Hi Duana:

Question - how do you sway someone from the name they have their heart set on?

My sister and her husband are due in about a month - they don't know the sex - and have two names they're think they're set on.  Girl: Mackenzie. Boy: Gage.  (They haven't decided middle names.)  I'm fine with Mac - but Gage?  *shudder* Is there any way to nicely suggest this is not a good idea? E


Two issues here.  The first is whether your sister’s choices are bad, and another is how to convince someone they should reconsider.  The official answer to the second question is “It’s none of your business” and that’s true in the strictest sense.  People can name their kids whatever-the-hell, and for the record, I am against the laws some countries have that forbid certain names, as I believe in people’s rights to make disastrous choices.

But if we didn’t discuss other people’s bad choices, this site wouldn’t exist.   So with that in mind:

I think you’re exactly wrong.

Gage is what you have a problem with?  Gage?  Gage sounds to me like he’s gonna be vaguely quiet as a kid, the kind who really does think he’ll be an architect when he grows up.  Then, after a flirtation with being a banjo player, he’ll grow up and be attractive and also like reading, and probably have an affection for things of a tortoiseshell bent.  Where’s the problem?  I know people have different names that rub them the wrong way, but I can’t find anything wrong with Gage.  It’s like Gabe, which is universally acknowledged to be great – but less common.  Are you upset because you’ve never heard it before?  Isn’t that a good thing?

On the other hand, I still think you should talk to them, because Mackenzie?  Seriously?  I mean, it’s spelled correctly and all, and I’d far prefer Mackenzie to Ma’kayla, but it’s the 2000s equivalent of Jennifer.  It sounds fine but not that great, and it’s been so diluted by overuse that my overwhelming association is of…a mall.  I expect to go to a mall and meet millions of twelve-year-old Mackenzies.  Is that fair? Probably not.  But it’s true, and I’m not sure it’s salvageable.

Regardless of where you and I differ, we’re together on whether you should talk to your sister and brother-in-law.  I think the answer is yes, with the caveat that it might not actually change their minds.  Herewith, the art of gently manipulating someone’s baby name choices:

You’re going to want to ask judgy questions.  “Do you WANT him to end up on the pole?” and etc.  Resist this urge.  Instead, it’s about how the name will be used…
“So do you think you guys are going to be nickname people, or…”

“Yeah, because I can imagine there will be a lot of Mackenzies in her class, so she might end up being Mackenzie R.” 

“Yeah, that is a nice meaning, but he won’t announce the meaning to people when he meets them so…do you like it enough, you know, on its own?”

Chances are, because choosing names out of all the others in the world is a nigh-on-impossible task, this will crack their insecurity and they will fold like deck chairs.  “Well we actually wanted Rachel but then we thought no, because of Friends, and…”  From here, you can steer things the way you want them to go.  


If you hate a name (what’s wrong with Gage?!?) your mission is not to get them to choose a name you like merely to get them to let go of the horrible one.  So if you actually succeed in getting them to their second choice, you better put up and shut up.  I don’t want to hear it if you think “Henry” is pretentious.

As always, let me know what happens!