Baby name tradition, I need to break it but it will probably hurt a lot of feelings.

I'm Greek Orthodox, the baby name tradition is you ALWAYS name your children after the paternal grandparents then if you magically have 3 or 4 the wife gets to pick a name. I grew up in America, the tradition of always naming the children after the parents isn't as prevelant for Greek-Americans the past ten years.  None of my Greek-American cousins followed the tradition partly because they didn't marry other Greek people. 

That being said I married a Greek man and live in Greece now! We are expecting our first child. We always said we wouldn't follow that rule. My own husband said that his parents names are too common and he wanted something more unique, like an Ancient Greek name.

Sadly my father in law is ill and things have change my husband expects our first child regardless if it is a boy or a girl to be named after his father. I understand he wants to honor my father in law, but really that is not what we agreed upon before marriage! I adore both his parents, I really do they are the sweetest loving and most generous people. I would love to honor them but I don't like their names. My father in law is named George and my mother in law Dimitra/Demetra. And befoe you say use their names as a "middle name" in Greece we do NOT have middle names. Your middle name is your birth father's name. It shows who you belong to. So even if you are a girl your name will be "Maria Stephano Papadopoulos"....we are still a very patriarichal society! And having a girl named four names is a little ridiculous in terms of a legal name in this country. Our last names our usually 13 letters long!

I thought I'd come to terms with it, I sometimes think I'm being petty. But the more my body changes and I realize I'm going to go through 20-30 hours of labour, I will be the primary care giver and won't have a say in my own child's name for the rest of my life drives me freaking nuts! 

We don't know the sex of the child yet (My husbadnt doesn't want to know the sex of the baby because he believes it is bad luck!) He thinks it will be a GIRL. I have no clue. 

I tried to compromise, I told him if it is a boy we can name him George but I pick the girl names. He said no because he is certain that it is a girl. I'm so frustrated, I refuse to name my daughter Georgia, it is not a beautiful girl name. I already hate the name George for a boy, a baby with the name George sounds like a 50 year old business man to me. Naming a girl Georgia is just awful in my mind. My cousin with the name Georgia hates it. We went to a baptizm last summer where the girl was being named Georgia and my husband even said that they shouldn't baptize the little girl with a masculine name. I guess he's forgot about that.

I reminded him that George is the #1 Greek boy name in this country. We have over 14 George's in our social circle. We never refer to them by the name George because that would be confusing, so we refer to them by their last name like they are in the military. I don't want my son to be refered to by their last name in a class room for the rest of his life. My husband agreed that yes, that would be confusing but too bad this is tradition. 

I am so anxious at this point over the name thing. The best part is that out of our friends, 3 couples who had babies last year all stuck to the tradition of using their grandfather's name! I know none of the wives are happy about it even at 7 and 8 months old they still call their boys "babe" because they don't like their names. It is considered rather insulting if you don't stick to this tradition. I don't want to be the "Bad Daughter in Law" but I didn't think I'd have to follow this rule before we got married! 

The only thing that gives me solice is that in Greece you don't have to pick your child's name when you give birth. You can wait up to a year until baptism perhaps by then my husband will change his mind. My only fear is that my in laws are probably assuming I'm going to follow tradition. I hinted that I would like other names and all I got were dirty looks. My mother and father have said that I have to folllow this tradition, even thought I reminded my mother how much she restend my father for not letting her name any of us. She herself said "too bad, I suffered it you do too." Imagine your own mother hating your name!

Okay rant over, thanks to anyone who managed to read past the first line. I appreciate it. 





January 22, 2016 7:25 AM

Ah, I sympathise completely - what a dilemma it must be for you and your family. I would say stick with your guns, or at least go by your compromise that a son will be George but a daughter will be named by you. It doesn't seem your husband much likes the names George and Georgia either, so maybe you can convince him that it's a bad decision when many of your friends and family have regretted following the tradition? You certainly won't be the first one to break it, so don't feel too bad!

Incidentally, I really like the names George and Georgia, but this is coming from someone from a non-Greek background so I probably don't find them as tedious as you do.

January 22, 2016 7:34 AM

This sounds like a very frustrating experience, and living in Spain (not nearly as bad as Greece sounds on this issue but there is some overlap), I know where you're coming from.

My advice would be to go and hurt those feelings. It's going to be nasty at first, but ultimately, your in-laws are going to love their grandchild and get over it. My mother-in-law went through hellfire when she refused to name her child (my partner) Eugenio back in the day. 35 years later everyone is still speaking to each other. My partner and I are about to get ourselves disowned (exaggeration) by ditching the father's/grandfather's SURNAME. I'm sure you can imagine how that's going to go down, but everyone will just have to get over it.

It sounds like you are extremely unwilling to consider George. I don't think you should have to, although if they have hyphenated first-name options in Greece perhaps you could compromise with something like Archimedes-George, and then just call him Archimedes.

Is the middle name thing a legal requirement? In Spain they don't do middle names either, but I've just said we're doing them and too bad. I look on it as a cultural thing. If you are having their baby, raising it in their country, speaking their language and giving it their surname, they can handle a middle name if that's what they do in your culture (and it doesn't matter if you are of Greek extraction -- you can pick and choose cultural ties from America). Even if it has to be slotted on as another first name on the birth certificate for legal reasons. Yes, it may not fit well on identity cards and the kid may always squirm at the doctor's office and on the first day of school, but that is the definition of a first world problem.

Long-story short: I think you should definitely stand up to your husband/in-laws/parents if the idea of calling your son George makes you actively miserable. And it sounds like Georgia is not just off the table, but outside of the room. Do Georgina or Georgette interest you at all? (again, who cares if they're not Greek, they can deal with the fact that you are foreign). If they do, you can perhaps suggest them as compromises. If not, bury all female George options except as possible middle names.

