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Baby Name Theft?

October 18, 2016 Abby Sandel

They love the name Josephine, but could their choice lead to family drama? Her sister has called dibs on the name, and says they ought to respect her wishes.

Alicia writes:

I am due with our second daughter in a few weeks.

Our first is named Aurora and we call her Rory. We started with the nickname Rory (from Gilmore Girls) and worked backwards to get Aurora. I love that it is elegant, not overly common, and with a spunky, unique nickname. And we love connection to the Northern Lights, too.

We’ve had a really tough time naming our second girl. I have always loved the name Josephine, called Josie or Jo. My sister likes it, too. She doesn’t have kids yet, but really wants them. To be considerate, I asked if she was okay with us using Josephine for this baby. She said it was fine.

My husband and I decided to use the name. Rory calls her sister Josephine, and we’ve been referring to the baby by name, though we haven’t officially announced it.

Just recently, my sister told me that she’d changed her mind, and she wants to keep Josephine for herself. Now she’s not speaking to me.

We don’t want to change the name. It fits for many personal reasons, and it’s the name we both love. Yet now when I hear it, I feel frustrated and sad.

We’ve also considered Eleanor, but Ellie/Ella is too popular a nickname. We love Adeline, but not Addie/Del/Lina. We prefer longer names with cute nicknames, like Rory and Jo. Autumn is great, but there’s no nickname.

All this is to say, I am unsure what to do about naming this sweet baby girl.

Any suggestions?

The Name Sage replies:

Imagine that you had gone into labor before your sister’s phone call. You’re snuggling your new daughter in the hospital. Introducing her as Josephine. Heck, maybe you’ve already filled out the paperwork for her birth certificate.

What if that was the moment your sister declared that she’d changed her mind, and could you please choose another name?

While this case isn’t quite as extreme, it seems like you had decided on Josephine. Your sister isn’t asking you to take one possibility off your list; she’s asking you to change your already-named child’s name.

If you choose to honor that request, it is an act of generosity and love. You were not obligated to ask permission in the first place, and asking permission did not grant your sister indefinite veto power over her niece’s name.

Which doesn’t necessarily make your decision any easier, right?

In cases like this, the best course of action is to look for an alternate name. Since you started with a favorite nickname for Rory, let’s do the same here.

Kit Kit and Rory share a borrowed-from-the-boys vibe, without being overly masculine. Kit reminds me of Jo, too – brief, but still big on style. Kit can be short for Katherine/Katharine or any of the variations, like Katrina and Katarina. Since it is also used for Christopher, I can imagine a Christina called Kit.

Lulu or Lou – There are lots of great Lou names, and happily, many of them are relatively uncommon. Louisa and Louise are obvious choices, but I wonder if you would like Eloise, called Lou. It reminds me of Eleanor, but isn’t nearly as popular.

Poppy or Pippa – Is Penelope too popular for you to consider? Like Aurora, it has ties to the ancient world. It’s also rich with fun, spunky nicknames, like Poppy and Pippa. Pippa traditionally comes from Philippa, another option.

Viv or Vivi – There are some great ways to get to Vivi, staring with Vivian, Vivienne, and Viviana, of course. But there’s also Genevieve and Lavinia, Ivory, Livia, and Victoria.

Sosie Josie always reminds me of the more obscure Sosie. It probably evolved from the Susan names, but could easily be short for another S name. Sophia, perhaps, though that probably feels too popular. There’s also Simone, or maybe even Susannah. If Sosie feels almost-but-not-quite, I wonder if you’d like Sylvie, short for Sylvia or Sylvana.

Cora – Because you love Adeline, but not the nicknames, and Josephine also ends in –ine, I wonder if Cora, short for Coraline might appeal? It would also work as a nickname for Cordelia or Coralie.

Charlie – Before girls answered to Rory, there were girls called Charlie. It’s short for the very popular Charlotte, and the not nearly as common Caroline. Rory and Charlie sound almost as great together as Rory and Jo.

Jules Jules can be short for Julia, Juliet, Juliana, or any of the other related names. Aurora and Juliet are great together; so are Rory and Jules. The leap from Josephine to Julianne seems like an easy one.

Maybe one of these names feels every bit as right as Josephine-called-Jo. If so, problem solved.

If this exercise leaves you feeling frustrated, I think it’s a strong signal that your daughter already has a name, and the moment for discussion has passed.

I do think that the child being named now takes priority over future daughters that might be born someday. While it might make for a few awkward family dinners – though at this point, that’s probably true whether you decide to use the name or not.

Let’s have a poll, though, because I’d really like to hear from readers. What would you do if you were faced with this dilemma?

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

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