my employee is angry that I’m using the baby name she wanted

A reader writes:

My wife is 12 weeks pregnant with our first child. We just made her pregnancy public to everyone. I manage a staff of nine. One of them is upset because she heard me answer another staff member’s question about whether or not we have chosen a name. We have chosen a name which can be given to either a boy or a girl and has significance to both our families.

My staff member is upset because she wants to use that same name when she has kids. She is not currently pregnant and said herself there are no immediate plans for kids in her future. Even if she was pregnant, I don’t see why us using the name means she can’t.

Ever since she heard me answer the question, she has been cold and huffy towards me. She won’t talk to me unless she has no other choice, and some of my other staff came to me because she is telling everyone who works here what a bad boss I am. However, she continues to complete all her work properly, be professional and warm to clients, arrive on time, etc. I don’t know if I can or should do anything because her work is up to par.The name won’t change so I’m not sure how to address this with my staff member.

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My employee is upset I told her she couldn’t take an unpaid day off
  • Interviewing someone you know socially
  • Can I ask the person I’m providing a reference for to send me details on their work?

{ 737 comments… read them below }

    1. The boss of me*

      You beat me to it! I was going to ask if the disgruntled employee is married to George, and is the baby name “Seven”. Ha!

    2. Nea*

      Not this joke, but there were 7 people named Karen in a group I was part of, so they called themselves “Karen One of Seven,” “Karen Two of Seven” etc.

      As Karens came and went they added them sequentially… but never changed the overall number, so at one point there was a Karen Ten of Seven.

      1. dogmom*

        I’m an Xennial and my name is extremely common for girls born in the ’70s, so my sophomore year of high school, in one class that was a mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors I was one of five girls in that class with my first name. We just ended up going by our last names, though — nothing as creative as “Karen Ten of Seven!”

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I went to a super small college. had one class with 14 people. Three same first names AND same initial. We did the last name thing, too.

          1. SadieMae*

            In college in the late 80s, I lived on a dorm floor with about 25 women. 7 (!) of them were named Jennifer, and 5 (including me) were named Sarah.
            I’m sure kids with super unusual names get frustrated at having to spell/explain them all the time, but at least if your kid is named Ptolemy or Sarsaparilla, they’re gonna be the only one in their class. No “Do you mean Ptolemy T. or Ptolemy B.?” or “Is that the Sarsaparilla who goes by ‘Sarsa,’ or the one who goes by ‘Sap,’ or the one who goes by the full name?” for them!

            1. Anonymous4*

              I used to work in a department in which there was a Krista, a Kristin, and a Christine. And they all held jobs that were quite similar to each other’s — but with slight but important variations.

              That meant that when someone called the department asking for K*, we had to give that person a fairly severe quiz over WHAT PRECISELY they wanted K* to do for them. It wasn’t that we were reluctant to forward the call — we just needed to know which one was the correct K* for their purposes.

              It was crazy-making. They were lovely people but it was crazy-making.

              1. Crop Tiger*

                I have a not terribly uncommon name, not one I run into a lot, but one that has five different possible spellings. Many years ago I worked at a place that had seven of us, on the same shift, all with the same spelling. We were known by our departments. There was Plumbing Crop Tiger, Cafeteria Crop Tiger, Nuclear Disarmament Crop Tiger…

              2. Whimsical Gadfly*

                I recall an Elementary school band class of about 40 kids with 4 Ambers inc me: 2 were Amber Ws inc me, and 3/4 played the clarinet.

                I still regret a little not choosing the saxaphone, but at least I chose the flute!

                Jr high there was an Amber White and an Amber Whitman and me in the advanced track so at least 2 of us ended up in every core class.

            2. Same here*

              True abt unusual names. I’m a Caitlin and used to hate being the only one. Then i wasn’t anymore…

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                My husband had four students name Caitlyn in one class. All spelled differently. Seating charts are your friend…

        2. Justme, The OG*

          I was one of three in my graduating class with the same name and it’s not that common a name.

        3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          In 1990 I was one of three girls in my class with the same first name, the same middle name, and the same last initial. I spent fifth grade answering to “Two.”

          1. Not playing your game anymore*

            There were 5 houses on the block we moved to when I was 9. One house had a “big” my name, another had a “little” my name, so I ended up being My Name, initial. I’ve never understood the freakout about duplicate names. I now share my name with my sister-in-law. My brother and one of our cousins have the same name. Cousins brother married a girl with the same first name as he. But my niece just had a fit when she found out there was another child in her son’s school with the same name…

            1. Jaydee*

              My sister-in-law and I share a first name too (we only shared the last name for a year until she got married).

              1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                I shared the same first and last name for about 6 years with my cousin’s wife, until I got married, and now I share a first and last name with a relative of my husband. Sigh.

            2. Evelyn Carnahan*

              I had the same thing! We had 4 “Evelyn”s on my street, and one around the corner. We also had a Big Evelyn, but most went by last initials. There was another Evelyn C. though, and since I was the newest addition to the street she got to be Evelyn C. and I had to be Evelyn Kate. It was an aggressively Catholic area, so that wasn’t unusual but oh how I came to hate that nickname.

            3. Me*

              Dude I have Stepbrother Dan and Brother-in-Law Dan. The joke is clearly I need to marry someone who has a brother named Dan so my kids can have three Uncle Dans.

              1. G. Porcupine*

                My children have three uncle Davids. We differentiate various ways, either by surname or by who they are married to, depending on context.

          2. Anon4this*

            In 4th grade, I was one of 4 girls with my 1st name, 3 of us had the same first initial for our last name.
            The teacher that year did not require kid to write their last name on the papers they turned in, but having 4 Same Names & 2 Last Initials posed a problem.

            So her solution was: MyName Same Last Initial #1 Alphebetized just wrote My Name. MyName, Different Initial & MyName Same Last Initial #2 Alphabetized both wrote MyName + Last Initial. And since I was MyName Same Last Initial #3 Alphabetized? Why, I got to write my whole last name out!

            Making me the ONLY KID in the entire class required to write my full first & last names on my class papers. And since I was the quiet, nerdy ND kid that was already singled out by my peers for unwanted negative attention, it made me angry to be singled out once again.

            I went home & thought it over, then told my teacher I was going to be going by Middle Name that year, so that I could write a single name on all my papers too.

          3. allathian*

            My first name was very common in my cohort, I was one of four in my class, and two others the same last initial. So the others ended up using their first name and the first syllable of their last names. I couldn’t do that, because the first syllable of my maiden last name is a mild swear, so I started using my family nickname at school as well.

        4. Emotional Support Care'n*

          So many Jessicas… and half the time, we’re mistaken for Jennifers. Parents in the late 70’s-early 80’s were so generic.

          1. Michelle*

            My mother-in-law once called me by my husband’s ex-wife’s name: Melissa. She was mortified, I didn’t notice. I’ve had people call me Melissa all my life, and I bet she gets called Michelle, too. Both of our mothers call us Missy.

            In those days we didn’t have enough first names to go around, and we just had to share! :D

            1. Anon4this*

              My best friend of 30 years has my same name, and I’ve previously had 2 other close friends with this name!

              1. allathian*

                A friend in my close friend group has the same first name as I do, I’ve known her since middle school. We go by first names and last initials in our friend group.

          2. Anonymous4*

            When I was greeted by a guy whose name I couldn’t remember, I’d say, “Steve, right?” Odds were, he was a Steve. If he grinned and shook his head, my next guess was, “Okay — Dave?”

            If he wasn’t Steve or Dave, I’d start going for really outre names like Beaufort (I actually knew one) or Horton. (I knew one of those, too.) But he was usually Steve or Dave.

          3. Evelyn Carnahan*

            I have a super common early 80s name. My parents thought they were bucking the trend by picking a more traditional name in a generation of Heathers, and then I ended up with the fifth most popular name for the decade.

          4. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Those names weren’t generic in the 70’s and 80’s, though; they were a creative and refreshing change from the previous generation’s names. People keep moving toward names that are less used by previous generations, but somehow we all tend to gravitate toward the same ten names all at the same time, and you never know that it’s happened until you join a play group or start pre-school and there are seven other kids in the group all with the same name.

        5. Anon4this*

          I’ve got one of those names too, and it’s like the stealth extremely common name because it’s not one most people think of, even though I had 1-3 classmates with my same name every year of grade school and exponentially more in middle & high schools.

          I had so many friends with my same name that people have referred to me as “first name + last name” said all at once or “last name only” for decades.

      2. Alex M*

        When I was in uni, I worked with several other people with the same name as me. We had about 6 different Alexander/Alexandria/Alexis/other Alex variants in the office. The thing is, my name really is just Alex. Not short for anything. Just Alex.

        The result was that every other Alex-variant went by a nickname, while I got dibs on Alex. Most went by last names, but in one case we had a brainstorming session to help rename one of the Alexes.

        1. Imtheone*

          My son had seven college friends named Alex. Of the ones he was closest to, there was the boy Alex, the girl Alex, and his roommate Alex.

      3. Rob aka Mediancat*

        My college had a plethora of Daves, so each one got an adjective to go along with their name: Big, Smoky, Evil . . .

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          We also had a truckload of people with my first name, but each one had a different nickname: we had a Rob, a Robby, a Robert, a Robey, a Bobby, and a J-Bob.

          1. LZ*

            When I first moved to Calgary back in 2005 I immediately met two guys named Rob, to keep them straight my boyfriend at the time called them Tall Rob and Fun Rob. I am still friends with Fun Rob even though neither of us lives in Calgary anymore, because, Fun!

            1. California Dreamin’*

              There were two Toms in my friend group in college and they were Cool Tom and Funny Tom to my roommate and me (not to their face).

        2. Stormfeather*

          Hah, we also had a number of Daves/Davids in a group I was in during college, so we ended up with a couple last names IIRC, a David, a Dave, a Sir Dave and finally one who just got the “Id.”

      4. Dana Whittaker*

        I am 5 letter Name, while the wife of a close HS friend is 3 letter Name; both are diminutives of our full first name.

        Our monthly Zoom calls are always fun until people start remembering to say 3 letter or 5 letter before our names ;)

      5. The Dogman*

        In my collage there were 15 Claires in my year… some spelt it Clair, other Clare, but still..


        And 10 of them were in Psychology with me. 7 in Sociology.

        We too had numbered Claires, nicknamed Claires and renamed Claires.

        Not as good as Ten of Seven though!

        1. Lab rat*

          My first name isn’t overly common but I had a common maiden name. When I was taking my med lab tech classes, there was another girl with the same first and last name as me. We were both short, blond haired & blue eyed. We did have different middle names so I used my full name (first and middle name) while she used her first name & middle initial. We were always in the same lab group because we were divided alphabetically. It’s the only time I used my middle name.

        2. Nyxologist*

          Where did you go to school / what decade!?
          I’ve been one of one or two Claires in my whole schools my whole life.

          I’m fascinated!

          1. NotClaire*

            I’m guessing they’re from the UK. Claire was extremely popular in the 70s/early 80s, way more than it’s ever been in the States.

      6. Avery*

        In my college friend group, there were four guys named Nick, and they ended up being dubbed One Nick, Two Nick, Red Nick, Blue Nick. How much they liked these nicknames varied among the Nicks, but they did stick.
        …then we got a fifth Nick in the group, just to add chaos to the mix…

      7. Claire*

        I used to be part of a writers group that included four women named Beth. At one point, we joked about making a rule that *everyone* had to be called Beth. (We made an exception for Kathy, since we met at her house, and she objected to changing her name.)

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I legit once dated a guy who’s kid’s middle name was Seven. It would have been the kid’s first name but his wife at the time wouldn’t allow it. It was word-play with their last name.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I don’t want to say because if someone he knows sees this it’ll be very clear who it is, but, yes–something along those lines: Eleven, Dwarves, Veils, etc. It wasn’t exactly the same but was phonetically very similar.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        OMG AT THE TIME THE KID WAS BORN not at the time I was dating him. Sorry, that was very not clear.

  1. Elisabeth*

    People are just super-weird about the name sharing thing these days. Nobody’s going to care that baby Aidan shares a name with his mom’s boss’s kid. How often would it even come up?

    I miss the days when there were five Jennifers, three Chrises and two Matts in every classroom AND WE LIKED IT.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      There was a day, in my youth, when I’d go to a party and literally half the people there would be named Dave. We tried to make them wear numbers, but they outvoted us, so we just called them the League of Daves.

      One place I worked, I had the same first name as another guy in my department, and there were two cashiers with the same (non-gender specific) name. Plus, there were three or four cashiers who had some variation of my sister’s name.

      Another place I worked, my name rhymed with the owner’s, and was the same as 1) his son’s, 2) his ex-wife’s, 3) his girlfriend’s, and 4) his lawyer’s. That was a little creepy, because I’m pretty sure that was the only reason he hired me.

          1. many bells down*

            There’s a group of Andrews that my spouse worked with who still get called by their last names a decade later.