Good luck!

January 22, 2016 9:13 AM

Thanks for your reply, haha yes if I think about it this is a first world problem. If the child is healthy I'm hoping everyone will get over it since we miscarried last year. I'm lucky just to be this far along.

Yes the legal middle name is a requirement. Wherever you go, at the airport, the bank, the hospital etc when they ask your name you should say "Julia (father's name) Papadopoulos" If you just say your first and last name they will ask "father's name?" or "who do you belong to?" So it is a big legal requirement. I will look into maybe having two first names, I don't think they should have any legal problem with that. 

Well you've given me courage, at the end of the day the children will have his last name and my last name will essentially die with me. So they will have to accept that things change. 


January 22, 2016 7:54 AM

I think your husband needs to talk to you about why he's backpedaling from the original agreement you had about your baby's name. There's his understandable reaction to his father's condition, sure, but you still have to talk about it, air it out between you so that everything is clear. In that conversation, tell him what you said here: that while you love your in-laws it doesn't feel fair to you to be shut out of the decision-making process completely, especially when you had agreed before to something different.

January 22, 2016 9:04 AM

Yes, I will have to discuss that topic again when things settle down with my father in laws condition. I think his main reason for backpeddling is his father's health. He was diagnosed a month ago with cancer and we were told he could live for 10 to 20 years, so he isn't terminal at the moment thank God. I would love to honor him but I don't think naming a child after a grandparent is the best.

January 22, 2016 7:51 AM

That sounds like a really tough situation.

I don't know it this would be an option in Greece, but I would suggest the possibility of making the name and nickname unrelated. For example, I have a friend who named her child Ch@rles Al3xand3r but they always call him M1lo. The given first-middle combo was a family tradition so she went with it but then just went on with referring to her son as she wanted. As you said, most of the Georges are not called George due to the popularity, so instead of defaulting to the last name as a call name, you could default to your chosen name.

Absent that, I agree with the others that you should play your 'foreigner card' and name the baby what you want. They will get over it when it is associated with their sweet grandchild.


January 22, 2016 8:58 AM

Thanks for your reply. I actually did think about just refering to the child with a more endearing name while at home. After all I will be the primary care giver so I'm srue the child will respond more to whatever I call them. I probably will play the foreigne card as much as possible. I am hoping that in the six or seven months before the baptism they won't care at all about the name and more about how adorable the baby is. 

January 22, 2016 9:31 AM

This sounds complicated! Is there any chance you could give your child a legal name but call him or her exclusively by a nickname? It might be a special name that only you use, which could increase your feeling of a bond with your child in a different culture. My husband's given name is not what anyone calls him--except his mom who steadfastly refuses to call him by the name he chose, although even she slips up and calls him by his nickname once in a while. It has only been 30 years, so she hasn't had time to adjust yet (insert wink here).

Alternatively, you could name him something else and allow his grandparents to call him George, but that sounds less likely to go over well.

Good luck! I can't imagine not having any say in my child's name. I would suggest trying to come up with some kind of compromise, however, because drawing a red line in the sand about something before your child is even born doesn't sound like a good idea. This goes for your husband as well.


ETA: For what it's worth, I know THE most adorable 11-month-old George. He is almost as cute as my own kids were. ;)

January 22, 2016 2:30 PM

From what I know of Greek Americans, the grandparents and other relatives and friends will call him George regardless of what he is baptized. 

January 22, 2016 10:40 AM

I feel your pain in terms of not being able to choose your baby's name. Luckily, my partner and I were able to compromise and make an agreement.

I don't know much about the naming culture in Greece, but the one Greek woman I ever read and knew extensively about was the opera singer Maria Callas. My family is Italian so I grew up listening to it. Maria Callas was born Sophia Cecilia Kalos in America, but was baptized Anna Maria Cecilia Sophia Kalogeropoulou. Her father's name was George and her mother was Evangelia. Her older sister was Yakinthi. I don't know if this family was an exception but none of the kids seem to have been named after Grandparents or parents, although we have no idea of what George's parents were called.

Also, I think that if you followed the example of the Kalogeropoulos family, baby's first name could be George or any female variation of George and you could have full reign on middle names. Maria Callas with all those names went by her middle all her life.

There are some really good female variations on George: Georgiana, Georgia, Georgina, Georgette...

Would your husband relent more to a name with similar sounds? Gaia, Gloria, Galina, Gia, Gemma, Giulia...

You love ancient Greek names, what names did you have in mind?

January 22, 2016 4:02 PM

That is very interesting. Yes I hadn't considered the Maria Callas situation. I could try and use that as an example for having two first names. 

Orginally we had wanted Ancient Greek names like Pandora or Prometheus. But there are so many to choose from, we haven't discussed more names since this last month my dear husband changed his mind about the baby naming process. 


January 22, 2016 10:52 AM

I'm going to suggest that you try really hard to find a creative solution to keep everyone happy.  For instance, if you love the name Molly, but decided not to use it because it seems great for a child but too diminuative for an adult, perhaps you could put Georgia on the certificate, but use Molly as your nickname.  Or if there is a name you love, but it clashes with your last name, that could be your family's nickname.


But ultimately, you have to make a decision that you can live with.  Wishing you well!

January 22, 2016 11:08 AM

I come from a culture with a similar naming tradition, and I would NEVER, not for a single moment, consider naming my child in any other way.  I did in fact name my son after his two deceased grandfathers, and my son's father, who didn't come from the same tradition, didn't say peep.  Whether I did or didn't particularly like the names was irrelevant, although I like the names well enough.

