Naming a child is a surprisingly difficult process. We all know cases where despite the usual 9 months lead time for picking a name, baby arrives and is unnamed for weeks while the parents dither or bicker over a name. The couple in the photo below only announced the Chinese name of their absolutely scrumptious baby some months after the birth.
As a grandparent do you have a role in picking a name for your grandbaby?
For most families, I think, even the British royals, the privilege of choosing baby’s name belongs to the parents. Perhaps this is different in some cultures. For my own children, I approached my mother-in-law, a schoolteacher, to pick Chinese names that had lovely meanings and easy-to-write characters. She did well! She gave us a choice and both my husband and I really liked her suggestions and adopted them.
What if your children choose truly outlandish names?
In the 1970s, a neighbor of mine named his daughter “Moon Lake Love LEEEE”. Did he have a thought for how the poor girl would be teased growing up? There are other unusual baby names out there – Chlorophyll (for a girl, yes really, she’s probably a successfully professional now). And oddly spelled names which parents pick to make their children different and distinct… hmm… that’s a really difficult situation.
Initials also need consideration. If a boy is to be named William Carver Baudette, the initials would be W.C. Baudette which schoolyard bullies will turn into W.C. Bidet. You get the picture.
When’s the time to give feedback on names?
If you’re asked for your opinion before the baby is born, when it can still be changed, then put on your thinking cap, and make sure you give your opinion diplomatically. Once the baby is born and has been named, be wary of giving any negative feedback. If you can’t find nice to say, zip, don’t say anything.
What sort of feedback can you give?
This depends on the content of the feedback. Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan who named their little girl Maxima, revealed in their Lunar New Year Message that baby is also Chen Mingyu. Explaining the name’s meaning, he stated, “Chen after her mother’s family name … and Mingyu represents our hope for a brighter tomorrow for the world.”
So I would say if you have a rich cultural background to draw on, whether it be Arabic, Greek or Indigenous, it would not be unreasonable to gently remind your children that, like baby Max Chan Zuckerberg Mingyu, it would be nice to have this reflected in their baby’s name. Family traditions may apply too.
Base your feedback on some evidence. For example names that roll off the tongue tend to make more favorable impressions. In a study of 500 lawyers, those with easy-to-pronounce names advanced faster and held more senior positions. How about that?
When it is clearly right to give feedback?
Before the baby is born, if the name picked is so ridiculous that people would burst out laughing, then I’d suggest that you’d as diplomatically as possible try and ask that your son or daughter reconsider. Always talk to your own son/daughter and not to their spouse about these delicate issues!
Also I’d suggest that you point them to useful websites where there’s a selection of the worst of the worst baby names
Some examples of difficult baby names are …
EIGHMEY for Amy, JAMMY for Jamie, DIKSHIT Hindi boy’s name – variations on the theme are Akshit, Harshite, VEJONICA combination of Veronica and Jon, DERFLA her parents thought would be a boy and wanted to name him after dear old Uncle Alfred. When she was born, they had to come up with something … Do you see what I mean by laughing out loud?
Are there clear things to avoid?
Please do not have a tug of war over baby’s name. Also do not pay money to your children to sway their opinion. No kidding, this happens!
Whether the name is James, Juliet, Stalin or MaoTseTung, have fun with the little one!
Sweet dreams Grandbaby!