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As the Olympics are on, here is a light-hearted look at the competitive world of “name stealing”. Being a competition, I have sorted them into teams, and awarded each entrant a prize, which hopefully will fix their naming dilemmas.

These are not real situations or real people – and they are definitely not real names of real babies. I lurked in parenting forums and also quizzed people about baby name stealing they had witnessed or experienced (or even committed), and as themes came up repeatedly, made them into stock characters and plots. If you think you recognise someone you know (or yourself), it’s because these disagreements seem to repeat over and over again.

During my months of research, I noticed a few things about “name stealing”:

  • Younger parents seemed to be more concerned about name stealing than older ones (but possibly younger people are more likely to share their stories on the Internet).
  • People who appeared less educated seemed more concerned about name theft (but maybe educated people were less likely to speak openly about their personal affairs)
  • Parents-to-be who had chosen names that are fairly popular or well-known seemed to be most susceptible to fears about name theft, and the most upset about people stealing “their” name.
  • It was an almost entirely female preoccupation, with the few men involved usually being dragged into it by their partners, or stuck between two women. I did not find one example of two fathers fighting over names by their own initiative.
  • I didn’t notice any significant difference between the numbers of boys names and girls names that were believed to have been “stolen”, but my impression was that women were more likely to become attached to names they had chosen for a son, and more likely to become emotionally volatile if they felt the name was under threat. Perhaps coincidentally, the few times I saw men became involved in a baby name feud, it was over a daughter’s name.
  • The longer someone had liked a name, the more likely they were to feel ownership over it, and the more possessive they were in regards to it.
  • Family disagreements over baby names were more acrimonious than ones between friends – probably because it’s harder to escape from a family member than a friend. However, plenty of people became upset over a perceived name theft even from a distant acquaintance.
  • Disagreements in small communities were more heated than ones between people in big cities – again, probably because it’s harder to escape someone in a small town.
  • Feuds over baby names could be long-standing or even permanent, and in extreme cases, passed on to the next generation.
  • People who don’t believe that “name stealing” exists have almost zero sympathy for its “victims”. Astute Readers will be able to tell I belong to this sceptical group.

TEAM FACEBOOK FEUD

Claire and her partner Scott are expecting a baby boy, and after a lot of discussion, they eventually agree upon the name Zachariah. Claire wastes no time in announcing their decision on Facebook. To her surprise, she receives a hurt and angry message from one of her FB friends, Meagan. Meagan says that they all chose their favourite baby names back in high school, when they were 14, and Zachariah was her name! She demands that Claire change her choice of baby name, or she will de-friend her at once. Claire has no memory of any such discussion in high school, while Meagan doesn’t believe that Claire can have forgotten, and thinks she is a liar as well as a name-thief. Soon she decides that Claire has been plotting to steal the name Zachariah for the past eight years.

Awarded to Claire: First rights to the name Zachariah, and the suggestion to be more circumspect in her use of social media.

Awarded to Meagan: This Facebook page. Maybe it will help somehow.

TEAM “THE DOG STOLE MY BABY NAME”

Jo has let all her friends know that her expected baby boy will be named Oscar. To her indignation, next time she visits her pal Vanessa, she finds that she has named her new bulldog puppy Oscar. Vanessa says that it can’t be helped – her dog just looks like an Oscar. An enraged Jo is now looking for another baby name.

Awarded to Jo: A calculator, so she can subtract the length of a bulldog’s life from the length of a man’s, thus demonstrating her son would have 72 years where he wouldn’t be sharing his name with the dog.

Awarded to Vanessa: A box of puppy treats for Oscar.

TEAM NAME NAZI

Katrina spends a lot of time on baby name forums, and considers herself quite the expert. She often shares her 101 “name rules” with friends, and tries to impress upon them how much more knowledgeable she is about names, and how superior her tastes are. Katrina has over 400 baby name combinations collected in a Word file, which she likes to show friends, online and in real life. Of course, she cannot possibly use all of them, and she doesn’t have a partner or any plans to get pregnant as yet, but she is well and truly prepared for when it occurs. When her friend Gemma announces the name of her new baby girl, Katrina is shocked and angry to find that she has used Name Combination #219 without asking permission – Cleo Araminta Lilac. Apparently Gemma became so convinced that Katrina’s tastes were better than her own that using a name she had come up with seemed the only route possible.

Awarded to Katrina: The joy of seeing one of her name creations on a real live baby, and the suggestion that she get a blog so she can boss strangers around instead of her friends.