I suppose there are two ways of looking at naming in the current western world, from an individualistic perspective or a communitarian one.  OTOH there is the business here of declaring the desire for a "unique" name.  The people who say this don't realize that unique means one of a kind, not unusual or I don't happen to know anyone with this name.  Ironically after the parents choose their "unique" name, they often discover that half the daycare attendees have the same "unique" name.  This perspective also leads to a lot of pretentiousness, trying too hard, and some truly infelicitous concoctions.  OTOH the communitarian approach situates a child in the context of family, lineage, and culture and gives the child a sense of belonging to something larger and more persistent than self.

I am in agreement with your mother here, and I would recommend giving your child the name that will signal that he is a part of his family and his culture, as opposed to a random name that happened to appeal to his mother at the time of birth.  Which is clearly not what you want to hear....BTW George is popular in Greece because over the centuries it has been well liked and culturally relevant.  It is not an "old man" name either in Greece or elsewhere (see baby prince in England).

My hometown attracted a cluster of Greek immigrants, and I went to school with many kids from Greek families, and every single one of them was named according to the Greek naming tradition you describe.

January 22, 2016 11:57 AM

I understand the appeal of your culture, Miriam, but the main difference between your case and the one of the OP is that you chose to follow a cultural practice you believed in, whereas she is having a cultural practice she does not believe in, and which she discussed before marriage, thrust upon her. Your cultural practice of naming children after their deceased ancestors is also slightly more egalitarian than the practice described here.

I think the "unique name" brigade are in a somewhat different category from the OP. One thing is wanting a unique name and going for something trendy; another is expressing the wish not to give your child the name of 14 other people in your social circle. I agree with you to a point that in naming as in other cultural areas we have become more individualist (selfish, if you like) and less communitarian, but that is still no reason to have a name you actively dislike foisted upon you. George is fine, I agree, but the OP clearly has strong feelings against it.

And while tradition is nice and does give us ties to our family and history, it can also be a tool of oppression, particularly of women. Why should every son, generation after generation, be named after his paternal grandfather? Why shouldn't he be named after his maternal grandfather, his mother's brother, the man who saved his mother's life, her favourite aunt, or pretty much anything? I have to admit I read this post as an issue on asserting female rights and values as much as anything else.

January 22, 2016 12:04 PM

I agree with all of this. I also think the tradition has taken on different implications as modern families have shrunk. When you could reasonably expect to have at least four children in almost every family, and six or eight or twelve wasn't unusual, then having a hard rule for naming the first two probably didn't seem as restrictive.

January 22, 2016 7:51 PM

You have an interesting point of view and that is great that you never thought about breaking your family tradition. I wish I could feel that way, but sadly I don't. From the sounds of it this was your family tradition and not your husbands tradition? Is that correct? What if your husband had his own tradition? Would you deferred to his tradition over your own tradition? Or would you ask for a compromise?

Most of my first and second Greek American cousins did break this tradition from the 2000s and forward. I always imagined I would have a say in my child's name at the very least.  I don't think my resentment is unnatural, especially given the fact it was discussed prior to marriage that this tradition wouldn't be followed. I certainly wouldn't be pleased if I forced my husband to accept a name he was strongly against.

As far as the individualistic vs communitarian perspective. I feel that any Greek name along with the fact he/she will have my husband's first name and surname should be more than enough to give them a sense of belonging to the family. But I can see your point if I decided to give the child a very American name, that would only serve to alienate them. After all I was a first generation American with the name Olympia! Let me tell you the cultural dissonance that I expereinced growing up is part of the reason why I decided to live in Greece. 

Personally, I don't think having my paternal grandmother's name gave me a greater sense of belonging in my family. I was certainly proud of her but I wasn't close to her. If anything I was closer to my maternal grandmother who was actually named Dimitra. Thus, part of the reason why my mother would be happy to see me use my mother in law's name. This way my mother would finally be getting the name she wanted for me 31 years ago. Which is rather sweet if I actually like the name Dimitra. Maybe I'm not sentimental enough to obey this tradition? Maybe I need to be a more obediant wife and not say a peep? Something for me to think about, thanks.


January 22, 2016 11:47 AM

Is there any chance you could complete your pregnancy in the US? That might take some of the pressure off, and let you give your child whatever legal name you want, including an extra first/middle (I assume when you moved to Greece you weren't required to retroactively change your name to fit Greek patterns).

Otherwise, I would aim to name after the in-laws, but American-style. That means perhaps sharing a first initial, or having a similar meaning in a different naming tradition.

For example, Behind the Name tells me that the name George comes from Greek elements meaning "earth" (the same root as Gaia) and "worker" (and thus "farmer") so Gaia would absolutely be an appropriate choice. But you could also go further afield to something like Amalia or Emmeline or Ida, which are all Germanic names derived from a couple of different "work"-related words, or maybe Terra/Tierra, ultimately from the Latin for "earth". I didn't turn up quite as many options for boys (somewhat to my surprise); Emerich is one possibility.

You could also pick a characteristic that could flatteringly be applied to your FIL--e.g. Iphigeneia, which derives partly from a word meaning "strong" because "you're the strongest man we know." Brave, kind, smart, etc. would all also work, depending on what names you like and what you think your FIL would value.

On the G- name front, you have many, many beautiful options, some of which have already been mentioned.

FWIW, Georgiana is my favorite of the feminized George names, probably because of Pride and Prejudice's Georgiana Darcy. It also lends itself nicely to nicknames Gigi or Anna/Annie, if you have any interest in those.

