Name Sage: Is This Baby Name Theft?

Name Sage: Is This  Baby Name Theft?

By Abby Sandel

Caroline writes:

My husband and I are expecting our first child in July. We have plenty of boy names, but we are struggling with a girl’s name. The only name we agree on is Mika.

One of the criteria for our names is that it should honor our Japanese and Korean heritage. Another is that the name must work with the middle name Marie, to honor a great-aunt. Mika fits the bill.

Our dilemma is that friends of ours named their daughter Mikayla last year. They said that they planned to use the nickname Mika, but so far, they seem to call her Mikayla exclusively.

Mikayla’s family lives in another state, but we’re part of a large group of friends, and we do see each other a few times a year.

Given the circumstances, can we still use the name Mika?

If we do use the name, what is the recommended etiquette we should follow? I don’t think we should have to ask to use the name, but I’d hate to see it cause problems in our group of friends. I also worry that our daughter would be called “the second Mika.”

The Name Sage answers:

There are two questions here. Let’s start with the easy one first: whether you can still use the name Mika for a daughter.

It sounds like Mika Marie fits all of your criteria. You and your husband both love it, and arrived at it independently of your friends’ name choice.

Finding a name that works so well isn’t easy. If Mika Marie is The Name, I think that yes, you can – and should! – use it.

Conventional etiquette doesn’t address name duplication – maybe because, until recently, sharing names was the norm, even within families.

What matters, I think, is being sensitive to the feelings of others. There is no way to know how Mikayla’s parents might react to your name choice, but you’re right to want to handle the situation with consideration and tact.

When you do talk to your friends, keep it simple. Explain why you chose Mika, how much you love the name, and your hope that it doesn’t cause confusion to have two families with children with similar names in your circle of friends.

There’s no need to begin with an apology, and you should not offer to change your name choice – unless you’re truly willing to do so.

The second question is when to talk with your friends. There are three possible approaches.

First, you could tell them your favorite name for a girl is Mika, before your child is born.

It’s good to get things out in the open. And it’s possible that Mikayla’s parents will be delighted that you share their appreciation for the name Mika – or at least unfazed by the possible duplication. The downside? Your friends might feel doubly hurt. Not only did you “steal” their name, you also refused to change your mind. If they were very close friends you saw regularly, I’d take the risk. But if they were very close friends, I suspect you’d be more open to the idea of finding another name.

Alternately, you could wait until your daughter arrives, and then tell your friends first, before sharing her name widely.

This seems like it would be a tactful approach. Except that it assumes that you will be calm and organized and ready to think of others within hours of giving birth. That’s a lot of pressure!

Finally, you could share the good news as you normally would, and contact Mikayla’s parents afterwards.

Even though it seems a little evasive, I think this is probably your best option. If they’re not friends you see regularly, it might feel awkward to bring up the topic of baby names. Once Mika has arrived, there could be a natural opportunity to reach out – maybe to say thank you for a new baby gift, or before the next big gathering of friends.

The risk you take is whether your circle of friends refers to Mika as “the other Mika” or “little Mika.” But here’s something to remember: name duplication doesn’t just happen at birth. As new parents, chances are that you’ll meet lots of other young families, and as you know more kids, you’ll naturally come across more and more repeating names. I’d guess that Mikayla’s parents have already encountered a few other Kaylees and Makaylas, and won’t be so surprised to hear another similar name in use.

Readers, never have I been more eager to hear from you! How would you handle this situation? Would you change your name choice? Have you ever been on either end of name duplication?