When Every Name Seems Wrong: Good Names Ruined by Other Kids!

This is the third part in a series discussing what to do when every name seemed wrong. The first post addressed guidelines for tackling the general problem, and the second post addressed how to apply these guidelines in real-life when you don’t like any names.

This week we will discuss what to do when you like many names, but they are often ruined by bad kids! Or the names are simply ruined by too many kids.

Real Life Application: Good Names Ruined by Other Kids!

This applies in these situations:

Situation 1: You or your partner work with a lot of kids, maybe one or both of you are teachers or day care workers, and you hear the same names or a group of similar names on several kids in class.

Situation 2: Or you find a name you like and it gets ruined because of a problem child.

As discussed in part 1, focusing on what you can control and accepting what you can’t is the first step and will save your sanity.

How can you accept what you can’t control? Let’s address each situation above:

Situation 1: You are one of those people who don’t want your child to have the same name as several classmates. This is especially common among people who have an insider’s perspective on which names are popular on the under-10 set. The problem is you have current tastes that may only run just a few years ahead of trends, and you wish you could keep your favorites all to yourself. I can relate.

The fact is you can’t keep your favorites to yourself. In this case, I say embrace your gift for spotting up-and-coming names, and accept that if you pick a unique name that hits the top 10 or 20 by the time your child is 10, at least you are a trendsetter.

That may be easy for me to say, but believe me; it was not easy for me to accept. As I see my own daughter’s name soar up the charts, I have to fight back a little twinge of frustration. Logically I know this isn’t the worst thing that can happen, but being a name person, the experience did crush me just a little.

In addition to letting go of what you can’t control, assessing priorities is crucial. Ask yourself, what is more important, giving your kid a fashionable name or a unique name? If uniqueness is really most important to you, picking a dated name may be the way to go.

Situation 2. Teachers, especially have a hard time liking a name once it has become the name of a problem student. This can apply to non-teachers as well who like a name only to suddenly discard the beloved name because it is the name of an enemy.

If this sounds like you, ask yourself these questions:

1. Is the problem child the name’s only drawback?
Here is another time when having a list of priorities is very helpful. If there are other drawbacks, then evaluate the other drawbacks against your priorities to decide whether this name gets crossed off the list.

If the name’s only problem is the bad association, then ask the next questions:

2. How popular is this problem child’s name?
An unusual name such as Otto may be easier to associate with a specific person, but a top 10 name such as Jacob should have other neutral or even positive associations that should balance out the bad association. If not, then ask yourself the next question:

3. If you had picked this name for your child first and then met the problem child, would the name still be ruined? Of course not.

And if you are still not convinced to go with the name you love ask yourself:

4. How permanent is your relationship with the problem child? People move away, and seasons change. In the long-run after many years and little or no contact with the problem child would you regret not using the name you love?

Bad people shouldn’t ruin good names!

Here’s how a hypothetical family, the Hartley’s, could cope with this situation.

Scenario: Cherrie and Jim Hartley know they are expecting a girl. While this is Cherrie’s first child, her husband Jim has a 12-year-old daughter from his first marriage. The challenge is Jim’s daughter, Emily, goes to the public middle school and gets bad vibes from many of the names on the couple’s list:

Sophia: This is the Hartley’s first choice and the name of Emily’s frienemy and former BFF. They had a fallout at the 7th grade dinner dance when Sophia danced with the boy Emily likes. She begs Cherrie and Jim not to use this name on her sister and bring back the awful memories.

Cecilia: Ms. Cecilia is the meanest teacher at school. Like the meanest teacher. Ever. Emily insists that her sister cannot share the same name as the meanest teacher. Ever.

Anna: Emily’s Mom, Michelle, is also expecting another baby due about two months after the Hartley baby girl. The sex is unknown, but Anna is the top choice if the baby is a girl.

The family eliminates Anna immediately. Anna was only on the list because there’s at least a 50% chance Michelle won’t use the name. Nevertheless, Cherrie and Jim decide the risk of hurt feelings is too great, reopening old wounds from the divorce.

Sophia and Cecilia stay on this list. Jim explains to his daughter why Anna was eliminated. Emily understands that two sisters named Anna would be a part of Emily’s reality forever, but the evil Sophia and Cecilia would only be in her life temporarily.

Cherrie asks Emily if she had considered that Sophia’s popularity could help Emily separate Sophia from her frienemy and associate it more with her baby sister.

Emily asks Cherrie and Jim if she can think about it more, and they agree that seems reasonable, since the baby isn’t due for another couple of months.

There are other drawbacks with the names. The Hartley’s are aware of their first choice’s top 10 status. Since Jim picked a top 10 name for his older daughter, another top 10 name for his second daughter makes sense. In this situation the popularity isn’t really a drawback.

As is often the case, events beyond Cherrie and Jim’s control made the choice for them.

A couple of weeks after the couple discussed names with Emily, she and Sophia make up and are once again BFFs. They vow never to let some stupid boy come between them again.

Emily insists her sister must be named Sophia. There is no other name. Cherrie and Jim don’t argue. After all, Sophia was their first choice.

Readers: Do you agree with the fictional Hartley’s choice? All three names have their good and bad points. There is nothing wrong with Sophia. It became a top 10 name due to its universal appeal, but maybe Cecilia would have been more interesting.

Or how about Anna? How would the Hartley’s feel if Emily’s Mom had a boy or decided on a different girl name at the last-minute? Does a family sharing their list of contender names automatically give the family dibs on the names, even if the names are relatively common like Anna?

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  1. Haha, no you don’t get to keep your favourites all to yourself, unless your favourite names are something nobody in their right minds would use. But then, another crazy person might move to your area, so who knows.

    Also picked for #2 a name apparently rising in popularity and fashionability – so much for all the people who said it was an old lady name and how her name would stand out forever. Luckily I was pretty much already prepared for them to be wrong.

    • Maybe if your favorite is Hortense? I’m not even sure I spelled it right. But even Hortense will be seen as endearingly quirky at some point. I’m pretty sure of it. 🙂

      Not too long ago people thought Henry was an “old” man’s name, and now all of these parents love Henry.

  2. I’d eliminate Anna. Even if Emily’s birthmother ended up with a boy or chose another name, it could cause potential bad blood between them. I do like Cecilia the best, but I just cannot choose it for this hypothetical family based on it being the mean teachers name. Because the memory of my awful 5th grade homeroom teacher is still fresh in my mind and I cringe whenever I hear her name. Though her name was Ethel and I’ve never come across any other, nicer Ethel’s that might have changed my bias against that name. Sophia I just don’t…really like. But if it was their first choice, why not?
    But maybe I’d just go with a different, but similar enough name. Like Sophie, Cecily, or Celia.

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