January 22, 2016 4:54 PM

Thank you so much nedibes. I had forgotten about Mr. Darcy's sister Georgiana. That is a lovely name in English and that is one of my favourite Jane Austen books. You have given me some creative solutions that is for sure.

January 22, 2016 6:19 PM

I like Georgiana, too -- and I generally like cross-gender namesakes. (True to form for me as an afficionado of -ina names, I love Georgina even more, but I also love Georgine and Georgette.

The variant Georgetta might allow you to use the to my ears very fashionable-sounding Etta as a nickname if you wanted to get further away from the George-heavy environment sometimes, too.

The Nancy Drew books as well as at least one Enid Blyton book made me think that George was a very pleasing female nickname, too.

Lastly, I think -Jo makes for a very fetching double name for girls, so if cross-gender namesakes were on the table as sufficiently honoring, I would seriously consider something like Ariadne-George and call her Aria-Jo.

January 23, 2016 6:12 PM

Georgiana is a fantastic suggestion for a girl since the nicknames Gigi, Anna/Annie or Gina would offer something the OP might find more palatable.  I also really like the suggestion of something like Gaia, though I've no idea if the husband & in-laws would consider the same root of the name enough.  

Perhaps George would be more palatable if the OP considered the use of a nickname?  I think Geordie & Geo are both fun. Or perhaps even another language varient like Yuri or Gino?

I agree that pushing the foreigner angle is probably the best bet.  If nothing else, it'd be a good way to negotiate a double first name.  

January 22, 2016 1:07 PM

Oh, dear. Olympia, my heart really goes out to you, as I think this is profoundly unfair. Basically, the requirement here is that your child's FIRST name be the sick father-in-law, the SECOND name be your husband's, and the THIRD name be the husband/father-in-law's surname... which is a LOT of representing specifically the paternal lineage, and NO representing anyone else.

You make it sound like the middle name is a legal expectation, if not a true requirement. The first name is a cultural requirement that makes you a "bad daughter-in-law" if you disobey it. What about the third name? Is it an unspoken assumption, but one that you have legal flexibility over?

I might tend to look at it that the child is getting the birth-surname of ONE of his four grandparents, and that is your sick father-in-law... which is already a lot of honoring, frankly. Would you consider bartering your surname, so that if your child is being called by his surname military-style due to the prevalence of the first name, that at least it is YOUR surname? To me, this would at least be a little less heinously unfair because your family would be represented somewhere in the names. I suspect that if Georgia isn't on the table, that this REALLY wouldn't be, but it might be a successful bargaining strategy... and it might cause your in-laws to recalibrate their "worst case scenario" for their grandchild's name. :)

The other thing that you have going for you is that George is a nice simple short name that pairs really well with another name in a double name. My strategy would be to give him a first name with two elements, like Chiron-George or Lysander George or George-Iolaus. You could either take the tack of just calling him Chiron while your in-laws call him George, or do Chiron-Geo as the call name... to me that would be a nice way to get your father-in-law's name in there but simultaneously give your child a call name you LIKE. Plus, double names with "Joe" seem a nice way to get your own American heritage in there. If people balk at this being "unusual" you can explain that it is not unusual in your own cultural context, which should not entirely disappear in the context of naming (or otherwise).

Do you like any of the traditional nicknames for George? Even if there are 14 other Georges in your acquaintance, could he be Geo or Geordie? Perhaps other posters have other ideas for nicknames? I'm always hugely impressed by the creativity of this board.

The other thing would be to consider whether you like any other languages' forms of George, male or female:
I can bet that your child would be the only Yorick in his circle of acquaintance, for example. You can use your own cultural heritage as a precedent-establisher again, here -- explain that giving names from diverse language traditions is an American thing, and that you'd still be honoring grandpa George.

For what it's worth, the people I know who were recently naming within a firm cultural tradition (the one Miriam describes incidentally) did take liberties with the forms of the name being used, quite similar to what nedibes describes, where the namesake had a name with a very transparently obvious "meaning" (think English word with a name-izing suffix) and they used a form of the name where the meaning was comparably transparent, but from a different language tradition. In this case the recipient of the honor was deceased so obviously can't be polled about their opinion, but my impression was that the family members close to the honored relative were all pleased.

I like the idea of honoring family traditions, but doing so in a way that doesn't just honor the family traditions of ONE side exclusively, and in a way that gives the parents flexibility to choose a name that they actually feel comfortable calling their child.

Incidentally, we have an untreatable but potentially still longer life-expectancy cancer represented among the grandparents of our kids, too, and I'm sending my condolences. It's a difficult thing to deal with, for everyone, especially shortly after the diagnosis when you still haven't gotten a clear sense of what the trajectory is looking like. I also am sorry that you lost your last pregnancy, and share your hope that everyone can focus on the happy healthy baby as a bright spot in all of this, regardless of what his/her name ends up being.

January 22, 2016 9:43 PM

Thank you so much for your sweet reply.

I don't feel the need to barter or negotiate with the surname or middle name. I knew that from the beginning that would be the way. I'm hoping when the time comes we can find a compromise for the names. I did say he could pick the boy name & I can pick the girl name but he is certain we are having a girl!?

I don't know if I could agree to the name Georgia in the case we have a daughter. As adorable Georgiana or Georgette sounds in English, in Greek it wouldn't translate or sound the same. It would translate to "a woman from the country of Georgia" great country with nice people and yummy food but not what I had in mind.

In Greek the name George does sound like Gyorgo. And the nicknames in Greek usually involve adding an "-aki" which is a way to show something is diminutive. So if it was a boy he'd be Gyrogaki...which would mean "little George" kinda like Georgie. I can try to accept the boy name as George, I have several months before my due date ....maybe it will grow on me? Or maybe I will just give them a totally different nickname during the bonding process. If this is the worst of my worries then I say I am lucky.

