Is it okay to ‘steal’ a baby name?

When it comes to choosing a name for your baby, Kerri Sackville asks is it ever okay to ‘borrow’ from a friend?

Practical Parenting / October 15 2018

In my parents’ close-knit group of four families, there were two boys named Justin. In other words, two very close friends had given their sons – born just a few months apart – the same name.

I never thought much about it. There was Justin R and Justin S and that was that.

But when I was pregnant, I wanted my child to have a special name. In fact, I decided against ‘Joshua’, my favourite boy’s name, for my first child because it had become too popular. I eventually chose quite an unusual name, but if a friend or relative had nabbed it first, I wouldn’t have used it. It was important to me that my child was unique, at least in my friendship circle.

Naming rights

And I wasn’t the only one. My friend Lisa was heavily pregnant with her first child when our friend Carole gave birth to hers. Lisa had already chosen the name ‘Zac’, and when Carole announced that they were considering ‘Zac’ or ‘Ricky’ she enthusiastically directed her towards the latter.

But if Carole had chosen ‘Zac’, would Lisa have been within her rights to use it to? Yes, of course. It’s a free world. She could have named her child Zac, Carole, or even Pineapple. But would it have been right? Is it okay to give your child the same name as a friend’s baby?

Well, yes and no. On the one hand, if you choose a baby name that regularly appears on the ‘Most Popular’ lists, then you can’t be expected to keep it all to yourself. If your child is named Emily or Chloe, Jack or James, you have to accept that they will be one of many. But if you choose a really unusual name, like Spurgeon, or Pilot Inspektor (thank you, celebrities!), then you have a right to be a little peeved if someone else nicks your moniker.

People give their kids unusual names as an expression of their creativity, or because they want their child to have a unique identity. It seems unfair for someone else to steal that creativity, or to undermine the uniqueness of the name by using it themselves.

Not to mention the fact that it would be a little awkward to have two Sturgeons or Pilot Inspektors in the same social group.

Talk it over

But of course, with sharing names, as with every other aspect of social interaction, communication is the key. If your friend’s child is called Robustus, and you love the name, then ask the parents if they would mind you using it for your own baby. (And then take a good, hard look at yourself in the mirror and question your choices!) If they say yes, and tell you they’re flattered, then go right ahead. If the parents say no, and you value the friendship, then perhaps refrain.

Kerri Sackville is a columnist, social commentator and author. Her latest book, Out There - A Survival Guide for Dating in Midlife, is available now.

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