What's in a name, anyway?
December 11, 2013 2:55 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are expecting our first child, a girl, due in 2 months and are having a serious naming dilemma. We are both worried about the possibility of our chosen name leading to teasing.

We have been really set on a name, which, while it sounds lovely with his last name, has the very easy potential to be mispronounced into a pretty bad nickname (something along the lines of "dirty underwear") in the country we live in.

I should clarify, he has a perfectly normal last name, which only when combined with this first name could lead to this issue.

It wouldn't be a problem in the USA, but here where we live it's got a different meaning. We plan to stay in this country for the foreseeable future.

One solution is to keep the first name and use my last name, but husband is not happy about this. He feels like we should be able to teach her to stand up for herself, but I think that if we can avoid teasing we should. I should also add that I have kept my last name, so having a daughter with the same last name as mine would not be out of left field.

Another suggestion has been to do a double barrelled last name, or combining our two last names but unfortunately they don't lend themselves to this, and we just aren't too keen.

Others have said to use the name as a middle name, but we don't see it as a solution because we were so set on this as THE name for our daughter (It has taken nearly 5 years to agree on this name!).

So, what would you do if a name you were both completely in love with came with this sort of complication?

Any solutions we aren't thinking of?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (78 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So, what would you do if a name you were both completely in love with came with this sort of complication?

Unless you're calling your kid Fuckington Dicksplash or something equally insane, I would not worry about. Kids, all kids, will get teased at multiple points in their childhood, and it doesn't matter what their names are. You have a kid called John Smith, then kids will just call him "fatty", or "stinky" or whatever.

I totally understand the desire to protect your child from possible harm, but as I say, unless the name is truly ridiculous, so ridiculous as to invite teasing, then I wouldn't sweat it. And you know what? When I was in school there were some kids with ridiculous names and they never got teased, cause they were good at socialising and popular etc.

Don't borrow trouble, bless little Richard N. Balzac with the name you want.
posted by smoke at 3:02 PM on December 11, 2013 [49 favorites]

I...wouldn't worry about it. If kids want to mock, they'll find a way to do it against all odds, and if they don't want to mock, they'll accept any "strange" thing about a classmate. I had (have) a weird name and was mocked every day, but very rarely for or with my name. One of the most popular girls in my school also had a very unusual name; she was never made fun of for that or, as far as I could tell, anything else.

I would avoid a name that is literally a bad word in the language of where you are living, but anything beyond that, just go with the name you like and raise her to be a strong person no matter what happens at school.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:03 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think if kids want to tease another kid, they will find a way no matter what his/her name. They are diabolically creative in this area. Go with the name you like.
posted by Beti at 3:03 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

You know, I think it is incredibly cruel for parents to give a child a name that they know will result in teasing.

Find another name. There is absolutely no reason to load your child to be with an obligation to "stand up for herself," particularly when she would be "standing up" for a decision she didn't make.
posted by bearwife at 3:05 PM on December 11, 2013 [50 favorites]

Donald Glover said the bullies never caught on to his name being Dong Lover.
posted by LaunchBox at 3:05 PM on December 11, 2013 [28 favorites]

I am trying to think of examples and I really think it depends. I mean, let's say your last name is something like Spunk (which means one thing in the US and another in the UK.) It would be cruel to name your child Regina or Fanny if you resided in the UK because the combination would actually invite people to at the least snicker and at the worst mock her for her entire life.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:05 PM on December 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

I also vote not to worry about it. Do you know if that kind of teasing is even common among speakers of that language? I have a last name that is a noun in Spanish that can mean "bristle", "female pig/sow", or even "slut/whore", even though my family is from Mexico. And it's not an uncommon last name there. I grew up around tons of Spanish speaking kids in Texas and Southern California and lived in Latin America and the only person who has ever commented on it was a white guy from New Jersey who was taking his first semester of Spanish, and even then it was more of a "Heeeey, doesn't your last name mean pig? heehee" kind of way, nothing really cruel.
posted by primalux at 3:14 PM on December 11, 2013

i have the second most common name for the year i was born. my last name isn't weird. still, many teasing names were mined from this because i was not popular. there was another girl in my class with the last name of butts and she didn't receive name based teasing because she'd been popular since nursery school and stayed that way until graduation.

kids don't need a weird name to tease someone and can choose to not tease someone with a funny name all based on their own social hierarchy that you won't even be aware of probably.
posted by nadawi at 3:16 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

You don't list any reason why you are so set on this name, so I'm assuming you just like the sound of it. I think your daughter would have an easier time standing up for her name if she had a solid reason for why she was called that, thinking to herself "my name is dirty underwear 'cause my parents like how that sounded" is a touch more flimsy.

In my experience, people with tease-able names either embrace it or get seriously resentful. You don't get to choose which route your daughter will take.

I know someone who legally changed her (very tease-able) name as a young adult. Apparently her parents were hurt by that, a reaction that has caused many an eye-roll.
posted by Dynex at 3:17 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

In a lot of cases, I agree with the "don't worry" crowd, but obviously there ARE occasional names that make it way too easy. Without knowing the name and the language and customs of the place you'll be living, it's going to be hard for anyone to know if your future daughter's potential name truly falls into that category.