January 23, 2016 1:09 AM

One one hand I agree with you that these naming worries being the worst means that you're lucky... but on the other hand, I do think that not necessarily the names but *how* they are negotiated can have long-term reprecussions for a relationship.

Friends of mine were in a situation where they crafted a naming agreement for their family prior to marriage, much like you and your husband did. Like yours, it was a nontraditional naming agreement -- in this case involving the new family name being one from the wife's side of the family. Expecting this to be controversial, they ended up delaying this announcement until they were expecting their first child... but his parents did not take this idea well even when it was bundled with a grandchild. The husband in the couple eventually caved to the familial pressure, because he loves his parents and didn't want them to feel rejected. Ultimately, they ended up giving the child both of their surnames instead, but it ended up being a very difficult thing for him to have sided with his parents over his wife and to abandon a previously made plan. I get the sense from talking to the male half of the couple that this remains one of the biggest regrets of his life -- not necessarily because the surname was THAT important in and of itself, but because it was very symbolic and the fact that it was not in the end an agreed-upon compromise had really a big relationship impact. So I guess I want to encourage you not to dismiss your concerns and feelings as being trivial or unimportant, because I think resentments can grow/fester with time even if you don't think it's a big deal now.

I liked the previous suggestion of perhaps unpacking this with a neutral third party, or otherwise doing everything you can to keep the lines of communication open and treat this as a problem that you two will try to solve together. I think a guiding principle I've often heard for parenting is starting out as you mean to go on, and I think it's important for naming decisions to represented a compromise that you both feel good and happy about, where you both feel that your family traditions are being represented and honored. It's a good precedent for the myriad other complicated parenting decisions that follow!

I also dislike the idea of anyone, much less someone as articulate and thoughtful as you, having to call their older baby "Babe" because they really can't stand the name they were forced by tradition to use on their child. That really seems unfair to me. You seem to be doing your very best to feel positively about George as a name, and trying to come up with creative solutions, and I hope that the other half of your naming team is equally trying to accomodate your feelings, too.

For perspective, though, another friend's husband had a family tradition that involved many, many generations on the patrilinial lineage alternating between two sets of given names. The one that was due to be used next is so over the top that when the Coen brothers encountered it they used it (the whole thing: first, middle and last) as a character name for the Tom Hanks-portrayed protagonist in "The Ladykillers":
My friend and her husband broke with this tradition and did not name their son this name, so my child's best friend is not Go1dthwaite after all. (They just used it in the middle name spot.) I am sharing this because in comparison to Go1dthwaite Higgins0n Surname, George is a fairly tame requirement... and it's a name I do love, so I hope that perhaps it can grow on you.

Additionally, I think thinking outside of the box on nicknames might be a possible grounds to distinguish your George from the others in your social circle. For example, if it's Gyorgo, rather than diminutizing you could go with Gyo as the nickname... or perhaps if we know what your husband's name is, the genius of posters who are better at mashing up names into nicknames could try to come up with a fetching combination of George and Husbandname that you might perhaps feel more positively about.

January 23, 2016 6:19 PM

Well, I admit my reaction to this is perhaps a bit snarky but, you also knew in the beginning that your children would not be named after your mother & father-in-law.  If your husband is going back on the previous agreement, then I think the whole name is open for re-negotiation.  That is assuming there are no legal requirements in Greece that dictate middle & surnames.

January 24, 2016 10:33 AM

I would be open to re-negotiating. I did suggest he can name the child if it is a boy and I can name the child if it is a girl. Which I think is very fair since we don't know what we are having. My dear husband is sure it is a girl. I don't know how he thinks that, we didn't see anything at our 13 week scan? So he's pushing for the first child to be named after his father. I am assuming I will have a second child but who knows what life brings. In Greece the past 10 years couples tend to only have 1 child because of the economic crisis and because most households require two incomes. 

Sadly middle names are usually the father's name. I think it is a legal requirement. In Greece it would be very very odd for the child not to have the father's surname. I personally have not taken my husband's surname because the paperwork between both countries would be a mess. I like that all of my degrees have my name on them and it wouldn't be good for me to go changing my last name in my profession. His mother is pretty progressive and never changed her last name either, so that wasn't an issue. 


January 25, 2016 10:15 PM

I wonder if you could use your husband being convinced it's a girl to your advantage?  It sounds like one of the female variants of George might be slightly more palatable?  At the very least they'd offer more nickname options.  So you could agree to name a girl after his father, but only on the condition that you get to pick a boy's name.  And you'd have to make it clear that this is not going to be opened up for further negotiation.  If your husband is wrong, tough.

However, I'd honestly be very nervous about using any version of George without a lot of discussion first.  I think it's important that your husband understand why this sudden change of plan is difficult for you.  I can see your husband (and you) getting even more pressure to use his mother's name if there is a 2nd baby.  I'm sure the sense of snubbing your mother-in-law would be even greater if you'd already set a precedant to follow tradition when naming the 1st child.

Though, if his mother is pretty progressive, perhaps you could appeal to that side of her?  Explain that American tradition is usually to make sure both sides of the family are represented.  Since his side is already represented by the middle & last names, then that leaves only the first name.  Of course, this is stretching the truth a bit as American naming customs are quite varied.  Then you could offer her the "compromise" of using a historically Greek name to honor both sides?  I'm probably stretching things a bit here, but if you could find a way to get MIL on your side it could really help the situation.

