Do We Need New Baby Name Etiquette?

Filed under: Baby Names


What about the people who choose a name for their child and expect it to be pronounced a certain way, yet it goes against English pronunciation? Then they actually get angry that you aren't smart enough to realize they are using a non-standard pronunciation! What can you do with these people?

- Mr. Grumpy

My grandson's name is Tyberious, you should see the looks we get when I introduce him. Please give me a snappy comeback for these rude adults!

- Steamed Grandma

America, we are facing a crisis in baby name etiquette. Names have changed dramatically over the past generation, and our manners haven't kept up. As you can see from my "Grumpy" and "Steamed" correspondents, tempers are rising on both sides of the divide. It's time to take a step back and rediscover common courtesy.

If you're in "Grumpy's" spot, you have to face facts. When it comes to names, normal just isn't normal any more. Last year alone, at least five American babies received each of these names:

Abcde
Cashmiere
Jerusalen
Kharizma
Myrical
Shellsea
Siranthony
Xzavious
Zepplin

And that's just scratching the surface. Every year, you're going to meet more and more people with names that give you pause. No matter your private thoughts on the matter, you have to be polite. Because even if the name looks like a mistake (or a bad joke) to you, it's very real and very personal to the people who chose it and bear it. Think of it this way: when a proud grandma shows you pictures of her grandbabies, do you wrinkle your nose and make snide remarks about how ugly they look? Of course you don't. Follow those same instincts when you hear the kids' names.

Of course, even the best of manners won't keep you from tripping up on a baffling pronunciation. If a parent gets irate over an innocent mistake, try not to strike back. Smile and say, "No offense intended, I just hadn't come across that spelling before. What a creative name!"

Now, if you're on the other side of this exchange, you have to be realistic too. You deliberately chose (or invented) a name to be unconventional, so you can hardly expect it to roll off people's tongues like John and Mary. Gently correcting spelling and pronunciation mistakes, over and over, is the price you pay for uniqueness.

If somebody crosses the line and makes rude comments, your best path is to kill them with kindness. The more gentle and earnest your response, the more they'll regret their own bad manners. Try this, with your sweetest smile: "I realize it may be unfamiliar, but it's so precious to us."

Have you run into bad baby name manners? Share your experiences here. And if you have your own question to Ask the Name Lady, drop her a line!

Related: I Gave My Baby the Wrong Name!

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