            1. Redcar*

              My aunt and uncle have three children — two daughters and a son named Andrew. Both daughters ended up marrying men named Andrew, so now there is Andrew (son), Drew (SIL #1) & LastName (SIL #2).

              1. Bamcheeks*

                My brothers both married women names Laura, who both took Cheeks as their last name. And we already had a cousin called Laura Cheeks. My Facebook feed is now 20% Laura Cheeks and I have to look very carefully at the user picture to work out which is which.

                1. Zephy*

                  My husband has a sister also named Zephy, which is one of the main reasons I didn’t change my last name when we got married.

                2. Once Upon a Prairie*

                  It’s really Laura? Laura Ingalls Wilder had a SIL named Laura, so was called Bess IRL by her husband.

              2. NotAnotherManager!*

                My spouse has two cousins named Andrew who were born within days of one another. I guess in the 80s, their parents (one Andrew’s mom and the other Andrew’s dad were siblings) didn’t discuss their name choices in advance, so everyone in the family got birth announcements before realizing they had two Andrews almost the same age. One ended up being Andy; the other is Drew.

            2. whingedrinking*

              I once complained that no one should name their child Andrew for the next sixty years, because I knew way too many of them. To which my mother tranquilly replied, “We were going to name you Andrew if you’d been a boy.”

            3. Kat*

              I went to school in a very small town, and we had so many Andy/Andrews, one of them gave up entirely and started going by “Bill”.

        1. 2020storm*

          We have two Marks with the SAME LAST NAME too. They spell it differently by one (silent) vowel.

          1. Ali + Nino*

            In my high school, we had two girls with the same first, middle, and last names. Born in the same month. We called each of them by the neighborhood where she lived.

          2. Elenna*

            My high school had two David’s with the exact same last name as well as a third one with a different last name. In a group of 70ish kids. We went with Big David and Little David.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Same at OldExjob. At one point, we had two Marks, two Dales, three Carl/Karls, four Daves, two Mikes, and two Steves. Some people called them by their full names, such as Dave Smith, Mike Jones, etc.

        3. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Similar in my office, and 3 of them have the same last initial. In our org chart, Mark reports to Marc who reports to Mark who is peers with Mark B and Mark M.

        4. JB*

          There are two Jennifer’s in the team I work in, and when one was announced to get a training certificate at the branch stand up meeting there was a big “Which Jennifer?”

        5. Red 5*

          My name is so common that I’m used to haggling with the other Red about it we go middle names or nicknames, etc. But then my middle name is also incredibly common so half the time that’s the same too AND there’s somebody else who has it as their first name.

          But for some reason I’ve had a bunch of jobs where they just really don’t want to go with last names. All things equal I’d rather not, but you gotta do something and it’s as good a solution as any.

          But it’s never been weird or strange or difficult or… anything.

          Seriously, any time somebody gets weirdly precious about claiming dibs on a baby name I roll my eyes. Aside from me having one of the top ten names for girls for the last 200 years, my family has repeat names all over. Cousins, uncles, new husbands, all named Bob or George. We got by just fine.

          1. Anonymous4*

            I knew a family that specialized in variations on Thomas. There was a couple of Toms. A couple of Tommys. There was Thomas A and Thomas L. And the girls got into it with Tommy Jean and Tommy Jo and I think there was a Tommy Susanne.

            What made it even more fun was that half of them had the last name of Thompson.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        I once welcomed a friend to a party and said, “Go on in to the living room, you won’t have any trouble, everybody in there is named Ann.” It was true.

      2. DataGirl*

        There are 7 of us in my department with the same or very similar first names (think Mary, Marie, and Maria). Two of us in the same role have the same first name except spelled differently and a very similar sounding last name with the opposite different first initial, for example Katie Craft and Catie Kramer. People mix us up all the time. Anyway, I’ve never experienced having a unique name so I really don’t get the fuss over ‘stolen’ baby names.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          Both my first name and last name are not gender specific. And both are commonly used as first names and last names.

          1. Marjorie Phelps*

            I have never so badly wanted someone’s user name to be their name. I think Magenta would be a lovely name.

        2. tamarack & fireweed*

          Anyone remember Katiecon? It was a joke, not a real conference, but they had a web site and solicited speakers. Like for a tech/geek con, and you were eligible to speak if your name was Kate/Katie/Cath/Catharine… anything derived from the same underlying name family. (It was to showcase the depth and diversity of the expertise of women in tech, with every speaker proposing a topic they could present on. The speaker list and program published on the web site did in fact sound like a really interesting con.)

            1. JJ Bittenbinder*

              There was also a guy named David Gorman who did a worldwide search for other David Gormans. I watched a documentary about it and many of them traveled to a gathering he had.

              I don’t know what the collective noun for such a group is. A Danger of Davids?

                1. Virginia Plain*

                  Yes there’s a book he wrote of his travels looking for other Dave Gormen. It’s hilarious, and helpfully called “Are You Dave Gorman?”. He travelled with his friend Danny Wallace also a very funny bloke.

                2. Virginia Plain*

                  PS he ended up getting a few people to legally change their name to Dave Gorman to make it a century!

          1. Nanani*

            And then there’s the great Josh Fight of a few years ago, to determine who gets to be the one true Josh. The littlest Josh won

          2. whingedrinking*

            There was also Project Steve back in the 2000s, in honour of Stephen Jay Gould. A bunch of creationist organizations like Answers in Genesis and the Discovery Institute like to publish lists of “scientists who doubt evolution”. To poke fun at the idea that just having a couple hundred people with BScs on a list could prove anything, the NCSE invited any scientist named Steve or a variation thereof (Stephanie, Esteban, etc.) to sign a statement saying they “accept evolution”. Project Steve very quickly overtook any of the creationist lists and, to add insult to injury, has more biologists and more eminent scientists overall.

          3. EvilQueenRegina*

            Sounds a bit like one of the halls of residence in my first year of uni. There were a lot of variations on the Katherine/Kate/Cat theme.

          4. Imtheone*

            There is a real club for women calls Betty.

            And a cute book for children called Alibaba Bernstein, about a boy whose annoyed at how common his name is. They have a party for all of the people they can find with the same first and last names.

      3. UKDancer*

        I worked with one Dave and 4 or 5 Davids in a previous job. I think we just used their full names in general and it worked fine.

        1. DataSci*

          At a previous job there were two Davids that also shared a last name and a middle initial – think two David J. Williams (not the actual example). Everyone ended up calling them by their department, so it was Marketing David Williams and Analytics David Williams. They had to forward each other a lot of email.

          1. Zephy*

            My alma mater had two professors with the same last name and first initial, so we called them Science Dr. Fitzsimmons and English Dr. Fitzsimmons. I ended up taking classes with both of them at different points.

            There was also a married pair of professors in the same department, so we just called them Mr. Dr. Blank and Mrs. Dr. Blank. Mr. Dr. Blank taught my research methods class and Mrs. Dr. Blank was my faculty advisor for my senior thesis (the school required undergrads to do research projects). I would have just used their first names, but her legal first name was the feminine version of a common diminutive of his (think “Geri” and “Gerald,” nickname “Jerry” – more obvious in text who you were referring to if you typed Geri vs Jerry, but they sound the same).

      4. generic_username*

        Every guy I seriously dated (more than a few dates) had the same name up until my now-husband. I refer to them as “John #1” “John#2” and “John #3” now. By the third one, I was starting to wonder if I needed to go to therapy to figure out my obsession with the name. To add another layer to the weird: if I had been born a boy, I was also going to be named John. John #3 and I used to double date with a couple who had our exact names too, lol.

        1. KaciHall*

          I haven’t dated a whole lot of people (4 in total) but so far every one has shared a name with the previous boyfriend. (Think David Charles Smith, Charles Matthew Jones, then Matthew John Washington.) I was joking that obviously my next date would be named John something or other, then my friend dithered about setting me up with someone in case it was weird. His name was Matthew James.

          Yes, it was weird. But I married him, we’re okay with weird :)

        2. STG*

          I’ve got 3 serious ex’s called Mike.

          I refer to them as Good Mike, Bad Mike and Other Mike. Side note that Other Mike was the last Mike so Good Mike and Bad Mike were already being used among my friends. So Other Mike was the natural progression (not good or bad really).

          1. Bananagram*

            I was looking for the Mikes! When I went to college in New York I was overwhelmed both by the number of Mikes (in the South this had not been a thing), as well as the speed at which epithets were applied: Swimmer Mike, Tall Mike, etc… Or just Mike-Lastname like it was one word.

            1. DarthVelma*

              Oh, Mikes can be a thing in the South. My brother is a Mike and he never had a classroom in school growing up that didn’t have at least 2 other Mikes in it. There are six other Mikes with his last name in the town of 25,000-ish we grew up in.

          2. LZ*

            I had a series of boyfriends named Kevin, Keith, Ken, Karl, and another Kevin (this confused my dad). Finally broke the pattern with my current husband Nathan!

        3. Magenta Sky*

          My brother married a woman with the same first name as our sister. Which was weird, but honestly, she’s the best thing that ever happened to him.

          1. Bagpuss*

            My sister’s partner has the same first name as my brother, and they both use the same shorter form of it.
            (If they are both around then my brother gets the name and BIL is defined by his relationship with my sister, so (if the name was Dave) we’d have ‘Dave’ and ‘Sister’s Dave’!

          2. londonedit*

            My dad and my mum’s brother both have the same name. My sister and I have partners with *almost* the same name – like Christopher and Christian, but not. And as well as ‘Christopher’ and ‘Christian’, my hairdresser is called Chris and I have two other friends called Chris. It can definitely get confusing! There are also several Daves, several Sarahs and several Matts.

          3. allathian*

            A former coworker had a very unique last name, everyone who has it is a part of the same extended family. When she married, her fiance changed his last name to hers, in spite of the fact that he has the same first name as his FIL. Not only that, but her parents had a large lot, and when they married, they just built another house on the same property. Oh well, if they get mail addressed to each other, at least they don’t have to return it to sender…

        4. Kay*

          Mine were all Joes, I can’t even count how many now. I did have a few variations, like a bunch named James, but for many years their names all started with Js. I too pondered therapy and life choices…

        5. Lisa*

          My ex-husband’s mother’s family has a long tradition of reusing names, but the male names are extremely common and the female names are unusual. In recent generation there are more female than male children born, so the generations look something like Robert + Penelope have daughters Penelope, Geraldine, and Constance. Penelope’s daughters are named Penelope and Mable. Geraldine’s daughters are named Penelope and Geraldine. Constance’s daughter is named Constance.

          Where it gets weird… 2nd Gen Penelope marries a Robert. Geraldine marries an Edward. Constance marries another Edward. Penelope and Robert have a son named Roberto. Constance and Edward have a son named Edward. 3rd Gen Penelope marries an Edward.

          All the Edwards go by Ned, no Eds or Teds. All the Roberts go by Bob, no Robs. Both Constances go by Connie. Both Geraldine’s go by Geraldine. Only the Penelopes mix it up with nicknames and middle names.

          This family had zero trouble telling everyone apart. You always knew which Ed or Connie or Bob was being referenced. They had a complex version of designations that worked for them.

          But the great-grandchildren have 100% unique names. That cousin generation must have been exhausted, but they broke the cycle.

      5. Tierrainney*

        My college friend group had 3 Daves. They also did not want numbers or nick names. or to even use David. they were frequently called Dave and “Dave the other Dave” depending on how many were there at the time.

      6. "KellyKellyKellyKelly..." - Woody Boyd*

        I was born in 1970 and I can’t even tell you how many people in my age cohort I share my name with. At any given party I attend it seems like there are always a bunch of us. And yes, people sing us that song…

        1. Cattlegirl*

          My daughter was on the soccer team at a Catholic high school, and the starting lineup was 3 Kellys, 3 Megan/Meaghans and 3 Colleens. Plus 2 Giovannas.

        2. Beth II*

          I’m just Beth but have known a TON of Elizabeths in my life, many that went by Beth. The first thing I said to my friend Beth at work was, are you a REAL Beth? And she was!!

      7. Been there, done that*

        Susans and variations of that in our office. We have around 40 people and at one time there were 4 Susans, 2 Suzannes and a Sue at the SAME time.

        1. La Triviata*

          Another Susan here. It was one of the most popular names in my age cohort. Along with all the variations (Sue, Susie, Suzanne, Suzette, etc.). I gave up and started using my middle name, to the extent some co-workers have no idea of my first name. The problem is, it’s a family name that is also a fairly common man’s name, so I’ve had people ask to speak to “Mr. my name” … even had one tell me, “stop playing games with me girlie and let me speak to Mr. my name”. I hung up on him.

        2. Bagpuss*

          We are down to 1 Sue now, but we used to have 4. We currently have 2 Emmas and 3 Sarahs.

          When I was at university we had a Steve in my friend group, then we had another join, so he became Anti-Steve.

      8. Alex M*

        My mom told me a story about her group of Daves, too. They only had three, but they were Dave, Dave Drummer Dave, and Dave Dave Dave.

