RIP, Ben: A Mom Mourns Her Once-Favorite Name

BENJAMINLaura Dunphy and her husband, Mike, are mourning the loss of the name Benjamin, which was terminated from their Baby Name List on Friday May 21, 2010, after a long and debilitating ailment.

Almost 11 years ago, Benjamin – as they called him, Ben – was the very first boy’s name borne onto their List.  Laura and Mike came to a nearly immediate agreement that Ben held so many attractive qualities: it was classic without being blah, it flowed nicely with Mike’s challenging last name, and it had the delightful fringe benefit of honoring Laura’s beloved former professor, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.

A year into Ben’s tenure at the top of the List, signs of trouble emerged.  Laura’s friend Kate knew about Ben’s number one spot and also that Sophie was Ben’s top-ranking companion on the girls’ side.  One day Kate called Laura to say that a VP at her investment bank just named his baby daughter Sophie, and he happened to have an older son named Ben.  “That’s funny,” Laura said.

Two years later, Laura and Mike’s friend Ann reported that she was sitting in the office of an editor at her magazine, and the woman started telling a story about her kids, Sophie and Ben.  “That’s weird,” Laura said.

And then it started happening.  Dedications in books to Sophie and Ben, mentions in magazines (“So-and-so travels everywhere with her ferrets, Sophie and Ben”), moms running after kids in grocery stores (“Sophie, don’t you dare throw that watermelon at Ben!”).  It was an epidemic.

Some people might have taken these incidents as evidence that they’d cultivated a good match.  Laura and Mike, however, felt unsettled.  That the world found the combination of Sophie and Ben so appealing made Laura and Mike feel dull, original, uninspired.  They knew the name Ben was somewhat common and that Sophie was rising in popularity, but the number of times they encountered that exact pairing seemed statistically impossible.  They simply felt less enthusiastic about keeping both names in the top slot.

Eight years after Laura and Mike created their List, the universe decided which name would become a permanent part of the equation.  They had a baby girl.  They named her Sophie.  They still weren’t sure whether they’d consider naming her potential future brother Ben.

Within a year of Sophie’s birth, The Land of Nod catalog dealt Ben a near-fatal blow.  On a page of personalized items, there they were, two little signs right next to each other:  S is for Sophie.  B is for Ben.  “That SUCKS!” Laura cried.

After much discussion, Ben was officially moved to a backup position, with no candidate to take his place at Number One.  Laura and Mike secretly hoped Ben might even regain the first ranking someday.  If only they could get over their hesitations about committing to the mundane pairing of Sophie and Ben!

“I guess maybe if we had three boys, I’d consider Ben,” Mike said. “We should keep it on the List.”

“It’s more likely that I will get hit by a tap-dancing meteor than have three more children,” Laura replied.
“But I’m not ready to say goodbye to Ben yet either.”

May 24, 2010 changed that.  Laura was compelled to visit the birth announcements for the London Telegraph.  On the very first page, Laura read that on May 14 in Paris, Oliver and Sara (nee Critchley) Jenkins had a daughter, Sophie Jean, a baby sister for their son Benjamin.

Laura and Mike pulled the plug.

They had only this statement:  “Ben, we loved you.  We still do, in many ways.  Unfortunately, Kate’s VP, Ann’s editor, The Land of Nod, the Jenkins of Paris (formerly of London), and countless others killed you for us.  We couldn’t let your dignity – or our egos – take another blow.  Rest in peace, Ben.”


Writer Laura Dunphy is currently mourning in the privacy of the Manhattan apartment she shares with her husband, daughter and dog. In lieu of flowers, please send cocktails.

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28 Responses to “RIP, Ben: A Mom Mourns Her Once-Favorite Name”

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araminta Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 4:35 am

I know 2 Ben/Sophie sibsets.
However the most popular sibset, I think, is Jack & Harry. I know 6 of them!

jessie Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 8:29 am

I know twins named Sophie and Ben. 🙁

phaedra Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 8:46 am

“In lieu of flowers, please send cocktails.”

I have no doubt this is the best thing I will read today.

m25111 Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 8:54 am

Funny, I have a son Ben and a little girl on the way. Perhaps I should take another look at Sophie 🙂

pippa Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 9:33 am

This was hysterical! And yes how those personalized catalog products detract from a name. When I see it in Pottery Barn Kids on a tote or pillowcase, “JACK” “ABIGAIL” “MADISON”– it dies a small death.

JustADad Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 9:54 am

I’m hearing the strains of Michael Jackson’s ballad “Ben” right now . . .

Sachiko Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 10:18 am

Oh, isn’t it the truth. I lost charming Charlotte from my short list the same way.

Adorable post. Y’all come back now, Laura Dunphy. 🙂

Courtney W. Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 10:57 am

I still think Ben is worthy! He’s a classic!

Meaghan Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I really, really hope one of my favorite boy names (Sebastian) doesn’t rise any higher than it is already.

Bella Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 12:55 pm

One day I will be using Benjamin- my dog, whom I named (of course), is named *drum roll please* Sophie!

I guess they really are quite a pair

Meliss Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 1:00 pm

My RIP is for Jack.

