Who Should Have the Final Say on Baby Names?

I’ve come across several old newspaper stories featuring husband and wife fighting over who has the “right” to name the baby.

Because this one from 1897 is in the public domain, I’ll go ahead and give you the whole thing:

The question as to whether the naming of the baby belongs, as a matter of right, to the baby’s father or to the baby’s mother was raised in a queer law suit in Eastkill, in the heart of the Catskill mountains.

The plaintiff is Ole Halverson, a Swede, who cultivates a small farm on the mountain side. He has sued for damages the Rev J. G. Remerton, a German Lutheran minister of the same place, and the pleadings set forth the following state of facts: Mr. and Mrs. Halverson have a son of tender years.

The former desired that the boy should be called Oscar, after the present monarch of Mr. Halverson’s fatherland. Mrs. Halverson dislikes the name Oscar, and was determined that the baby should not be burdened therewith. Mr. and Mrs. Halverson took the baby to the clergyman to be christened.

Mr. Halverson requested the minister to name the child Oscar, but Mrs. Halverson had already talked the reverend gentleman over, and to Mr. Halverson’s surprise and indignation the boy was christened not Oscar, but something else, whereby Mr. Halverson suffered serious disappointment, loss of authority in his household, laceration of feelings, &c., for which he prays damages.

The clergyman’s defense is that he christened the child in accordance with the wishes of its mother, whose rights in the premises he considered paramount.

The case brings up a novel question in jurisprudence, the decision of which will be regarded with interest in thousands of families throughout the land.

I haven’t been able to track down the family, so I don’t have any other details. (I do like that “loss of authority in his household” part, though.)

Who do you think should have the final say when it comes to baby names — moms or dads?

Source: “Naming the Baby.” Reading Eagle 4 Jul. 1897: 2.


7 thoughts on “Who Should Have the Final Say on Baby Names?

  1. I dont think either of them should have a final say, unless one parent is willing to give the final decision to the other, or if they don’t particularly care whether he/she is names this or that. I think both parents that want to name child some particular name should come to a consensus on a name they both really like, or simply meet each others tastes halfway, maybe mom getting the first name and dad the middle name, or vice versa. I certainly dont think one parent should impose his rights over the other when it comes to naming a child

  2. Ideally there should be a compromise between the parents, but if everything else fails, I tend to think the mother has the upper hand. Not only did she carry the child for 9 months, but in most cultures woman don’t pass their family names to their children – it’s only fair that she can at least chose the first name!

  3. My parents decided early on in their marriage that mum would name the girls, dad would name the boys. They could suggest names to each other and they couldn’t veto the other’s choice unless they absolutely HATED it. That seemed to work well enough for them, they never fought over what to name each of us, though I do believe my mum had a fraught moment when she thought my dad was going to name my brother either ‘Clint’ (after Clint Eastwood) or ‘Brick’ (my dad’s a landscape gardener) but he settled on Lance, so that was alright. I think this system would work for anyone, though of course you would have to be willing to compromise a little, as your partner’s probably not going to pick your favourite name.

  4. I have to agree with Rita. If the parents have agreed to give the child the father’s surname, then mom gets the final say on the first name. If the surname is also up for discussion, then it’s an equal fight.

  5. In giving names to a baby, I guess the decision should came from both parents. Although, there are scenarios wherein the father would give names to boys and the mother would give names to girls. In my case, my husband let me choose the name of our baby.

  6. I have a problem in choosing a name for our baby, I told her she would name our baby’s 1st name and I will name him/she the 2st then she had already named our baby the name in which I didn’t not like but because she liked the name I was ok with it but when it was my chance to name the 2st name she does not like the name and she refuses to meet me half so please help me what should I do?

  7. I’m sorry about your situation, Raymond.

    First of all, did she agree to that arrangement? You say “I told her” in your comment. Hopefully that wasn’t the case. Hopefully you guys mutually agreed that one person would choose the first name and the other would choose the middle, right?

    If so, I would politely remind her about the deal you guys made in the first place, and ask her to hold up her end of the bargain.

    If that doesn’t work, try bringing in a third person (a neutral party) to act as a mediator and help you guys negotiate.

    Good luck!

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