      9. Name (Required)*

        My sister and I were both married to Davids at one point some years ago. When we were at my house, her David was TOD (The Other David) and when we were at her house, my David was TOD. The entire family adopted that method of telling them apart.

      10. Koalafied*

        “My first ex-wife’s name is Tammy. My second ex-wife’s name is Tammy. My mom’s name is Tamara. She goes by Tammy.”

        1. AFac*

          In grad school, I once had a semester of ‘Bill’s*. My advisor was named Bill. I was enrolled in 2 classes, and both had an instructor named Bill. I was a TA for a Bill.

          Fortunately, never more than 2 of them were in one place at any one time, but it was confusing to talk about my daily activities with friends.

          *Name changed to protect the coterie of Bills.

        2. Alex*

          I’m an engineer–‘Rule of Dave’ is when you have more Daves than women in the building…I think it might have been ‘Rule of John’ originally, but we had more Daves than Johns too.

      11. Dust Bunny*

        I went to college with so many Daves and Brians that we gave them third-party nicknames (that is, we’d call him Brian directly but Pickle Boy or whatever otherwise).

      12. Retired (but not really)*

        One place I worked we had Boss David, Darlene’s David, and my son David.
        When son David was in third grade he was one of three with same first and last name. One became David, one Dave and one Davey.
        And one place I worked we had Peggy, Patty, Becky, Betty & Cathy. You had to really listen to be sure who was needing to answer the phone. This was in the days when there was one phone per room in the building.

      13. Avery*

        …this reminds me, my birth name led to some issues… there was the time I had the same name as the Hebrew school teacher for my class, the time where I was seated next to a girl with the same name in orchestra, and the time where I worked on the literary magazine with a girl who had the same first name AND the same last initial.

      14. Good Vibes Steve*

        There’s a UK TV channel called “Dave”, and the name is there because “everyone knows a bloke called Dave”.

      15. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I had a BF called Pascal (in France), his best friend was Pascal, and there were two others in the same friend group. I once turned up at a party with all four of them. We called them Pascalou, Pascalin, Pascalet (all affectionate suffixes) and Pascal le Brun (“the brown-haired one”).

    2. starsaphire*

      And we all had to use last initials and it got super confusing if there were two Amy Bs or Lisa Cs in the same class…

      1. Elisabeth*

        Right, and you couldn’t use middle names because everybody’s middle name was Ann(e), Lynn or Marie. So it ended up being “Redhead Amy C.” and “Soccer Amy C.”

            1. Boba Feta*

              My dad is one of five (5!) first cousins who all have the same first AND last names (no middle names) because of the peculiarities of cultural naming conventions and the fact that my (very large family) were blessed across several generations with many first-born sons.

              Each of the five cousins, growing up, were literally given the kinds of nicknames you suggest: Tommy the Red (only red-head), Tommy the Tall (obvious reasons), Jack’s Tommy (name of his dad), etc. The first-born of these Tommys (my dad) was just “Tommy” until the count reached Five, and then he became “Tommy the Eldest”.

            2. Esmae*

              My friend group in high school had a “Big Esmae” and “Little Esmae”. Big Esmae was taller. She (understandably) hated being called Big Esmae and told people to call her Zelda instead, at which point she became Big Zelda.

              1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

                I’m sorry, Big Zelda. But that’s funny right there. You can’t escape your destiny.

                1. Anon4this*

                  I was always the Big [MyCommonName] too and it never bothered me because I was obviously much taller than Little [MyCommonName], lol!

        1. Loredena Frisealach*

          huh. my sister’s middle name and mine are in that list – and I had never realized that was a thing too! My first name was very popular when I was in school, as was the masculine version. And for a while it seemed like half my coworkers shared my brother’s name!

          One place I worked the founder and first 3 or 4 employees all had the same first name, so they all went by variants of their surname.

        2. Sashi*

          Oh man – my grade 10 math class there were SIX girls (14 total, 25 students in the class) with the same name – I was one of them. There were THREE of us who had a last name that started with the same letter, and one girl had, as her last name, the first half is my last name (think ‘James’ and ‘Jameson’).

          The secretary doing the class list literally changed my name on the official list to Initial. Middle name, Last name (so “S. Marie Jameson”) and that’s what I was called for the year in that class. I have a really distinctive middle name, which, thankfully, I like quite a lot, so it all worked out.

          When we got to graduation, my math teacher was doing the announcement if names when it was my turn, and when he got the little card with my name on it, he did a double-take and said “Since when is your name Xxxxx?!” and I got to grin and say “Since birth”… He was very boggled.

          1. Bagpuss*

            My older sister was named after our grandmother but as it turned out , the name was one of the most popular names for her age group. She never had less than 2 other girls with the same first name in any class her whole school life. We have a common surname and when she was about 13 she wound up in a class with another girl who had exactly the same first, middle and last name. My parents had some very confusing conversations at Parents Evening

        3. Amy C*

          Hahaha from an Amy C. I named my kid a common name bc what the heck, we liked it, it was a family name, and it doesn’t have any classed assumptions so it can’t be used to stereotype. Uniqueness is such an overrated thing. Be unique for your personality not because you are the only person of your moniker.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            YES! I have literally never had a schoolmate or coworker with my first name, even tangentially, and honestly it’s kind of annoying, because people often mistake it for the very common names that sound like it.

            The ironic thing is that my name is less than five letters long, it’s not like it is that weird.

        4. JR*

          My school had two girls with the same first and last name in the same grade, and there was 1 other girl in their grade with the same first name. They ended up going by “Mary C” “Mary Williams the blonde” and “Mary Williams the brunette”

          1. Boba Feta*

            My brother and one of our cousins share a first-last combo and were only one year apart in school. The number of times my mother got a call about her nephew instead of her son… Ooph.

            1. Boba Feta*

              Now that I think about it, I think the most egregious mix-ups were the ones that happened on the part of the pediatrician: CHECK THE BIRTH-DATES, MEDICAL-TYPE PEOPLE!

              1. ed123*

                Funnily enough I have almost the same name as my mother and the same date of birth (same day, different year) and when I was a kid we’d see a doctor together. Thanks to some bug from daycare that I gave my mother. That really confused the doctor. He was staring at the screen and then us and then his prescription pad. Where I’m from we’re assigned a personalized number at birth so there won’t be mix-up with people of the same name so it went fine. But it was very funny as a kid

              2. Free Meerkats*

                I have the same first name as my Dad did and when I got out of the Navy, I rented a room from my parents for a year or so, so we had the same address. AND, I went back to using the same PCP as when I was a teen. I can remember going in for something; the doctor came in, sat down, looked at the chart, got up and went to the door, and asked the nurse if I looked like I was almost 50. He laughed, I laughed, the nurse laughed.

            2. EvilQueenRegina*

              A boy in my class at primary school also had the same first and last name combination as his cousin in the year below. Cousin “Fergus Smith” ended up going to a different high school to most of us and kind of fell off our radar.

              A few years back, Cousin Fergus died, and another guy who’d been in that class saw the obituary and thought it was our Fergus. So when someone started a group chat on Facebook about a potential class reunion, he shared with the group chat that our Fergus had died. It caused a lot of upset until our Fergus’s best friend who’d grown up living across the street from the family saw the message, realised what had happened and clarified.

          2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            When I was a freshman, my school had “Mary Jenkins” in every grade. Announcement, Mary Jenkins, sophomore please come to the office.

            My brother was a school teacher, a family had three kids. All the same name. Each student pronounced it differently, so SYLlable Smith, syLAble Smith, sylaBELL Smith. The teachers got emails about it, to clarify.

        5. LabRat*

          Were you at my school??????

          In choir we had 4 Amys, 3 were Amy Lynn/Lynne, and one was Amy Lou. It was wild.

        6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Go to Portugal and all women are called Maria either as a first or second name. I knew one Portuguese woman who was not called Maria, but only because she was the second daughter.

      2. fiona the baby hippo*

        I feel like the ‘name must be special’ thing is such a recent phenomenon… i know two sisters fighting over a MIDDLE NAME for their respective children (one in utero one yet to be conceived) … and one of those sisters actually shares HER OWN middle name with a third sister. So they themselves grew up in a family where two siblings shared a middle name and no one cared…. and now they’re worried about two cousins having the same middle name!

          1. quill*

            All the men on my dad’s side of the family share a middle name… except for my poor uncle, whose middle name is Cecil.

            1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

              I loathe my first name with the fires of Hell — and also Sanford and Son, and the Queen of England (ok the last is a bit of hyperbole :D), because do you KNOW how many jokes are associated with Elizabeth? I do! Only reason it hasn’t been legally changed is that I can’t afford the fees, but I will ignore the hell out of anyone who tries to use it for anything that isn’t a legal document or proceeding. My name is Levi. Yes, it’s a “boy’s name”, and I don’t care. I do not like Elizabeth, there is nothing cute about the nicknames, I don’t like the traditionally feminine association people have of it, and it doesn’t suit me. I’m named after my great grandmother, apparently, and my mother has said it would hurt her feelings if I changed it — but, if I am able to afford to change it legally, it’s gone, and Mom will have to deal.

              All that to say people should probably not be so attached to certain names that they refuse to shift into something somewhat unique for the sake of us kids who are stuck with annoyingly common names that they can’t escape. Or be prepared for the kid to never use it (most of my coworkers have no idea that my name isn’t legally Levi, for instance. I think HR and 2 managers know, only because they have seen my paperwork! lol).

              1. Dust Bunny*

                My mom’s family is so full of Elizabeths that her parents named her [one if its diminutives], full stop, to make sure she didn’t get nicknamed something awful. We even had an Aunt Betty who wasn’t a blood relative, but a lifelong close friend.

                Why they didn’t choose another name entirely, I have no idea.

              2. Just Sam*

                It’s rare that I meet someone else who hates their first name. I’m glad I’m not alone. I am Samantha by birth and I HATE it. It makes my skin crawl when people call me that. I go by Sam. And the number of old white men that correct me are infuriating. “You mean Samantha.” No, I literally just told you my name is Sam.

                I’m thinking about having it shortened in our work contact system, which should greatly reduce the number of people emailing Samantha. It just feels weird, not sure why.

              3. California Dreamin’*

                Ah, interesting to read this… I’m an Elizabeth (who goes by Elizabeth, none of the myriad nicknames) and I’ve always thought it was the best name out there because I think the full name is beautiful but also there’s a nickname to suit anyone (or so I thought.)

                1. EvilQueenRegina*

                  I have to agree with you – so many times I’ve heard stories of parents choosing a name that can’t be made into a nickname, but to be honest I’m in favour of having that as an option, and also of middle names. People are given their names before they’re old enough to have an opinion on them, and if the time comes when they really can’t stand it, that way they have easier options.

          2. generic_username*

            Didn’t it used to be really common to give the mother’s maiden name as a middle name? I know my mom’s middle name is her mom’s maiden name.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              (Rare books and manuscripts worker here): Yes, very.

              It also used to be relatively common for people to have only an initial. No name, just “Robert C Jones”. You would think they could splurge and give him the rest of “Charles” but, no.

            2. California Dreamin’*

              Yes. My middle name was my mother’s maiden name. I really liked it. I didn’t do that for any of my kids, but we gave my daughter my first name as her middle name.

            3. Elenna*

              Yep – this is an older example but the reason Pride and Prejudice has Fitzwilliam Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam is because Darcy’s first name is his mother’s maiden name, and his mother’s brother was the colonel’s father so the colonel inherited it as a last name.

              (And I think Darcy’s sister Georgiana has that name because it’s a feminized version of their father George’s name? But I’m not entirely certain if that’s a real thing or just a coincidence.)

              Also, why is “colonel” so hard to spell? :P

          3. Too Many Michaels…..*

            Lol – in my hubby’s family there are about 50 guys across three generations: 35 of them all have the same middle name – Michael. There were also 8 with Michael as a first name.

            We were happy to have only girls.

            1. Here we go again*

              Both my grandfathers have the same middle name by coincidence. So I gave my son the same middle name to honor them.

            2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              My husband is the sixth in a line of seven generations of (Fergus) (middlename) Lastname, who all have the same first and last names but different middle names, and not a single one of them goes by Fergus. Most of them go by diminutives of their middle names. I don’t know why they keep naming the next generation the same name that none of them want to use. (We’re not having kids and I vetoed (Fergus) even if we were, Fergus the 7th is my husband’s nephew.)

              1. Here we go again*

                I grew up in a small town and we have a family with all same first name same last name for 5 generations now. We number them. My grandfather was neighbors with Jr. my dad is friends with III, I went to school with IV , his son is V.

              2. shedubba*

                I went to college with a guy who was the seventh of his name, and I believe it was the same first-middle-last combination, father to son, all the way back. (The original possessor of the name had a building on campus named after him.) The name was a rather old fashioned one, without modern sounding diminutives, so he just went by Sieben, the German word for seven.

