It is Thanksgiving. You and your sister-in-law, both newly pregnant, are sitting with the rest of the family around the table. The conversation turns to names.
You, on the other hand, choke on your cranberry sauce. Ever since you were a little girl, youâ€™ve wanted to name your first son Charles. Besides being your fatherâ€™s name, itâ€™s also your husbandâ€™s fatherâ€™s name, your brotherâ€™s name, and your favorite name for a boy in all the world.
â€śWe were planning on Charles, too,â€ť you manage to sputter.
â€śYou canâ€™t have it,â€ť booms your brother. â€śClearly, itâ€™s our name.â€ť
â€śThereâ€™s room for two Charleses in the family,â€ť you reason. â€śWeâ€™ll just use different nicknames.â€ť
â€śFine,â€ť your brother says. â€śBut weâ€™re not getting stuck with Chuck.â€ť
â€śNow, now,â€ť soothes your mother. â€śWhat if you both have girls?â€ť
â€śAmanda,â€ť you and your brother say in unison.
If you anticipate some name-wrestling within your own family, keep the following tips in mind:
Announce your baby name choices early on
If you have an absolute favorite name youâ€™re sure you will use, donâ€™t make a secret of it. Planting it in everyoneâ€™s mind as â€śyourâ€ť name can help avoid problems later.
Weâ€™re not talking about naming your baby Letitia, unaware that, on the same day, in another state, your sister is naming her baby Letitia. Weâ€™re talking about naming your baby Letitia when your sister has been saying since she was fifteen that her fondest wish in life was to have a little girl named Letitia. And your sister is pregnant. And knows sheâ€™s having a girl.
Avoid carbon copy names
Two little Caroline Townsend Smiths in a close-knit family is one too many. If you want to use the same first and middle names that a sibling uses, can you live with a different nickname â€“ Carrie, for instance? Or can you vary the middle name, so that, at least within the family, one cousin is called Caroline Townsend and the other, say, Caroline Louise? The only case in which two cousins named Caroline Townsend and called Caroline can work is if they have different last names.
Honor family traditions
If the oldest child of the oldest child in your family is always named Taylor, donâ€™t break rank, unless your oldest sibling is a nun, priest or resolutely childless person who has formally renounced rights to the name.
Take unintended, unimportant duplications in stride
We know two sisters-in-law, living across the country from each other, who were pregnant at the same time: Jane due in January, and Anne in April. During their annual Christmas Eve phone conversation, Jane said she was sure sheâ€™d have a boy, and that they were planning to name him Edward. â€śThatâ€™s our name,â€ť gasped Anne. â€śToo bad,â€ť Jane said blithely.
After a few minutes of intense anxiety, Anne decided Jane was right. Neither had officially â€śclaimedâ€ť Edward, nor was it a name with family significance. It would be as ridiculous to insist that Jane change her choice at the eleventh hour as it would be to deny her own son the name just so it wouldnâ€™t duplicate that of a cousin heâ€™d see, at best, once a year. Besides, Jane favored the nickname Eddie, while Anne preferred Ted.