Your daughter's going to have a different last name than ONE of you. My personal opinion is that it might just as well be one of you as another - six to one, half dozen t'other, as Grandma used to say. But that's not my call to make, either.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:20 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

One solution is to keep the first name and use my last name, but husband is not happy about this. He feels like we should be able to teach her to stand up for herself.

Have you inadvertently connected these two parts as though the latter is an argument against the former? Because otherwise it sounds as though your husband has unilaterally decided that your child will get his last name even when there are valid reasons to use your last name. Personally, I would not be happy about this... you already have a perfectly good solution that makes sense for everyone and doesn't put your daughter's well being at risk but this solution is not being considered out of... what, exactly?
posted by rada at 3:21 PM on December 11, 2013 [31 favorites]

I wonder if there's more going on here than one parent is concerned about teasing and the other isn't. I kept my last name on marriage, and even though my husband is as progressive and supportive as possible, conversations about our future children's last names have been pretty fraught. I suspect this has a lot to do with the last name of this kid and future kids, no matter what the first name is. Did you two have a conversation at all about last names for your kids and come to any agreement before? Or is this the first time? Maybe this is conversation that needs to occur separate from the existence of an actual kid and an actual first name?

On one hand, kids that are going to be teased are going to be teased about something. On the other hand, you should get some say in your child's last name if you want it.
posted by muddgirl at 3:22 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the best thing is to do what's best for the child, not the parents.

Her name is the first thing you will give her -- make it a good one for her. If you like the name and it's a good one in the US, but where she will actually be means the name is a joke, you pick another one. If she ever moves the US, you can tell her what her name almost was, and then she'll think it's funny how narrowly she escaped it, and maybe it'll be her nickname here.
posted by Houstonian at 3:23 PM on December 11, 2013 [11 favorites]

As someone who was ridiculed/bullied a little growing up, I would find another name. If my parents had bestowed upon me a full name that they -knew- would translate into a secondary meaning that would get me ridiculed, I would be incredibly resentful and hurt.

And giving her the name anyway so she can "stand up for herself"? What a ridiculous notion. That's like saying you'll purposely dress your son in a pink dress on the first day of school so he can learn to "stand up for (him)self." Kids are ruthless...the last thing I'd want to do is give them ammunition against my own child.

But I digress...I think keeping your last name is probably the best course of action---or finding another name you both like, as I don't see how making it the middle name will solve the problem-- she'll just be "Samantha Dirty Underwear" instead of "Dirty Samantha Underwear."
posted by stubbehtail at 3:28 PM on December 11, 2013 [11 favorites]

I would find a new name that you both like. Even if you both don't love the new name, having an easily mockable name is a pain in the ass. Being a kid is hard enough.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:28 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's a first name I love that would clash with our last name, so it's permanently off the list. Sad but true; sometimes that's being a parent. There are infinite names out there and I bet you could find one with zero snicker value.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:33 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another point I thought of: I went to school with several Jennas, Ambers, and Crystals and they were made fun of all the time for having "porn star/stripper" names. I'm sure their names seemed completely normal and joke-proof to their parents when they were born. You never know what could end up being the funny names once she's in school.
posted by primalux at 3:40 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think it is incredibly cruel for parents to give a child a name that they know will result in teasing.

Agreed. Childish people find my family name incredibly amusing, but my parents had no choice there. You do. Please don't.
posted by Rash at 3:55 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's pretty terrible to justify a name by saying, "well, she needs to learn to stick up for herself."

Some kids don't learn to stick up for themselves despite the cruelest bullying imaginable.
posted by jayder at 3:56 PM on December 11, 2013 [12 favorites]

I wouldn't knowingly give a child a first-last name combination that sounded like an unpleasant expression.
Yes, kids tease for any old reason. But beyond teasing, do you want your child to go through life always bracing herself when she says her name, waiting for that tiny look in the eyes of someone who hears "dirty underwear" (or whatever) and is still too polite to say anything?
Your kid should love saying her name out loud from the get go. There shouldn't be any tension involved in the experience of saying your own name.

I would pick a different first name, but if you can't I would hyphenate your two last names, with your last name between the chosen first name and the dad's last name --would that break up the sound enough that it wouldn't be an issue?
posted by third rail at 3:58 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Give her the name you love. Pay attention and offer to easily (without drama/hurt feelings) start addressing her by a chosen nickname or middle name if teasing becomes an issue and bothers her. There may be life lessons in the (possible) teasing and learning to stand up for herself. Your support in navigating those lessons can keep them from being traumatic.
posted by Swisstine at 4:01 PM on December 11, 2013

I have the most boring bog standard ordinary teasing-proof name ever.

I was bullied mercilessly from approximately the second half of kindergarten up into high school.

There were plenty of people with more teasing-worthy names who were not teased.

Name your kid whatever you want. It will be fine. This is seriously not something to worry about.

