Does the Dog Have Dibs on My Grandma's Name?

Filed under: Baby Names, Relatives, Funny Stuff

My grandmother's name was Annabelle, and I was very close to her and would love to pay tribute with my daughter's name. Recently, my friends got a puppy and named her Bella. When I mentioned it, people have asked why I would want the same name for my baby as a dog. Is there a way to address this in a day when people are taking dog names from baby books?!

- Bella Lover

If a dog steals your grandma's name, you have the right to steal the dog's name, don't you think? Fair is fair.

Seriously, a name with genuine, deep personal significance should never be derailed by a pet. There's a pecking order when it comes to names being "taken," and the number one spot is occupied by parents honoring someone who was important in their lives. In fact, you could name your baby after your beloved grandmother even if the other Bella were your friend's daughter, not her puppy.

Namesakes get extra leeway. They can even override basic principles like the "first come, first served" rule. For instance, if two sisters married men named Kyle, they could each name a son Kyle Jr. if they desired.

This namesake exception is narrowly defined. It has to be somebody you want to honor because you loved the person, not just because you love the name. Merely finding a Great-Great-Great Uncle Silas on your family tree doesn't give you special rights to duplicate the taken name Silas. Creative offshoots don't count, either -- your Uncle Mel doesn't give you a dispensation to copy your best friend's baby name Melisande.

As with all delicate social situations, approach the namesake exception thoughtfully. It doesn't outweigh the demands of sensitivity or common sense. If a dear friend next door is hurt by the thought of sharing her child's name, try to find another way to honor your loved one.

As for your friends' reaction that the name now means "dog" to them, I wouldn't worry. Once they get to know your daughter, that will all melt away.

How would you deal with name conflicts with friends -- or their pets? Share your experiences here. And if you have your own question to Ask the Name Lady, drop her a line!

Related: Do We Need New Baby Name Etiquette?

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