Or maybe, if there is no legal reason that says you can't, you could make the child's who-he-belongs-to-name Geroge?  A bit unorthodox, but I think the sentiment (patriarchal as it might be) is still there.

January 22, 2016 2:24 PM

I can somewhat relate to this frustrating predicament. My husband's family has a very specific tradition for naming boys - he is the 4th generation "Michael" UniqueMiddleName FamilySurname. He has the same first and last name as his father, his father's father, and his father's father's father. The expectation in his family (and most importantly the expectation of my husband) is that we follow this tradition. "Michael" is a fine enough name, but to me a name is a way to differentiate your child from others inside and outside the family. Since "Michael" is a top 10 name, I hate the idea of my child not having a unique identity at school or at home. And I hate the confusion that comes from having two people with the same name in the same home. It's already irritating enough when trying to distinguish between my husband and his father as I call them both "Mike" as does my mother in law. Nicknaming doesn't really help because all the logically nicknames are already used - my FILs side calls my FIL "Mikey" and my husband "Mike" and my MILs family calls my FIL "Mike" and my husband "Michael." FORTUNATELY, the tradition includes a unique middle name. So my husband and I have come to the agreement that if our child is a son, he will be named along with the tradition and have a unique (not in the family) middle name that he will go by in every day use. Far from my ideal scenario, BUT the point is we were able to discuss what is important to us and come to some compromise and you will too. He gets the formal tradition and I get to give our child a name that will distinguish him from family members and (hopefully) classmates.

I love some of the previous posters' suggestions of (a) following the tradition formally/legally but finding another name to go by in every day use (b) using a middle name (bc its an American tradition, its okay if its not a Greek one) and using George as the middle name or our approach of George as the first name but going by his middle name (c) using a hyphenated name to differentiate the name.

I'll also offer up another suggestion... it seems that your husband's main priority is to honor his ailing father (understandable) and your priority is to give you child a name you love (very understandably). Is it possible that a compromise could be to honor him in a way that is different from the tradition? Again, your husband doesn't seem to care about the tradition as much as he cares about his father and honoring him. As others have mentioned, choosing a G name could work. Are there places that are important to him? Hobbies/Work? Anything special to him/about him that could bring inspiration for a unique honor name? One that you both love and that he will learn to love too?

Hope this helps. Good luck!

January 22, 2016 3:22 PM

We are also naming in a patronymic tradition (middle name is meant to be father's name to, as you say, identify who child belongs to), but we broke away from this and named as we liked (albeit with subtle nods to cultural traditions). This was easier for us to do because we live in the U.S., but it did prompt questions from the grandparents' generation. 

I think, as you say, the "foreigner" or "assimilated American" card is useful here. Even if you spend the rest of your lives in Greece, your children will always be a little bit different. (Presumably speaking English at home, holding U.S. passports perhaps?, maybe even watching American films or reading classic American books, etc.). So, I would think it would be okay--from the standpoint of your position in the community--to let their names reflect that bit of difference. My husband and I have thought about this as we consider living outside the U.S. again and that's the conclusion I've come to in breaking from a more rigid naming tradition. So, I would spin the "bad daughter-in-law" into "Greek-American daughter-in-law".

Of course, this doesn't address the primary issue which is having your husband on your side. I think it's very natural to want to hew to tradition in times of grief. I wonder if you gave him a little bit of time to process his father's diagnosis and then begin the conversation about your earlier agreement again if that might go better? 

January 22, 2016 9:16 PM

Thank you, so you know what I'm going through. I am going to probably table the baby name conversation until the baby arrives. By then my father in law will have completed his treatment and we will have a better understanding of what we are dealing with. 

January 23, 2016 1:22 AM

This comment totally makes me wish for a "like" button, Fieldmouse. Well said, and it sounds like you leveraged your break with tradition in a very tactful way. I also think the point about processing the diagnosis is very accurate -- my family's experience in dealing with a chronic untreatable but potentially slow-moving illness has been that once you get a few datapoints on how the condition is unfolding, it really gives everyone so much more room to breathe.

Tabling the discussion entirely until a baby arrives has its own risks, especially if one partner is using that time to just become increasingly set in their idea of what the baby's name IS... and I am not sure that I could have dealt with postpartum hormones/sleep deprivation AND diplomatically negotiated such a minefield of a naming quandary. However, as you mentioned, you have quite some time after the birth to decide on a name, which I think could really help... as long as no one (not husband nor grandparents) is going into that waiting period expecting anything particular of the baby's name.

January 25, 2016 4:15 PM

@lucubratrix, thanks for the lovely comment.

My experience at least of getting frightening news about my parents' health is that I temporarily become a child again in that moment. For a second, I feel like my primary connection is to my family of origin. Of course I very quickly remember myself as a partner and parent, but I guess what I was trying to get at is that I think it's really natural to have like a kind of "selfish" reaction to that kind of news that passes with a little time.

My feeling when dumping the patronymic is that even though that tradition comes out of a much more homogenous culture than the U.S., foreigners *do* live there. So, people do survive in formal settings at the bank, in the office, in schools, etc. without a patronymic. I wonder if you could @olympiaalexiou forgo this legal requirement as a part foreigner? (I'm assuming foreign nationals who give birth in Greece are not subject to legal naming requirements?) Of course, it would make your child "stick out" a little bit, but I think that your child will likely be straddling two cultures anyway, if that makes sense. To me, it's the same thing as having a parent who speaks a language other than English in the U.S. and passes along a bit of that minority tradition in your name. It makes you different, but that difference also makes you *you*, so why try to hide it? That's the way I've justified our decisions, anyway!

January 22, 2016 4:22 PM

I think you've gotten some great suggestions. 

