Due to the passionate responses I received on my first Baby Name Thieves article, I chose to add a continuation. In this part, I focus on some of the arguments made for and (mostly) against name secrecy, specifically zeroing in on the most provocative reason stated– the namesake of the article, baby name theft. Here are 12 points of debate on the matter.
1. You can’t “steal” a name.
Well, that’s relative. If you have something invented or just very unique, it can certainly seem that way. Look, if naming to you isn’t really a spiritual or sacred experience like it is for some people, at least respect it as an art. That’s right– an art! Some people put a lot of love and effort and heart into their choice, and it’s personal, important, and really matters to them. In short, it means something. You wouldn’t want to give that away any more than you’d want to give away a melody you composed, or a masterpiece you painted, or a novel you penned. Not until the “big reveal”, anyway. Then, if someone wants to rip you off, at least you can hold your head up knowing that the integrity of being the originator (and not just some copycat) both in fact and in memory, is yours.
If you are NOT using something super original, “stealing” a name can still be a burden. Even if you wanted to use John or Mary… if you’re the first to use the name in your family in 50 years and suddenly your pregnant sister-in-law and cousin want to use it, too, it could be a little annoying. That’s easily understood. People aren’t likely to want three little “Johns” running around in the family, all at once– and if it truly was your idea first and you were the inspiration for the others, it just seems fair that you shouldn’t be the one to have to bend on the matter.
2. Giving a unique or invented name is a pretentious effort to make your child stand out.
That’s one way of putting it. Here’s my take: I name my child something special because I can feel their special soul, and just an ordinary, common, trendy or popular name doesn’t do them justice. I appreciate language very much and I admire people who aspire to give their children names that they feel suit them best. Again, it’s an art and I generally respect creative form. As parents, we tend to automatically feel our child “stands out”, and for some of us naming is a way for us to express that, and express our love for them.
I’ll use myself as an example. My daughter’s first name is something that is not unheard of, but was definitely not in heavy use and has been out of common use for nearly ever. It came to me in a dream years before she was born, along with other (true) details about her. I felt that dream was her speaking her name to me, and in the end I did honor that feeling and used it. I had told others that the name (amongst many others) was in the running, but I would not speak her name to others once I had definitely chosen it. While I was lucky enough that nothing unfortunate happened (like “theft”) when I expressed some of the contenders, I do recall people showing distaste for that name. I used it anyway. They came to like it. It clearly suits her. On the other hand, boys names I expressed were yanked and mentioned for others’ intended use. Luckily my boy is coming first and I’m using the name, so if they want it still, they can ride my coat tails. I’m due in February.
My daughter’s middle name came to me suddenly as an inspired burst. I was thinking about a type of French traditional naming, and one name in particular that I liked but was too traditional for my liking. I replaced part of it with a more contemporary French name (which doesn’t receive much, if any, actual French usage as a name) I adored and was meaningful to me, and kept the last part of the name because it was sentimental to me. Together, my full “invention” of her middle name was extremely meaningful to her birth and I was in love with it. I can almost guarantee it has never been used before me– I’ve searched. I did find a Canadian CD with the name once, but it was after her birth and I am satisfied with as much. If anyone else ever used it, I wouldn’t be mad… but I would realize that I was very, very likely the origin. That’s a sweeter reward than living in the shadow of someone who actually was inspired by you and not the reverse.
3. My children’s names are so unique, that I still don’t want to tell them!
Please do! Once you name your child, you’ve sent it out into the universe. It’s public now. You can’t keep it a secret anymore. I totally appreciate your wanting it to be just theirs, but that really isn’t practical! They will be exposed to thousands of people in their lives, and if someone loves their name upon coming across it, it may and probably will be used! We cannot avoid this. Instead, we should be honored that we created or originated something so influential that it had some sort of impact on society. Be satisfied with being the first! Proudly expose us to your art. There will always be derivatives, but you began a legacy.
4. Who cares who had the name first?
Apparently a lot of people. Look, if you think the attitude is nothing but a “me, me, me!”, “gimme gimme”, “mine!”–you’re wrong. Not every baby name secret-holder is a manipulative, self-absorbed, petty individual. When something is deeply personal, special, or even artistic or spiritual to you, it’s only natural that you’d feel some level of protection for it. I’m merely reiterating previous points which are to me very valid. If one does not feel that level of depth to the extent of protection over a name, fine. Some have expressed that naming to them was not spiritual, but more a relief when it had been finally decided. Naming will not be the same to everyone. Please respect the significance and importance that some of us place on the task, because it’s something we care about and believe in and it doesn’t hurt anyone for us to feel the way we do.
As a further disclaimer, I’d like to point out that with so many of us, we don’t get some kind of petty satisfaction out of informing the world that we used a name first (whether that be the first ever, in recent times, or within a group). At least with myself, I’m not so proud and boastful that I would feel the need to constantly advertise my originality as a namer. It’s more a quiet, polite satisfaction that you did something that was personal and extraordinary, and yes– you were “the first”. It’s nice. It’s nice to pioneer certain things. Again, with the art. But, we aren’t all jerks about it. In fact, a lot of us are nice people. Even when we tell you it’s a secret, we break it in a nice way– not a snobby or rude way, but in a “it’s a surprise!” with a smile on our face kind of way. So please cut us a little slack.
