Names have a huge psychological impact on us–which is not necessarily a secret–if anything, it’s common sense. This is precisely why choosing a name for your baby is a difficult process–because a name is often the first way someone will identify with your child. Recently, Cosmopolitan published an article written by a mom who ended a 30 year friendship–all because of a name.
In the article, writer Megan Woolsey describes an idyllic friendship with Jessica–from childhood to bridesmaids to becoming new moms together. However, it suddenly soured when Jessica named her second child Elsie–which is also the name of one of Woolsey’s own daughters. Of course, we all understand that we have strong associations with certain names because of friends, family, and cultural meanings, but does that mean no one else in your life can use those names?
Woolsey goes on to explains why she was so offended in the article:
“My daughter’s name was very special to me. I had chosen the name for my daughter a long time before I had even conceived her because I had seen it in a special book, and I loved it instantly. I chose this name because it was a very unusual Jewish name (at the time), and I knew no one else would have it (later it became very popular).
My heart sank. Why would she do this? There are so many names to choose from, so why would she choose my special name? And if she wanted my name, why wouldn’t she at least ask me if it was OK—out of respect?”
After confronting Jessica over email, neither have spoken to each other in the three years since. And apparently, Woolsey isn’t the only one who feels this way–TODAY ran a poll on baby naming, and over half of the 12,000 respondents felt “that baby-name stealing is a real phenomenon, and that if parents-to-be know another couple has plans for a name, they shouldn’t use it.”
Sidenote: Remember that “Seinfeld” episode where George tells people about using Seven as a baby name, and he gets upset when someone steals it? Well, if you don’t, take a brief moment to relive that scene:
Of course, this name-stealing feeling seems to focus more on friends, rather than family–since many families have baby naming traditions (like Jewish baby naming traditions, for instance). Tristan Bridges, a sociologist, found that 35% of all girl and boy names in 1950 had been in the top 10 slot at the time. However, this number significantly decreased to 8% by 2010. He credits this change to the important of religious traditions and family traditions decreasing over time.
It’s also interesting to note that the “Freakonomics” duo Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have discovered that baby-naming is now an aspirational process, meaning parents choose names they think will benefit their kids professionally. And in many ways, their child’s name becomes a sense of identity for the parents as well.
In a world where I grew up going to school with multiple Jennifers, Stephanies, Jessicas, Emilys, and Lisas–and we all did just fine–it seems the reasons why people choose certain names has obviously changed. For me, I’m more interested in discovering why the process has changed, rather than passing judgment.
What do you think? Would you, or have you been, terribly offended when a close friend has chosen a name you also chose for your child? Tell us in the comments below.