        1. Salymander*

          My sister was a little upset that my daughter’s middle name is the same as my mother’s, grandmother’s and hers. She was “saving” it for her own baby. Which she was not even trying for. Her baby would not be born for many years after that. She hadn’t even met her child’s father yet. I mean, she wasn’t ridiculous to the point of the woman in OP’s letter, but she was really pouty and whiny. And then she had a boy, and as she is very into really gender specific naming it was not a big deal anyway. After that, she was really talking up the fact that I named my child after her because I wanted to honor her. Oh, well. At least she stopped pouting about it. In my family, being whiny about stolen baby names is not even close to being the most ridiculous thing people have tantrums over. It doesn’t even make the top 10.

        2. Esmae*

          My father’s middle name is HIS OWN YOUNGER BROTHER’s first name. I guess his parents really liked that name.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I once worked with a girl whose name was created from her stillborn older sister’s first and middle names (think “Jennianne” if the older sister had been Jennifer Anne). Okay, then.

          2. LK*

            I recently learned that, legally, my dad and both his brothers have the same first name. They’ve all always gone by their middle names.

          3. LC*

            My dad and his brother are, for example, Albert David and David Albert (where Albert is not at all an unusual name but I don’t meet many, and David is absurdly common). Their dad’s name was Albert, and uncle David Albert also has a son (my cousin) named David.

            My mom also has a brother named David, but at least he goes by Davey.

            I’ve also dated multiple David’s, and ended up marrying one of them.

            We talked about him taking my (very unusual, I literally don’t think there are any that aren’t related to me by blood or marriage) last name when we got married, but then he’d be the third David SuperUnusualLastName in my very small family and I didn’t want to do that to him.

            (I love the way we ended up doing it, he changed his middle name to what the first half of his hyphenated last name had been, I added my last name as a second middle name, and we both have the other half of his previously hyphenated last name.)

          4. Merrie*

            I knew a family that did that. They had several daughters and ran out of first names they really liked so they recycled one that they’d used as a middle name for one of the older sisters. Evidently both sisters thought it was kind of cool sharing a name.

            1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

              My father and uncle are surprise! twins. Like, my grandparents found out at the absolute last moment that there were two of them. They’d planned to name a boy after my grandfather (e.g. Fergus Wakeen Lastname Jr.), but panicked and named the first one Fergus and the second one Wakeen. No middle names. They weren’t organized enough in the moment to think about middle names.

        3. Lady Danbury*

          My family is big on using family names, so the same names get repeated both within the same generation and across multiple generations. Two of my nephews share the same middle name. Another nephew has the same middle name as my brother and cousin. I have the same middle name as my niece and another cousin’s daughter. And that’s only considering the two most recent generations! The most common names go back at least five generations.

          Coincidentally, one of my nephews has the same first name as my boyfriend’s brother and father.

          1. Crop Tiger*

            Which is lovely until one of them passes away and then messages you on Facebook. Do not recommend.

      3. Charlotte Lucas*

        And middle names for girls were usually Lynn or Marie, so you couldn’t even just go by first & middle name!

        My sister had one of those really common first names but an uncommon middle name. (She was named after a relative but when my parents changed her first name to be less old-fashioned, they inadvertently gave her a name that was just about to be hugely popular.)

        My name was incredibly uncommon for my age cohort. But it became popular for girls born 10-15 years after I was.

        1. Imaginary Friend*

          Me too! Which was hard when I had braces in my late 20’s. OBVIOUSLY I was only in my late teens, based on name and tooth evidence. And I worked with the public, too.

        2. NeedRain47*

          Lynn, Marie, Ann(e), and Elizabeth were (are?) the most popular middle names for girls. (Mine’s Elizabeth.)

          1. Lady Danbury*

            2 of those 4 are my my and my sister’s middle names, lol. Both are family names that go back at least 3 generations.

      4. Maya*

        One of the classes at the daycare where I work had two kids with the exact same name, and the same first 3 letters of their last names. Like, Jane Thomas and Jane Thoreau(not real names). It made labeling things… interesting.

        1. Rolly*

          Two kids in the same grade at my child’s school/cohort that was broken into two classes each year with exactly the same first and last names. I think they were both there for the first three years. Western first name, Asian surname.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          When my kid started a new pre-K class I checked, no other kids with his name, awesome. Then this week the teacher tells me that one of the kids with a longer name uses my kid’s (very short) name as a nickname – so they did go by first name, middle name for both of them. I didn’t think he had to go through what I did in school, but apparently I failed.

      5. This Old House*

        I think we had 6 Danielles in my grade in elementary school. One year both Danielle “B”s were in the same class and we ended up calling them by the first two letter of their last names – think Danielle Ba. and Danielle Br.

        I named my son a name that’s more popular than it used to be, but still not super popular (it’s not in the top 100, but is not too far outside it). Little did I expect that there would be two kids in our school system with the exact same first and last names! Our last name isn’t particularly popular either. The other him is a year or two older, but they’ll still be in high school and maybe middle school together.

        These things are impossible to avoid. You have no control over the names of the people around you!

        1. This Old House*

          And actually, now that I think of it, I had a reasonably popular name for adolescents in the late 90s/early 2000s, and I was so used to using my last initial that I used to use it *when I was leaving a note for my parents on our kitchen counter.* They made so much fun of me.

          1. KaciHall*

            My sister used to put her initials on things she didn’t want to share at home. There were five kids. I’m the only one with different initials (because my last name is different.)

            I explained it to her and she STILL labeled everything with her first and last initial ‘so we’d know our was hers’. We definitely laughed at her over that for YEARS.

        2. Esmae*

          A friend of mine was “Ben Ch.” in elementary school because there were two Ben C’s that year. By the end of the year the teacher was calling him “Bench.”

      6. MsM*

        My husband’s Catholic boy school used last names for everyone because there were only 5-7 different first names across the whole student body. Not sure what they did for siblings. “Big/Little,” I guess.

        1. hodie-hi*

          As an adult, I lived in a small, rural New England town for a while. This was the kind of town where you weren’t considered a local if your grandparents weren’t born there. There were maybe six surnames used among the “old guard” families whose combined populations outnumbered the newcomers.

      1. whistle*

        The Ken Follett book “Fall of Giants” opens in a town in Wales in the early 1900s. Almost all the men are named “William” or “David” and go by Billy or Dave with some other nickname. The main character is William Williams, so his nickname is Billy Twice (until he gets another nickname in the first chapter).

        1. Former Billy*

          I’ve got an uncle William and his son is William. For a time we were in known in family as Big Billy, Medium Billy, and Little Billy.

      2. The Rafters*

        My workplace had 5 Bills. We called them all based on where they were originally from – Long Island Bill, Southern Bill, etc. Except the last one. We called him Fred.

    3. Anonym*

      Right? I’m so curious whether she had previously informed OP or the office that that baby name was “hers.” Absurd, if so, but also even more absurd to be mad at someone for “taking” something that they had *no way of knowing* you “owned.” Amazing.

      1. Elenna*

        But obviously Boss should have changed her naming plans after she claimed it! Because otherwise people might know that her future kid had the same name as her boss’ kid, the horror! And it’s not like she can change her plans for her currently-nonexistent theoretical future kid or anything like that, obviously the world must bend to her wishes! /sarcasm

        1. Kay*

          Even better when she is finally pregnant, years down the road, and the narrative is “and this one time, I worked with this horrible boss who had the audacity to name his child the same name I already called dibs on – that was the last unique name in the world and he ruined it! I just couldn’t stand to look at him after that”..

    4. Me*

      I named my daughter a version of Emma during a time when Emma was SUPER popular. I’ll admit I was super annoyed that it ended up popular because I didn’t want the 5 Emma’s in the same class deal but it never happened. The times she has interacted with another Emma has been almost none.

      People who get weird about name ownership baffle me.

      1. PT*

        There’s an early 90s Emily in my family. She got named Emily and then the name skyrocketed to the top of baby name lists for at least a decade and didn’t fall off until it was replaced by Emma.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        My parents chose my name because they had never met anyone with the name before and thought it was super rare. US census data shows it was in the top 3 girls’ names that year.

        My daughter’s name isn’t super rare but there was another girl born that day, same hospital, same first name (we were in the same newborn class at the hospital). However, my daughter is the only one with her name in her year at school. So you never know!

        But complaining and acting out because someone else wants to name their baby the same name you like? Shut that down ASAP.

        1. Me*

          I should have known Friends would have inspired a billion Emma’s. But still only know mine. It’s funny how it works.

          True funny story – My name is not super common but not rare. However the particular spelling is the traditional Hebrew and most people with the name spell it completely different. I was also born on Halloween.

          I sh*t you not, there is ANOTHER me – first name spelled different but otherwise same last name and same birthday that lives in the same area. Found out when I picked up a prescription and it had her spelling (not uncommon for my name to be spelled wrong) and charged to insurance that wasn’t mine.

          You can make up a darn name and it won’t matter. Someone, somewhere is going to have the same one.

      3. londonedit*

        Yeah, my nephew’s name is always in the top 10 of boys’ names, but it’s also a name with family connections, and my sister and brother-in-law don’t really care if there are another couple of kids with the same name in his class.

        I discovered when I was in my 20s that my parents were about 5-10 years late with my name – all through school there was never anyone else with my name in my year, but when I started working I suddenly met about five women, all around 10 years older than me, who shared my name. Luckily I’ve always used a shortened version and I’ve never worked with anyone who uses the exact shortening/spelling I do, but it was odd having never encountered anyone else with my name before!

    5. SarahKay*

      I was actually quite pleased to get through school a year ahead of the wave of SarahKays that started literally the year after I was born – just me in my year-group of 100; about eight of them in each of the three years below. In my year Tracy/Tracey was the popular name and certainly some of them found it pretty annoying to always have to clarify which of them was meant.
      To get so upset about it as an adult picking your children’s names is just absurd though; names always seem to go in waves; if your favourite is part of the current wave then live with it – or pick another.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I was one of five people with my name in my year of high school, and my best friend was one of seven with hers. Clarifying could get annoying at times.

    6. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      The name trends keep changing, but the multiples in the classroom, friends groups, and offices won’t. There will be 3 Willows, 2 Sophies and 4 Noahs instead of 3 Lisas, 2 Michelles and 4 Jeffs. We’ve always been able to adjust — Tall Tom, Blond Jeff, Guacamole Bob… The idea that someone can claim ownership of a name is so weird.

      1. Observer*

        We’ve always been able to adjust — Tall Tom, Blond Jeff, Guacamole Bob… The idea that someone can claim ownership of a name is so weird.


      2. DataSci*

        The multiples actually are changing, a bit.

        In 1980 – Peak Jennifer – the top five names (counted separately for male and female name, since that’s how the SSA counts things) accounted for 13.3% of all male births and 10.7% of all female births. In 2000 this had dropped to 7% for males and 5.2% for females – the most popular names not only change over time, but the distribution shifts – people choose more varied names. The most popular name in 1980 (Jennifer) was more than twice as popular as the most popular name in 2000 (Emily), and the trend away from choosing from a small set of popular names is continuing – only 4% had one of the top-five names in 2020.

        (This is all US-specific, from the Social Security Popular Names site, which is great fun if you’re a total nerd like me.)

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Interesting…are they counting alternative spellings as different names or consolidating? I’m a casual nerd on that — ever play on Sporcle dot com? They have a whole section of quizzes in their Miscellaneous Category for Baby Names — top 10, top 100, divided by gender, year, decade, geographic location, etc.

          They’re fun but the quizzes that count alternative spellings as completely different names are kind of a pain — Catherine and Katherine are the same name IMO when it comes to lists of top names.

          1. HS teacher*

            They are not. A few years ago, I had one class with an Aidan, Aiden, Caden, Jayden, and Braden. It’s the new Dave for sure. For girls, I see a lot of Sophies, and there’s a proliferation of Alex names: Alexander, Alexandra, Alexa, Alejandro, a mix of boys and girls.

    7. LizM*

      A few years ago, I read an article about popular baby names, and there was a couple who named their kid “Lily,” because they liked the name when they saw it on How I Met Your Mother.

      Then they were upset when there were multiple Lilies in their daughter’s class. So they named their daughter after a character in one of the most popular shows on TV at the time, and then were surprised that others thought of the same name…

      1. LizM*

        Also, as another Elizabeth (with a “z”), hi! I have a fairly common last name, so I wasn’t always the only Elizabeth (LAST NAME) in my class when I got to college. That wasn’t confusing at all.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Right? I once played in an orchestra where three of the four violas were named Eli(s/z)abeth. Two of us were Elisabeths, even. And in college my viola teacher, who only had about 10 students, had at least three Eli(z/s)abeths, two of which were Elisabeth Ws. And I played in a chamber orchestra for a decade or so where two ppl in the orchestra were Elisabeths. (Not sure what it is about classical music and viola in particular that draws us Elisabeths; it’s a mystery I have yet to unravel.)

