What's in a name?

Recently a friend posted on Facebook asking if it was possible to “steal” someone’s baby name. She was due to have her first child and was pregnant at the same time as another friend, and confided her first-choice baby name to the pregnant friend… And then when the pregnant friend’s baby was born first, guess what she named the baby? Yep, the same name that she herself wanted to use. So she wondered, did the friend steal her baby name? Or are baby names inherently un-ownable?

I started thinking about names and all the thought we put into them when it comes to naming our babies. With my first child, I checked baby name books out of the library and created a long list of ones that appealed to me, and then went through them with my husband (who was barely interested in the exercise, truth be told — I suspect he thought the baby would come out and tell us its name). I crossed out all of the names he didn’t like, and then we were left with a short list. But we weren’t able to immediately name our daughter when she was born it took a few days of trying things out before we settled on a name. I remember driving home from the birthing centre and turning onto a street called “Peach Parade”, and thinking that “Peach” might make quite a cute middle name. (This was a year or two after Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter “Apple” and yes, I had just had a baby so was not entirely in my right mind.) (Also, no, we didn’t choose Peach.)

When our son was born a few years later, the scene was similar — long list, short list, then trying things out when he finally arrived. With him, we already had a middle name picked out, so it was a bit easier to choose something that would work with that.

But when our third child was born, the scene was very different. That poor kid didn’t have a name for so long that we got an official letter in the post stating that the Government KNEW we had a baby and hadn’t registered it yet, and telling us to get our butts into gear or there would be consequences of an unspecified nature. Meanwhile, we were trying all of the names on our short list and nothing seemed to fit. “Are you a Charlotte?” I’d ask her while she gazed beatifically back at me. “Daisy? Mary?” I thought about naming her Gina, after my midwife, but then I couldn’t stop thinking about the character Gina in the movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin and how she pronounces her name “Jye-na” and you know where I’m going with this.

Every time an article comes out about baby names, I read it with interest. I especially love the articles about names that are banned in New Zealand (in 2018, Births, Deaths, and Marriages declined potential baby names Heaven-Princezz-Star, Jusdyce, and Zdiam-Bishop, among others. I’m not even sure how to pronounce Zdiam) and I am fascinated by Iceland, which has a list of 1,853 female names and 1,712 male ones parents must choose from. I love reading lists of the most popular names in NZ and seeing what names are making a comeback and which ones are falling off the radar.

Which brings me back to my friend’s question. Is it possible to “steal” a baby name? Well, I still don’t know. The subject of baby names is an emotional one and lots of people have big feelings about it. I know that when I was making my own lists of possible names, I steered clear of anything someone we knew was already using. But for my third baby, one of the names we liked was the name of a friend’s daughter, and I asked her if it would be okay if we used it. She kindly said it was fine. Maybe we just need to talk it over more?

In the end, we settled on a baby name that no one else we knew had, and sent off for a birth certificate before we got to find out what the unspecified consequences might be. I’ll always wonder what punishment we missed out on. Just like I’ll always wonder what Heaven-Princezz-Star ended up being named.

Scroll to Top