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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Using One Side's Naming Tradition or the Other Side's Honor Name?

Rachel writes:
I’ve been a daily reader of your blog, even before pregnancy, and would be honored to receive some advice from you (and your readers)!  Ever since I asked for a baby name book for my birthday in junior high, I’ve been in love with names—but naming my own child has been trickier than I thought!

My name is Rachel and my husband is Steve and we’re expecting our first baby, a boy, August 1st.  Our last name is Trude11e.

When we found out we’re having a boy, I knew I’d get stuck on the middle name.  My husband’s middle name is Joseph, and it has been a tradition for many generations to give Joseph as a middle name to the first-born son in the family.  However, I lost my dad when I was 19 and have hoped to use one of his names, Eric or Stewart, in the middle name spot.  My husband knows that this is important to me, and his family has even said that we can drop the Joseph tradition if we want to.  I feel bad doing this though, and wonder if I should just wait to honor my dad in a future baby’s name somehow.  Another option is giving this baby two middle names, but I am not sure how Joseph Eric, Eric Joseph, Joseph Stewart, or Stewart Joseph sound together.  I’ve even considered trying part of my maiden name (Erland), which I feel would also honor my father and my grandfather. But again, I’m just not sure about the flow (Joseph Erland isn’t really the cutest).  Or, I would feel better dropping Joseph if we used another family name from my husband’s side.  For example, my dad’s name and my father in law’s would make the middle name combo Eric Paul.  My husband has said he doesn’t really like two middle names, and I go back and forth on it.

I wish I weren’t so consumed with the middle name/tradition/honor issue because it totally takes some of the fun away from picking a first name (your advice to first-time parents about trying not to choose a middle name first is so true!).  When it comes to first names, we seem to have two different naming styles that we like: Timeless and Antique Charm. We had many girls names we liked, including Claire, Clara, Eliza, Lucy…but of course we’ll have to wait and see if we can ever use them!  Here’s what we’ve come up with for our favorites, but are still looking out for others we love.

Thomas: We like the nickname Tom, and even the alliteration of Tom Trude11e

Henry:  I went through a streak of loving Henry and the nickname Hank, but now we’re just ok with it.

August: Both of us like this name and the nickname possibilities (Augie and Gus) but we’ve received negative feedback from family (everything from it sounds “feminine” to “what if he’s born in July?”).  I’m also not sure if the blending of August with the T last name is a problem.

Miles:  Also a favorite for both of us.  I actually like Milo as a nickname, even though I know it’s a stand-alone choice.  We’re both runners and met on the cross-country team (so miles has that meaning for us too), but we’ve received some eye rolls for this.  Is that an annoying connection?

Felix:  Probably our favorite choice at the moment.  Felix is a family name (Felix Joseph was one of my husband’s ancestors) and my husband really loves it.  I like it too, even though my family members aren’t fans (they all say “like the cat??”). 

Do any of these seem to flow nicely with our middle name or names?  What do you think about dropping a family tradition in order to honor someone?  I’d love any advice!

Thanks so much,

It's so pleasing and refreshing to read how considerate both sides are being: your in-laws don't want to force you to use their naming tradition, and you feel bad about the idea of abandoning it. It sounds like everyone is being very understanding, and that there won't be hard feelings no matter what you decide. In some ways this makes things more difficult, because it makes me want to make everyone happy, instead of making me want to say, "Traditions are not requirements!! Everyone gets to name their own baby!!" Instead I find myself thinking, "Gosh, it would be a shame to lose that tradition..."

The solution that leaps out at me is to use your dad's name in the first-name slot. This lets you honor him and also meet the naming tradition of your husband's side of the family. Eric Joseph Trude11e is my top choice. It takes away some of the fun of choosing the name, since in a sense both names are chosen for you---but I think it trades a good level of satisfaction and honor and problem-solving for the fun it extracts. As a long-term investment, I think it's a good one---and for your NEXT baby you can choose both the names and that will be even more fun to have that new experience.

I'm not sure what my second choice would be. Two middle names doesn't quite please: it seems to diminish both honors too much. On the other hand, it does make sure you'll get to use both. Using a different name from your husband's side seems like the worst of both worlds: a double middle name AND not using their tradition. I'd rather use two middle names that didn't go beautifully together, but have one of them be Joseph.

Using your dad's name for a second boy works better than trying to bend the first-son naming tradition to use it for a second boy (the next generation would be a little stuck: would the secondborn boy use Joseph for his firstborn son, or would the not-named-Joseph firstborn pick up the tradition again for his son?), so that would argue for the Joseph-then-dad order of turn-taking---but the possibility of then not having a second boy makes me very nervous. It would help so much if we could just KNOW what selection of children we would need to find names for, so we could PLAN!