My inclination would be to use George or Georgia and come up with a pet name or nickname to use that appeals to you more. 

It would be different if your husband was on board with bucking tradition, but this feels a bit as if it would be you vs. all of Greece, including your husband and your ill and beloved fil 

Would that discord be worth it to you? 

I also think-and this is none of my business-that you and your husband might be due for some conversations with a neutral facilitator. I suspect this won't be the only time you run into a, "Culture clash."

So sorry that this is causing you distress during your pregnancy. Best wishes to you!


January 22, 2016 5:50 PM

Haha yes it does feel a bit like it is me vs all of Greece. 

The discord wouldn't be worth it at this point in time because my father in law's health is more important. I will try to push it to the back of my mind until the baby is actually born. 

January 22, 2016 7:01 PM

Ok I REALLY feel for you, because this situation would drive me INSANE.  I didn't read all the other posters, because they were so long.  I did want to tell you what happened in my family though.  My Grand Uncle was to be the 2nd after his father, so my great-grandmother did just so and named him Francis Avery Potter *I changed the last name.  However, she wanted to call him 'Tod' after a book she had read and that was the only thing he was called or ever known as, even though his actually name was something else.  Perhaps this could work for you all?  Just give him or her the name and you pick the actually name they will be called?

By Eko
January 24, 2016 8:33 AM

It could be good to wait a little bit before you bring it up again, but I wouldn't wait until the baby is born. When he or she is born they will probaby just assume that George/Georgia is the name, and if you don't have any other name decided they will call him/her that and it would be extra difficult for you to choose another name when everyone already is using the traditional name.

January 23, 2016 11:17 AM

JnHsmom's suggestion puts me in mind of someone I went to school with.  His name was Evimeros, but he was universally known as Evan.  Now Evimeros and Evan both start with Ev-, but in all other respects they are very different.  As far as I know the old school members of his family were OK with Evan, and it certainly worked well with his classmates.  You might simply consider what name you would choose if there were no traditional constraints, whether or not that name had any vague associations with George (like, say, Jordan) and call the baby that name.  George would be on the birth certificate, and grandparents can use George, but no law says you have to.  Given that there are so many Georges in the family (this is after all what happens when children are named for grandparents since grandparents tend to have several grandchildren), the family may be happy to go along with whatever name you choose for sheer purposes of disambiguation.

I don't think having two names would be too confusing for a child.  My grandson Elliott is adopted.  We were told that he had no birth name and to pick one, and we picked Elliott.  Turned out he did have a birth name--let's say it was Thomas, which it isn't.  He has always known and had contact with his birth family (he is number 6 of nine siblings), and they have always called him 'Tommy'.  When the adoption was finalized, my son and daughter-in-law chose to slide 'Thomas' into the surname slot, and so he is Elliott 'Thomas' and his birth family still calls him Tommy, and he is OK with all of that.  Different names for different contexts, not really a problem.





January 24, 2016 3:49 AM

My sympathies!  This is so hard!  Pushes some buttons for me too - I had an ex whose mom Judith had died when he was 12, and he was kind of set on someday having a son named Jude.  And, well, I just don't that name. Nothing wrong with it, but I dislike it and on top of that I had a crazy housemate named Jude once which kind of made the name no-go.  She used to do stuff like scatter lentils all over the house when angry.  (true story!)   Anyway,  I was like, okay Judith for a girl, for a boy what about the name Mason?  His mom's maiden name, and I like it.  He was like JUDE, and then tell me I was being inflexible (huh?  I'm the one who came up with Mason as a great compromise which honors dead mom AND I like it).  Anyway, we never had kids together but it would have been a huge issue.

Can I ask if you plan to raise your family in Greece vs. elsewhere?  Or are you settled in Greece for good?

I was also going to suggest variants of George wiht nicknames you like, a la Georgina --> Gina which I think is very pretty.  On the boy front, there's Joris, Jordi, Jorge, Girogino (= Gino) etc.  You could also go with nicknames like Joe, Jojo, etc.  There are plenty of websites which list tons of name variants, although I can't help you on sorting the 'how do they sound in Greek' question.

Good luck and keep us updated.  Congratulations on your pregnancy.



January 24, 2016 9:24 AM

Oh my god. I feel so sorry for you! I am literally writing this in tears! To be completely honest with you (please don't be offendet) I would distance myself from the whole family even your parents. I would not be happy with people like this in my life. I did not mean to be rude.

I think the name George/Georgia is beautiful but this is irrelevant because it is your baby. You have to give birth to it. You have to take care of it. You will have to live with the name for the rest of your life. YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE A NAME YOU LIKE!!

If you still want to honor your parents in law you might want to choose another name starting with the letter G. If there is one you really like. I think they would understand if you tell them the truth.

I wish you all the best and I hope you find a name all of you like.



January 24, 2016 10:21 AM

Thank you for your message. I don't believe the issue has come to such an extreme where I would distance myself from anyone in my family. I'd be more devestated if I had to push people away during my pregnancy. Not to mention they haven't aruged with me over it. They just gave a few looks and didn't like any of the baby names we picked out the first time I was pregnant. And they are very supportive and loving people, they really took good care of me when I miscarried. I'd never choose a baby name over a relationship with them. I'm upset about it but not to the point that I'd cause that much chaos. If there was some magical way for me to cure my Father in law by naming the first child after him, yes I would do. But that is a fantasy and not reality. I mostly just want my husband to remember the original agreement we had and honor it.


January 24, 2016 2:09 PM

Hello! This does seem like a tough situation. Maybe name him George, and call him G? Or maybe call him by his initials, depending on what the father's name is.

