Naming babies after parents has fallen out of favour in a big way

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK 

Anyone interested in genealogy can tell you that naming babies after a parent was the norm until very recently. The technical words for the practice are 'patronym' and 'matronym', with the former being more common than the latter, as fathers named first sons after themselves more often.

Terms such as Jr, and regnal naming like Prince Michael Jackson II - to use a modern example most people will know - were commonplace right up until the 1960s, when individuality became a societal focus.

Jennifer Moss of babynames.com said in an interview with Today's Parent that, "The sixties is when we started to see the concept of individualism - new generations were rebelling against their parent's traditions".

She added that due to modern concepts of psychology, parents increasingly saw giving children their own identity as vitally important.

"Therapy lead to a greater interest in the emotional wellbeing of children and there was this new idea that it is best to give children their own identity".

It's a theme that has emerged on the baby name forums at Mumsnet, with a parent-to-be asking for opinions on the topic of naming her yet-to-be-born child after his dad, if he's a boy.

"We haven't found out what we are having yet, but if we are having a boy, I'd love him to have the same name as his Daddy!

What are people's experiences of the logistics of having father and son with the same name?

DPs name can't be shortened as it only has one syllable, so just wondering how the two could be distinguished if I were telling a story about them".

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The vast majority of responders say it's a mistake.

"Isn't the purpose of a name to identify someone? Giving a child the same name as a parent is not only unimaginative but also confusing!"

"There are two cases of this in my wider family. My experience is that it's really confusing. In one case the father and son are John and Young John, to family. To add to the confusion, they worked for the same company".

"Please don't do this. It's really confusing. And it'll make your DP seem like a monster ego".

"My brother is named after our dad, and my sister our mum. It's a heckload of confusion and neither sibling is happy with the situation. Big or little is said before their name to identify the elder or younger of the name and although I know it's a family tradition I didn't carry it on. Give it as a middle name."

"I suppose if it is a long family tradition one would be reluctant to break it but otherwise I can not begin to imagine why you would do this. Quite apart from the administrative tedium, it would make your husband look like a self obsessed egotist. Does your son have no destiny beyond replicating his father? 

Make it his middle name".

Then there are those who provide neutral and positive feedback about how it can be done.

"It's traditional to do this in my culture. Usually they will be distinguished by calling the younger one (I'll use Joe as an example) Baby/Little Joe, and the older one Big/Old Joe".

"My husband's family have done this since the 1700's. My father in law was the first to have a second name and he was known by his second name, and the same with my husband. Our son however has the same first name and is known by that. It works well".

"My brother is the 3rd and his son is the 4th. It's never caused any confusion and is very common in Irish families of my generation. I like it, I think respecting and re-using family names is nicer than striving for pointless uniqueness".

With seven pages of responses, however, most agree it's a logistical nightmare best left to history.