Stolen Baby Names and Other Nonsense

by Samantha on March 23, 2013

baby name

Are baby names verboten once you’ve “claimed” them?

We’ve heard this story before: a person (usually a woman - sorry, but true) has dreams since childhood about what they’re going to name their first son or daughter and tells everyone they know. This person - let’s call her “Childhood Friend #1″  has known their future baby’s name since day one. She has told said name repeatedly to her BFF, who, for the purposes of this article, we shall call “Childhood Friend #2.” Childhood Friend #2 gets married and/or has kids before Childhood Friend #1 who had originally “claimed” the specific desired name for their future child, and ignoring the apparent rules of etiquette and common decency, Childhood Friend #2 - GASP - names their first child the exalted name that was chosen so many years before by Childhood Friend #1! The horror!

She stole my baby name!,” says Childhood Friend #1, often through tears or seething anger (or both).

There are variations on this theme:

a) The “chosen” name is not decided in childhood, but rather during a more mature and adult time of life: pregnancy. The pregnant party broadcasts the chosen name to all friends and family during pregnancy (perhaps during a baby shoer or similar family event), only to have the name “stolen” by another close “friend” who knew of the desired name and happened to give birth just a few days or months before the now livid and still-pregnant former friend;

b) Childhood Friend #1 and Childhood Friend #2 discuss their chosen baby names for their future children and promise by pinky-swearing that they’ll never steal each other’s names. Then one of them decides to dishonor her pinky-swear promise and all he** breaks loose;

c) Childhood Friend #2 tries to get around the obvious stealing of the baby name from Childhood Friend #1 by naming their child a variation of the desired name, e.g. Mariah rather than Maria, Sophia rather than Sophie or Emily rather than Emma. The point is that the name is close enough that Childhood Friend #1 will not want to name their child the desired name that they had previously “reserved” because it is too close to Childhood Friend #2’s name. Childhood Friend #1 would look like a copycat and a lesser person for naming her child the original name that she was going to choose.

The common thread between the three  scenarios and the original “baby-name-stealing” situation? They are all ridiculous.

Let’s look at this “problem” a little further, shall we?

The crux of the issue is that a person feels wronged that someone “stole” a name from them. The feeling of betrayal is based on the fact that there is apparently some type of unwritten rule that says that once a name has been “claimed” it is off-limits.

This is ridiculous.

There is no law that says that once a name has been mentioned or conveyed as the chosen moniker for a child that it’s forever off-limits to anyone remotely connected to the chooser. Why? Well, here are a few reasons:

  • It is highly unlikely that anyone - whether its a friend, colleague, relative or otherwise - will go through every waking moment with the “wronged” party and their child. In other words, the two similarly-named children will not be in situations together often, so what does it matter? And even if they do  happen to be in the same room, gathering, event or otherwise, is it really that big of a deal if they have the same name? There was once a time when the plethora of unique names (shout-out to Bronx Mowgli ) was non-existent, and everyone and their brother was named “John.” Guess what? Those named “John” would encounter other people named “John” and it really wasn’t a big deal. As a matter of fact, it was quite the norm, and all “Johns” involved survived. Pretty amazing, huh? 
  • Names - unless patented, copyrighted, trademarked or otherwise legally bound - are not intellectual property. In other words, no one “owns” a name and therefore, anyone has the right to use it, pure and simple. Yes, feelings may be hurt, “betrayal” by a supposed friend may be afoot and overall bad blood between formerly close individuals may be present, but at the end of the day, names are not the individual domain of a particular person or parent. To that end, fuggedaboutit.
  • There are only so many names to go around. Sure - we have more choice these days as parents venture into previously-uncharted territory when it comes to names (think Pilot Inspektor, Moxie Crimefighter and Jermajesty), but at the end of the day, unless your name is très unique, there’s the possibility that you’re going to run into someone who has named their child the same as you. So that being the case, it may as well be a friend of family member who does so, right?

The reality of the situation is that none of us has “dibs” on a name. As with any other intangible objects, names exist within the confines of our minds and, while a particular name can indeed evoke certain emotions (we all have a visceral reaction to the name of the childhood bully who taunted us, or similar), it does not belong to a particular person or family. To that end, it cannot be “stolen” or otherwise pilfered, despite protestations to the contrary.

None of us has “dibs” on a name #babynames

So, if you’re having a baby, and if your friend, sister or neighbor is having a baby; as a matter of fact, if anyone you might be in contact with is having a baby, my advice to you is this: pick out the name that you like, commit to it on your child’s birth certificate, ignore other people’s decisions about what they’re naming their babies and enjoy your new bundle of joy. Because, at the end of the day, your child won’t care about what other babies are named, so why should you?

Do you think that someone can “steal” a baby name from someone else? Why or why not? Answer in the comments below.

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