Hi Duana,

I am currently expecting a baby girl and have found myself in the middle of some family drama. My husband and I are planning to name our daughter Caroline which greatly upset his brother and his brother's wife. They currently have a six-month-old boy (Andrew) but before the baby was born, they shared with the family that their girl name was Charlotte. Now, they are accusing us of "stealing" their baby name. I was honestly shocked because I did not realize that Caroline and Charlotte have similar roots until my sister-in-law pointed it out (they are both female versions of Charles). 

However, I am still kind of struggling with the idea that I "stole" Caroline. I think it sounds fairly different from Charlotte and that it would be fine for two cousins to have these names. Also, and I know this is a little petty, but there is no guarantee that my brother and sister-in-law will even have more kids or that they will ever have a girl.

I am a long time reader of your column and I know that many people write about the insensitivity of family or friends who use "their" baby names. I guess I would like your take on naming my daughter Caroline. Is it ok to use this name? Or would it make me one of those insensitive jerks?

Thanks for your help!
Best, A



This is a nice, easy, satisfying Friday afternoon answer – your in-laws are WAY the hell if not out of line, then certainly up their own asses in a most entitled manner.

Yeah, sure, both names are derived from Charles on some level but… SO? How many people know that, or more importantly, care – except for people who are reading derivatives and variations of every name they’re considering? Come on now! 

You know which names are derived from Margaret? Daisy. And also Peggy. Oh, and Margot. And Greta. Would anyone outside of a baby book ever link all of these together? You know which names are derived from Elizabeth? ALL OF THEM. Betty AND Liza AND Elspeth AND a million other names you wouldn’t automatically think are linked. 

Look, they have you on a technicality, but the names couldn’t be more different. There are SO many names derived from Charles, and are they going to put a kibosh on Charlie and Chaz and Charlize and Carl and Carlo? It’s not like we’re talking about Laura & Lara (or Laura & Lauren)… 

…not least because there is no baby Charlotte to speak of just yet. Or possibly ever, unless they know something we don’t. 

This is ridiculous, and you don’t need to be worried that you’re stealing anyone’s (theoretical) name, especially since they hadn’t talked about Charlotte since before they had their first child. Often people’s opinions about those names they ‘would have used if’ change after they meet a real-life flesh-and-blood child and rethink what to name anyone else they’re adding to their family. 

If you wanted to be EXTREMELY conciliatory – unnecessarily, I might add – you could name her Carolina or something to further distinguish between the two, or give her a totem first name so that they could sniff about her actually being named Meredith Caroline, or something, but you definitely don’t have to, and can chalk this up to extreme pettiness with no obligation to ‘make it right’. 

Let us know!