I agree that you should follow her cues about what she wants to go by when she's old enough to make it known.
posted by Sara C. at 4:11 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Tell your husband you're standing up for yourself and giving your child your last name.
posted by jaguar at 4:14 PM on December 11, 2013 [15 favorites]

It sounds like you two have put a lot of thought into picking the name, which is good. You're balancing out all the zero thought that many others put in.

I guess my first question would be: How long is "foreseeable future" for your living plans? Second would be: Is there ever the possibility that your daughter will end up living here when she's older?

My simple opinion on names is that a name should never potentially damage its owner. It's hard to give a name that opens doors, but it's definitely possible to give one that shuts them. In most places, a person is not allowed to unilaterally change their name until they're a legal adult. That means they'd have to endure all their formative school years with that name. All their relatives will have 18 or so years of calling them by that name. It's too late by then. Now, with parents' permission a child's name could be changed, but if you consider that a viable option down the road for your child, pick a different name. A person's name is not an experiment.

If "foreseeable future" means long enough for them to start school in the place where the name is questionable, I say pick a different one. If you have relatives you like in your current country who will find the name questionable, pick a different one. And while kids may be openly deride someone for their name, adult employers also have to make decisions about hiring people with certain questionable names, even if they really like the person. It's just done behind closed doors when you're older instead of in front of everyone on the playground. Your name is the one thing you always carry with you. It's like a tattoo: easy to get, hard to remove.

The best way to think about naming, in my opinion, comes in the form of a simple sentence I heard somewhere, probably on here.

"Please rise for the Honorable ____."

Can you picture your child's name in the blank? Does it sound respectable or not? Or can you not picture it because you can't picture someone with that name finishing out that sentence? Just don't pick a name that closes any doors for your child, even if those doors are only closed in certain areas of the world, because you don't know what your child's life is going to look like.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 4:15 PM on December 11, 2013 [13 favorites]

Maybe your husband isn't fully aware what an epidemic bullying is in this day and age. This might not be the case in the country where you are residing now, but here in the USA, I feel that it is much worse for children nowadays and that older people (even just as old as one generation older) can't really comprehend the enormity of it.

Based on my childhood experience, the argument "kids just need to learn to stick up for themselves" doesn't seem so unreasonable. Then I look at the headlines and I realized that children are committing suicide because of being bullied. Like, 8 and 10 year olds, killing themselves. Did their parents ever tell them to buck up, to just learn to stick up for themselves? If they did, I bet they have a lot of regret right now.

Taking that into consideration, I'd tell your husband to either relent on his stance about the last name, or come up with a different name. It's not that big a deal. There are a lot of beautiful names out there.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:17 PM on December 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

I think you should give your kid your last name.

Failing that, pick another first name.

My parents gave me a nickname that was fine but when it combined with my last name and a horrible 5th grade teacher, I ended up being called an awful nickname until I went to college and left all those horrible people behind in my past. I will never attend a reunion. If my mom had kept her last name and given it to me, I would not have had to deal with that and be teased for years and years. I was bullied as a child and I can tell you, there is no such thing as standing up for yourself if everyone else is picking on you (the TEACHER gave me that nickname!!). It takes someone else to stand up say "stop that." If you are not going to be there to say it, assume it won't be said.

Really, this "teach her to stand up for herself" thing not a defense in giving a name you KNOW will mean something unfortunate to those around your kid.

Also - I have changed my first name twice (legally) and now I have one that makes me happy. Since I did the first name change, I have happened upon what feels like multitudes of people who say "You can CHANGE YOUR NAME? OMG! I'm totally doing that! Right now!" And then they rush off to the courthouse and change their name. Really.

So pick something good if you want your kid to like it and keep it.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 4:23 PM on December 11, 2013 [14 favorites]

Another thought I just had on the matter:

Do not give your child a name with the intention of shortening it or changing it into a nickname to get around any potential problems with the full name.

a) Their full name will leak out the first time school roll is called. It will not matter to her classmates whether your daughter asks the teacher to call her by a different name. Her full legal name will also be on any resume she ever submits.

b) I think a person should have a right to be called by whatever version of their name they want, including the full version. My sister, for example, has a perfectly nice, normal name that can be shortened about a billion different ways. She hates when anybody shortens it. I'm blessed to have a name I love that is also literally impossible to shorten.

So, there are no shortcuts or workarounds, again, because you cannot predict the future. Whatever you name her, envision you and everyone else calling her exactly that for the rest of her life. If that doesn't feel right, consider a different name.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 4:30 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

My father's paternal grandfather had the given name Enos.

He was grateful all his life that his mother stuck to her guns and didn't allow her husband to name him after his father – an impulse that was otherwise perfectly normal, even laudable. (I'm named after her, for example.)

But she was right. Don't open the door to trouble.
posted by zadcat at 4:31 PM on December 11, 2013

I don't think you should use the first name you're considering, unless you use it with your own last name. I can not believe any name is important enough to risk your child being teased about it. It's only a name. Sure "all children get teased", but some have a worse time with other children than others, and you don't want to risk adding even a small thing in case of that situation, especially for something as silly as being stuck on a name. I was teased (bullied more like it) for many, many, things. And while each component of that bullying was small, I would have been much better off if even one of those things weren't there. Most likely it will not be much of an issue for your child, but I don't know why you would knowingly put your child in a situation were he/she might suffer.