Awarded to Gemma: My congratulations on her new baby, and the suggestion that she try to develop her own own tastes, rather than allowing herself to be brainwashed.

TEAM FAMILY INTERFERENCE

David and his wife Karin are expecting a baby girl. At a family dinner party, David finds himself seated next to Karin’s formidable sister-in-law Felicia, who asks what names they have picked out. David explains they aren’t sharing them before the birth, to which SIL responds, “Well don’t even think about Scarlett – I’m using it if we ever have another girl, and you can’t have two Scarletts in one family”. David is disconcerted, because Scarlett is their first choice for their daughter. He now feels that if they go ahead and use it, they will be accused of name stealing the moment they announce the new baby’s name.

Awarded to David: First rights to the name Scarlett, and the spine to stand up to his wife’s relations.

Awarded to Felicia: The chance to discover whether the world really does explode if there are two girls named Scarlett in the same family.

TEAM RENESMEE

Chantelle is very proud of her new baby boy’s name, because she created it herself – it’s Kyden, which is a combination of her parent’s names, Kylie and Dennis. She is furious when she discovers that Becca from her gym also has a little boy about the same age named Kyden. Becca likewise created her baby name by combining two names – that of her brothers, Kye and Jayden. Chantelle and Becca are each absolutely certain that Kyden is a unique name, and therefore the other woman must have stolen it from them. They are both upset that their son’s name’s specialness has been tarnished.

Awarded to Chantelle and Becca: A copy of Breaking Dawn. That will explain everything. Also, different gym schedules.

TEAM CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS

Alicia is terrified that her older sister Nicole will use all her favourite baby names before she gets a chance to. She throws a massive tantrum, and demands that Nicole sign a contract promising that she will never use Alicia’s favourite names. There are about twenty names on the list, and for some reason, Nicole agrees to this and willingly signs the contract. In due course, Alicia has three children – none of whom are given names from the dreaded “name contract”. Nicole is now rather annoyed, as there were two or three names on the list that she would have liked to use for herself.

Awarded to Alicia and Nicole: I think a time-travelling lawyer is the only thing that can fix this situation.

TEAM EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL

Alex and Sam are expecting a baby girl, and have already chosen the name Isabel for her. They have warned their family and friends that they have “reserved” the name in advance, and like a bunch of chumps, said family and friends agree. All goes merrily until a cousin announces that their new baby will be called Elizabeth. Alex and Sam immediately ask them to change it, as it is too close to Isabel. They intend to use the nickname Izzy, and this will clash with a potential Lizzie. Cousin protests they weren’t going to use Lizzie as a nickname, but Alex and Sam are very persuasive. Both gentle, charming people, they have had a difficult time with fertility which evokes much sympathy, and have a way of becoming tearful and pleading that others find difficult to resist. As time goes on, it becomes apparent that Isobel, Isabelle, Izabel, Ysabel, Isabella, Sabella, Isadora, Isabeau, Isolde, Bella, Belle, Ilse, Libby, Sybella, and in fact any name even remotely similar to Isabel is also forbidden.

Awarded to Alex and Sam: Aww, I can’t stay mad at you, with your big puppy dog eyes. Here, have some cake.

Awarded to Friends and Family: A really HUGE baby name book so they can all pick names that sound totally different to Isabel. Sympathies to anyone who marries (or partners) into this circle and wishes to name their daughter after great-grandmother Sybil.

TEAM “GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE”

For several years, Bree-Anne has had the perfect name combination selected for her son – Ryder Lucas. She decides never to share it with anyone so that it cannot be “stolen”, and, now that she’s six months pregnant, remains tight-lipped about the name she has picked out. To her absolute horror, her neighbours, Meikeyla and Dylan, welcome a baby boy named (you guessed it) Ryder. Middle name: Lucas. A distraught Bree-Anne is absolutely convinced that Meikeyla and Dylan, have stolen her baby name, even though she cannot explain how. “They just did!” she insists. To her, it is inconceivable that anyone else could have thought up the name Ryder Lucas, and she now considers her neighbours spies, thieves, and possibly mind-readers.

Awarded to Bree-Anne: A tin foil hat, to prevent anyone else picking up on her brain waves.

Awarded to Meikeyla and Dylan: A real estate guide. They may want to move house.

(In line with the theme of this article, the accompanying image was stolen from Abby Sandel’s Pinterest account – I think it’s originally from PostSecret).