Etiquette – What to do if you don’t like the baby name they picked?

If you’re an aunt, uncle, friend, or grandparent who doesn’t like the name the new parents are picking out for the baby, you might be wondering what you can do.

The good news is that it’s great that you’re taking an interest in the baby before it’s even born. The bad news is that there is very little you can do if you don’t like the name that the parents picked out for the baby.

When there is a real problem:
If you think there is a serious problem with the name then it’s fine to bring up this issue. It’s quite possible the parents weren’t aware of this and will be very grateful for your input. A serious problem is something that goes beyond you ‘not liking it’. These could be things like:

  • The name means a bad word in the primary or secondary language of the area. This is very rare but it can happen.
  • The initials of the name spell something unfortunate, e.g. PMS or ZIT .
  • The first name in combo with the last name make an unfortunate sequence that could set them up for being picked on at school later, e.g. Anita Dick.
  • There is something else that the parents might be unaware of that might pose a specific problem. E.g. Perhaps the parents picked a name that has very strong religious connotations – but they’re not of that religion and you happen to know they would not want a religious connection to their baby’s name.

How to say it:
Ask, don’t tell. Ask the parents if they were aware of this potential problem and if it bothers them. Phrase it like this: “Were you aware that the initials of your child will be FAT? Do you think this will cause problems for the child in school later on?” Do not say: “You should never call your child that.”

Other problems can seem to loom large, but really they probably aren’t as big of an impact as you think.
For example, if others in the extended family are using – or want to use – the same name, why worry? No-one ‘owns’ a name. There is nothing wrong with several Sarah’s in a family, or several William’s or several Sequoia’s. If the last names will be different there is even less cause for confusion. Certainly you can point it out if two children in the same extended family will have the same first and last names spelt exactly the same way, but again, ask don’t tell. E.g. “Were you aware that your cousins had a baby last week with the same name?”

If you just don’t like the name or it doesn’t appeal to you (too old-fashioned, too new-fangled, too short, too long, etc) then there really isn’t anything you can do about that either. You will just have to bite your tongue – it’s up to the parents to select the name, not you. Just focus on looking forward to meeting the new baby when it arrives!

In a nutshell:

  1. There are no names that will appeal to everybody out there. No matter what name the parents pick, someone won’t like it. Don’t take this personally if you’re the one who doesn’t like it.
  2. It’s difficult enough for two people: the parents, to agree upon a baby name they really like! If they solicit advice from a third person or more, they may never be able to find any name that all people like.
  3. Do call the child by the name the parent wants the child to go by. If you refuse to call the child by the name the parents want, you risk alienating not only the parents but the child too. Once a child is old enough to understand what his name is, he may feel rejected if you tell him you’re calling him ‘Sport’ because you don’t like his real name.
  4. If you feel there is a genuine specific problem with the name, beyond you not liking it, then by all means bring it up as described in this article. But the final choice of the name is up to the parents.

Congratulations on being a caring and involved individual! And rest assured this baby name won’t always seem unappealing to you. The child takes on the name and makes the name their own. When the name is associated with a cute bundle of joy, it makes all the difference in the world.