Is the Name I Love "Taken"?

Filed under: Relatives, Baby Names

I have always loved the name Jack, so when I got pregnant I chose Jack as a boy's name. My boyfriend and I never even considered other names. I've told all of my mom's family and my friends the name for four months now, but just found out that my cousin on my dad's side has decided to name her baby (due two weeks before mine) Jack, completely by coincidence. Can I keep the name or should I give it up?

It's admirable that you're prepared to give up a name you've loved all your life to promote family harmony. But I'm glad to tell you it's probably not necessary.

We can all recognize the feeling of a name being "taken." In our name culture, the name belongs to the first parents in a social circle who "claim" it -- planting their flag on the territory like explorers of yore. The question is, how big is the territory? How far do their exclusive rights to the name extend? And what happens when two families stake their claims on the same name months before their due dates?

Three main factors determine if a name is taken. First, consider the name's history and popularity. It's harder to claim a familiar classic Jack than a creative newcomer like Briar. A hallmark of Briar is its rarity, so adding a second Briar to a social circle could indeed feel like stealing an idea. But with almost 9,000 Jacks born each year (and 12,000 Jacksons) it's hard to argue that your cousin thought up the name ... or that one more Jack will change the way the name comes across to people.

The second factor to weigh is your closeness to the the other family. In your case, you're due at the same time but haven't discussed baby names together; it sounds like you aren't especially close.

Finally, there's timing. Neither baby has been born yet, and your joint choice is pure coincidence. Add in your lifelong attachment to the name, and it all spells sticking to your guns.

That doesn't mean ignoring your cousin's feelings, though. Take the direct approach. Pick up the phone and cheerfully let her know about the amazing coincidence -- and compliment her on her fabulous taste. If you set the tone right, the name you both love may become a special bond rather than a point of conflict.

Can names be "taken"? Share your experiences here. And if you have your own question to Ask the Name Lady, drop her a line!

Related: Where Have All the Boys' Names Gone?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.