Should You Be Honest About Friends’ Baby Name Choices?

What would you do in this situation?

A friend of mine is having a baby, and she’s planning on naming her Castle. Like the place where the king and queen live. (She thinks it sounds “dreamy.”) Am I allowed to tell her that this is a bad idea, and the kid will resent her for giving her a stupid name?

Melissa Leonard, a business etiquette consultant, suggests keeping one’s opinion to oneself:

When a mom-to-be has her mind set on a name, there is usually nothing that can be said to sway the decision. No matter how close you are with this woman, I think it is best to leave things alone. If you do speak your mind and let her know that you think her child will resent her for bestowing such a “stupid” name on her, she will remember your words forever. There is no reason to destroy (or, at the least, cause a rift in) your friendship just because of your opinion.

I agree with this advice, for the most part.

In my experience, people who ask “What do you think of [this name]?” aren’t looking for opinions so much as support. Even if you’re not a big fan of the name in question, it’s usually best to keep your thoughts to yourself and respond reassuringly.

Sometimes, though, you’ll encounter a name that is truly bad. If you think it may end up being a burden to the child–and you can express this to the parent-to-be in a constructive, non-negative way–I think you should speak up.

It won’t be fun, that’s for sure. No one ever wants to be the one who answers “Do these pants make me look fat?” with “Well, actually…” But sometimes certain things really need to be said. (And they can be said in ways that don’t threaten friendships.)

So, while I mostly agree with Leonard’s “live and let live” advice, I would swap out that idiom for some “honesty is the best policy” when it comes to extreme names.

What do you think?


6 thoughts on “Should You Be Honest About Friends’ Baby Name Choices?

  1. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was highly enamored with the name Remedios. She is a character in a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I put that name on a list with several others, including her eventual names (Sophia, Esme), and most people were polite about all the choices. But Marvin from Chile and Carlos from Cuba both were dead-set against Remedios. Supposedly there is some sort of euphemism in Spanish involving the name (which means Remedy) meaning “the girl has no choice” (the girl is pregnant accidentally). Knowing this, which I could never have learned from my own experiences only, I moved on from Remedios.

    What was not helpful was my grandfather telling me that another choices, Katrina, sounded “too black.” Even though it’s Russian. I almost went with Katrina to spite him–luckily I didn’t considering the infamy of that name now.

    If a name just doesn’t suit you (like Katrina and my grandfather), I think you should keep your mouth shut. So what if you think the Irish spelling of Aine is “too hard” or that burdening a child with a great-grandfather’s name like Roy sounds too old-fashioned. but in cases like Remedios, I think opinions are important.

    I think Castle falls into the first category, unless their last name is Vassal or Knight or some kind of pun. Castle easily becomes Cassie. I wouldn’t name my child that, but it’s different than a name with infamous connections or meanings you didn’t realize… just my two cents.

  2. I think there are two tiers of dislike for baby names. The first, and mildest, may simply arise when greeted with a baby name that you wouldn’t have ever considered for your own kid. The name may not be bad by all rights, it just doesn’t sit well with you. In this case, lying is fine. However, the line may be crossed when the name is so strange that your dislike is rooted in a deeper fear for the child’s psychological state (ie. Castle – for a GIRL?!?!).

    And I just read the above comment after writing that – it seems we agree! :)

  3. Thank you for your thoughts, Bridgett and Luke!

    Bridgett, I had no idea about that connotation either. (Was Remedios the one who randomly flew off into the sky one day? I can’t remember…)

  4. If this were a friend of mine, I might ask casually and as neutrally as possible if she’s thought about how she might feel if she were the one named “Castle” later in life. If she can envision her little one as a Castle at age 30 or 80, then maybe it’s a good fit in their family.

    I like Bridget’s suggestion that at least it has the common nickname “Cassie”, which can help a bit.

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