Number 11 on the Top 10 Baby Name Tips Parents Want to Hear is:
Claiming dibs on a name is perfectly reasonable, especially if you don’t plan to have kids for years and have no clue of your future partner’s identity.
Of course you can’t claim dibs on a name silly! But as someone who doesn’t want a friend showing up at a party wearing the same outfit or using the same color to decorate her family room, I feel your pain.
One annoying crap piece of advice I will spare you is the old trite, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. We all know imitation is not always flattery.
Now that I’ve commiserated with you, let’s get down to the tough love.
- Unless you can copyright your baby’s name, there is nothing you can do to prevent others from using it.
- Even if you name your baby Hortense, you never know when Hortense will become in-style and others will clamor to it.
- Even if Hortense never becomes in-style, if you hate Hortense, would you use it based on the logic that no one else would “steal” it since it’s so ugly? That suggestion is ridiculous.
“Name theft” is one of those things you can’t control. When picking a baby name, you will save yourself some grief when you let go of what you can’t control.
For entertainment purposes only, here is Upswing Baby Name’s “Name Theft” Empathy Scale, representing typical Moms (or just women) who are miffed by baby name theft. Please note that none of these Moms are real but the stories are similar to real-life stories. Their plights are ranked by empathy level. The first one is the least empathetic and the last one is most empathetic.
“Name Theft” Empathy Scale
Miffed Mom 1. – A nonexistent child’s very common name was stolen: A single woman without a boyfriend who could be years away from having kids, mentions in passing to her friend that she wants to name her future son Ethan (#2 in 2010). Fast forward one year, she is still single and her friend gives birth to a son and names him Ethan.
Miffed Mom 2. – A nonexistent child’s very unusual name was stolen: Another single woman, also without a boyfriend, who could be years away from having kids, mentioned in passing to her pregnant friend that she wants to name her future son Cecil (not on the charts). Fast forward 5 months and her friend has a son and names him Cecil.
Miffed Mom 3. – An existing child’s common name was stolen and there is an age and geographic gap: Mom to three-year-old Amelia was mad when she learned her cousin who lives about 1,000 miles away, who she only sees every few years, recently had a daughter and named her Amelia.
Miffed Mom 4. – An existing child’s common name was stolen and the kids are close in age and proximity: Next-door neighbors and friends are expecting girls within three months of each other. The expectant Moms discuss baby names. The first Mom wants to name her daughter Chloe. The second Mom says she wants to name her daughter Mia. The first girl is born and named Chloe. Three months later Chloe #2 is born.
Miffed Mom 5. – An existing child’s very unusual name, without any particular meaning, was stolen: Seven years ago, Alta’s parents were proud to choose an unusual name for her. Her name remained unusual. Fast forward to the present and her Mom’s co-worker gives birth to Alta #2.
Miffed Mom 6. – An existing child’s very unusual and meaningful name was stolen: One-year-old Caledonia was named after the town in Minnesota where her parents met. Caledonia’s parents shared the story behind their daughter’s name to their college friends. Recently these friends gave birth to Caledonia #2.
In all six cases, the name “stealers” had every right to use the names they chose. Yet, at risk of sounding presumptuous, most of you probably feel Miffed “Mom” 1. (not a Mom yet to an Ethan) was being very petty, while Miffed Mom 6 (Caledonia’s Mom) was at least somewhat justified. The question is: when does the line cross from pettiness to righteous indignation?
And does it matter? Even if indignation is righteous, isn’t life too short to wallow in it? Even if you have been a “victim” of name “theft” I doubt you intend to wallow in indignation – that’s extreme – but you just want some empathy.
Name “theft”, always an interesting topic, doesn’t always have cut and dry solutions. Logically all names are up for grabs, and can’t really be stolen, but we are emotional creatures.
Applying logic to “name theft” proved difficult. For example, I struggled with order on the “name theft” empathy scale. My opinion was that parents “should” be less possessive of common names, but somehow Miffed Mom 4’s (Chloe’s Mom) anger at times seemed as justified as Miffed Mom 6 (Caledonia’s Mom).
Consequently, I almost changed the order of Miffed Mom 4 and 5. Miffed Mom 5 (Alta’s Mom) may have picked an unusual name, but her kid’s name was stolen seven years later, by a co-worker, not three months later by a close friend and next-door neighbor who failed to give her any heads-up (Chloe’s Mom).
Regardless of whether you agree with the “name theft” empathy scale, some sensible suggestions for coping with “name theft” are:
- Keeping future kid’s names to yourself is wise.
- If you are considering using the name of a friend’s child, letting this friend know ahead of time can lessen hurt feelings.
Even Miffed Mom 6 might have felt a little better if her friend had spoken to her before giving birth and said,
We just love your daughter’s name, and realize the name is meaningful to you. Since we have fond memories of our camping trips together in the “Wild Turkey Capital” of Minnesota, Caledonia has meaning to us too. Would you be OK if we also named our daughter Caledonia?
Readers: Would you re-order the name theft empathy scale? On the “name theft” empathy scale, which “Miffed Moms” are being petty? (Multiple answers are allowed, unless “none” is selected.)