Family Names: All-of-a-kind baby naming

Guest blogger Dionne Ford swore she’d never do what her parents did: give all her kids names starting with the same letter.  And then she discovered the up side of coming from a family with a unified name theme.

When I was a kid, I hated my name, not just because it rhymed with peon and my teachers couldn’t pronounce it, but because it made me an amorphous indistinguishable entity from my siblings. We are all Ds; Debra, Diana, Derick, Daniel and Dionne. And if that wasn’t enough, we have matching middle initials – Js for the oldest boy and girl, Ls for the rest of us.

Tongue-tied at almost every meal just asking one of us to pass the salt, my parents often resorted to addressing each of us by D. I grew up thinking my parents couldn’t remember my name.

I swore I’d never play such a cruel joke on my own kids.

When I met the man I married, I didn’t think much about the fact that his name was Dennis until things got serious and I introduced him to my parents. My mom joked when she met him that he’d fit right into the family. Being prone to signs and superstition, I looked up his name to see if we were perfectly matched. Not only did we fit, our names meant the same thing – male and female modernized versions of Dionysus, the god of wine. People called us double D and to poke fun, we signed Christmas cards D squared, just like my favorite band when I was in high school. The D thing seemed fated.

But I was determined to end the insane alliteration when I got pregnant. No child of mine would bear the D name. If we had a boy, and we were sure we were having a boy, we’d name him Quincy or Clancy. We’d give him a D middle name just to mess with people. We barely bothered with girl names because we were having a boy.

So, when our first daughter arrived on March 1, her sex was as surprising as the name we picked for her – Desiree.

As my feet and fingers swelled beyond recognition in my last trimester and my mother and sisters showered me with frequent family advice and baby gifts, D names started appearing on my list of “Names Under Consideration” in my pregnancy organizer. My husband and I would initial our favorite choices (using middle initials for clarity of course) and surprisingly, I was the one who wrote down Desmond and Desiree. Despite how insane I thought the D thing was, I had to admit it also provided me some sense of security.

I’m the youngest of 5 kids. My four siblings were all born less than two years apart but I arrived nine years after my brother, the baby until I surprised everyone. My oldest sister is 14 years older than me and when I was a toddler, people used to think she was my mother. Because of the big gap in our ages, I always felt like an accident and not really a part of my family. As annoying as it seemed to be named after a singer just because “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” was a big hit at the time and my parents were running out of D names, it was also kind of comforting. In my name at least, I knew I belonged.

I wanted that for my girl. My husband and I had heard the Dalai Lama speak in Central Park when my daughter was just a watermelon-shaped protrusion in my belly and he’d said the most important thing a mother could do for a child was to let it know it was wanted. French for desire, Desiree would know it every time we said her name. When her sister was born three years later, we didn’t want to leave her out of our unintentional club, so we named her Devany. (We now sign our Christmas cards D4).

Like my parents, I often call my kids the wrong name, or Boo or Nunny, or Sweetums, but I never call them D. I want them to know I remember their names, even if I can’t keep them straight.

Dionne Ford is a freelance writer and regular contributor to NAACP’s blog,  She lives with the other 3Ds in New Jersey and blogs about her family history at

Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required


17 Responses to “Family Names: All-of-a-kind baby naming”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Abby Says:

October 6th, 2009 at 6:21 am

Thanks for sharing your story! Friends of ours just went through the same thing – but they ended by switching letters, simply because they never did arrive at a name they liked that fit the set.

Elea Says:

October 6th, 2009 at 7:32 am

I’ve always thought that people are attracted to the letters that appear in their own names (unless they hate their name that is!). My mum is Elaine Margaret. I have a name beginning with ‘E’ my sister with ‘M’.

My initials are ELM and I find I gravitate towards names beginning with these letters and others (R, A) that feature in all 3 of my names.

SJ Says:

October 6th, 2009 at 9:47 am

Great story! Thanks for sharing it. I have cousins, four boys, whose names all start with M. We call them “the M boys.” I always have to run through the list in order in my head to come up with the right name to say aloud to them, but I try really hard not to call them the wrong thing. Their mom’s name starts with M and she has a twin sister whose name starts with M as well, so I suppose that’s where it came from. I think it’s kind of nice, as long as you’ve got a letter with a lot of name choices you love–not sure if a letter like U or X would work that well.

British American Says:

October 6th, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Great story! My brother & I both have J names, as does my Mum. (My Dad is K and my Mum wanted my brother to have a K name, to match his Dad.) I never really thought much about it growing up.

My kids don’t have J names. Though we do have Jen (me), Ben (DH) and Henry (son).

My Mum’s maiden name initials were JEN and then she named me Jennie.