          Like, GET OVER IT if someone else has your name. Or better yet, embrace it and get excited about saying “Hi Liz!” to someone else and hearing it right back. It’s super fun, IMO. :-)

          1. Elisabeth's wife*

            This comment reminded me of the time my wife gave her name to someone as “Elisabeth with an s” and discovered shortly after that the person had recorded her first name as Elizabeths.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Lol. Once I was listed in a concert program as Elixabeth, which I figured came from someone writing an S over the Z that was mistakenly there and someone else misreading it entirely, but I kind of wanted to officially change the spelling to that. After all, X is pronounced with a Z sound a lot, so it still would have worked. Makes me wonder why no Eli(s/z)abeths are spelled with an X instead!

            2. EvilQueenRegina*

              A friend once told me about an uncle, who introduced himself to a guy he met on holiday saying “I’m Bert”. Turned out the guy misunderstood his Scottish accent and later wrote to “Dear Embert”.

          2. Just Katie*

            LOL this will be instantly recognizable if the other one happens to read AAM so I’m not even changing the name, but I was recently at a wedding where, late into the night, I introduced myself to someone with “Hi, I’m [Groom’s] cousin Katie.” Her eyes went wide, her jaw dropped, and she stared at me, speechless, for several moments.

            It turns out she was Groom’s other (possibly drunker) cousin Katie.

          3. OyHiOh*

            Anybody else suddenly acquire a “that’s liza with a z, not liza with an s because liza with an s goes sssnoz” earworm?

            I’ll show myself out.

        2. Abyssal*

          Hi-five from another Elizabeth! I don’t think I had a single class in my school career where there wasn’t at least one other Elizabeth in the room.

          1. met_anon*

            I’m interested by this. My middle name is Elizabeth, but i’ve always gone by my middle name. While half the girls in my class had it as a middle name, I’ve rarely met anyone else who actually GOES by Elizabeth

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              I go by Liz except in official documents, but I know a bunch of ppl who only use Eli(z/s)abeth. It’s handy when there’s more than one Elizabeth that there are a lot of different nicknames for it. Come to think of it, in my 15-employee org, three of us are Elizabeths and none of use use our full name. I’m Liz and the others are Lisa and Beth.

              And it’s so weird if someone ever does just call me Elisabeth, because I am not in the habit of responding to it so if, for instance, they call me from across the room, I have no idea that they mean ME and hope I do not appear rude for not answering.

              1. Catherine*

                I’m a Catherine, and I go by my full name at work. Someone I don’t know very well asked a question addressed to Katie on a call the other day. I was physically scrolling through the list of attendees on the call to figure out who this Katie person might be before I realized he was talking to me.

            2. Maggie*

              My aunt named my cousin Elizabeth and announced at birth it would be ELIZABETH, not Liz, Lizzie, Betty, Beth, nada. I rolled my eyes and laughed– good luck with that!–but I was wrong. My cousin is in her 20s and is one of the only Elizabeths I know that goes by the full name.

            3. Me*

              I used to have a coworker Elizabeth who absolutely hated nicknames and only went by Elizabeth. Now I have a coworker Elizabeth (different one) who doesn’t mind nicknames, but we call her Elizabeth anyway.

              Honestly, though, if you can’t think of twenty nicknames for Elizabeth, you aren’t trying. In my 18 person senior year English class, we had Liz, Lizzy, Bibi, and Peyton (her middle name, which she went by).

        3. Lunch Ghost*

          The common last name makes it worse. I know a doctor named, let’s say, Michael Jones, and at no point, starting in medical school, has he been the only Dr. Michael Jones in the hospital system. (Once his credentials got deleted because a different Dr. Michael Jones retired…)

        4. Liz*

          Haha. Hello from another Z Elizabeth. Although my nickname, which I still go by was not Liz, Betsy, Beth or Betty. Thankfully. I’ve only run across a few with my nickname in my life.

        5. desdemona*

          At one point in high school I knew an Elizabeth, Elisabeth, Liz, Lizzy, Lizzie, Liza, Beth, and Betsy. (not ALL in the same class, but there was a lot of overlap)
          Lucky I suppose that they’d all decided on different nicknames?

          1. Rara Avis*

            College program, class of 35 living/studying/always together for a semester, 16 women, 4 of them were Elizabeth and most used the full version. They decided to branch out and went by Elizabeth, Liz, Bitsy, and Beth for that semester. (And my name is one that could be a nickname for Elizabeth but is often given as a name in its own right.)

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I have never, in seven years, gotten a patient list from our children’s hospital that didn’t include at least one “Khaleesi” or “Nevaeh”. Usually both.

    8. quill*

      It was Jacobs, Zachary’s, Ashley’s and Lindsay’s when I was in school.

      The Recess episodes about “The Ashleys” were written for a reason!

      1. Lindsay (using my actual name for once)*

        *raises hand* Yup, I’m a Lindsay, one of 3 in a class of 100. I mainly find this an issue when there’s just one other, and they’re a Lindsey, because then people start spelling my name wrong. I
        ‘m an early wave, probably based on Lindsay Wagner (it’s what gave my parents the idea anyway). There’s some later waves deriving from Lindsay Lohan, I think.
        Amusingly, there was a Lindsay in my year in college, class of about 1000, and she lived in the same dorm, on a different floor. Apparently she was kind of a jerk. I know this because I’d introduce myself to someone and the first two things that’d come up in introductions were your first name and your dorm building, so when I said I was Lindsay and I was in Lee (the dorm), there’d be a bit of a sour face and I’d realize her reputation had preceded me. We were both the same basic overall description so you had to know last names or get pretty specific before things diverged. I got used to explaining that there were 2 Lindsays in Lee and I was the other one (and I was definitely the other one, not the bit of a jerk one)

    9. Lisa Lisa*

      If you were a non-Catholic girl born in the early- to mid-60s, there’s got to be at least a 50% chance your name is Lisa.

      When I was in grad school in the late 80s, I shared a house with four other grad students. We had two Lisa’s, two Doug’s, and one weirdo named Jim.

      1. Salymander*

        The 70s too. I knew so many Lisas. Lisa A., Lisa J., Li, Li Lee (pronounced Leelee), Lisa C., Flute Lisa (FluLi), Creek Lisa (met her playing in the creek), Day Care Lisa (went to day care together) and Big Day Care Lisa (she was 5 years older than I was and in same day care)
        Lisas, Jennifers, Sarahs, Christines and Amys

      2. AnonAnonAnon*

        Lisa is truly the stealth common name because most people not named Lisa don’t realize how many of us there actually are.

    10. Rock Prof*

      I’m late 30s married to a Chris, and seriously it feels like almost everyone I know of a similar age to me is married to a Chris. When I grew up, there were 4 of my name in one specific section of my HS extra-curricular activity.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I know of at least two hetero couples where both partners are named Chris. And one lesbian couple where both are named Caroline. IMO it’s quite sweet.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          There’s a set of stepsiblings in my extended family, now all retirement age, where two of the siblings from one side of things have the same names as two of the siblings on the other. And a couple more people with those same names have married into various parts of the family. Makes for some fun confusion when a new in-law meets everyone for the first time, but is otherwise not an issue.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I had a coworker whose husband’s sister had the same name as said coworker. It was pretty cute.

          2. Lindsay (using my actual name for once)*

            My mom and dad both each have one brother, my uncle Bobby (full name Robert) and uncle Robert, who are or were each married to a Diane and a Donna respectively. Coincidences are weird.

        2. Carol the happy elf*

          I worked with husband and wife colleagues both named Terry. And at the church we attended, there was a couple named Sam and Evelyn. But Sam was Samantha, and her husband, Evelyn, was Irish. He had a brother named Joyce. Both literary names because their mother was a fervent readaholic. When they came to America, their parents tried to convince them to use their middle names, or at least Joe and Evan, but both refused. That same year, Johnny Cash did “A Boy Named Sue”.

        3. asterisk*

          A couple of years ago there were two couples in my congregation at church with a husband named Chris and a wife named Kim. And now I live in a different place and attend a different congregation, and the minister is yet another Chris married to Kim.

        4. Sparrow*

          I also know a lesbian couple who are both named Caroline. I wonder if we know the same people? :p

          1. Avery*

            I once worked with the file of a lesbian couple where the names were similar but spelled differently–think Carolyn and Carol Lynn. Never met them personally, but I bet that led to some confusion.

        5. Me*

          Not couples for me, but mothers/mother-in-laws — there’s one couple in my family whose mothers were both Florence, another couple whose mothers are both Nancy, and a third couple whose mothers are both Debra. It makes it interesting?

        1. ThatGirl*

          Hahaha I love that song.
          My first name is pretty distinctive and unusual, but Jennifer was my parents’ backup name. I was born in 1981.

      1. Sincerely Raymond Holt*

        Yes, another Jennifer! I was lucky in grade school to not share a name (it was a small class, but we had 2 Katie’s and 3 Sarah’s), but my HS class of 250 has 8 Jennifer’s.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        At my college of less than 3,000 students, there were 8 ppl with last names various spellings of Anderson. Four of them lived in my dorm. One of them was Jennifer Anderson, and she was the 2nd Jennifer Anderson on campus. They got each others’ emails all the time.

        1. many bells down*

          My married surname is fairly common and I have gotten emails for the wrong “Jennifer Lastname” several times. Even on email addresses that don’t actually contain my name. Insurance info, cell phone bills, even my last pharmacy had another woman with the same name!

          1. Lindsay (using my actual name for once)*

            There’s a person with my same first middle and last name living in California, who has filled out at least one registration with my website’s address under her website spot.
            There’s a Lindsay in Georgia who’s last name’s one letter off from mine and I got her emails occasionally for years (we both had It was like brief snapshots of this whole different life. On one occasion, actual snapshots were included :)

      3. Too Many Michaels…..*

        Small school (50 kids per grade in elementary), and I was Melissa number five (named for several relatives). It was totally something any of us from the 70’s and 80’s just figured out.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I got a wedding photo taken of me with the “backup band”: My mother, my mother-in-law, my sister, and my maid of honor all had the same name. We all know who we meant when we talked to the other! Isn’t that what nicknames are for?

    12. Library Lady*

      At my last job, we once had 5 Jennifer’s on staff at the same time, and three of them had very similar-sounding last names – think “Thomas,” “Thompson,” and “Thomason.” So if someone called and asked for a Jennifer but could only remember that their last name started with “Thom,” we’d have to ask what the person was calling about to make sure we connected them with the correct Jennifer.

    13. Cj*

      Out of 30 girls in my high school class, three of us had my name. One of my best friend in college shared my name.

      There were three of us with the same first name AND last name all working in professional fields in a town of 10,000 people. After I got married and changed my last name, I ended up working at the same office as on of the others. That was the only time it caused some confusion, especially since my professional certificate that hung in my office had her name on it, which wasn’t my last name anymore.

    14. JelloStapler*

      And a Kara, a Sarah and a Kristy, Kristen, Christina, and Christine.

      I had 5 Mikes in my grade school class.

      1. Merrie*

        For a while I worked on a team of about 10 with Jen, Jennie, Jessica, Jamie, and Jane. Hecka tongue twister. Then for a while (not the same era) both supervisors had the same common name.

        Customer: “I talked to Chris about that.” Coworker: “Which Chris?” Customer: “The cute one.”

    15. Insert Clever Name Here*

      My name wasn’t terribly popular when I was in school, and I was THRILLED when there was another Hortense* starting in high school. It was like “finally, I can experience this thing all my friends experience!”

      *not actually Hortense

      1. many bells down*

        One of my friends MADE UP a name for her oldest child and lo and behold there was another “Xartox” at his preschool.
        (He is not actually named Xartox)

      2. Bagpuss*

        Ha! I have a first name which is very uncommon for people in my generation- it was popular about 60 years before I was born, so I come across it in school stories from the 1920s / 30s but I haven’t ever met anyone in person who has the same name. I do know of one actor and one writer with’my’ first name but they are both 10-20 years younger than me.
        I like it now, but as a kid it was just another thing for the bullies to fasten on to.

    16. Jam Today*

      A fellow 70s baby! By the time I graduated from college, I knew 23 guys named Chris.

      On that theme, allow me to recommend the song “27 Jennifers” by Mike Doughty. Fine stuff.

    17. Nerfmobile*

      Multiple names still happen! They are just different names. My daughter has never had a year where there wasn’t at least an Evan G./Evan P., Sophie K./Sophie L., Aiden A./Aiden W. kind of thing in her class.

      1. DataSci*

        They do still happen – my kid happens to be one (spelled differently in his case, but pronounced the same so in speech teachers or other kids still need to distinguish with a last initial) – but it really truly isn’t as common as it once was. I posted another comment about this – search for “Peak Jennifer” to find it.

    18. Meep*

      My human name is Morgan. (Which I admittedly wondered if it was the name in question as it is unisex.) It took until I was in the 5th grade for there to be another Morgan at my school and until freshmen year of high school for me to have a Morgan in my grade (there were three of us). I only ever had class with one of them once. I still don’t see it all that often in a University or professional setting. It is growing more popular now so there are now hundreds of Morgans out there being born every year. The point is, you can still give your child a ~unique~ and “unusual” name and not be an absolute weirdo about it.

      I mean does she think he is going to be her boss forever? Or that they will ever be in the same group of friends or even at the same school at the same time? The chances of them crossing is minimal and if it is a thing about talking about children then use last names.

