Name Ownership – Can you own a name?

From popular baby names to unique baby names – names are always a hot topic around Mabel’s Labels. What is the etiquette around “stealing” baby names?

We all know about the whole “you stole my name” phenomenon. Think back to that episode of Friends where Monica accuses Rachel of stealing her girl name, Emma. (Also note that Monica didn’t have a baby at the time.)

I have six children with fairly unusual names. Not one of them would be on a top 100 baby names list anywhere. My youngest son’s name is Finian, which is perhaps the most common of the lot. I’ve had a couple of friends express that they liked the name and have asked me how I would feel if they used it. I appreciated the gesture of checking in and of course told them to use the name with all of my blessings.

The funniest “name borrowing” moment for me was when our friends recently got a puppy and gave him the name of my son, Clancy. I had to admit, Clancy is a great name for a dog or a kid. Now the on-going joke is that we named our son after their dog.

We recently had a family member name their new baby son Clancy. My Clancy was delighted to have a little namesake and feels quite special about it all. The parents didn’t mention they were going to use the name, so I was a bit surprised since it’s such an unusual name. But, I wasn’t bothered and was delighted someone else thought it was a cool enough name to use.

The thing with asking “permission” is that it can be risky business – if you ask the question, you better be prepared to respect the answer. What if you ask to use a name and someone says no? Maybe when it comes to naming children, you’re better off sticking to the mantra “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.”

So what is your name story and what’s the etiquette? Can you use a name that your friend has either used or claimed for future children? Is it a courtesy to run it past them?

 

About the Author:

Julie Cole

Julie Cole

Julie Cole is co-founder of Mabel’s Labels Inc., the leading provider of kids’ labels, and a proud mom of six. Happy Hockey season – grab your Hockey Label Combo today!

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18 Responses to “Name Ownership – Can you own a name?”

  1. Carrie

    my husband’s name is a fairly common one….and I’m not sure the details of the situation, but all I know is he was born 4 months before his cousin and his parents ‘took’ the name that they wanted to use for their son. i don’t know if my in-laws knew that and used it anyway, or if it was an unfortunate coincidence….never the less, it was the first thing his aunt told me when I met her 19 years after the fact, so clearly the sting wasn’t gone yet!

    Reply
  2. Natalie

    Great topic. Gotta admit, you’re more gracious than I. My sister-in-law named her daughter the same name as my daughter and I didn’t like it. Still don’t :)

    Reply
  3. Kandis K

    We named our son Rendyn and I have had three people ask if they can use his name. Most of these people we do not know personally (they work at our family doctor or know us through a mutual friend). It doesn’t bother us. No matter how unique you try to be someone will either have the name already or take it! However if it were my sister in law or that close of a family member I would be upset.

    Reply
  4. Mary

    My best friend’s maiden name is Hunter. She had long made it public that she would name her first born Hunter be it boy or girl to honor her grandfather who raised her. Her husband’s brother named their second child Hunter without telling them. So living in the same town as your first cousin and having both the same first AND last name? She hasn’t spoken to them since and it has been four years.

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      • Jennifer

        I could definitely understand being very upset but not talking to your husband’s brother for four years over something like that is absolutely outrageous. Just because someone used the name does not mean you can’t. Two people with the same name are still individuals. I think it sends a very bad message to your kids, if you can cut out a close family member out of your life that easily, what will you do to them if you ever get mad at them.

        Reply
  5. Kathy Riley

    It can certainly be tricky for first cousins to have the same name especially with most people having smaller families these days (except you of course Julie ;D). That being said I don’t think it’s that big of a deal if the last names are different – unless someone snatched a name deliberately to tick someone off! How sad would that be? I come from a very big family with 17 first cousins on one side and 35 on the other! There are tons of repeat names on both sides including my name and to me it just gives me a greater sense of family. However that did not stop me from giving my own kids less common names! :)

    Reply
    • Julie Cole

      I come from a big family too. My grandma is one of 21 kids. I’m surprised my great-grandma didn’t accidentally give her own kids the same name :) We’re full of Simons and James’.

