I am in desperate need of some sound advice about using a name that is also the name of a friends’ daughter.
The back story is that my husband and I have loved a name for a long time, since we named our #2 daughter and agreed that if we had any more girls we would use this one next. The name was not very popular at all so we felt safe haha. Shortly before I became pregnant with our #3, a friend, who I see every week on Sundays and with whom I have a good friendship/acquaintanceship (but we are by no means best friends), used the name that I had had my heart set on. (Very unbeknownst to her and to my great dismay!)
I was even sadder when I did get pregnant with #3 and felt like I couldn’t use the name (and I was so shy to talk to her about it). Whether or not that was the right way of doing things, it is water under the bridge now. We love our #3’s name and wouldn’t change it at all–it suits her perfectly.
Back to present. I am pregnant with our #4 daughter and that name is still one of our favorites. I got enough courage to email her…I’m kind of a whimp…(now that it’s been a couple of years and she has since had another child as well) I felt more courageous…can you tell I don’t like conflict??? Anyway, I asked if she would be bothered by us using the name. She didn’t outright say she was bothered, mostly a “haha, it is a great name! We thought we were being so unique but it’s becoming quite popular”. Not a super encouraging response but not an outright no, please don’t use it response either.
What do I do? Is it generally understood that you don’t use names of other friends’ kids? Am I completely out of line? Am I being a weeny and just need to ask her in person? Do I need to ask at all? (My husband’s opinion is that, no, we don’t need to ask). Since she didn’t say she was bothered by it outright, I’m not sure how much I need to read in between the lines. Is there etiquette when it comes to using names that friends have used?
I am not a boat rocker and do not want to cause unwanted tension but I also just love that name and wonder if I need to let it go once and for all?
*hint the name is a purple floral name which was fairly unused three years ago but has gained considerable popularity since!
Thank you so much for your kind and sound advice! I really hope you and other readers can give me a more balanced, non-hormonal perspective–on whichever side it lands!
It seems to me that what establishes the acceptability of name-repeats among friends is not so much about etiquette as it is about the particular social standards in that particular group: in some friend groups there will already be duplicates, and further duplicates will be considered flattering/bonding, and some people will be pushing others to use their children’s names (this is me); in others, no one will care very much about names and would be puzzled that anyone would fret about it, considering how many other people ALREADY have the name; in still others, duplicating a name would be like stealing someone’s spouse.
So! Step one is to think about what kind of friendship is involved here. Am I guessing right that this is a church friendship? If yes: do you ever see her outside of church? how big is the church? are there other duplicates among the names of children in the church? Better yet: has she named any of her children a name that was already in use in the church? That would be GOLDEN. (If I’m wrong about church, then same basic questions but without the word “church”: do you see her other than on Sundays? in what kind of group DO you see her, if any, and are there duplicates in that group? and so on.)
It also matters how uncommon the name is. I don’t want to start listing guesses for this name because I can see you’re trying not to have it in the post, so let’s talk about non-purple floral choices. If the name in question were Lily or Rose or Daisy, that would be a very different situation than if the name were Amaryllis or Zinnia or Chrysanthemum. You and she are in agreement that the name in question has become a lot more popular recently, so I will assume we have more of a Lily/Rose/Daisy situation on our hands.
You’re agonizing about whether or not you need to ask her—but you have ALREADY asked her. You asked her if she would be bothered by you using the name, and she responded by agreeing that it was a great name and adding that it was becoming quite popular. I would interpret this as “neutral permission” or “gracious non-opposition”: she doesn’t enthusiastically/specifically encourage you to use the name, but she demonstrates that she realizes the name is not her family’s original idea or exclusive property, and she also deliberately declined the offered opportunity to say that it bothers her. She doesn’t seem to be HOPING you’ll use it, but that would be a lot to ask of someone.
If you want to ask her again, you can do so—but ONLY ask if you are willing to give her that power over your name choices. This is not something I personally would be willing to do. But if you want more reassurance than she has already given, and if you ARE willing to let her veto a name, then I would bring it up again as a friendly “last chance!” sort of thing: “Okay, so we talked about this before and you seemed like you were okay with us using this name—but it’s important to me not to make you sad about this, so I just wanted to check one more time before we settled on it for sure.” I would do it in person if possible, but casually: not setting up a Serious Appointment with her, but just asking her while the two of you are chatting without other people in the conversation: you cover the weather and the children’s latest cold, and then you say, “Oh! By the way!” This will also give you a chance to read facial expression and body language. But again: you have ALREADY given her the opportunity to say if it bothers her, AND I don’t think people get to veto other people’s baby-name choices (though we may of course decide not to distress others by using names they would LIKE to veto), AND I don’t think you should be trying to wring anything better than neutral permission / gracious non-opposition out of her. I mean, what if she says, “Well, actually…I guess it would bother me a little.” NOW what? Another series of conversations during which you try to establish the line where her botheredness outweighs your love of the name? No, no, no, let’s not do this.
But if you DO ask her again and she says it bothers her, or if you decide not to use it because you’re worried it bothers her, it’s encouraging that this was your third-choice name, and also that you don’t have regrets about your third daughter’s name.
It may even be worth it to you to just cross the name off your list to avoid the stress of the whole thing. We’ve talked before about the “package deal” of a name: part of the package deal of this name may be the discomfort you feel about it being a name your friend used, and maybe you’ll decide you’d rather not.
I am going to add two paragraphs here that will not help this letter-writer, but are for the benefit of others who may one day be in this situation. If it happens to any of you that your secret favorite name is used (or about to be used) by someone else, I suggest INSTANTLY spilling the secret. So if, for example, you get the heart-dropping announcement from a friend that they’ve decided to use the name Rose, and Rose is the name you were absolutely planning to use for your baby, you immediately say, with HUGE joy as if you wanted nothing more than to have kids with the same name, “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe it! That is the VERY NAME we are planning to use for our next girl!” There’s no “Do you mind if we still do use it?” here: it’s a declaration that you had already made the same decision: it was already settled. Later you may decide not to use the name, but you have established that you didn’t get the idea of the name from your friend’s use of it.
This sort of situation is also an argument for mentioning names ahead of time, even way ahead of time. It’s a risk, though, isn’t it. Nobody wants to say, “I’ve always loved the name Rose” and have the friend say “…Oh. my. gosh. That is the most perfect name. Do you mind if I…?”
Thank you so much for your advice a few months ago about naming etiquette among friends. Your perspective and the comments that followed really helped me get over any hesitation I had about using the name I so wanted to use…and to top it all off, both our families ended up moving, so it really became a non-issue.
We’re are thrilled to introduce our little Violet Jane, born August 31st! I smile every time I say it. Thank you again!