    19. One of the Sarahs*

      At my last few jobs, I joked that the Sarahs were going to take over the company, because there were so many of us. Have your child, call it what you want. The kid won’t care. I got real used to being one of 7 people who turned to look when someone in school called my name. The employee is being an idiot. Who the heck even knows if she’ll still be working there by the time she ever has a kid? And at this rate, she certainly WON’T be.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Aren’t there more CEOs name Robert than there are women CEOs, or some random statistic like that? Sigh.

    20. Yellow*

      I have a medium-ish unique name, and keep trying to get anyone I know to name their kid after me. Alas, no luck. :(
      I think having a name twin would be fun.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        Not when that name twin is a criminal. We have a good friend whose name, down to the middle name, birth month and year, and general description, match a criminal who had been in the news. When he got out, bad guy even had a similar car. But not a license.

        Good Guy has spent much time and money proving that he’s not Bad Guy.

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          Indeed. Just ask Gerry Sandusky, Baltimore Ravens broadcaster, what it was like to have the same name (slightly different spelling) as the infamous criminal football coach at Penn State.)

    21. The Prettiest Curse*

      First, as a person with a 2-part first name that many people manage to get wrong, let me just say that having a unique name is waaaay over-rated.
      Second, I hope that every single person who goes nuclear over someone “stealing” their baby name has a kid that grows up to hate its name and want to change it.
      Third, there are very few unique names in the world. Unless you go the Elon Musk and Grimes route, your kid is probably 99% guaranteed to meet or hear about someone with the exact same name at some point in their existence, so please just get over it now.

    22. Librarian of SHIELD*

      At a past job I had a boss with three kids and a coworker who got pregnant. She was telling us the baby name she and her husband were thinking of using and our boss said “that’s my middle kid’s name!” The first and middle names were both the same. Coworker said it was such a funny coincidence, and when the kid was born they gave him the name they picked and it literally never mattered that is matched our boss’s kid.

    23. WantonSeedStitch*

      In my office, we have a situation similar to these (names changed, but patterns are real):
      1) a Kristi, a Kristy, and two Kristas
      2) Paul A, Paul B, and J.T. Paul C (who goes by…Paul)
      3) Katherine and Catherine

      In one of our client departments, we had a Jennifer Smith, a Kathy Jones, and a Jennifer Jones.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        My favorite dive bar seemed to be populated with Pauls. So we had my Friend Paul, Paul the Bartender, Airport Paul (who drove the baggage trucks) and Alcoholic Paul Down at the End…

        I was, disappointingly, not a Paul.

    24. arjumand*

      When I was born, the name Jackie/Jacqueline was insanely popular, but my parents couldn’t agree on it so they named me something else. Then, when I was in middle school, I was in the class with 5 Jackies!

      Now, I’m a teacher, and there are always multiple names in the same classroom. Always. Unless their parent/s are making up some concoction or resurrecting an obscure/Biblical name (pity those poor kids), they’re never as original as they think they are.

    25. Katie*

      I went to a small college in the mid 2010’s (2000 students) and there were at least 35 Mary’s, 30 Joseph’s, 30 John’s, 25 Katie’s, and 20 Emily’s…

    26. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      My name is fairly uncommon. Not like, “no one else is named this, I can’t believe it!” uncommon, but I’ve shared a name with fewer than ten people I have ever met or dealt with (including fictional characters). One of those ten people was on my relatively small team at my last job. For people with pretty common names, this is no doubt a common occurrence (we also had three “Davids” at one point on the same team), but neither he nor I had ever experienced it.

      Neither, apparently, had anyone else. We constantly got email and Slack that was meant for the other person. I once got a Slack that took ten minutes to work out as being for the other guy, only to have the exact same person do the exact same thing later that same day The second time was easier , since I just looked a couple of messages up at where I previously said “Is this for OtherGuy?”

      Even after I left the company it continues, albeit to a lesser extent. I took a contract role for a customer of theirs, so I still have Slack account there. Even though my new account is labeled as a customer account I still very rarely get questions meant for him.

    27. MoreAnonThanNormal*

      heh – I have a tremendously common name, and years ago got tired of being one of many many people with the name, and started going by a much less common one. Since then, the nickname has become insanely common. * sigh *

      1. Less Unique Than I Thought*

        MoreAnon, I feel you. I started using a name, that while similar to other folklore names, did not exactly match any index I researched. A few years later when online searching became possible, I entered my name and found “if you name your baby [same name]!” I was initially taken aback; I thought I was the only one. But MySpace was lousy with us and we were all cool. I decided it was a good club.

    28. Kathy*

      My brother is named Chris and my brother-in-law is Chris. My dad is Tim, and my cousin is Tim. My maternal grandfather is James Senior, my uncle is James Junior, and a maternal aunt married a James. My aunt is Deb and my sister-in-law is Deb.

    29. anon24*

      I remember playing on a basketball team of 10 players with 2 Kelly’s, a Kelsey, a Chelsea, a Katelyn and a Caitlin. My poor coaches could never keep the roster straight. Players would play the entire game without sitting out while other players would sit on the bench the whole game because the coach called the wrong player and we just rolled with it.

    30. Rose*

      Right? I’m just picturing what the scenario being avoided here is. A kindergarten teacher doing a double take on the first day of school… “Robin? Robin?!?!? But there’s a child several years older than you two towns older named Robin!”

      *storms out, classmates mock Robin for eternity*

    31. LimeRoos*

      Yep – here’s my breakdown lol. And these are only for my class, not whole school.

      One of 3 Sarah’s in Elementary school.
      One of 5 Sarah’s in Middle School
      One of ?? in High School – Will be reviewing my year books to confirm.
      Sarah was very popular in the late 80’s early 90’s. And well, about half of the Sarah’s had my same middle name too. Sarah Elizabeth.

      1. FridayFriyay*

        I just joined a new organization and every 3rd person is named Sara/h! My last job it was Emily. It’s confusing for like half a second when you’re getting acclimated and then no big deal.

    32. PostalMixup*

      In elementary school we had two Brian Cs, a Brian K, a Brian R, and a Ryan R (I don’t think we had a second Ryan, so I’m not sure why he got saddled with an initial, too). In middle school we had three Katies in my class. My step-dad is a Ryan, my cousin married a Ryan, another cousin named her first kid Ryan, and yet another cousin’s wife has it as her middle name. Also, that cousin’s wife has my same first name, and my mom’s maiden name is my middle name, so every time she posts on Facebook I go, “I didn’t write that!” before I remember that another member of my family basically has my same name.

    33. Nanani*

      Right?? We had three of my name and three of another common name in just about all my classes growing up, and thats’ without counting overlapping nicknames! Kids will manage. Their parents and teachers will manage.

    34. Elizabeth West*

      True. There’s no guarantee that OP-Employee’s kid will never in their lifetime meet someone else with the same name.

    35. GlitsyGus*

      Yeah, I just can’t with people who get all bent out of shape over this. In my own family I have three cousins/2nd cousins with the same name and my sister has two name twins. There are also three boys with the same name (we’re a… fertile family). IT’S FINE. There has never been a situation where it caused problems or whatever people worry about. If anything it kind of gives us an extra family touchstone being “one of the Glitsys” or “one of the Guses.”

    36. Anonymous Luddite*

      Two Tylers in the same department, doing the same job. We’ve stopped trying to go by last names and have just started referring to them as “The Tylers”

    37. A Social Worker*

      I told my mom to expect a classroom full of Evelyns in about six years. I personally know at least 5 people who have named their baby Evelyn in the past two years, and one on the way.

    38. nobadcats*

      We had five Heathers in my junior class.

      I have two Heathers on my current team. They go by Heather[X] and Heather[X]. Also two Melissas.

    39. GS*

      My name is so common that once a friend spotted me on the street, yelled my first name and I completely ignored it. Gotta throw my last name in for any reaction out of me.

      1. nobadcats*

        I usually ignore people yelling in the street at me. My brain immediately slates someone yelling at me in the street as rando, “I don’t know you!”

    40. Sarah*

      Yeah… as a Sarah married to a Michael (and with two kids whose names, while not necessarily common right now, are fairly “classic” in style), I find the insistence on “unique” names baffling.

    41. Too Identifying - so anon for now*

      I was in a Latin class in high school in the 90s. There were maybe 14 kids in the class. THREE were named Jennifer Kim – not one had a middle name. To this day, I know them as “Jennie with an i-e,” “Jenny with a y” and “Jennifer.”

      I think we lucked out that they used different spellings.

    42. Aggretsuko*

      As a commonly named person, it’s a pain in the ass and we did not like it :P

      But seriously, if you’re not even having a baby now and you aren’t related, WHO GIVES A BEEP. GET OVER YERSELF.

    43. Empress Matilda*

      I once went to a party where the host (whose name was Jennifer) introduced me to the group by saying “You know Matt, and everyone else here is named Chris.”

    44. Anon4this*

      Liked it? Personally, I *hated it*.
      I grew up with a name that was WILDLY popular around the years I was born, and retains popularity to this day. It flies under the radar of most stereotypical “common names” because it never sounds dated or trendy, as it was originally a diminutive/nickname of another very popular traditional name that has been around for centuries. As such, it does not have any diminutives, nicknames, familiar forms etc itself.

      From kindergarten on, there were always a minimum of 1-2 (occasionally 3 or even 4) other girls in every elementary school class I had from kindergarten on, and it increased exponentially in middle & high schools. Since [MyName] has no nicknames, teachers & peers couldn’t differentiate like they could with a Jenn, Jenny, & Jennifer or Robert, Robby, Rob, Bob- they have to add a middle or last name, or differentiate by physical characteristics.
      There are so many people with my name that my brother had multiple girlfriends and one wife with my name- that’s how hard it is to avoid for people in our age group!

      No, I would have MUCH preferred to have a name that was not shared by tens of thousands of people born the same year as me, thanks, even if I had ended up with something ridiculously old fashioned or hippie dippie ding dong weird.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        My real name (which is not Regina – the pseudonym is my favourite character from Once Upon a Time) is something similar to what you describe, although I’m not aware it was ever a nickname for something else. I got used to a last name or initial being added as there was no nickname and no shortening I would accept, and the namesake in my primary class had my same middle name (which was a very common middle name for girls in the 1980s in the UK).

    45. lolly pop*

      My fam is full of Chrises in various spellings and my first husband is a Chris so everyone was used to calling the Chrises by Firstname Lastname. Now people look at me odd when referring to my ex that way when there are no other Chrises around to matter.

    1. JelloStapler*

      My coworker is pregnant and recently announced that they are naming their kid the same as my kid. I was excited, not annoyed.

    2. tangerineRose*

      I used to work on a smallish team that had 2 Davids on it. We called them by their last names, no biggie.

    3. Clorinda*

      It’s a good news/bad news situation for Name Lady. Good news; her future kid won’t have the same name as the boss’s kid, probably. Bad news: because she’ll get herself fired over this nonsense.

    4. jrg*

      right? i understand how people get possessive about names in families cuz it’s kind of confusing/weird to have a million cousins with the same name (although we have that in my extended family *shrug*) but the chances of your kids interacting with your coworker’s kids, especially if they’re far apart in age is like slim at best. so bizarre!

  2. whistle*

    Oh man, as an advice column junkie I love a good baby name stealing letter, and this is possibly the craziest one I’ve ever read! Who thinks they can’t name their future kid the same thing as their boss’s kid? Are you ever even going to meet the boss’s kid? I really hope the boss is able to follow Alison’s script and then send us an update!

    1. Cat Tree*

      That person might not even be her boss by the time kids come along. Or what if she worked with someone whose kid was already named that?

      1. Kay*

        For the taking unpaid time off so many places say they can’t offer more benefits or paid time off but can’t retain good workers. Personally a job that would let me take additional time off even if it was unpaid would be a bonus especially with jobs that have busier seasons and non busy seasons. The poster seemed to me by the letter having more of an issue letting their employee taking unpaid time off and just using the coverage as an additional justification. One job I had was super slow for a few months of the year and if my work was done I’d def ask to leave early or skip a day and much of it was unpaid and was really a bonus to me to get to leave early

      2. Be kind, rewind*

        Right? She wouldn’t be my direct report any more by then with the way she’s going… yes, her work product might still be good, but part of her job is also being professional and having good working relationships with her coworkers and boss. She is failing on both accounts by both her attitude towards the boss and the vitriol she’s spreading to others.

      3. The Original K.*

        That was my first thought. She could leave this job before she has a kid, and then her boss will fade into the background of her life and who cares what somebody she used to know named their kid?

    2. Rolly*

      Who called “dibs” first? I’m disappointed AAM did not bring up calling dibs.

      That’s the first thing I do at a new job – call dibs on baby names. Sometime even in the offer stage when hiring.

      1. Anonym*

        “I’m very excited to receive your offer, and just have one question before I can accept: has anyone on the team named, or is planning to name, their child Mordred?”

