I recently watched a terrible documentary on netflix about Alan Berliner, narcissist. It was actually supposed to be about the science of naming. (Related to work, though it turned out to be useless.) Probably about 80% of the movie was Alan Berliner complaining that there were other people in the world also named Alan Berliner. Or just him saying his name over and over again. (The other 20% was mildly interesting, but not as in-depth as it could have been.)
I have three cousins with the same first name. Two of them were named after the same great-aunt. The other is a step-cousin, so it’s just coincidence (as much as fashions and trends can be coincidental). In my family this is not a big deal. We have a strong tradition of reusing family names, until very recently we’ve had sizable families, and we tend to live a long time. It’s just natural that there’s going to be some overlap. Since we’re spread out all over the country, even when there’s the same first and last name, it doesn’t generally cause much confusion.
My husband’s family feels quite differently on the subject.
I can’t remember if it was just before or just after she married into DH’s family, but my (then childless) sister-in-law gave me a lecture about how she hated it when her friends gave their babies names that she had already laid claim to. She was genuinely angry about it, even though she no longer even lived in the same town as said high school friends. She not so subtly told me two names that I must avoid. I noted with silent irony that these two names just happened to be the top most popular baby names of that year, and if she wanted her future children to have unique names, maybe not the best way to go about it.
And time went on. We had a child. Both prospective boy’s names and girl’s names were family names, as in our tradition (on my side). Presumably we chose ok because we didn’t get any hate-mail.
BIL and SIL had a child. Oddly, they chose the non-traditional family name of my aunt/uncle (on my side, not DH’s!) that we were going to use if we had a second child of the same gender. I have no idea where they got the idea, but because of my SIL’s warning, we had to jettison said name and ability to honor said relative from our potential name-box.
Then BIL and SIL had a second child. Rather than using one of the names SIL had warned me against… they used the name that our DC would have been had ze been the opposite gender. By that point, it seemed like everyone we knew who had had a baby in the past couple years had used the same name (it jumped way up in the naming charts the year DC was born), so we’d moved on (plus my MIL says she always hated that relative)… but how bizarre. It’s not like we kept our potential names a secret or anything.
On my side of the family, these things wouldn’t be a big deal because nobody feels like they have property rights to any specific name. You can name your child the same thing as a cousin, no problem. But, in deference to family peace and tranquility we won’t be “stealing” any names from the in-laws and came up with a new set.
Update: If you want to check out name popularity by year: baby name voyager is fun.
Do you get upset when a friend or relative “steals” a name you’ve chosen? What are your family naming traditions?