When did baby name stealing begin?

The character Charlotte from the TV series "Sex and the City" (1998-2004)
Charlotte from “Sex and the City”

A few months ago, UK parenting site Netmums polled more than 6,000 parents. One interesting thing they discovered was that 5% of those parents had reconsidered using a baby name they liked because it had been “stolen” by someone else.

That stat got me wondering: When did this whole “name stealing” thing, well, become a thing?

I thought pop culture might provide some insight, so I set out to find the earliest pop culture mention of baby name stealing that I could. This wouldn’t necessarily answer my question, but it would at least give me a feel for when the concept started going mainstream.

The earliest pop culture reference I’ve found so far? A first-season Sex and the City episode called “The Baby Shower” that originally aired in August of 1998.

The show’s four main characters (Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda) are at a baby shower for a woman named Laney, a childhood friend. At one point, Charlotte learns that Laney has “stolen” her secret baby name. Here’s the dialogue:

Charlotte (to Laney): Stop it! You are not gonna clean up at your own shower.

Woman: Yeah, relax, cause once little Todd or Shayla comes around you’ll never stop cleaning up.

Charlotte: Shayla? Did you say Shayla?

Woman: It’s so unique, isn’t it?

Charlotte: It’s so my name.

Woman: I thought your name was Charlotte.

Charlotte: No, it’s not my name, it’s my name! My secret baby name that I made up when I was 11 years old for my daughter when I had her. I told you, don’t tell me you don’t remember.

Laney: No, I’m sorry, I- I really don’t.

Narrator/Carrie: A complete lie. She remembered. We all remembered. Charlotte had made us all swear never to use it.

Laney: Anyway, I think my husband heard it somewhere else.

Charlotte: Really, where? Because I didn’t tell him.

Laney: I can’t believe you’re freaking out over a name.

Woman: I mean, you’re not even pregnant.

Charlotte: That’s not the point!

Samantha: What’s going on?

Charlotte: She stole my baby name.

Samantha: You b*tch. Let’s go.

So mid-1998 is the earliest I’ve got so far. Can you think of any earlier pop culture mentions of baby name stealing?


Image: Screenshot of the Sex and the City episode “The Baby Shower”

10 thoughts on “When did baby name stealing begin?

  1. Not a pop culture reference, but when my grandmother had my uncle circa 1976 she had to decide whether or not she could use her preferred name of Peter given that her cousin had a Peter a few weeks before. She decided that they weren’t that close anyway and named him Peter.

  2. Interesting! I imagine fewer people nowadays (as opposed to in the ’70s) would make that same decision. I think today’s parents are more likely to want to bestow something unique w/in the family.

  3. I’m finding it hard to think of something more pathetic than a thirty-something woman getting upset because someone betrayed a “Pinky-swear” agreement from high school.

  4. I did actually see a blog from someone discussing her chosen baby names, even though she wasn’t pregnant, and had only just got engaged.

    She had a little notice on the blog entry warning people off using “her” baby names, and reminding them of the pinky-swear agreement from high school – it seemed to be one pre-made for sticking on Facebook etc, so presumably in reasonable use.

    I’m now wondering if there is some connection to the SITC show and these ready-to-use notices.

    The notice also referenced “Friends”, saying Rachel was wrong to “steal” Monica’s favourite baby name – in other words, not to be a “bad friend” like Rachel.

    The baby episode aired May 2002.

  5. Interesting!

    I wonder if there’s a connection too — if either of these popular shows inspired young women to start making baby name pacts, or to start putting dibs on baby names, back in the late ’90s/early 2000s.

    Because putting dibs on names would certainly cause baby name stealing (or accusations thereof) to increase once those women started having families.

  6. Wasn’t there an episode of Seinfeld where George was upset because someone used the name he liked? (In this case, Seven)

  7. You’re right! It’s called The Seven and it aired in early 1996.

    I knew there was an episode about the name Seven, but I’ve never seen the entire episode (just a clip or two) so I didn’t realize it involved name stealing.

    Here’s part of Wikipedia’s description:

    George reveals to Susan that he wants to name his future firstborn child Seven (after Mickey Mantle’s jersey number) but Susan disagrees, claiming that a number isn’t a name and she doesn’t want her future firstborn child to have Seven as its name; regardless, George sticks with Seven. When Susan discloses this to her expectant cousin Carrie and her husband Ken, they love the name and decide to give it to their child. This outrages George (He wanted their child’s name to be “soda”), who follows them to the hospital as Carrie is going into labor, desperately trying to get them to switch to a different name but to no avail.

    Thanks, V!

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