I also agree with treehorn+bunny that the idea that the kid should just learn to stick up for her/himself is ABSURD. He obviously had a nice, cozy childhood.
posted by Blitz at 4:36 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would not give my child a name that has easy potential to be mispronounced into something like dirty underwear. Good Lord, no!

I would find another name, even if you didn't like it quite as much.
posted by aviatrix at 4:36 PM on December 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

Johnny Hildo and Larry Bagina beg you think carefully on this. If it were me? I wouldn’t.
posted by Silvertree at 4:37 PM on December 11, 2013

In your situation, I would give my daughter the name we loved and give her my (the mother's) last name. Which is exactly what I did.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:38 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't do it. It's not just children that will notice. She'll encounter the connection, if not the teasing, into adulthood as long as she keeps her maiden name. It's your job as a parent to consider and avoid all glaring possibilities for humiliation (name, nicknames, initials, last name followed by first) before naming your child.

I worked for a company that used each person's initials to identify every employee. You can bet STD and PMS wish their parents had done the same for them.
posted by cecic at 4:40 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would not name your child this first name + husband's last name.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:43 PM on December 11, 2013

Further, not naming your kid something that can be mispronounced into "dirty underwear" seems so commonsensical to me. I agree with this "My simple opinion on names is that a name should never potentially damage its owner".
posted by Blitz at 4:44 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, if your husband is insisting on choosing your child's last name and you don't get a veto, then it's perfectly reasonable for you to choose your child's first name without him getting a veto. If there's a name that you like more than this agreed-upon name, you could go with that name and his last name.
posted by jaguar at 4:49 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I tend toward the side of "kids will find ways to tease if they want to", but I also agree that avoiding embarrassing situations is a good idea. I would lean toward first name + your last name. If your child is going to be teased, she will be teased for other things and you and your husband will have plenty of opportunities to teach her these lessons then.

Then, I went to high school with a guy with the last name "Dyck" who chose to go by the nickname "B. J." and was irritatingly popular, so there's that.
posted by pitrified at 4:50 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

One solution is to keep the first name and use my last name, but husband is not happy about this. He feels like we should be able to teach her to stand up for herself, but I think that if we can avoid teasing we should. I should also add that I have kept my last name, so having a daughter with the same last name as mine would not be out of left field.

Your husband is being unreasonable.

There's a difference between trying to eliminate all names that have any potential for teasing (impossible), and deciding not to name your kid something that sounds an awful lot like "dirty underwear" (eminently doable).

I mean, it's one thing to say "I love the name Dennis but it rhymes with Menace so I'm worried kids will call my son Dennis the Menace" and another to realize, "Our last name is Christmas so it's a bad idea to name our kid Mary." Or, in your case, "My kid's first name, combined with husband's last name, would sound almost exactly like the phrase 'dirty underwear' in the country we plan to live in for the foreseeable future. NO GO."
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:53 PM on December 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

It really depends on the name. There's having a name where your initials spell "EEL" (something that one of my family members has, and which worried my parents but not me) and then there's naming your daughter Ima Hogg. It's really hard for people to give you solid counsel without knowing what name we're talking about here. It also doesn't help that we don't know what country you're living in, so nobody can give you culturally-specific information.

That said, I think it comes down to how likely it is that your kid is going to get teased over this. That's impossible to judge with perfect accuracy, and from what little you've said about the name you're thinking about it sounds like it's probably a borderline case – as in, it depends on the specific name and the cultural specifics of the place where she's going to be raised, neither of which we know here because you didn't tell us. If you are willing to provide additional information, you can do so by getting ahold of the moderators via the contact form (also available at the bottom right of every page on MetaFilter) and telling them what you'd like them to say; the moderator on duty will post that information on your behalf. They're very quick and responsive and helpful there.

Your proposed solution – using your last name instead of your husband's – is also something that we can't give you good advice about without more specifics. The feasibility of this depends somewhat on how normal it is in your culture to do that sort of thing. For instance, in the USA it would probably not lead to teasing, though it might might lead to a fair amount of unnecessary and tedious explaining.

However, I don't think that "teaching her to stand up for herself" is a good reason in and of itself to use your husband's last name. Believe me, your kid is going to get plenty of opportunities to learn to do that without her parents going all Boy Named Sue on her. No matter what her name is, she's going to experience teasing and resistance at some point in her childhood and will have to learn how to deal with that. There's no reason to intentionally set her up for more of that kind of thing than she's going to get anyway just by being a human being in the world.
posted by Scientist at 4:57 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

"Kids will find ways to tease if they want to" is totally irrelevant -- even if she's incredibly socially adept and popular and sails through school with no problems, she's still going to have to deal with people looking at her name, looking at her, looking back at her name and politely suppressing a snicker for her entire life.

Ima Hogg was an extremely wealthy and successful woman and daughter of the Governor of Texas, so probably not bullied too much as a child, and yet . . . what is it that most people (outside of Texas, at least) know her by? What are the first five paragraphs of her Wikipedia article about?
posted by ostro at 4:59 PM on December 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

I'm generally in the camp of "kids will find something to tease about no matter what". My name had no possible actual rude nicknames, and yet kids still called me "Rachel the Pachel" (which doesn't mean ANYTHING) and that made me miserable when I was in primary school.

