Would You Ask Permission Before Using a Name?

Did you know that children’s book author Lois Lowry originally had a different first name?

They had named me Sena, for my Norwegian grandmother, and that was my name until she was notified; then she sent a telegram insisting that they give me an American name, and so I was renamed Lois Ann for my father’s two sisters.

Some people would love to have a namesake, but others (like Lowry’s grandmother) would not be as enthusiastic about it.

If you were planning to name your baby after a loved one, how would you handle asking/telling that person?

If I were going to name my baby after someone, I would:

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Source: Richmond Speech by Lois Lowry (pdf)


5 thoughts on “Would You Ask Permission Before Using a Name?

  1. We have long considered using the name Bianca for a future daughter. It was the name of my husband’s Romanian grandmother, who passed away giving birth to the son that eventually became my husband’s father. His grandfather is still with us, and in the case of a daughter, I have often wondered if we should announce to him that we are planning on using her name or leave it as a surprise. I personally think the former would be a better option, just in case he (or anyone else in a similar situation, such as Miss Lowry) adamantly objected to the name. I think he would appreciate the sentiment, but at the same time, it might be too painful for him to think about.

  2. I asked permission to use Leo. Well, sort of. Leo had just died and I mentioned to my mother-in-law that I was considering it for the baby when we found out it was a boy. She teared up and I figured it was ok (Leo was her uncle). The big test came when Leo’s three grown kids were at a wedding when my Leo was 6 weeks old. They all gathered around him to get a good long look. I still get choked up thinking about it. But if my mother-in-law had hesitated for a moment, I would have rethought the plan and perhaps asked his kids (who are my mother-in-law’s first cousins and unlikely to have more children and even if they did, or their kids did, they would be so far removed to not be confused with my Leo…).

  3. If it’s not a highly unusual name, I think informing is OK. If it’s an unusual name, asking is probably better.

    It also makes a difference whether the name belongs to someone still living.

  4. My grandmother’s first name was changed when she arrived at Ellis Island to make it “less ethnic”. So it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I learned her given name, which I thought very beautiful. When my daughter was born, early, we had not spent much time researching names. We decided that we wanted to give her my grandmother’s original name, if my grandmother agreed. Which she did.

    Later, when my grandmother came down with Alzheimer’s, it became a source of confusion to her that my daughter had HER (my grandmother’s) name. But we knew that we had gotten her permission, so it was ok, although conversations got very confusing.

    Now that my grandmother has passed, I am still very glad that my daughter has her “real” name.

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