I guess that my second choice would be to gamble on having a second boy (or plan on using Erica for a daughter's middle name), especially if you're planning more than one additional child. It IS a gamble, but I think if you don't want to use your dad's name in the first-name slot for this child, it's my favorite second-best option. (Though I could also get behind the plan to use your dad's name as the middle name and abandon the Joseph tradition.) I might then increase the honor by giving a second son two middle names: your dad's first and last. If Eric is your dad's first name, then, I'd name a second son ______ Eric Erland Trude11e. (That does create a lot of possible initial-spellings, though: FEET, MEET, etc.)

If you instead choose to go with two middle names, I'd use Joseph and whichever name is your dad's first name, and choose the order based on the sound with the first and last names. I don't think the sound/flow matters overly much: two middle names is going to make things a bit bulky, so I'd just go for the best you can do. The middle names are likely to all but vanish after the birth announcements go out.

I think the Miles/miles connection is a nice meaning for the two of you, but something I'd keep private to avoid the pun-related eye-rolling and subsequent inevitable jokes ("What will you name your next child, 'Kilometers'? Har har har!").

Felix is one of my own current favorites, and I think the cartoon-cat association will fade as the name becomes more popular (and will fade for your family as soon as they see their own little Felix). Considering the cat has been out of production/style since the silent movie era, I'm a little surprised the association lingers as much as it has; it would be like having people say "Like CHAPLIN??" for every baby named Charlie. I have a stronger association with the 35-year-old TV show The Odd Couple, but neither association seems deal-breaking to me. The answer to "Oh, like the cat??" or "Oh, like Felix Unger??" is a smiling, puzzled "...No. It's a family name." But it seems like using a first name, middle name, AND surname from your husband's side is getting too uneven. Perhaps the first son could be Eric Joseph, and the second could be Felix Erland.

August doesn't seem feminine to me, though it's less boys-only than the other names on your list: 116 girls and 705 boys in 2011, according to the Social Security Administration.

And Thomas and Henry are both good solid choices too. I really think you have a good list to choose from.

What does everyone else think they should do about the two honor names?

Name update! Rachel writes:
We appreciated all of your advice and the comments from your readers!  We finally decided on baby Trude11e's name the day after his birthday (August 6th).  Although a big part of me really wanted to honor my dad by using his name (Eric) in the middle name slot, we decided to stick with tradition and use the middle name that my husband's side has been using for multiple generations (Joseph).  We'll use my dad's name, or a variation of it, for a future child--it's a special honor that we'll save just for him or her. :)
Here is our little Miles Joseph Trude11e.  We like to call him "Milo," and are in love with this little guy.  Thank you again for your help!


Anonymous said...

I like Eric Joseph and Miles Eric Joseph!

AirLand said...

I agree that Eric Joseph is my favorite too!

But, if you don't want to go that way, I think you should do two middle names. It sounds way too important to you to use both names and what if you don't end up having another child?

I really like August- but I don't know if I would name a child August who was born in August (I'd be more likely to use it for a child born in any other month). That's just me though. It's a great name. I like August Joseph Eric.

Miles is not my favorite name normally, but I think your cross-country story is cute! It's wonderful to be able to tell your child a story of where his name came from. Miles Eric Joseph.

Your other names are great too. I don't think you can go wrong.

If you do only want one middle name, I'd use Eric. I think honoring someone as special as your father will mean more to you and your family than upholding a tradition.

Jen said...

I too like Eric in the first name slot. I think my second option would be to save it and if you have a girl next time, you could use Erica. The third option would be to use Joseph Eric or vice versa double middle combo. I do think if you use Felix, you would use an honor name from your father for the middle.

sarah said...

I think you should go with Eric Joseph. My favorite from your other choices is Felix. Two middle names wouldn't bother me, I think Felix Joseph Stewart Trude11e sounds great!

liz said...

Another vote for Eric in the first name slot, Joseph in the second.

Eric Joseph is a strong, timeless, name and does honor to your dad and the naming tradition.

Anonymous said...

I think that I would use your father's name as the middle and then alter tradition a tiny bit and assuming you have a daughter down the road use Joesphine in the middle, your son will likely always have your husbands family's last name but this way a potential daugther would carry a piece of family history as well, and you get the opporunity to honor your father with your first born child without diluting it with 2 middle names, an option you seem unsure of.

Laura said...