          1. Rolly*

            It’s really tricky on the hiring side, because while baby names are not a protected class, you don’t want to be asking about marital status which could lead to lawsuits. So usually we wait till onboarding to call dibs.

            1. IndyDem*

              We try to be as transparent in our hiring practices as possible. That is why on our offer letter, we list all of the baby names that the employees of our global company have called dibs on.

    3. Me*

      I worked with someone who named his kid the same name as his boss. He was named after a grandfather. No one batted an eye or thought that the kid was named after the boss.

      Just like no one is going to think she named her kid the same as the bosses kid because it’s the bosses kid’s name.

      1. Rose*

        I worked for a boss with a really pretty, slightly unusual, but recognizable name. A coworker loved it and named her baby that name. It wasn’t in honor of our boss but she sheepishly admitted she was “stealing” the boss’s name. Our boss made a few casual jokes about her namesake, people thought it was unusual but not awful or amazing, and none of us work there any more.

        1. Me*

          Exactly! People are pretty much going to assume you just liked the name.

          Absolutely no one (except these weirdo dibs people) cares about your kids name.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes! I love these. It’s bad enough when people in a family call name dibs (especially considering how often the repetition has been an intentional thing, so it was/is totally normal to have like two Margarets, a Maggie, and a Peggy in the same family) but at least then you can KIND OF see where it would be weird to have 3 cousins called Jimmy born within a year or whatever. But someone from work? When you’re not even planning for kids yet?!

      My name was #3 for my gender the year I was born. My dad was a little annoyed in a hipsterish way because he’d always loved the name and it just happened to get popular right when he had a kid but it was just never a problem at all.

      1. Mars Maybe Me*

        Totally not on topic, but… As a Margaret there’s only me in my generation of cousins but amongst my mum’s generation and up there’s a whole lot of Margarets with various nicknames since the naming tradition was oldest daughter was named Margaret. My parents almost named me Elizabeth though, which would have been weird since I have a cousin Elizabeth who’s a year older than me!

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          My family has a name that gets used a lot, not formally as a tradition/obligation but it’s been used a lot. So my great grandpa was “Jorge”, my grandpa and dad are both “George” but go by their middle names, two cousins have George as a middle name (one also shares a first name with his dad), and my aunt and daughter both have “Georgina” as their middle names. Dad also has a cousin “Georgie” on his mom’s side!

      2. many bells down*

        My BIL called me a few years ago to ask if I’d be mad if he used my adult daughter’s (unisex) name for their upcoming child. It was a name he’d actually used online for years before I’d even met my spouse. I was delighted, and so was my daughter, but they ended up using something else.

      3. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        My maternal grandparents had five daughters, and a last name that works well as either a first or middle name. All of their firstborn grandchildren and great-grandchildren have my mother’s maiden name somewhere in their names. We have like the opposite of dibs. At least ten people in my family have this name as either a first or middle name, and one aunt that never married still has it as her last name, plus the youngest daughter hyphenated her name after marriage.

        It’s kinda funny.

      4. Avery*

        I don’t think about it much, but I came very close to being the subject of a family dibs issue myself. When I was unborn and the gender wasn’t known, my parents decided on a female name, but the only male name they liked had been “taken” by my aunt a couple years prior. But I was “female” so it wasn’t an issue… and then the name they gave me turned out to be one of the most popular names for baby girls my age… and then I ditched my birth name so it became a nonissue anyway.

    5. GammaGirl1908*

      The craziest name-stealing letter I’ve ever read was one where a woman had a five-year-old, and some distant cousins of her husband’s who lived **in another country** that they’d seen once in a year (!!) named their kid the same first name as her son. She was still beside herself a year later, and wanted to know how to get the other parents to change the name of their now one-year-old.

      The letter said things like “my son is so sad when he realizes his aunt and uncle are talking to his cousin instead of to him, and it just breaks my heart.”

      Or maybe teach your kid that the world doesn’t revolve around him?

    6. Persephone Mulberry*

      This is a reprint of an old letter and it doesn’t look like there was ever an update (unless it’s buried in the 900 comments on the original post). :(

    7. Clisby*

      Yeah, two of my first cousins named daughters after my aunt (their mother). One goes by Margaret, the other by Maggie. No drama.

    8. Roy G. Biv*

      I predict she’s going to be terribly shocked and disappointed in about 2 years when that names rises to the top of the popular baby name list and stays there for a decade. “But I wanted to name my child Krylon.”

    9. Elenna*

      Exactly! Like, if it’s your sister’s kid or something who has the name you planned on, okay, I can see feeling like you can’t use the name anymore and being at least a little annoyed (although really, the level of pettiness in this letter would still be excessive – Angry Employee isn’t even going to have a kid anytime soon!) But like, if your kid has the same name as your boss’ kid who will be several years older and who they’ll almost certainly never meet, who the heck cares???

      (I guess if this is set in a tiny town with only one school or something, the two kids might be in school together or something, but even then they won’t even be in the same year and nobody will care. They can go by ages or last names or something, like every Jennifer and Chris ever.)

    10. MistOrMister*

      What gets me is that the boss doesn’t appear to have even known the coworker was planning to use that name! The situation would stil be absurd if the coworker had previously told the boss they want to use it, but the fact that the boss didn’t even know makes it even more ridiculous.

    11. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I remember a colleague and friend getting pregnant and telling everyone it was a girl who would be named “Helen”.
      I had long ago decided if ever I would have a daughter I would call her “Hélène”.
      I congratulated her on choosing a beautiful name.
      Then when I got pregnant with a girl, I mentioned to her that I had always wanted a daughter called Hélène and would she mind? She said not at all, she’d take it as an “imitation is the best form of flattery” thing (even though I’d explained that it had nothing to do with her daughter).
      Since we’re in France, both are pronounced the same. It’s never been a problem.

  3. Candi*

    I honestly thought this weird baby name possessiveness was just a Reddit thing. I didn’t know it actually happened in real life.

    1. WomEngineer*

      Same here. I can kind of get it if it’s a family name. But at work, it’s a little bizarre. Especially if there weren’t any issues before.

      1. Observer*

        With a family name it’s even MORE weird. Like, only ONE person gets to name a kid after Grandpa?

        1. shedubba*

          Right? My oldest daughter has the same name as my (estranged) father’s mother, and at least one of my cousins named her daughter the same thing. And I think every family unit in my family on both sides has an Elizabeth somewhere. That’s not even getting into the cousin who gave her daughter the same (uncommon but not unusual) first and middle name as my older sister, which were family names from the side of the family we don’t share with this cousin (apparently they were also family names from her husband’s side).

          1. Avery*

            My family seems to have a weird thing about this: middle names get shared all the time, and in fact one aunt sometimes complains that her middle name is a variation on the one that a ton of the females in the family shared rather than being the same name, but first names are off limits for reusing, it seems, as that nearly caused a scuffle with my own birth. I don’t get it, but then I’m not having a baby anytime soon so I don’t really care either.

        2. Momma Bear*

          In my family, a couple of the great grandbabies have variations of the grandparent’s name so they are all different but clearly in honor of one person.

    2. Jessie Spano*

      When my former best friend got pregnant, she announced that she’d be naming her daughter the baby name I had planned to use since I was a teenager (my grandmother’s name). She then laughed and told me, “Now you can’t use it!” I wound up with a house full of boys and didn’t need the name, but it was so bizarre. Needless to say, I rarely see her anymore.

    3. Catalin*

      Even if the name is ‘unusual’ (not super unique, but not commonly used, sharing a name is just not that big of a deal.
      I have a not-common name for my generation, (think ‘Zara’ or ‘Esme’) and last year I added someone by the same name to my team. We are the Zaras now, and it’s amazing. Other people know us as The Zaras. I’ve never in my life had another ‘Zara’ in my classes/workplace, but it just isn’t a problem!

    4. londonedit*

      Where I’m from people don’t generally tend to announce the name before the baby is born (traditionally we also don’t have baby showers etc because people historically thought it was bad luck to buy anything for the baby before it was born – people do now have baby showers more often, but there are still a lot of people who wouldn’t buy a present for a baby before it actually arrives) and I think as well as it being a superstition, it’s also because people don’t want to deal with the whole ‘but that’s MY baby name’ thing! Once the baby’s born, it’s much easier to say ‘this is Wakeen’ and people will accept it rather than doing the whole ‘Oh god you can’t call the baby Wakeen, I knew a Wakeen 45 years ago who was so annoying…’ or ‘OMG you can’t have Wakeen, I’ve wanted Wakeen for my baby ever since I was 11 years old’ thing. Obviously if your sister had always said she was going to call her baby Wakeen, and then you go and call your baby Wakeen, it’s going to cause ructions, but I know several people who have had babies around the same time and used the same name, and it’s fine!

      1. Antilles*

        Once the baby’s born, it’s much easier to say ‘this is Wakeen’ and people will accept it.
        100% true. If you tell people the name ahead of time, you have drama or people suggesting different names or even people saying that they don’t like it or etc…but after the baby’s born and named, nobody is ever going to have the guts to look you in the eye and go “yeah, your kid’s name is weird, you should change it”.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      Nope. I know a woman in real life who cut her brother and his wife out of their lives for naming their son something too similar to her son’s name – something like Blaise and Blake, if I’m remembering it right. She was really miffed that others were not furious on her behalf at such a slight.

  4. WellRed*

    Once more for the cheap seats in the back: nobody owns a name. And nobody cares as much as you what you name your baby (except for the boundary challenged).

  5. fiona the baby hippo*

    Once upon a time like 70% of all babies had names from the top 10 baby names of that decade and no one cared that everyone was named Mary.

    1. starsaphire*

      What was that TV show from the late 70s or early 80s where all the MC’s friends were named Mary? They were Italian I think. There was Mary Catherine, Mary Elizabeth, etc…

      1. starsaphire*

        Found it! It was “Angie” starring Donna Pescow and Robert Hays.

        Angie’s best friends were, apparently, Mary Catherine, Mary Grace, and Mary Mary.

        My memory is so weird. Couldn’t tell you what I had for dinner last night, but I can remember minor characters from a two-season TV show from 1979… *sigh*

    2. Artemesia*

      All of my SILs are named Mary — it was a thing in big Catholic families — Mary Lee, Mary Jane, Mary Elizabeth etc — the first one gets to be Mary and the others use their middle names.

      I agree with Alison that the LW needs to confront this as a workplace behavior issue NOW and also through in, ‘of course when you some day have a child, you can name that baby whatever you like including Magenta.’

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I’ve done my family genealogy, and I swear there were a couple generations where every woman in one town was named Mary Magdalena.

        1. EPLawyer*

          UM WHAT? Did they KNOW the origin of that name?

          Yeah Italians are fun. The first born son is named for the paternal grandfather, the second for maternal. First daughter, paternal grandma, the second, maternal. And so on. Which is why you have so many Vitos. And where all the nicknames came from, not just the Mafia. It’s the only way to keep straight who you are talking about.

          Dad once was painting a room with his father and his uncle. Someone yelled a name up the stairs. All 3 answered.

          1. Curious*

            I think that it works the same way for sons on Barrayar … at least in the Vorkosigan family …

            1. WantonSeedStitch*

              #1 is paternal granddad’s first name for his first name, and maternal granddad’s first name as a middle name.
              #2 is maternal granddad’s middle name as a first name, and paternal granddad’s middle name as a middle name.

          2. MareNostrum*

            Arab culture is similar. Must be a Mediterranean thing. Also, for traditional Arabs, your middle name is always your father’s name, no exceptions, and your last name is usually just the first name of whichever umpty-great-grandfather in the male line who has a different name. As a result you get a lot of guys named Muhammad Ahmad [something] because their grandpa was Muhammad, their dad is Ahmad, and their great-great-great-great grandfather was named Hashim or Rostam or whatever.

            1. MareNostrum*

              *Clarification: and their great-great-great-great grandfather was named Hashim or Rostam or whatever, and everyone else in between is either a Muhammad or an Ahmad.

          3. doreen*

            And don’t forget, when you get past 4 kids ( or have three of the same gender) you start naming after opposite sex grandparents – which is why I have so many cousins named Joann(e) . They are all actually named Josephine Anne because they were named after their grandfather, Joseph

          4. Mary Lechowicz*

            My mother’s family was not Italian but followed this same pattern. Mostly. My great-great-grandmother did not want to name a daughter after her mother-in-law, Sara, and family lore holds that this was the jinx that caused her to have 13 children. The last, a daughter, was named Sara.

          5. Lucy Skywalker*

            The original of that name? Mary of Magdalene, the first of Jesus’s apostles to see him when he rose from the dead on Easter morning.

      2. Cakeroll*

        My brothers in law have this situation. Also a Catholic family, and they’re all “John” Middle-Name, and each just go by Middle-Name outside of work/government contexts.

    3. Stitch*

      My mom’s name is Linda, which was the most popular girl’s name for basically the entire 50s. So many Lindas.

    4. RC*

      Literally all my aunts had the same name–must’ve been the most popular in central Europe at the beginning of the last century lol.