But without knowing HOW close the name would be to the "dirty underwear" phrase, it's impossible to say. For me it would come down to whether just hearing the name would be enough to suggest to an otherwise nice kid that there's something to laugh about, or whether the bullies would have to think about it to come up with the mean nickname. If the latter, no worries. If the former, I think you have to look for an alternative.
posted by lollusc at 4:59 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Think of the day your child comes home from school with tears in her eyes because of something bad that happened. Think of how your heart will break because she is in pain. Think of the fact that you could have prevented it by putting her needs first.

If it has potential to cause pain for your child, I don't even understand how it is an option. She's a human being coming into the world. Give her a leg up, not a leg down.

(Then think 20 years ahead when she is posting to metafilter about being teased as a kid and how she still carries it with her.)
posted by Vaike at 5:10 PM on December 11, 2013 [13 favorites]

I have a given name that is 1) a tribute to where I was born 2) an animal 3) sung as part of childhood rhymes 4) part of a chorus from pop song that everyone knows. (Robin, if it matters)

I was teased mercilessly when I was a kid. (Robin laid an egg, Robin redbreast, Batman and Robin)

I love my name, though. The above posters are right, kids will tease no matter what.

That being said, I've always wanted to name a son Tucker as it is a family name, but I just can't do it :) I think there's limits to how easy you should make it for the a-holes.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:11 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, I have a feeling that whatever name you end up choosing, you'll stop hearing it as a name, with aesthetic qualities separate from your daughter's qualities, very shortly after she's born. Whatever you choose will just mean her to you. So maybe be willing to stretch a little on the first name, even if the alternate you come up with isn't as perfect to you as this one?
posted by ostro at 5:17 PM on December 11, 2013

i would give her your last name or pick a different first name for her. if it indeed sounds like "dirty underwear" she will get teased for it. that is going to be way too tempting for kids to bypass. turn it around and ask yourself this: would you want to be called "dirty underwear"?
posted by wildflower at 5:17 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your daughter may resent you if she is teased, knowing that you had a choice to prevent it and you knowingly went ahead with that poor choice of name.

How would you feel if, later, your daugher overreacted and to punish you, decided to withdraw from your life (and you ended up not seeing grandchildren as a result). Chances may be slim ... but things like that happen.
posted by aroberge at 5:23 PM on December 11, 2013

What's more important, how the name affects you, or how it affects your kid?
posted by HotToddy at 5:37 PM on December 11, 2013 [13 favorites]

We're expecting a little girl this spring. About ten people total know our chosen name and one of them has already found a way to (in good spirit, but still) make fun of it. It's a totally normal name.

On the other hand... I do know of friends who when traveling have used nicknames to avoid embarrassment when translation and idiom lead to confusion not present in their native countries. The example that comes to mind is a friend's mom who went by her middle name when living in Britain as introducing herself as "Hi, I'm Randi" lead to too many jokes for her taste.

Give her whatever name you want, but perhaps give her your last name as a middle name for a fall back in case Belle E. Button becomes a bit old.
posted by sonika at 5:43 PM on December 11, 2013

I work at a school. I get to see TERRIBLE names that people give their children all the time. I see plenty of kids like yours. I see a lot of the international ones whose names might not be terrible in their home country, but in our country are a dirty joke or genitalia or, god help this poor kid, diarrhea. I wish I could repeat them so you'd understand, but everyone Googles themselves these days, so I won't. Let me just say that when (fake name) Di Ahrea's paperwork came into my office, everyone who saw it burst out laughing and then proceeded to gossip for ten minutes about how horrible her full name was and how much crap (literally) she must be getting for it all the time, and why doesn't she change it to something less poopy?

Yes, everyone gets teased, but you do NOT need to make it incredibly easy for her to be teased every time she has to introduce herself or roll is called on the first day of school. Think of her having to put "Di Ahrea" on a resume or being The Honorable Dirty Underwear, as someone else mentioned.

Seriously, if literally saying her full name makes complete strangers of all ages burst out laughing and/or feel incredibly sorry for her, DO NOT USE either the all hallowed first name or your husband's last. Do not do this to your poor kid.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:43 PM on December 11, 2013 [20 favorites]

has the very easy potential to be mispronounced into a pretty bad nickname (something along the lines of "dirty underwear") in the country we live in

I briefly went to school with a girl whose surname was Hoare, an old English surname that's pronounced the same as the slang word for prostitute. Every time her name was announced in assembly, there would be snickers. She was popular and not outright bullied for her surname, as far as I could tell, but it's not just the bullies you have to consider. I imagine she's spent the rest of her life getting double-takes every time she introduces herself, and tightly smiled her way through a lot of fratboy jokes.

Your daughter will survive with a name that's easily mistaken for dirty underwear, but why would you do that to her if you could easily avoid it?
posted by Georgina at 5:53 PM on December 11, 2013

I'm going to take a (possibly incorrect) leap and suggest that the "standing up for herself" argument may be a smokescreen for the fact that he would like the child to have his last name but would rather not say so outright.