      Reply
  6. Laura at Mommy Miracles

    My husband and I have differing opinions of this. If we know of ANYONE with the same name, the name is not an option for me. I don’t see anything wrong with it. And I don’t think that anyone “owns” a name. I was respectful to a (childless) best friend who requested that I not use her grandmother’s name, and I avoided all the names on the list my sister has had for years (even though she subsequently has not used any of them on her own two kids). I also asked my sister not to use my recently deceased father in law’s name while we were both pregnant at the same time. But honestly? So what if kids have the same name? I grew up with plenty of Lauras as friends and it was always fun to have that in common with someone.

    Reply
  7. LeeAnne H

    Thirteen years ago my sister-in-law and I were both pregnant and had due dates within two weeks of each other. It was a race to see who would have their baby first because we both had the same boy name picked out and agreed whoever arrived first got the name. Well, She had her baby girl two weeks before I had my daughter! Lol! My boys though, every boy on my husband’s side shares a name with at least one other family member, but it’s usually from a different generation or at least second or third cousins. It’s just what we do. :)

    Reply
  8. Michelle

    My brother’s name is Michael – one of my all time favorite names (and one of the all time popular – for boys.) I always thought that if I had a GIRL I would name her Michael. My brother ended up naming his daughter Michael. I wasn’t happy about it, but what can I say? That is his name. (It didn’t seem worth holding a grudge over a name. That takes too much energy.) I had a son at the time and was saving Michael if I had a daughter, but then decided to change it to Michaela. Still has Michael in it. I think it was a bummer because I find girls names harder to pick out. (I swear if I had two girls the youngest would still be called baby girl because we wouldn’t be able to come up with a name. However, that name is still out there because I have two boys.) And, there will be no more kids here!

    Reply
    • Julie Cole

      A girl Michael…..that’s cool. I have a girl Spencer and it really suits her. I have a friend whose last name was Stevens but changed it when she got married. She named her daughter Stevie which is super cute.

      Reply
  9. Ailsa Gray

    Hi – my name is Ailsa and I live in Wales in the UK – and just came across your blog by chance, as I have had a lifelong love of and fascination with names. (I have six kids myself, by the way, but they aren’t little any more – they are 24, 23, 21, 20, 19 and 17).

    I would love to know all your kids’ names, and also to receive further posts. What is the best way?

    Reply
    • Julie Cole

      Hi Alisa – delighted another mom of six found me! You can subscribe to the blog. I generally post here every two weeks on a Sunday evening. My other blog is about having a big family and it is at http://www.thebabymachine.com My boys are named Maginnis, Clancy and Finian. My girls are Posy, Spencer and Jessamy. :) The oldest is 13, the youngest is four.

      Reply
  10. Angie

    My daughter, Ava Emily, was the first born grandchild and great grandchild on both sides of our family. Emily was chosen because it was my husband’s beloved grandmother’s name. One of my husband’s coworkers had a child a month after us, and guess what they named her? Ava! That bugged me, but I got over it. We flippantly discussed using Chandler in the name of a subsequent baby, because it was hubby’s great grandmother’s maiden name. We liked it for a boy or girl. Well, hubby’s brother had two sons before we became pregnant again and actually called to ask if they could use Chandler, and what do you say? Of course! So, Chandler was used for their son and it suits him perfectly! We vowed to never share names openly again! Silly, I know, but it felt right at the time. Our twins were born and they are Addison Ella (Ella was my grandmother’s name) and Tyler Neill (my husband is Neill III, so I didn’t want to go a IV). We have dear friends whose son is named Kyler. Before we settled on Tyler, we called and they were very happy we chose to ask and that we wanted to use the name! So, I honestly think it’s nice to ask.

    Reply
  11. Megan

    My husband and I did not share our daughters name until she was born. We did not want anyone to use her name. We deliberately chose a name that was not in either family and not in the top 200 of names. There really is nothing worse than going to school with 15 other Megan’s and having 5+ friends with the same name (ie: Megan and Robert). Not joking. There were 5 Megan’s and 5 Roberts; everyone was called by either their last name or their height or hair color. We chose a more popular name for the middle name and changed the spelling to give it some uniqueness. Shortly after a friend of mine was pregnant and said if she has a girl was going to use the same name and spelling we had for our daughter. While we live on different sides of the continent it still stung that out of all of the name she would pick that one. In the end she had a little boy. So far we have lucked out and there are no little girls around with her first name!!!

    Reply

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