How much would it bother you if...

Hello!

My husband and I welcomed our first child last July... A big, beautiful baby boy, who might not have been named were it not for the awesome advice we received here!  Many thanks to you all!

I am not pregnant, but already dreaming about adding another little blessing to our family.  (I'm crazy, I know!)  

I wondered how much (if at all) you let popular culture, music, history, etc. influence your naming decisions?  Or does it just depends on the association?  For instance, if your last name was Franklin, would you name your son Benjamin?  Or if your surname was Adams, would you still consider Samuel? 

Replies

1
February 12, 2018 5:01 PM

it depends on the association,  but theres a boy at our school Muhammed Ali. 

 

Samuel Adams I didnt know but Benjamin Franklin I probably wouldnt or Abraham Lincoln

2
February 12, 2018 7:01 PM

I would definitely not do something like name my son Benjamin if my surname was Franklin, I think that's just too strong of an association (I also had to look up Samuel Adams but I'm guessing he's much better known in the States). I would also be very cautious about using the same first and last name as a living celebrity (eg Brad with the surname Pitt) in case that person then went on to do something awful; while I wouldn't use Benjamin Franklin if you chose to you could at least be pretty sure what you were in for association-wise. 

There was actually a thread fairly recently about a similar topic but with girls. I think someone liked the name Vivienne but the baby's last name would be Lee (or something very comparable to that); as I recall the general consensus was that sharing both first and last name with a person that famous was simply too much.

I think a good way to approach a question like this is to ask yourself 'would I want that to be my name?' or try giving it in place of your name in situations that don't matter, such as booking a table at a restaurant or a haircut, and consider if you feel silly/embarrassed or if people have a negative reaction. Personally I would absolutely not want to have to say over the phone that I wanted to reserve a table in the name of Benjamin Franklin.

 

The only person I know in real life who has a name in this sort of category is a man named Christopher Robin and the name has done him no favours.

3
February 12, 2018 7:03 PM

Okay, so... I know a girl named Brittany Spears. She was named before the pop singer became famous, and there was obviously no way for her parents to know to avoid this. However, I know for a fact that she gets CONSTANT comments about her name and hates it. So if you have a chance to avoid this type of situation, I 100% would. My mother also has a very notable name (not of a celebrity, but it is two colors). She hates it and hates the comments that come along with it, as well. I personally would never name my child something that will cause them potential misery or annoyance if that could be avoided. There are plenty of names out there... No need to settle on a Benjamin for someone with the last name Franklin. 

4
February 12, 2018 9:16 PM

I would consider those names off limits, no matter how much I loved them (and Benjamin and Samuel are handsome, dignified names!).

 

For those not familiar with Adams, he was the rabble-rouser who organized the throwing of tea into Boston Harbor.  There's a very popular (in the northeast) beer company named after him.  The beer association is probably at least as strong as the association with the man himself, for many in this region!

 

I knew a Jessica Simpson who had the small but obnoxious problem of Facebook thinking her page was fake (and I think a lot of random people tried to friend and message her too).  She had to change the spelling of her display name to disguise it.  I would expect someone with a famous first-last name combo to get comments damn near every time they introduced themself.  Many of them would be small, neutral comments but irksome all the same.

5
February 12, 2018 11:44 PM

My friend Bruce Willis had the same problem on Facebook. He uses his middle name instead of Willis to get around it. He lived life in blissful anonymity until Moonlighting debuted when he was in high school. When my mom was pregnant with one of my younger brothers, my parents chose a perfectly good name. I realized that when paired with our surname, however, his name would be a homonym for a famous southern Civil War figure. That was not what my parents were going for, so they chose another name. I wouldn't intentionally set my kid up for that kind of hassle.

6
February 13, 2018 12:03 AM

Yes, sharing first AND last name with a famous person is too much.  Over the years I have had colleagues named Steve Tyler and Phil Collins, and believe me they do NOT appreciate any rock star jokes and had to insist on Steven and Philip iin the office to try to be taken more seriously in professional settings.  My brother's in-laws include both a James Brown and a Dan Brown.  James goes by Jim and is white so flies under the radar a bit, but Dan has to avoid using his credit card or anything with full name on it because of stuff like waitresses noticing the name and gushing "Oh, I LOVE The Da Vinci Code!!!!" and expecting $100 tips because he's so rich (NOT).  Sometimes these things happen after the fact - I know a Matt Sheppard who is NOT the man murdered in that horrific hate crime.  He was named decades before the tragic murder, of course, but it is hard to have that association with your name wherever you go.

Re: Samuel Adams -- he is obscure enough a historical figure that this isn't a big deal, except for the beer.  Non-Americans: Sam Adams was an American Revolutionary War figure and a beer brewer, and there is a brand of beer called Sam Adams.  Definitely a good idea to NOT name your kid an alcoholic beverage. 

7
February 13, 2018 11:53 AM

There are 240 exact matches for "Benjamin Franklin" in the 1940 U.S. census (as indexed on FamilySearch). This is not counting the thousands of men named Benjamin with Franklin as their middle name. Times have changed: most people nowadays would consider this sort of thing cheesy (or worse).

I would definitely avoid knowingly duplicating the name of a current (or recent) celebrity, but the question gets murky pretty quickly once you start considering historical figures and fictional characters: one person's "yeah, obvious" is another's "uh, who?"

Personally, I would be OK with something like Bennett Franklin, but a bit put off by Sam(uel) Adams. Samantha Adams would be basically doable, though.