If so, could a hyphenated last name (e.g., daughtername youlastname-hislastname) perhaps resolve the dilemma?
posted by kyrademon at 6:09 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I vote no. no no no. A kid named "Phuc" had to transfer out of 2 different schools I went to (public middle and private high-school). I personally remember being part of at least one mob of students teasing him.

On his fourth school he changed his name legally to Stephan.
posted by French Fry at 6:24 PM on December 11, 2013

The thing that has me on the fence would be: how likely is this combo to a native speaker? Something like, uh, "Nick Erasmus", which you'd have to work kind of hard for the underpants joke, and which is a normal enough name in its own right, would be much different than "Fatt Phuc", which no English speaker is going to look at without suppressing a giggle. Find a group of people that are native speakers and ask them how bad it is. It's hard to tell whether you're reaching or not.

Second, is there a nickname that gets rid if the pun? Use it.

Third, as someone who was teased with the nickname Teenage Mutant Ninja Beatle (no I don't know either), but who has the initials TP that never got picked up on, I think people sometimes give bullies too many creativity points. Chances are really good that it'll be fine.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:51 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think the big difference here is whether we're talking about a name like is blatantly obviously going to have a particular negative association, or a name where kids could potentially be mean about it if they thought hard enough.

Don't name your kid Phuc Dong.

It's probably just fine to name your kid Donald Glover.
posted by Sara C. at 6:53 PM on December 11, 2013

The point I would worry about most is NOT whether kids will bully your child, but that adults won't take your child seriously. And that means adults not taking your child seriously while she is a child, but also once she's grown up (if she continues to live in the geographic region you're currently in, or even if she visits down the track). Women have enough difficulty being taken seriously throughout their lives: don't add another reason to have folks dismiss her. A girl (any child, in fact) needs a name that could carry them through to being a Prime Minister or a President - if you want your daughter to be taken seriously in her formative years, then pick another name combination.

In addition, I would consider how this name choice reflects upon you. Having lived within different cultures, I can imagine local folks hearing your daughter's name and thinking "Wow, the parents really don't understand our culture do they". Deliberately calling your daughter something that doesn't translate well in the culture you inhabit could come across as your not assimilating well. I'd be concerned that this choice of name will have professional and social consequences for the whole family, not just your daughter.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 7:13 PM on December 11, 2013 [18 favorites]

I work with someone who is unusually successful in their field, demonstrably brilliant and popular - and who has a last name which is routinely pronounced in a very unfortunate (and also incorrect) way by English-speakers. As socially skilled and upbeat as this person generally is, I've seen them flinch a little when they have to make the correction for the zillionth time. I also know that when they are first introduced to new people, many of those new people are at least momentarily distracted by thinking about the name in question. It creates an awkwardness - in this instance, one that is difficult to avoid without abandoning a last name, and it's something that definitely has not held this person back - but why wish something like this on your kid?

Also, for pete's sake, why on earth give your child a name that is going to be clearly either sexual or scatological? That's got to be the worst kind of embarrassing name to have.

If you can't give her your last name, you'll have to let go of the name you like.

Really, you should go to bat for your daughter. Alice Russel-Wallace is absolutely right to say that women have trouble being taken seriously - and it seems that your husband is pre-emptively taking neither you nor your daughter seriously in an important way. Your daughter has to have this name which has a lot of potential for very bad sorts of teasing, says he, and your last name is absolutely unacceptable for your daughter, no matter how helpful it would be. His feelings about her name and yours are supposed to carry the day just because he is, for some reason, the decider. And that's not very nice to contemplate.
posted by Frowner at 8:32 PM on December 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

There are so many names to chose from - find a different name!
posted by Dansaman at 9:02 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

He feels like we should be able to teach her to stand up for herself

Seriously? He thinks she won't get teased enough unless she's named Soleil D. Un DeWar, or something like it?

Rest assured that there will be ways to teach her about standing up for herself that don't involve being forced to do so because of something you choose to do to her.
posted by yohko at 9:14 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would say it depends how much of a 'reach' the name is, and how 'bad' the result of the two names combined really is.

Like Mike Hunt. It's obvious as soon as you say the name what it sounds like -- and the ramification of that name is that everyone is going to mock or tease that name. That would be a bad choice for a combination name. It'd also be a problem for when he's older.

But something like Mark Hamill* (or Don Glover as someone above said) on the other hand, is a pretty big 'reach' -- people really need to think about it to hear what it sounds like, and some people won't get it at all. In fact, I never 'heard' it until it was pointed out to me. On the off chance someone might hear it, sure, they may get teased for that, but even if they do, the name combination result is pretty innocuous.

So I'd say it depends. If it's safe enough to fall in the second camp, and if so, I'd say go for it. If not, then don't.

