, even Benedict Arnold was talented general who was pivotal in the success of the Revolution — not that that excuses his actions, but he is a more complex figure than his popular image would suggest!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Okay, I haven’t read the other comments yet, but I live just 2 hours outside of DC and come from a family big on law and history too. To me, Benedict is not too closely tied to Arnold. We have a Benedict in our family, It’s a great name and a non-issue, and nobody thought twice about Arnold. Robert E Lee is another story… I am actually a descendant of his, and where I am from, there are still heated emotions surrounding him, his legacy and his local memorial. I probably *would* avoid a near-identical Robert E. Lee name. It’s just one of those hot-button names.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. hmmm…if either of those names are chosen, they, like any other names, are being “honored” and the historical connections are just “there.” I would just be careful to be really sure I (meaning the Mom and Dad) was ok with that…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I have two uncles, one is named Arnold and the other Benedict, so yes, they got teased about it…but I can’t imagine anyone making the connect

    Liked by 1 person

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