Friendships have been broken, family arguments started and tears have been shed over baby names. I ask you...what's in a name?
I wasn't prepared to lose a friendship over the name of my baby but it very nearly happened, and the fact that there was an issue in the first place astounded me. I had no idea that there were so many social complexities surrounding the choosing of – and earmarking – baby names. And when I investigated further, boy, was I in for a surprise.
I'm of the school of thought that believes any name is for the taking. If you happen to choose a name that I love, yes, I may just copy you. If you're a close friend, I'll ask you first, but if you're just someone I met in an antenatal group I'm not inclined to beg permission first. Call me crazy, but I think baby names hardly count as copyrighted material and they will, in many cases, last far longer than the friendships that could become frayed because of them.
I find the people who refuse to share baby names or keep them as deep, dark secrets until birth a little precious. So what if you're going to call him 'Sam', it's not like he's going to be the first child with that name, and there's no way he's going to be the last. Surely what counts is the fact that he is your Sam?
However, of all the women I spoke to, every single one said that you should keep the name of your child to yourself until they are born.
"I guess owning a name is only really a problem if you let people know what you've decided on," said Rebecca McLuckie, "It didn't take us long to come up with names for the twins once we'd found out it was one of each at 16 weeks. Then we found out that my husband's cousin had just got a puppy and named him Jasper. It didn't stop us from using the name, though. They are known as Jasper-Baby and Jasper-Dog!"
Rebecca's comments show the flip side of the 'keeping a name secret or else' path of baby naming – you can accidentally end up with a copy anyway.
Hermione Miller found this out the hard way. "A friend of mine once told me in no uncertain terms that I had, and I quote, ruined her plans for naming her children. We were pregnant at the same time, twice, and I unwittingly chose names that were uncannily similar to the ones she had earmarked for her offspring," she explained.
"I had no idea; she had never told me the names she had in mind but she still acted as though I had betrayed her when I announced the names of my children. I think it's insane. At this rate I doubt we're going to be friends in 12 months time never mind ten years, so it's hardly going to matter if our children have similar names."
This amazes me. Why couldn't they both have children with the same names? It isn't as if the universe is going to suddenly stop in horror and it's entirely possible these children won't even go to the same school, so what's the problem?
Susan told me what she thought the problem was. "Sorry but I think your views are socially unacceptable. Having a child is such an emotional and powerful experience that's unique to me, why should my child's name be any less unique in my circle of friends? It's my name, I chose it, and I don't think I should have to share it. "
However, while I may think that baby names are a freely available commodity in the friends and acquaintances market, I do not think the same rule applies to family. If you're planning on hijacking a name that your sibling has earmarked since they were three, then perhaps you should think again.
Melanie certainly agrees with this, "Of course it is OK to 'own' a baby name; if you make it very clear well in advance that this is 'your' name. However this only applies in families, and immediate families at that. It is utterly preposterous to expect friends and acquaintances to adhere to that."
"There are two names in my family, variations on Tony, and May. I was utterly devastated when my sister named her son Tony. I thought that as we'd grown up together she'd have remembered that I had always planned on calling my son Antony. I'm really sure it was never intentional, after all we hadn't discussed this for a few years, but it is such a personal, emotional kind of thing that I felt that it opened a bit of a rift. No matter what else happens, I'll always feel that we're just not quite as close as we could have been."
Clearly there's a path that must be carefully navigated before you can happily sign the birth registry but that perhaps that path should not be influenced by friends, only family. I still think that baby names are for the taking. You are welcome to have the same as mine. In fact, I'd see that as a huge compliment. What greater nod to my excellent taste in baby names is there than someone else choosing it too?
What do you think?
Would you be furious if a friend 'stole' the name you were planning for your newborn?
Or do you think that baby names are up for grabs?
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