I think you should go whole hog and use two middles - my pick out of your list is Thomas Eric Joseph, followed by Henry Joseph Stewart. What if you don't have another boy? Honoring both sides is ok, and even if you did have another boy, I am sure there are other family names that boy could have.

Sarah A said...

I vote for using Eric in the first name spot. Eric Joseph sounds very handsome. If you really don't like Eric as a first name, I vote for Felix Joseph. I think the tradition of Joseph as a middle name for every oldest boy seems really special and I wouldn't break it. Even if you never have another boy, Erica on a girl (first or middle) would work well to honor your father. Congratulations!

Trudee said...

Like your husband, I'm not a fan of two middle names. So my first choice would be to use one of your dad's names first with Joseph. Eric Joseph T or Stewart Joseph T. I like both.

If you don't want to use one of those for the first, then I would save your dad's name for the second child. I think it would be nice for the second child to have something special like that since the first will have this Joseph tradition. And Eric makes it useable for a boy or a girl (Erica), which is pretty lucky.

In terms of other first name options, I like them all. Personally, I think Thomas goes best for flow. But I think they all sound good, except maybe August. August Joseph doesn't flow as well for me. But that's just me, and I love the nicknames with that one.

Good luck! Let us know what you decide.

Anonymous said...

I'm with those who think you should take advantage of the fact that all three of your potential honor names have viable female forms: Erica, Josephine/Joanna, and Stephanie (assuming you don't hate those female forms, and plan to have a second child). It seems like if you use two very significant middle names for the first child, you might end up struggling to make your second child's name as significant...and expanding a family tradition to acknowledge that a second and/or female child is just as important as the first son is a great way to make that tradition stronger instead of breaking it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, just caught that your dad's middle name was Stewart, which doesn't really have a female form, not Stephen. That still leaves you with one very adaptable honor name on each side though, and Erland may fit better with the names you want to consider for the next baby as well.

SM said...

I agree with Sarah A. above. I would use Joseph as the middle name here, and then use Erica or Eric for the next baby. I really like Erica Trude11e a LOT!

For me, Eric Trude11e sounds a little choppy. I don't like the hard "c" sound before the "T".
Good luck!

gail said...

My vote is to go with either Thomas Erland Trude11e or Miles Erland Trude11e. I cannot help but feel that the fact that you lost your father at such a young age trumps your husband's family tradition. Second best would be to go with Thomas Eric or Miles Eric. I say all this loving the name Joseph, too. (You don't say whether Eric or Stewart were your father's first name, so I've assumed Eric. If it was Stewart, then I'd go with Thomas Stewart or Miles Stewart, even with the "s"s sliding together a bit.

Good luck to you, please let us know what you decide.

In the post before yours, I weighed in with the opinion that the surname already honors the husband's family, so using a middle name from the same family is somewhat lopsided in terms of honoring. There are just so many ways for the woman's side of the family to get genealogically lost which seems so unfair given that she is bearing the children.

I think Eric or Erica are best left to the middle name slot simply because they are a tad out of step with this new generation, something I've reluctantly come around to thinking is important, too. But yes--Erica and Josephine are both options for future names.

Megz said...

I would vote for either Eric Joseph Trude11e or for moving Joseph to the first name slot and naming him Joseph Eric Trude11e, initials and potential nickname JET. I think Joseph is pretty current in terms of style and lets you honour all sides.

Next best would be saving Eric/a for a future child, however this could be a risk if you don't end up having any more children.

Honestly I think all your names go pretty well together. Apart from Felix Eric perhaps.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Miles Eric Joseph Trude11e is an OUTSTANDING name! Please stop running your choices past unsupportive people. This choice honours your meeting, your preferences, your family honour, his family tradition, has no tricky alliteration and is a strong masculine boy and man's name. Do it!

Mrs s said...

I'm Not a fan of 2 mn either.... So I'd go with Felix Joseph. I love this name. Eli Joseph was on my list. Or I'd save Joseph or Josephine for baby # 2. And use one of the other choices for this lil guy.

Anonymous said...

I thought Eric Joseph seemed perfect until I read the other names on your list. Eric does seem very different from your usual style-but for an honor name I think that would be OK. How would you feel about swapping Joseph to first? Joseph Eric or Joseph Stewart are also nice. I also like the suggestion of using Eric or Stewart now and using Josephine for a girl. Doesn't seem fair for the girls to be left out. If none of these work for you, I think Joseph Eric would be fine as double middles. Miles Joseph Eric is especially nice-Miles is short and sweet which seems to balance the length of having 2 middles.

Anonymous said...

I like Stewart Joseph for a boy and I know a girl that has her mother maiden name of Stewart as her middle name her first name is Megan. She goes by stu to all of her friends and in school she is Megan.

