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Duana Posted by Duana at February 27, 2012 21:34:16 February 27, 2012 21:34:16

I have a middle name situation that I'd like your opinion on. I'm due in a few weeks with a girl whose name is to be Caroline. My husband and I agreed on it right away and we didn't even need a back up. Probably the easiest thing about the whole pregnancy!

Her middle name hasn't been a cause of strife exactly, but here's the background. In late June, about three weeks after I learned I was pregnant, my younger brother was killed in a drowning accident. At the time, in the midst of trying to maintain sanity and deal with the grief of his loss and the conflicting happiness of having a baby, we decided that, boy or girl, we were going to give the baby my brother's name (Benjamin) as a middle name.

In September, we learned that the baby was a girl! I was ready to tell everyone it would be Caroline Benjamin (our last name is Keith, I thought it all flowed nicely), but my husband, very gently, told me he wasn't sold on "Benjamin" for the middle name for a girl, as he thought it would be a little too "Boy Named Sue." I thought he was being a little silly, since the boy name would be her middle name, not her first, and I tried to not be angrily disappointed, since the poor guy had been dealing with a doubly-crazy, grieving, hormonal wife for the last few months. We found an alternative, "Leigh" which is my Mum's middle name. He said, "We can use your brother's name when we have a boy."

The thing is, as we get closer to her arrival, I am finding that I really want to give her Benjamin as a middle name. We're both fairly sure (99.9%), after a rather trying pregnancy, that we're going to be a "One and Done" family, and, with that decision, it would mean a lot to me to honor my brother's memory.

What are your thoughts on giving a girl a male middle name, and do you think that it is worth re-opening the discussion about it with my husband, or am I just being super-emotional/hormonal since we're getting so close to Caroline's arrival?


First of all, I’m so sorry for your loss, and for the fact that your pregnancy hasn’t been so easy. I’m happy to hear that your daughter Caroline (love this name!) is almost here.

As for the middle name Benjamin, I’m 99.1% on your side. It’s a lovely name and a way to honour your brother. I hope you’ll forgive me using some slightly lighter examples to make my point.

Nobody is going to wonder if Caroline Benjamin isn’t all girl. Instead (especially because I know you’ll tell her why) she’ll feel special to have a name that is significant instead of having the middle name Rose like everyone else in her class. The tradition of naming babies for a relative who has passed exists in many cultures and in various forms – and I don’t believe that you should tamp down your wish to remember your brother’s name just because you happen to be having a girl.  

Not to mention, a common thing for lots of children of both sexes is to have the mother’s maiden name as a middle. Sometimes this name is “Newman” or “Higglesworth” but just as often it’s “Thomas” or “James”. If it were a last name, nobody would bat an eye – just as nobody will here.  

The other thing that makes this kind of a perfect situation is that having a baby girl bear the name of your brother is removed enough that nobody feels pressure to compare them. If you had a little boy, there might be a lot of “Oh, he does X or Y…remember when Benjamin did that too?” This way there’s all the warmth and loveliness of an honour name, and none of the pressure.

The 1% that isn’t totally on board with Benjamin in the middle spot has waned as I’ve typed this response – but it’s for a reason you might not expect. You’re right that the names flow really nicely: Caroline Benjamin Keith does have, in a way, three first names but that would be true regardless of what name went in the middle (unless it was the aforementioned “Higglesworth”). Most of the time she will be Caroline B. LastName, and will be proud to have such a thoughtful name.

Not everyone uses the middle name (or any name) as an honour spot, not everyone reuses names in their family at all. In your case it’s perfect and, above all, thoughtful, instead of just a placeholder between first and last.

Wish you all the luck in the world, and can’t wait to hear about it when she arrives!



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