How to Hide a Problematic Name

How to Hide a Problematic Name

By Katherine Morna Towne,

Though I’m sure most of us would agree that one of the most satisfying parts of choosing a name for a baby is sharing our naming brilliance with the world, what happens if you actually want to hide the name you chose?

Sounds crazy, right?

But as an example, I really like the name Damien, and look to St. Damien of Molokai as a great Damien that I’d love for my son to be named after. But in every conversation I’ve ever had about Damien/Damian, someone inevitably brings up the fact that the demon child in the movie The Omen was named Damien.

Every. Single. Time.

So you can see how someone who really wants to name their son Damien—even if it’s their most favorite name and the one that they’d be most upset about not using—might still feel a little hesitant about sharing the name with everyone. Yes, they could choose it OR—they can find ways to hide it.

In my opinion, it’s A-Okay to use a name you love that you’re not 100% sure will be received well. The trick is to find ways of hiding the name, if that would make you feel more comfortable. Here are some strategies:


There are many reasons I’m a fan of bestowing a formal name for official documents and special occasions and figuring out a great nickname for everyday use, but using a nickname to hide a given name takes this idea to a whole new level. Damian could go by Danny and Damien by Denny, which totally avoids having to fend off the “Like the devil boy from The Omen?” questions every time he introduces himself.

Then there’s Grandpa Arthur, who really wants his name to be passed down, so his granddaughter takes the plunge, even though she really doesn’t care for the name, but no worries: Grandpa’s namesake can go by Archie.

Maybe you already have a Theodore and you want to use Thaddeus for your new baby boy but feel kind of weird that they’re so similar. Fear not—Theo for the older boy and Tad for the younger can smooth that out. Or Ted for the older and Thad for the younger. Or one can go by his initials.

Then of course you’ve loved Ekaterina since you were a girl and have always planned on using it for your daughter, but you’re already tired of the confused looks and botched pronunciations. No worries, Kate and Kat are easy, natural nicknames.

Don’t forget the characteristic and affectionate nicknames either, like Red, Junior, Buddy, Buster and Missy—some of which are coming back.

Middle names

If the nickname approach doesn’t appeal, consider putting the problematic name in the middle spot. While putting your guilty pleasure moniker in the middle isn’t as exciting as letting it shine in the first, at least you’ll still get to use it. I know a girl whose middle name is Madonna, which I thought was a great way to bestow a name that comes rife with cultural associations that may not be favorable.

Or, try as you might, you just can’t get on board with any of the nicknames for Lorelei, and it’s just a little too offbeat for your taste as a first name, but if it gives you a thrill of delight to think of actually bestowing it on your daughter: the middle is definitely the spot for it.

And don’t rule out the idea of putting your favorite name in first place and having your child go by his middle name—this can be a good way of working with a name you’ve already bestowed that’s shown itself to be troublesome, or perhaps the flow of the first+middle names is better in that order, or you really just want your favorite name in the first name spot even though you want to keep it a semi-secret.

Long story short: There are a lot of ways to manage a name that might need “to be managed,” in case you (as the parent) or your child (with the name) wants it to be incognito.

What do you think of the idea of bestowing a name that you’re a little unsure about? Do you think these strategies could help you feel more comfortable? What names would fall in this category for you, if any, and how would you manage your discomfort?