Hi Duana,

My very best friend is due at the beginning of next month, and they don't know what they're having. If it's a girl, it will be a beautiful, classic, but not too common name that you've brought up occasionally on the blog.

The problem is the boy. They can't agree on a name, her husband is quite opinionated when it comes to boy names, and she seems to have "settled" on the one she hates the least. It's a name along the lines of Kash, Ace, Jet, which just doesn't fit into your "Supreme Court test" and like you said the other day, sounds like a cartoon character and makes you judge him before you meet him. All of their boy names fall into this category, so it's not just this one.

I'm less looking for new names (though am open to them) and more looking for advice. How can we go about suggesting other names, or mentioning the whole "athlete or cartoon character" thing, without offending? Am I out of line?

Thanks so much for your insight!


Well, I’m glad my brilliance has inspired your friend where the girls’ name is concerned…

Joking. But mostly because I’m killing time getting to the meat of your question, “what do you do when someone’s about to make a terrible name mistake”, and the answer, “you know what, I don’t have good news for you”.

I know. It’s infuriating. But I have tried – Lord, how I have tried. You wonder whether people are actually blind to the delights of all the other names they’re not currently wrapped up in and what exactly the thought process is that leads someone to Jet and Ace (although the former turned out to be a ridiculously entertaining individual on the first season of Amazing Race Canada).   

I think the only way you can deal with this is by asking questions about the name.  Not quite “So, um…why?” but about the usage of the name. You have to be a little crafty about this.

“So are you just going to call him Jet? No nickname or anything?” 

“No, of course. I only asked because [girls’ name] has so many variants and stuff.  Yeah, I guess it is different for girls – are you going to give him a middle name?”

“Wow, well I guess he’ll be the only one with that name in kindergarten – my friend just named her baby Arthur. I know! So I guess old names are coming back in.”

You don’t disparage the name or even question her wisdom – you just talk about it.   Talk about it in the context it will be used. Talk about it comparatively with other names, make sure she understands the tone of other names that are happening. One thing first-time mothers complain about is that they didn’t realize that everyone (or no one, depending how you feel about these things) is using their baby name and they didn’t realize it until it was too late and they had the 96th Emma on the block.  

This is one of those situations where people who are “mindful” say you have to think about “intent”. If you’re doing this because you legitimately think that your friend may not realize what she’s doing to her baby in terms of his name, ain’t no problem there. If you’re doing it because you think the name is icky, and you want to subtly tell her that she has not met with your approval, well, what can I say? Other people’s names are the world where passive-aggression is alive and well and you will have to bring your snarky comments over by me.