StephLove said...

I'd go with two middles. The names are mostly short and mix and match well so almost any combination works but I like

Felix Joseph Eric T.
Miles Eric Joseph T.
Thomas Joseph Stewart T.
August Joseph Stewart T.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to think about what name you would be MORE disappointed in NOT using if you don't end up having another boy in the future. It seems to me that the Joseph tradition is nice, but may not cause as much heart ache if you don't get to use it. Honoring your dad on the other hand seems incredibly important. If you choose not to use Eric as a first name, I would use it in the middle name slot.

Another Erin from the 80s said...

This was a hard one.... I understand why you wouldn't want to use Eric as the first name. I like the idea using Eric for boy #2 or Erica for a girl. here are my votes for this baby...
Ericson Joseph
Miles Joseph
Joseph Ericson ("jet" initials)

Brittany said...

I like Eric Joseph if you like Eric enough to use as your son's first name. If your husband is willing to do two middle names, my favorite is Miles Eric Joseph, though you have several great possibilities and I think anything you pick will be great. If you have to pick between honoring your dad and carrying on the middle name tradition, which would YOU rather do? I think I'd want to pick honoring my dad, but as other posters have said, you can do that with a second child, boy or girl, if you feel ok waiting for that.

Bethany Haid said...

I vote... name your own baby!!

I didn't, not exactly. My son is Daniel H. the SEVENTH. I felt like I could not break tradition, but now I really wish I would have named him William, because he is a perfect Will.

I like the Miles tradition, even if it is corny. Its a for-real name.

I think you should think of what you and your husband want instead of deferring to family tradition. Of course, this coming from me who didn't trust her gut and tried to please in laws. :(

I also dislike the connotation of first son vs second son on naming honors. My brother in law, not the sixth Dan, but a Wesley instead, feels weird at age 27 when people bring up the family naming tradition.

I much prefer honor names over tradition names, but that's just coming from me, a mother of a nearly three year old who just realized baby name regret in the last year or so.

Anonymous said...

Like Swistle, and others, I immediately thought, why not honour your father with a first name? Both Eric Joseph and Stewart Joseph are such great names. Eric Joseph is perfect.

However, I'll assume you've already thought of this and ruled it out. In that case, I don't think two middle names is odd or unruly at all (both of my kids have two middles, so I'm biased - but look at those royal families - they've heaps of names, all with meaning!) Of your list, I love Miles Eric Joseph (I like the connection to both of you and running - raising your son will be the best, most fulfilling, challenge you've ever undertaken!) Felix is also great (I've no idea who Felix the Cat is!) and Thomas is one of my favourite names.

An advantage to using one of your father's names in a middle spot is that, should you have another son, you could use the other name as his first middle name (e.g. 1st son: Miles Eric Joseph, 2nd son: Thomas Stewart __)

My top choices are:
Eric Joseph
Miles Eric Joseph
Thomas Stewart Joseph
Felix Eric Joseph

Emily Grace said...

I love, love, love Eric Joseph Trude11. :) I am a ridiculously large fan of family/honor names. I also think the name Eric sounds friendly and I love how serious the whole name sounds without being too stuff. Good luck!

Patricia said...

Another vote for Eric Joseph. Eric is a solid, friendly name (like Tom) and using it as your son's first name makes it possible for you to honor your father, while also carrying on your husband's family tradition of first born sons having Joseph as their middle name. (I wouldn't want to be the one to break a family tradition of several generations.)

But if you strongly want a 'new' first name, then I would use Eric Joseph as the middle name. It seems to me that when you think of Eric Joseph as sort of a single name (like 'Eric-Joseph'), it sounds fine with each of your possible first names. I would put the honor name Eric first, followed by the traditional middle name Joseph, eg. Thomas Eric Joseph Trude11e.

Brooke said...

I like Eric Joseph or Miles Eric Joseph. I agree that I would probably keep the meaning of miles somewhat hush-hush, because while I think it's a sweet nod to your connection, I could see how people would find it cheese or a "reach" to pick a name with meaning. If you like Felix over Miles, I'd go with Felix Eric Joseph - Felix just isn't my style. Good luck!

nieke said...

How about saving Joseph for a second child? I feel like honouring your Dad takes priority, and it would be nice to tweak the tradition especially if you have a girl (Lucy Josephine? yes please!).

All of the names on your list are wonderful. People who think his name sounds like a cat or that he isn't born in the right month will get over that! I might roll my eyes at the Miles connection, while secretly finding it cute and wishing I had thought of it first.