It can never be replaced…not Zack, not Jackson.

tear, tear

Joy Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Benjamin is a cute name. Its a shame that it had to leave that way. Maybe other forms of Ben names will arise.

Ben Zion
Ben -Ami
Benson
Benji
Benay?

nameseeker3 Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

I must say that I really enjoyed reading this blog post! I love your clever, humorous way of writing, Laura! But I really am sorry about your loss of the name Ben…it really is a treasure of a name. It’s a hardy name, yet very warm at the same time-I’ve always liked it. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll end up resurrecting it? But I can really understand your desire for wanting to be original at the same time…well, I hope you’ll find a name that’s as equally charming as Ben to put in that #1 slot!

Patricia Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I’m glad to hear you still used Sophie! I keep reading that the increasing popularity of Sophia/Sophie has taken the name off some parents’ lists. I have a 14-year-old granddaughter named Sophia who is mostly called Sophie. I love the name! I’ve never come across a Sophie and Ben pairing, nor, I’m guessing, have a lot of other people. The way you wrote of your Ben’s ‘demise’ makes it sound like he had become rather ‘real’ to you and makes me wonder if he’ll always be ‘missing’ from your family. In your situation, I’d go ahead and name a son Benjamin: after all, you came up with Ben and Sophie quite a while ago — probably ahead of those you’ve come across — and YOU’ll always know that even if others don’t. Your reasons for preferring Benjamin “Ben” over all other boys’ names are good ones. Look at it the other way round: think of all the families who DON’T have a Ben and Sophie; all the Bens whose sisters aren’t Sophie and all the Sophie’s whose brothers aren’t called Ben! I hope you’ll reconsider Ben.

Andrea Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I haven’t met many little girls here named Sophie, much less ones with brothers named Ben. Maybe it’s a popular combination in Great Britain or the city. Sophia is a lot more common than Sophie and the standard sister combination seems to be Sophia and Olivia or Sophia and Isabella. I haven’t noticed any common brother names for any of the above. I HAVE encountered any number of little boys named Benjamin with brothers named Sam or Samuel. But I wouldn’t say Ben is epidemically popular.

Erin Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I, also, struck Benjamin from my list in part due to its overwhelming popularity. (And a pregnant friend of mine co-opted it for her son, to be born any day.) I still really like the nickname Ben, though, and an underused option I’m hoping to retain? Reuben.

alexandra Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 3:43 pm

You know, I always thought Abigail and Benjamin was a common pair but I do suppose that Sophie and Ben sounds very familiar. It’s such a shame. Benjamin is so handsome and goes with just about everything.

Jenny Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I lost Ben and y other favorite, Madeleine, to the same cousin a few years back. I guess when a name is good, we have to accept that everyone wants it.

Becca Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I’ve never heard of any Ben and Sophie combos! It does go well together though!

Laura Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Thank you all for your condolences. I send mine to those of you who, too, have loved and lost.

But don’t believe the rumors that I am having Ben cryogenically preserved in the hopes that he can be revived. He is gone. I am moving on.

Meliss and Sachiko – I think Jack and Charlotte are terrific examples of great names that are very easily assassinated by interlopers who snatch them away without a thought. They have so much depth and multiple references for inspiration, but enough aesthetic appeal that anyone can say “Oh that’s cute” and pick it without any thought whatsoever. I feel your pain!

Kayt Says:

July 20th, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I’ve never met a Sophie and Ben sibset. The pair of names I heard the most was Olivia and Sophia. I knew four of them. Two pairs also had sisters named Kaitlyn/Katelynn. One set of Olivia, Sophia and Kaitlyn, and one set of Olivia and Sophia had brothers named Lucas. I feel like this warrants a Venn diagram.

peach Says:

July 21st, 2010 at 1:47 am

I know only a Sophia & Gabriel sibset, no Bens. But I understand your choice to let the name go. It happens to most of us with one name or another, sometimes many. Thank you for sharing your story and lively writing!

alex25 Says:

July 21st, 2010 at 3:44 am

I know one Sophie/Ben sibset.
I understand why you took it off your list but it’s a shame, since they make such a great pair.

Lisa Says:

July 21st, 2010 at 12:22 pm

I know two young Ben(jamin)s, one has a brother Isaac, one is an only child. The 3 young Sophie/Sophia/Sofia’s I know are all only children.

Laura Blackwell Says:

July 21st, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I love this article, and I’m sorry for your loss. It seems that part of the problem is that there just aren’t as many names for boys as for girls; the classics get used and over-used.

Dove14 Says:

July 21st, 2010 at 3:57 pm

This was hilarious! Thanks for the laugh! 🙂

Sarah Says:

July 22nd, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Or maybe all of those are signs that Sophie and Ben SHOULD go together! Hehe..

My FIL goes by Ben but his birthname is Benton. I don’t think he knows anyone else with that name.

sunshinetina Says:

January 26th, 2011 at 10:53 pm

I never really liked Ben all that much. It always reminded of Ben Seaver from Growing Pains. That being said, I too, know a twin sibset named Benjamin Elijah and Sophie Theresa. I joked that it if it were me and I had to chose those 4 names, i’d reverse their order.

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