A reader named Lauren wrote to me a few weeks ago with a great question:
[My husband] wishes to continue a tradition of the first born son having the same name (e.g. sr, jr, III, etc.). I understand his stance on the subject, but I also feel that it may be going a bit overboard. Barring any deaths in the coming months, it would mean that there is a III, a IV, a V, and now a VI (all the same first, middle, and last name), living in close proximity to each other. There are already issues with mistaken identity. What suggestions might I make to keep part of the name, but end the streak?
I think the most effective tactic would be to draw out the “mistaken identity” theme by describing a few worst-case scenarios.
For instance, what if the similar names cause a medical mix-up? Say your son needs to visit the emergency room one day. The medical personnel might accidentally refer to the wrong chart while making a quick decision, and the consequences could be life-threatening.
Or, what if the mix-up is financial? Say one of the men in your family needs to declare bankruptcy a few decades from now. This event could erroneously become attached to your son and haunt him for years, seriously impairing his ability to take out any sort of loan.
Confusion at doctors’ offices, with banks, with the government…all very real possibilities. And I’m sure the confusion will only be complicated by the fact that there aren’t just one or two men with the same name out there, but a half-dozen, all living in the same vicinity. And how many of these men are similar in still other ways (same birth-months, for instance)?
Passing a name down is a fantastic tradition, but if the tradition could adversely affect your son, then it might need to be reconsidered.
Finally, if your husband still isn’t willing to compromise by handing down only part of the name, you could think about giving your son the entire name but adding another middle (preferably before the inherited one). That way the tradition is upheld, but the distinct portion isn’t an oft-overlooked suffix, but a very visible extra name.
Does anyone have any other suggestions for Lauren?