February 28, 2017 2:44 AM

Hi Olympia, 

I am a Greek-Canadian living in the US, and in a the similar boat as you. 

What happened finally to your child's name? Hoping you will check this site and reply...

Wishing you my best!


February 28, 2017 7:40 AM

I hope all turned out well with your baby and you got to choose the name you like. That said, I think that your family tried to scare you into naming your child after the paternal grandfather. I am a greek, born and raised in Greece and I know for a fact, that although it is very common for first children to take the paternal grandparents' names, it is not uncommon to chose another name (most commonly the maternal grandparents' name, but some people chose a completely different name). Moreover, it is not true that our father's name is our middle name and a lot of people have two first names!! (none of them is considered a middle name, as they are equally important). My official name is Athanasia Ioanna V.....i and my father's name is Athanasios. I don't go around writing I am Athanasia Ioanna Athanasios V.....i!!!!!! Growing up, there were at least 10 children in my class who had 2 first names. Having said that, I understand that you wouldn't like George or Giorgos as a second name either and I don't blame you, it is too common. Georgia is even worse, as it sounds bad in greek and it means agriculture!!!! "Georgis-Τζώρτζης" and "Georgina-Τζωρτζίνα" sound better and if you try hard you will definately find a priest who will agree to saying the full name in church and signing the nickname, so you will not have to see the name ever again. Friends and family members equally have done this. Also, you should condsider Iris for your little girl, and say it derives from Georgia. I hope everything went well. (we certainly don't belong to our father and nobody asks us "who owns you?", I don't know where that came from).

March 3, 2017 7:15 PM

I had to stop reading about half-way down in order to have time to respond. Please forgive me if this was previously covered. (Edit: And after posting, I see this is a year-old thread revived by someone with a similar issue. I can't read that one now so will leave this in case it could help, knowing it probably won't.) 

That your husband was abroad and agreed wholeheartedly to buck tradition before marriage and has had a complete about-face when faced with actual fatherhood, his own father's mortality, and now has an overwhelming desire to pass on tradition is quite predictable and in it's own way noble. It's also maddening. I think you're going to have to find a way to understand your husband and where he's coming from so that you can get back on the same side as him.

Seriously, all these people telling you to stick to your guns? You live there, neither family supports you, your friends have all given in to the tradition, your father-in-law is recently diagnosed with cancer... people tell you family will get over it, but you know they won't. Your child will be included just fine through your husband but you're already isolated, and sticking to your guns in opposition to your husband will solidify that for the long term as he will be united with every other force telling you to name the child George. What good will online encouragement do when your in-laws snub you for years, your mother makes snide comments for decades, your friends shrug their shoulders and say they don't know what to tell you as this is exactly why they just chose to go along with it?

That doesn't mean you need to give in! I just think you need to take a very different approach than what's being recommended here. You need to find a way to be truly sympathetic and understanding of your husband and to honor his desire to pass on the tradition to his child. 

Options that might be useful:

Two saint names at the baptism, one on the birth certificate. YOU call him by both names frequently in the early weeks/months to placate the in-laws so they see you're serious about using it, which buys you the rest of the child's life with it dropped. Then he can be George in the church and family and not-George at school and elsewhere. And with how many Georges there are, he might even drop the George in the family over time.

A patron saint who shares the same first letter or the same feast day or month as grandpa George in honor of him. There's a website with a very accurate and extensive list of Greek patron saints with name variations and feast days which I'll try to find and come back to post.

Trade off agreement. Offer to name the first boy George in exchange for naming the first girl X. Hard since he's convinced it is a girl, but he might be more likely to let it go if he knows you're commited to aboy having grandpa's name. You're more likely to get somewhere with this if the girl's name also has tradition behind it. If your prefered girl's name does, it could be a good angle.

Blame God. Have you ever seen Fiddler on the Roof? There's a scene where the guy pretends to have a dream where he's visited by a ghost in order to play on his wife's sympathies and help steer her opinion of who their daughter should marry. If the name you like can be "blamed" on God for some reason, like the saint's feast day being in the month of conception or baptism or birth, or you have a strong connection to the saint's story such that you feel like the saint has chosen you, then you could appeal to your husband's sense of tradition. Because using the church and it's calendar and saint stories is a thing, too, which could effectively counter the cultural tradition.

Any way you can help your husband to reclaim what he fell in love with (the feeling of adventure and being abroad) WHILE affirming his maturity and sense of tradition so that he sees how that little spirit of what you shared can live WITHIN the tradition he is now embracing for his child and not in opposition to it. You don't want to paint it as bucking tradition but as your way of embracing it and giving his children the life he desires for them by calling upon what he fell in love with. If you can find a way to do that, you'll have more say than your mothers in your intimacy, which is where you want to be.

Those are my ideas! I hope it helps!

March 10, 2017 9:23 AM

Hi OA - I just read your entire blog as I'm dealing with something similar. I'm wondering if you can give us an update? 

Hope you're well!

July 16, 2017 9:21 PM

This is an older post, but it reminded me of a beautiful quote by Saint John Chrysostom, an important Greek Orthodox saint, on naming children. I personally find much value in the Greek naming tradition, but I was interested to hear Saint Chrysostom point out that the most important reason to name our children is not to honor our family members, but rather to give them the name of a saint to look to as an example all their lives...


"Let us afford our children from the first an incentive to goodness from the name that we give them. Let none of us hasten to call his children after his forebears, his father and mother and grandfather and grandmother, but rather after the righteous - martyrs, bishops, apostles. Let one be called Peter, another John, another bear the name of one of the saints. Let the names of the saints enter our homes through the naming of our children.”