Jaime Says:

October 6th, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I have always been phobic about the thought of same initial sibsets due to my dad’s complete lack of modesty. He is James, and they named me Jaime (I’m the firstborn). When my brother arrived two years later…they named him James Jr (so, essentially, he named both of us after himself). So, we have Jim, Jaime and Jimmy. And my poor mom is the only one who doesn’t start with a J. Even all the family pets we’ve had over the years have had J names!

I swore I’d never to do to my own children…which I haven’t thus far…however, I also promised not to ever use a non-traditional spelling due to issues I’ve experienced over the years with Jaime. I ended up naming my eldest Norah though and have a feeling she’ll be saying, “that’s Nora with an H” throughout her life. 😉

E @ Oh! Apostrophe Says:

October 6th, 2009 at 12:30 pm

I didn’t think I fit this trend, but realized recently that as Emily and Liam, we are loving the name Livia, which shares letters with both of our names… hmmm 🙂

d_ford Says:

October 6th, 2009 at 1:37 pm

I don’t think it matters if your kids have the same initial, if there are more than one of each gender they will get called by the wrong name. No one in my family, of the same gender, has the same first initial of their first name (my male cousin and I share the same initials for all 3 names, DJS) and we never get called by the right name. When my uncles, brother and cousin are over, it’s always “Craig, Reid, Andrew…DAVID.” They never get called the right name.

Personally I would never EVER name my kids with the first same initial. I hated having the same initials as my cousin and I could imagine it would be torture to have the same initials, regardless of how many initials shared, as a sibling. Says:

October 6th, 2009 at 2:23 pm

This was a touching story, I love how you decided to name your eldest daughter Desiree because she was wanted. Its really heartwarming.

redridinghood Says:

October 6th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Interesting, but personally, I would hate it – in fact, I just have one sister, and we were both As, and I DID hate it, and it caused us such complications when we were growing up, both Miss A Hewett!

I know a family of 5 children all called J names – Jamie, Josh, Jodi, Jess and Jordan.

Sorry, I think it takes away from the individuality of the children, although I can see how it can provide some sense of security and “belonging”. But that is what the surname is for, surely? The Family Name.



October 6th, 2009 at 10:26 pm

I never thought about names other than the custom of naming the first son Jr. and the 3rd, 4th and so on. My other thoughts were that same names were assigned because the family just liked them as in there being 3 Robert Ayers on my mother’s side, distinguished only by different middle Initials or that names were chosen to carry on the family presense through generations to come. Now I see that there can be a meaning to the naming process that can be fun, meaningful and interesting to a purpose that can suit any family’s whim, purpose in life, family business etc: Wish I had thought of this 50 years ago…

linda Says:

October 6th, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Welcome to the wide, wide world of baby names, Robert. It’s never too late!

Jill Says:

October 7th, 2009 at 2:27 am

Your girls are absolutely beautiful, and I’m so happy that you were able to find names with such meaning to you.

Best wishes!

Charlotte Vera Says:

October 7th, 2009 at 2:47 am

My parents determined that none of their kids’ names should start with the same letter. On my mum’s part, I think it may have been because, while her name is Vera, her older sisters are Lois and Luella. She’s a lot younger than they were, and her name starts with something different, so I think she always felt a little left out.

I too, have a personal rule that none of my kids’ names shall start or end with the same sound, although, if we really can’t come up with anything else, I might allow for the same initial, different sound (i.e. as in Cedric and Clarence).

Pat Says:

October 7th, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Loved theflow of the writing and the flow of your family – looks like happy and healthy “D”‘s all around. Speaking of “peon” my parents named me “Patricia” wishful thinking so far. Or maybe not.

smp123 Says:

October 7th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I’m not opposed to sib sets that start with the same initial (and in some cases I think it’s cute), but I could never do it personally. Being the name fanatic I am, I can’t imagine limiting myself like that. I’d rather be free to name my kids Hugo and Violet instead of Anthony and Ava.

Bernadine Howard Says:

October 7th, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Great Story!

I have 3 BFF’s from college who all have “J” names and all married husband’s with “J” names and 2 of the 3 have went on to names their children “J” names…I think it is a sweet thing to pass on to your children, your initial! So, cheers to Jennifer & Jaime with their son Jude Joaquin and Jeannette & Jon with their girls Jillian & Josie 🙂

My son happens to have my inital and we are now pregnant with our second child and I can help but want the next child to share my husband’s inital? We are A & B, any unique “A” name suggestions? (?gender?)

Alyssa Says:

July 22nd, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I really don’t like it when people name their kids all one letter (shout out to the Duggars).

On my dad’s side, my uncle is name Joseph, his wife is Jackie and their daughters are Jenna, Jordan, and Jillian (Jordan and Jillian didn’t live past infancy) and their son is Joey.

On my mother’s side, I also have an uncle Joseph. His wife is named Jennifer and they have a son named Joshua. They recently had another son and named him Ryan. My relatives and I were like “He will feel left out, you already named your first son a J name.”

leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.