To anyone who still doesn’t “get” it I would wonder– what are you so mad about? Did someone withhold a name from you, and it made you bitter? Do you so strongly feel that naming is so blah that we should all care less about the process or act of? Or, are you a name-yanker yourself? I find it strange that there are some people out there who seem to have such a strong opposition to name secrecy. While it’s not for everyone, most of the people I’ve encountered at least understand or respect the choice of others who stay silent. Few actually take issue with it.
5. Someone can just come and steal the name after you use it, so who cares?
Please see 3 and 4.
6. I would never keep my names a secret.
Well like I’ve said, it’s not for everyone. Some of us are lucky enough to have not experienced negative effects from sharing. That’s great. I do want to stress the old saying, “never say never”. It’s easy to sit in judgment of us for our preferences, but the reality is that so much of the opinion to choose secrecy is based on real-life experiences. We’ve had names used before we got to, and it did bother us. Names our friends used on their children, or their dogs… names becoming trendy from some pop culture fad taking off just suddenly before or after our child got the name, and others believing it to be our inspiration… these are not pleasant feelings. While some things cannot be foreseen or avoided, it’s obvious why so many people would choose to just eliminate the possibility of a bad situation altogether by keeping silent. Why chance an unpleasant outcome? Why complicate matters by involving others in something that is really between you and your partner? Until you’ve experienced something like this for yourself, it may be that you will not truly understand our rationale. Perhaps you would care if something similar did occur to you in your lifetime, even if only slightly.
7. It’s arrogant to generalize about others feelings just because they don’t coincide with your own.
This is specifically regarding a comment I made based on personal observations: “I find that most people who find secrecy with names childish don’t have a sense of pride or originality when choosing names for their own children.” Statement #7 is true. This can be said for calling baby name secrecy “childish”. I don’t, however, feel it’s arrogant to judge the attitudes of those who have passed simple judgments on intense, educated, experienced, and solely preference-based well-thought-out beliefs. I felt my perspective was well-expressed and thoroughly considered, examined, explained, etc., but sometimes that falls on deaf ears and there are those who’ll disagree with my reasoning regardless (even after their own points were already countered within the very text contents they argued). I suppose we are all entitled to our opinions, I would just prefer that we remain well-informed and open-minded towards one another’s, in general. I can respect the choice of the non-secretive if they can respect mine.
8. If you’re scared of thieves, look at your own social circles.
I’ve already expressed in my article Baby Name Thieves why your social circles are irrelevant. Please refer to the section “2. Baby Name Thieves”, first paragraph. It doesn’t matter who you are, who you know, or how unique your name choice is– your name can be “stolen”. This comes from human nature, not how cool or sweet you and your buddies are.
9. My friend had to pick a different name when discovering what it meant in some other language.
Hmm… I would actually consider this a plus! I was told one time that “Kiki” was some type of Filipino slang for female genitalia. I’m unsure of the spelling, but it’s really the phonetics that matter in this case. I’m not sure how true that information is… but if I were ever thinking of nicknaming my child “Kiki”, that would be enough to make me seriously reconsider. Sometimes, we need to be told certain things. Knowledge is power! I’m a big proponent of researching the hell out of a name before you use it, and that includes crossing language and culture barriers when possible.
10. I’d be offended if relatives or friends kept a name from me.
Why? It’s nothing personal. Maybe they just don’t want advice, criticism, opinions, or name circulation– not necessarily from you per se, but from anyone. Or, maybe they just love the thrill of surprises! Don’t you?
11. Why wouldn’t you be honored that someone wanted to use your name, too?
I would, but I’d really prefer the honor– and respect– of being able to use it first. If I’ve somehow inspired you, it’s the least you could do. Maybe a compromise could be reached if someone is due before me; maybe the name idea I gave them can be a middle name, and/or the namer promises to be open and honest about the inspiration source for the name and not pawn it off as their own original idea (or worse, claim I copied them). Truthfully though, this seems like more hassle than it’s worth and I personally would rather just not even bring it up in the first place. Who needs that kind of dilemma when your pregnant, or anytime?
I heard a story about someone’s mother once, who was named Linda. Linda was a very popular name, you’ll recall, half a century ago. Linda was named because the neighboring woman in the hospital had just given birth to a little girl which she then named Linda, and so this woman decided that she liked the sound of that and chose it, too. I wonder if her neighbor knew how she’d been spontaneously inspirational, and if she felt honored?
This if fine for some. I am not that kind of namer. I won’t belittle your ways if you won’t mine.
12. Who wants to hear what our relatives think? I’ve learned that lesson!
No one, and me too (respectively). Again, unless perhaps they have some invaluable wisdom you feel they may be able to impart to you, keep your big mouth shut. I was (jokingly?) advised to use family names Kunigunda and Hortencia. I am not kidding. Most families are not full of the sane, rational, and tasteful. Most of us have quirky, flavorful, and amusing relatives. Don’t let those virtues turn ugly with something as goofy as baby name debating. Just smile and nod.
Aside from all of this, there were five other sections about name secrecy in the original article– it’s not entirely centered on name theft. Name theft is, however, the obvious point of debate here because of it’s possibly sensational nature. For those hung up on the theft aspect, I urge you to read the other sections and make some effort to relate to the many good reasons some choose to not share their baby names before giving birth. Please keep in mind that while I’ve never met anyone who regretted keeping hushed about their baby’s name, I’ve met numerous parents who did regret spilling theirs. The choice is, of course, yours.
Elizabeth Eng, Baby Name Thieves, Associated Content