The thing is, though generally bullies tend to target people not because of their name, but because of (what they perceive as) weakness in the person they set their sights on, usually. If she becomes a target, a weird name won't make or break it-- if she has a weird name they'll attack on that, but if she has a normal name but has glasses or is chubby or has anything they can latch on to at all-- they'll latch on to that instead. If she doesn't draw the attention of bullies in general, then weird name, or not-- she's still pretty safe. Generally a weird name won't make or break anything.

But as others have said, no point making it easier for bullies.

*Mark Hamill is the ship of the desert.
posted by Dimes at 10:21 PM on December 11, 2013

I have to agree that "learning to stand up for herself" seems like a bit of a red herring-- why take a hard line on that? It sounds like your husband just really would prefer the child to have his last name. Can you discuss this with him along those lines and see if a mutual understanding can be reached? This is a sensitive area for a lot of men but maybe if you talk frankly about it he'll come around.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:25 PM on December 11, 2013

Since I was the third generation with my name in my family, my South American parents nick-named me Titi.

It wasn't an issue until 2nd grade. I asked everyone to start calling me by my given name and it was an easy painless process. So, she can always pick a nickname and switch it if she starts getting made fun of.

Also, are you sure you and your husband won't be thinking of the underwear expression when you see her name. There are plenty of names I like, but would never consider if they were going to make me think of something unpleasant.
posted by LaunchBox at 11:02 PM on December 11, 2013

I came to the green for naming advice for Littlest Taff and I'm very, very glad I did. We narrowly avoided an unnecessarily difficult start for her.

All of ours kids have my surname. MrTaff still feels like he is their father and doesn't feel less like their dad than if they had his.

Also...my personal rule of thumb...if you carry and give birth to the child, you have 51% of the naming rights to the child.
posted by taff at 11:28 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have to agree that "learning to stand up for herself" seems like a bit of a red herring-- why take a hard line on that? It sounds like your husband just really would prefer the child to have his last name.

I was kind of thinking this myself. And if this does turn out to be the issue, it's a perfectly valid feeling (I hope it goes without saying that it's also perfectly valid if you have strong feelings about using your last name) it should be talked about, and maybe that discussion will lead to the conclusion that it's important to use his last name.

But if you do reach that conclusion, I'd probably re-evaluate whether it's the daughter's duty to "stand up for" that decision. If the combination of [Proposed First Name] and [Dad's Surname] really is that bad, but you both still really love [Proposed First Name], maybe it should be repurposed into a middle name where nobody is likely to hear it where you live now. If you move to your home country later, or if she moves there as an adult, it won't be too big a deal for Julie A. Bath to drop the Julie and go by Anita Bath.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:21 AM on December 12, 2013

I would pick a different name, and not for childhood bullies. As mentioned upthread, they may not even pick up on it, and if they do, who cares? Bullies gonna bully.

But I would pick another name for the adults who will hear "dirty underwear", pick up on it, and then either make a tired joke or politely suppress a snicker - her whole life! When I was in elementary school, there was a student who joined us in the middle of the year. This kid was from another country and culture, so he had a non-Anglo name. Now, neither I nor any other kid in the class picked up on it, but the kid's name sounded almost exactly like the phrase "surfin' safari" (I swear I am not kidding. I'd post the kid's actual name but I know people Google themselves). So when I told my dad about the new student, he said, "What?? His name is Surfin' Safari???" and he began singing "Surfin' Safari" by the Beach Boys. Even then I thought it was kinda cruel of him, but that poor kid!

Don't do it.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:40 AM on December 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have a last name that means "genitalia" and not only was I mercilessly bullied as a kid, now in my 30's I am still sensitive about the name, which affects me professionally. Give your child the gift of an easy name! Make it unique (not too many on Google) but also nothing that will cause taunting. Bullying isn't something to tough out. Kids' brains are growing and developing during those years, and being bullied at a critical time can have long term consequences. Take it from me as someone who has a bad name. Do not give your kid that handicap.
posted by htid at 5:59 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

My cousin, Sarah, decided to name her first son after her father and her father-in-law. Because his first name would be the same as his grandfather's, great-grandfather's, and cousin's, they decided that they would call him by both his first and middle names so that no one would get confused.

When they introduced infant John Connor to me, I told him in my best Terminator accent "Come with me if you want to live." Sadly neither my cousin or her husband are big sci-fi fans or follow popular culture much at all, so they didn't see why it might be a thing. The kid's 8 now and hates the whole Terminator thing and complained excessively one year about being so tired of being told he's gonna save the world from robots.

Last year for Christmas I got him a robot kit, and as happy as he was to build it, he said he'd have to hide it when he got home because if he had it out when friends came over, they'd tell him that Skynet had won.

If my cousin had thought to share his name with us beforehand, both her brother and I would explained to her how having such a nerd-centric name might be not cool. But as it is, Sarah and John Connor are left to fight off the Skynet jokes for a few more decades.
posted by teleri025 at 6:58 AM on December 12, 2013 [10 favorites]

teleri025, reading that story, all I could think of was the Blackadder III episode "Duel and Duality," in which Prince George compromises the reputation of the nieces of the Duke of Wellington. (In England, "Wellingtons" are another name for waterproof boots that you wear out in the mud.) The Duke writes a note challenging him to a duel.
"From the Supreme Commander, Allied Forces, Europe:


Prince or pauper, when a man soils a Wellington he puts his foot in it.

