I can't name my kid after you?
June 29, 2008 9:03 AM   Subscribe

My cousin is changing her first name, but if I had a girl I always wanted to name her my cousin's old name...how do I broach this? I'm happy for her choosing a new name, but I'm wondering is her old name off the table for my own (not yet conceived) child?

She's named after my Great Aunt, who I adored. It's a family name, and when I met my husband I said if we have girl, her name must be "X". My cousin and I are close, but 20 years apart. I don't know how to say I love her name and would want to name my own child that. My husband and I are going start trying in the next few months, so while I don't know what the sex of the baby will be...I'm still worried about what to say to my cousin. We don't want to know the sex ahead of time.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there any reason why you think this is an unapproachable subject? Do you think your cousin will be mad/offended?

I think a simple, "you know, I really would like to name my child X," would be sufficient for any reasonable person. Is your cousin unreasonable?
posted by nitsuj at 9:09 AM on June 29, 2008

Why do you think your cousin will care? It's pretty weird for someone to change their first name, and you didn't tell us why she is doing so -- maybe you left out some important details in this post.

But, assuming that there isn't some giant, obviously important reason why your cousin is changing her name... Why does it matter? You don't want to name the child after her. You want to name the child after your great aunt. And since your cousin is even changing her name, she seems to have even less claim to the name (or what have you) than before.

I was named after my great aunt, as was one of my mother's cousins. My mom's decision to name me had nothing to do with her cousin, and I certainly don't think of myself as having my mom's cousin's name. Instead, she and I both just share my great aunt's name.
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:15 AM on June 29, 2008

Not understanding this. Your cousin has the name and doesn't care for it personally. You're planning to name your forthcoming daughter the same name, because it was the name of your beloved deceased great aunt. What does your cousin have to do with this exactly?

You don't say what the name is, and you don't say why your cousin is changing it, but I think it's a fair assumption that her reasons for changing her name are personal. I can only imagine a very few circumstances, most of them involving some kind of child abuse, in which your great aunt's name would be so odious that you should never bestow it on your own children. Really, don't let your cousin's personal decision impact what you name the kid.
posted by mumkin at 9:17 AM on June 29, 2008

I think it really depends on why your cousin is changing her name, and you haven't told us that.

If she's just tired of it, then I don't think it would be a big deal at all. Likewise if she is doing it to avoid confusion with another person.

If it is because of a traumatic experience, then I'd talk to her about it.

Basically what it boils down to is that I don't think you should name your kid something that will make her uncomfortable in any way (and I would say that for any help in picking a name). You also shouldn't not name your kid something because it might make her uncomfortable.
posted by theichibun at 9:18 AM on June 29, 2008

"[New name of cousin], I know you really wanted to change your name from [old name/name of Great Aunt], and I respect your reasons for that. The thing is, though, that I adored our Great Aunt - and her name, which used to be yours - and if my husband and I have a daughter, we were seriously thinking of naming her after the both of you. But, we also don't want to make you uncomfortable. I don't want to pry into your personal business, but can we sit down and chat about this? Is it okay if I name my child [Great Aunt's Name] [Your Last Name], or should Hubby and I hit the baby name books again?"
posted by bettafish at 9:28 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

What mumkin said. I don't see what your cousin has to do with this; you want to give your child a family name that belonged to your great aunt, who you adored. Go right ahead.
posted by languagehat at 9:31 AM on June 29, 2008

I suspect the deliberate obfuscation is because the mention of it is likely to engender a negative reaction. If you're genuinely concerned about what kind of response it arouses in strangers, I think you should listen to that. It's totally understandable to want to honor traditional family names, even when they're foreign names that sound awkward in English (I met a perfectly nice woman in college named Dorkus), or are just old names that sound twee now (like Beauregard or Henrietta).

What's more important, however, is that you do not have to carry that name through countless years of teasing/bullying/shaming. Your child will.

If there is some issue with the name itself and not just your cousin's personal experience, consider using it as a middle name. At the very least, have a good nickname ready from day one.
posted by mkultra at 9:31 AM on June 29, 2008

I also don't understand what the issue is. You can call your kid whatever you wish.

That said, if you don't know the reason your cousin is changing her name, ask her. Regardless of what you think of the name, it may not be a good name to have. People without my name often tell me that they think my name is a good one. However, I've wanted to change it for years and have always hated it. I just can't think of something I do like and feel is "me". What I'm saying is that not having that name, you really have no idea what it's like to grow up with it. Your cousin does, and this may have something to do with the change. I'd check into it.
posted by dobbs at 9:40 AM on June 29, 2008

When my dad was a kid he had two cousins we'll call lars and sven. When they were about 12 years old, their father (my dad's uncle) was divorced from his wife and relinquished custody of his kids. Those kids were subsequently renamed at age 13 or so... so they were now Tom and Bob Smith instead of Lars and Sven Eriksson.

My brother's name is "Lars". This is considered a little weird in my family.
posted by phrontist at 9:48 AM on June 29, 2008

First, there's no reason to bring this up with anyone until you have a bun in the oven, and not much reason until you have an actual baby girl.

Second, if your family dynamics are... odd... enough that you think it might somehow affect your life if your cousin doesn't like your kid's name, you shouldn't be talking to us. You should be talking to older people in your family, who know you and your great-aunt and your name-changing cousin, that you think you can trust. "Gramma Bertha, we're thinking that if it's a girl, we might want to name her GreatAunt. Do you think Cousin will be okay with that? We really like the name, and miss GreatAunt, but we don't want Cousin to do ThatThingI'mAfraidSheMightDo."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:25 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

It would be weird for you to ask right now since you aren't even expecting. If you find that you are expecting and due to have a girl, then you could ask her. But I don't even think you have to. What, does she own the name?
posted by tastybrains at 10:42 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing the 'don't put the [baby] carriage before the horse.' Though your cousin doesn't own the name or the rights to name your future child, asking her so soon after her change may come off as opportunistic.

Yes, it's completely your decision, no need to ask for permission.

Saying that, my cousin gave her kid my name - and I'm not even done with it! Considering they share the family middle and last names, some contact would have been nice - not to ask for permission but at least prepare me for the existential crisis of meeting my midget double.

Also, adding other family to the discussion will only lead to drama.
posted by pants tent at 12:00 PM on June 29, 2008

Um, it's *your* kid. Not hers. So what if she hates her name. You love it for the reasons you detailed. End of story.
posted by meerkatty at 1:28 PM on June 29, 2008

Just say you are naming the baby after your great aunt.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:52 PM on June 29, 2008

Never tell family members name ideas ahead of time. Someone will always tell you why the names you are considering are wrong/horrible/weird/etc., sowing seeds of doubt in your mind for the next few months.

When your kid is born, take a look at it, live with it a day or two if you like, name it, THEN tell people - anyone who then takes issues with your kid's name is a cad. In the case of your question I'll agree with most who don't see an issue. If cousin has some sort of special complaint, look confused and say new kid is named after your aunt. If your cousin is going to take issue for some reason you have not specified, seeking permission or talking about it ahead of time and then naming the baby what you want anyway even if she has some objections would probably not help.
posted by mikepop at 5:56 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

nthing wondering what the cousin has to do with any of it. the name's already been in your family. if asked, all you need to say is that you were naming the child after your great aunt, whom you adored.
posted by violetk at 10:34 AM on June 30, 2008

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