So yeah, it depends on the specific association.

If you have a surname that lots of other people have, then there's always the possibility of someone with that name becoming famous later on. I think this is yet another reason that nicknames-as-full are not a good idea: if you're Sam "just Sam" Smith, and someone publishes a popular book under the name Sam Smith, what are your options? Granted, Sam versus Samuel is not the sort of difference that people are likely to notice or remember, but it would help with the Facebook-type problems.

8
February 13, 2018 12:28 PM

Hmm, I don't know about Samantha Adams. How do you feel about Jaqueline Daniels? The Facebook problem might be easier for either of these, but I don't think the teasing potential or in-person problems are much less (every Samantha I have ever known has gone by Sam at least some of the time).

I do think it's a really good reason to use a distinctive middle name if giving a common first with a common last. There's a much higher possibility that someone named Isabella Jones or Michael Lee is going to become (in)famous and make your child's name problematic than with something like Euphonia Jones or Michael Trnzygl.

9
February 13, 2018 6:52 PM

Hehe, your example is amusing me.  There's a currently popular singer named Sam Smith!

10
February 13, 2018 12:15 PM

Personally? I wouldn't touch such a name. I'm even struggling with the thought of using one of my favourite names for a hypothetical future daughter because it would give the same first/last name combo as a fictional character who isn't known by many people: the oldest daughter of Alec and Janet King in the Anne of Green Gables/Road to Avonlea series. Can you come up with her name without looking it up? Probably not, but I've known about her since I was a child. Complicating matters is that my actual daughter has a first name also used in Anne of Green Gables, and while I'm a fan of the series, I'm not a super-fan or anything.

People looooove the opportunity to make "clever" jokes and observations about others' names and I wouldn't wish a lifetime of that for anyone, let alone inflicting it on my own child.

11
February 13, 2018 1:18 PM

Yeah, if I had a dollar for every idiot who made a Hungary/hungry "joke"...

12
February 13, 2018 2:31 PM

I would avoid it if I could, and in fact ruled out one girl's name because of a celebrity connection. 

However, I would consider it under certain circumstances.  If it was a more obscure reference that only people "in the know" would get-like the name of a scientist known only within a specific field or something-I don't think I'd be too bothered. 

I would also see exceptions for a family name.  If Benjamin is a family name on your side, but your husband's surname (which you want to use) is Franklin, I think it'd be OK.  You'll get comments, but they should be easy enough to laugh off with a "yeah, it was actually a family name."  Though in all honesty, I would probably first try to look for a variant name I could use instead.

I would also be more tempted to use a name with a positive or neutral association.  Benjamin Franklin would be more OK than Sam Adams, because Ben Franklin isn't currently the brand name of a nationwide beer. 

I would also be more flexible about names with historic connections in general vs. names that are more current or pop-culture related.  I'd be more likely to use Samuel Adams (even with the beer) than I would something like Paul McCartney.   I think Paul McCartney would lead people to assume Super-Fan in a way that Samuel Adams or Ben Franklin probably won't.

 

13
February 13, 2018 5:08 PM

I too would rule it out. Even a historical association that seems positive (e.g. Benjamin Franklin or Samuel Adams, beer aside) is well known enough that it would be comment-worthy for most people your child meets (my son just had a presentation about Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin both at a recent cub scout meeting under the famous Americans unit).

Moreover, there's the issue that sometimes even postitive, beloved historical figures have new dirt emerging about them (recent actual examples: look, he actually DID know about the delivery of smallpox blankets to the Native Americans, and approved of it! look, he actually DID rape his slaves and father descendants!). The frequency with which counties and elementary schools rename themselves because someone who was a generation ago deemed namesake worthy turns out to be more problematic when viewed through the lens of history suggests to me that one doesn't want to do this with a child's name.

 

14
February 13, 2018 5:10 PM

I once had an embarrassing incident in which I was at a friend's house and had occasion to answer the phone (in the tween years at home alone with my friend, and she was not able to pick up), and the caller identified themselves as Mary Kay. I totally thought it was a solicitation call about the cosmetics company and hung up after a "sorry, not interested", and the family friend named Mary-Kay called back with concern that someone was burglarizing the house. Whoops. 

15
February 22, 2018 2:18 PM

If we named a son Michael, he would share the name with a famous ear biting boxer who goes by Mike.  Since all our boys have New Testament names my parents have suggested Michael repeatedly over the years.  It's a huge no-go.  They don't live with our last namel so I don't think they get how strong the association is.  Even without sharing his first name my kids still get comments all the time about the boxer (and the chicken nuggets). 

16
February 22, 2018 4:56 PM

lots of people suggested James with our surname

17
February 22, 2018 8:22 PM

Seriously or as a joke?

19
By PJ
February 23, 2018 2:20 PM

Yes, agreeing with everything others have said. I once had a coworker first name Jane, last name a variant spelling of Austen. She said that people regularly hung up on her, thinking it was a prank call and that even her studen loan applications had issues. If you can avoid it, there's really no reason to give your child that kind of hassle. 

20
February 23, 2018 3:00 PM

My friend was Julia Roberts until she got married and changed her last name with a considerable amount of relief. Her decision to take her husband's name was seriously influenced by the constant, low-level hassle of dealing with people's little comments and jokes.

21
February 23, 2018 6:14 PM

I had a manager once whose name was Shirley Shelley, which she chose to take on when she married to get away from having been named Shirley Temple.