P.S: This is not a joke. I do not find my name remotely funny, and people who do end up dead. Close bracket.

I challenge you to a duel tonight at 1800 hours, in which you will die.

Yours with sincere apologies for your impending violent slaughter,
Arthur Wellesey, Duke of Wellington."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:51 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just choose a different first name. I have to say that I have trouble understanding how you could take five years to agree on a name and then choose a name that sounds like "dirty underwear" or its equivalent. Find a list of baby names that work in your culture, go through it and find something that's not going to make this kid grimace every time someone new reads her name off a piece of paper for the rest of her life.
posted by Dasein at 9:46 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

When they introduced infant John Connor to me, I told him in my best Terminator accent "Come with me if you want to live." Sadly neither my cousin or her husband are big sci-fi fans or follow popular culture much at all, so they didn't see why it might be a thing. The kid's 8 now and hates the whole Terminator thing and complained excessively one year about being so tired of being told he's gonna save the world from robots.

So, as you can see, my name is Sara. When I was little, the Starship song "Sarah" came out. I was also born right on the heels of the Hall & Oates song "Sarah Smiles". People sang one of those two songs to me constantly throughout my childhood. Even as an adult, decades after those songs have faded from popularity, every so often someone will sing one of them at me.

Needless to say, I'm not a fan of either song, not a fan of Hall & Oates, and not a fan of the latter-day Jefferson Airplane output.

This kind of stuff happens, and you really can't avoid it for your kid. Mike Hunt, though? Avoidable.
posted by Sara C. at 10:01 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure I quite understand all of this. Your husband's objection to the obvious solution - using your last name - is that she should learn to stand up for herself. What is his objection to you picking a different first name? Shouldn't he object to that for the same reason? Or is it the case, as others have suggested, that he just doesn't want your daughter not to have his last name? If he really does think that she should have his last name and your chosen first name just because she ought to be able to put up the with the consequences, then I don't really understand that either. Let her learn to stand up for herself over things that actually matter - like, I don't know, her opinions or principles or something - not having a slightly funny name that there is an obvious way of avoiding.
posted by raspberry-ripple at 10:06 AM on December 12, 2013

we were so set on this as THE name for our daughter

I really like what Alice Russel-Wallace said upthread re: giving your daughter a name that will encourage others to take her seriously. I understand that you and your husband have grown very attached to one particular first name for her, but I would ask you to step back and take the long view here, and to remember that your baby will grow into a child who will grow into a woman with a life of her own. Why are you two being so stubborn about that one name?

Your daughter will have no shortage of opportunities to stand up for herself due solely to her gender. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, as you're a woman.

The fact that your preferred name lends itself to sexual AND shaming associations (dirty knickers) is just setting your little girl up for an added level of creepy teasing. Please spare her this indignity.

Mom, stand up for your girl. Stand up to your husband, drop this obsession with that one name, and find another one that will give her a leg up on life.
posted by nacho fries at 12:30 PM on December 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

I saw an article on Buzzfeed today and thought of your question. 15 Wedding Announcements From Couples With Deeply Unfortunate Names-- where they went out of their way to research and track down the people in the wedding announcements, just to make sure their "deeply unfortunate names" were real.

This is the world your daughter will be born into; are you comfortable with the fact that she might become the butt of a joke writ large simply because of her name?
posted by headspace at 1:28 PM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Please think of a different name. This is her name, and it's a really big deal if it sounds like "dirty underpants".

I don't think saddling her with a joke-able name will help her stand up for herself.
posted by amicamentis at 1:34 PM on December 12, 2013

Find another name.
And look up "A Boy Named Sue"
posted by luckynerd at 1:55 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

People have been focusing on childhood teasing and the impact of names on adults, but anther thing to think about is the impact a name like that could have when she's an adolescent starting to date. "Dirty Underpants" or "Naughty Lingerie" isn't going to be doing her any favors as a name there either.
posted by yohko at 2:34 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, unless you're living in an old country song and your husband is planning on abandoning his kid, don't let him take the Boy Named Sue copout.

I vote for finding another name that you can learn to love or possibly looking for respectable variations on your super special name that won't produce the unfortunate mispronunciation.

If you're only going to be living in your current country temporarily, and you're not expecting this to be your only child, you could save the super special name for another daughter that you might have after you move away. If you don't have another daughter, give it to a cat.
posted by Starling at 2:39 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had a friend who always dreamed of having a boy and naming him Jack. Then she started dating a guy with the last name Goff...

She named her boy Jacob.

You can find a way.
posted by SarahBellum at 8:02 PM on December 12, 2013

Can you give her the name that you love, but reserve it for use at home, and then nominate a nickname yourself that you would introduce her as to outsiders?

For example, if the name you love is Sofia, you could call her that at home, but introduce her in public as ZoZo. Far enough away from Sofia that others wouldn't just use her given name, but not so far away as to be terribly confusing to your daughter.

You could also explain to others the reason for the nickname, so that they will respect using it.
posted by vignettist at 12:30 PM on December 19, 2013

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