Hi! I have more of a naming etiquette question. I am currently pregnant with my first child. This will be the first grandchild on my side of the family. We don’t know the sex, so are picking two names to have ready. We are pretty settled on our boy name (and aren’t sharing with the world, much to everyone’s dismay).
The problem lies in the girl name. Me and my sisters all want to name a child after a beloved grandmother. Since I am the first to have a child, do I get first dibs? I have a feeling my one sister will go ahead and name her child the same thing and that kind of bothers me. Does it bother you? Is it strange to have first cousins with the same name? There are two possible nicknames for this name and we both want the same one.
Let’s also mention that neither of my sisters have a boyfriend or are anywhere close to being married, let alone having a child. My husband and I both love this name and want to honor my grandmother, but also don’t want to have to deal with my sister naming her child the same thing, or even worse, the first thing out of her mouth being, but I am naming my little girl that. Decisions, decisions.
I have a very, very, very, very strong opinion on this subject. VERY. Here it is: NO ONE has exclusive dibs on ANY name. NO ONE.
Basic human consideration should show us situations in which people might voluntarily give up their right to use a name. For example, if your best friend has always liked the name Amelia and always talked about using it for her daughter, you might want to voluntarily choose to avoid using it because you know she wouldn’t like you to. Or, some families have naming traditions such as that the first son of the first son is named Robert. If you are not the first son, you may of course still use the name Robert for your child, but may want to voluntarily refrain from doing so because you know it would make the extended family unhappy.
In the situation you describe, you are free to use the name: unless you’re leaving out important information in your letter, there is no reason for you to voluntarily give up the name. BUT! Neither is there any reason for your sisters to voluntarily give up the name. It sounds as if all of you have equal claim to it.
If you choose to use this name for your daughter, you are claiming the privilege of using it first, and I think it would be particularly sweet for it to be the name of the first grandchild. As you’ve already realized, though, using it first doesn’t mean other people can’t still use it. If it bothers you to think of cousins with the same name, you may want to reconsider. BUT! Perhaps it would bother you even more to NOT use the name: imagine if you gave up on using it, and your sisters went ahead and used it. Or imagine if you gave up on using it, and your sisters didn’t use it after all.
I think it’s fine for cousins to have the same name. I even think it has a charm, particularly when it is the name of an adored grandmother: it pays her such an enormous tribute to have several namesakes. In your case, since you are sisters, if you are using your married surnames the girls will automatically have different names. You could also call them by first name and middle name, or first name and middle initial, or first name and surname initial.
If I were you, I would use the name. Even if your sisters use it too, you would still be the first—and it is a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. And it’s possible your sisters won’t want to use it, or will not have children, or will only have boys.
Best not to try to make any rules about who has the most right to use the name: you might have a boy this time, and one of your sisters may unexpectedly take the lead for First Girl. Best to leave your options open, in case you’re the one who later wants to use the same name your sister used.
In the meantime, rehearse what you’ll say if your sister’s first reaction to your baby’s name is a complaint. You could say graciously, “Oh, silly! No one has dibs on a name! You can use it too!” Or you can just say, “I’m so glad you like it!” as you celebrate in your secret heart that you got to use it first.
It turns out the baby was a girl, so the question did actually apply. We used my grandmother’s name (the sacred name), Genevieve, for the middle name. So her name is Margaret Genevieve and we call her Greta.