    5. LizM*

      I have a friend who has more than one sister named Mary. They go by their full names (Mary Elizabeth, Mary Anne, Mary Margaret, etc.)

    6. Critical Rolls*

      This is an interesting thing that I think I read somewhere but don’t quote me — that the 10 most popular names now represent a much, much smaller percentage of baby names in a given year. So, if 42% of all babies had top-10 names in 1950, now it’s only 18%.

    7. Sincerely Raymond Holt*

      And also why there are so many nicknames and variations of Mary… Molly, Polly, Mae, Mamie, or combine Mary with the middle name… Mary Kay, Mary Fran, Mary Beth, etc. etc. etc. You’re right, 100 years ago there were only a few names so people came up with crazy creative names. My parents (Boomers) know people with some of the strangest nicknames.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        My grandma has gone by her middle name (Grace) her entire life. If you call her Mary, she will think you’re talking to/about someone else. (She will respond to Mary Grace, however.)

    8. Zelda*

      Last night there were four Marys
      Tonight there’ll be but three
      There was Mary Seaton and Mary Beaton
      And Mary Carmichael and me.

      (Although, ironically, my nom-de-net comes from a friend-group where there was a need to rename me to avoid confusion with a younger child who shared my actual first name.)

    9. many bells down*

      Josephine Tey’s “The Daughter of Time” is one of my favorite books, but being as much of it is set at the end of the War of the Roses, it gets confusing to read because everyone is named Elizabeth, Anne, Jane, or Mary.

      1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

        Dara Ó Briain has a whole shtick about going to see a medium which asks “Has anyone lost a Mary?…” “IN IRELAND! We’ve lost three on the way here! There’s Mary’s down the back if the sofa at home!”

    10. EZPast*

      My name is Susan and in the 7th or 8th grade there were 3 or 4 of us Susans all in the same class. We all got nicknames – Suzi, Susie, Sue, and I got the best – Sue** (I’m not giving it up the ** here) with two different pronunciations but still spelled the same way. It’s fun to hear my different friend groups call me by the two different pronunciations. My nickname has followed me for 50+ years, including usernames, license plates, domains, etc.

  6. Lucia Pacciola*

    I guess I’m just enough of a curmudgeon to think that making a public announcement of your spouse’s pregnancy in the workplace is unnecessary, and that this whole problem could have been avoided by observing a stricter separation between home life and work life.

    1. HS Teacher*

      That’s where I land, too. A lot of these personality conflicts could be avoided if people just treated private information as private.

      1. JelloStapler*

        It’s not like they are giving month-by-month updates of how big the baby is. You’re going to put the blame on the boss by sharing news that may impact the team if they are going on leave instead of putting it on the employee acting really weird and unprofessional by being upset by a name she thinks she can claim?

        If it’s a close team, that may be part of the culture to celebrate these things together.

      2. Coconutty*

        This is a really bizarre response that’s not at all in line with what most people consider to be “private” information. Becoming a parent, even if you’re not the one who’s pregnant, is a huge milestone and life change that’s tremendously normal to share with your colleagues — hell, if for no other reason than that it’s going to affect your work schedule for awhile. Absolutely nothing to do with work-life balance here.

        1. Rabuchux*

          I think it’d be more weird to work on a small team and one day have my boss randomly mention he has a new baby but had never mentioned the pregnancy/expectancy. This line of thinking reminds me the bizarre boss I had once who forbade anyone from having even one framed family photo in their office space.

          1. CatWoman*

            Ex-husband’s co-worker called off one day and said he would not be in because his girlfriend was in labor. No one was even aware that he HAD a girlfriend. It was weird.

          2. kitryan*

            I had a friend from school who I only really kept up w/on Facebook. One day she posted a new baby post complete w/hospital pic of her in a hospital bed holding the baby w/her husband. This was the first I’d heard of her being pregnant.
            While I was certainly not owed any info, it was weird to come across the baby announcement as if from nowhere, when normally you’d expect at least a smattering of pregnancy news, shower pictures, and so forth.

            1. MsSolo (UK)*

              I know people who lost a child late in pregnancy who deliberately avoided any announcement of later pregnancies until they had the baby safe and alive in their arms. I don’t think it’s actually that weird when you’ve only got a facebook relationship with someone to not know that level of detail, but if it’s a colleague who you presumably see and talk to regularly and whose work will be affected by the need to attend appointments/take parental leave/function as a human on two hours of sleep a night it’s definitely weird not to share anything at all.

              (though, of course, with facebook’s algorithms it’s also very possible they did post about the pregnancy earlier, but facebook thought what you’d like to see is acquaintances posting their answers to bank security questions under stock photos on random group pages, and people responding to comments left by strangers who got angry about news headlines without reading the article.)

          3. LittleMarshmallow*

            Ha! That happened where I used to work. The guy didn’t tell his team his wife was pregnant. He mentioned the new baby in passing in a meeting once and the team was like “what?!?!”. But then everyone moved on cuz he was known as awkward (in a good way) and it was like kid #7 so it just didn’t register as “big news” for him.

    2. NeutralJanet*

      If OP is planning on taking parental leave, then it makes practical sense to want the office to know in advance of the birth, even beyond the fact that having a baby is a reasonably public piece of information that doesn’t particularly constitute an overshare.

      1. pancakes*

        Right. “By the way, I’ll be on paternity leave for 4 weeks starting tomorrow” or whatnot would be a strange way to handle things. A long leave is going to be much easier for everyone to manage without an element of surprise.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, mentioning a pregnancy is pretty standard small talk, and necessarily to plan for leave. It would actually seem weirdly secretive if a coworker never mentioned it, even if they weren’t taking parental leave.

        And asking about names is a very common question because there’s really not much else to ask at that point.

      3. SpaceySteph*

        Yes, this, and we should normalize non-gestational spouses taking parental leave because parenting is not a gender-specific or uterus-specific activity. If the pregnant person would announce their pregnancy at [whatever] week mark, there’s absolutely no reason the pregnant person’s spouse cannot do the same. My husband and I have always announced in concert, although I prefer to wait til after 16 weeks.

        I DO think the right answer in all contexts (work and otherwise) to “have you picked a name?” is “no” or “we’re not telling in advance” because it always invites commentary when you tell.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Nah, people can share the name is they would like to. They shouldn’t have to keep it quiet just because someone might be weird/rude about it.

        2. Fae Kamen*

          I honestly think this inevitable commentary is part of the reason some people are so uptight about their baby names, and maybe also the reason for some of the more innovative name trends of the last few years. When every person you meet asks you for the name with great anticipation, and you know they’re just waiting to pass judgment on it and make you feel like you have to justify it… I think people start to feel like their baby’s name has to be interesting and unique, so that when the spotlight turns on them they’ll ready to wow the crowd. And other people using the name they picked threatens that. I guess I took a lot of words to say it’s a status thing.

    3. Jo April*

      How is it not normal to say, “good news, my partner and I are having a baby in [month] and I’ll be taking parental leave for twelve weeks after that, let’s work on a plan about how we’ll handle coverage”?

    4. Artemesia*

      Yeah me too and especially at 12 weeks. I always advise people to keep the name to themselves until the baby is born (especially now that the gender is usually announced earlier) — it is easier for people to whine about you stealing their name for some future baby than to argue you should change the name of little Magenta once they are born.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        When I was a kid, people often didn’t announce a name until the baby was born. Nobody cares about whiners, but it was considered unlucky to do so until the baby was born. And sometimes the parents changed their minds at the last minute.

        I’ve known plenty of people my age whose parents literally chose a name when their mothers went into labor.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            I didn’t have a name for three days because my parents were convinced I was a boy (not because of an ultrasound or anything, just a feeling) so they didn’t have any girls names picked out.

            1. Bagpuss*

              My brother was like that. He has 3 older sisters, my mother is one of 4 sisters, he’s old enough that ultrasounds weren’t standard.
              When the midwife said ‘Congratulations, you have a beautiful baby boy’ my mother’s response was ‘are you sure?’
              He got a name about a week later.

            2. Avery*

              My parents were the same way but the other way around–assumed I was a girl, no boy names planned. Luckily they were right, at least as far as physical sex goes, but they joke that if I’d been born a boy, they’d still be arguing over names for me!

            3. File Herder*

              Same here. And then my sister. She got a female version of one of the boys’ names. You’d think our parents would have learned, but when the next girl turned out to be a boy they had to frantically scrabble for names and he ended up with the male version of one of the names picked out for “her” and one of the male names that had been intended for the boys who turned out to be girls.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah in the UK it’s traditionally been considered bad luck to announce a baby’s name before it’s born. My nephew didn’t have a name until over a week after he was born because they couldn’t agree on the order of his first name and middle name – here you have 6 weeks to register the birth and there are definitely cases where people wait almost until they’re sitting down with the registrar to make a final decision!

      2. Jamie Starr*

        Yeah, I don’t think there is any benefit to announcing a name in advance. It just opens up the door for people to comment on it — they don’t like, they don’t like the spelling, they wanted to use that name, etc. Once the baby is born and the name is announced, I feel like there are few people who would be rude enough to say, “Ugh, that’s an awful name” (at least to the parents’ faces).

        1. Observer*

          You really think that someone who is ridiculous enough to tell a parent “you can’t choose that name” before the baby is born is going to suddenly become reasonable after the baby is born? Call me cynical, but I don’t think so.

          1. Jamie Starr*

            Not necessarily, but once the baby is born and named, there is nothing they can do to change the parents’ mind so they may decide it’s not worth fighting a losing battle.

            1. pancakes*

              There is nothing they can do 4 weeks or 4 months in advance to change the parents’ minds, either. They can behave in a ridiculous way, like the person in the letter, but it’s not as if anyone should be counting on the ridiculous person getting their way, including the ridiculous person themselves.

          2. Hlao-roo*

            Those people will not become more reasonable over all, but for a significant portion of them waiting until after the baby is born to share the baby’s name will stop the unreasonableness specifically about the baby’s name. I think it’s because (1) there’s a baby present to fuss over (2) they need to refer to the baby by something now that it’s here, and the baby’s name is the path of least resistance and (3) the birth certificate is signed. Before the baby is born, it feels more hypothetical and therefore feels like the parents can be cajoled into changing their minds (feel that way to the unreasonable people, of course, not to anyone else).

            1. Anon4this*

              No, unreasonable people still get weird & controlling even if they don’t know about the name until it’s on the birth certificate. I’ve seen it happen in my family, with two normally reasonable grandparents who thought they knew best. One only called the child by their middle name, the other called the child a bizarre nickname that sounded like something you’d call a mechanic, not an angelic little baby. It was super infuriating to see because neither would listen to reason!

        2. Me*

          They didn’t “announce” it. Someone asked and they answered.

          It’s gross how people are making an employee who is behaving very badly and very inappropriately to somehow be the OP’s fault.

      3. Observer*

        I always advise people to keep the name to themselves until the baby is born (especially now that the gender is usually announced earlier) — it is easier for people to whine about you stealing their name for some future baby than to argue you should change the name of little Magenta once they are born.

        Anyone who thinks they have a right to keep others from using a name is not someone who is going to be reasonable about this stuff. You can bet your bottom dollar that the OP’s employee would be just as sulky if the name had only been revealed after the baby was born. Because she’s throwing a fit over something that is utterly not reasonable to start with.

      4. Coconutty*

        There is a huge difference between not sharing a baby name in advance and not announcing a pregnancy at all

    5. fiona the baby hippo*

      It might have avoided the problem for now but at some point the baby would be born and the name surely would have come up and given this person’s response, she would have probably had a similar reaction

    6. whistle*

      What? Having a baby is about as big of a milestone as they come, and certainly appropriate for a work announcement. The answer to someone getting unnecessarily upset is not “no sharing anything ever”.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, I mean I am very happy to know if one of my colleagues is expecting. It’s the sort of thing I’d expect people to be comfortable sharing once the pregnancy was well established. I mean obviously I don’t want to know the medical details or personal stuff but the existence of the impending progeny is a nice thing to share and a piece of good news to celebrate.

        Also my company offers parental leave to both parents which they can share between them so even if the member of staff isn’t actually giving birth, they will want to tell management. So when a member of my team told me his wife was pregnant he also said he wanted to share parental leave and would be taking 6 months. That sort of thing you really need to let people know.

    7. Anonym*

      Eh, it’s pretty reasonable to share major news like that. Plus it may well affect the team in terms of work and availability once the baby’s born. The employee’s behavior is totally bizarre and unacceptable, and OP shouldn’t have to hide major life events to try and prevent such weirdness.

    8. Everything Bagel*

      I don’t think sharing good news with the people you work closely with is a problem. I’m assuming the letter writer isn’t going to come in every week with a status update and sonogram pictures or whatever to pass around to the employees. His mentioning his wife’s pregnancy doesn’t seem odd at all. The weirdness is all on the employee and her problem with other people having the same name as her as yet unplanned future child.

    9. iglwif*

      It’s extremely normal to tell your co-workers you’re expecting a baby, even if you’re not the one giving birth. Especially if you’re going to be taking some of the parental leave.

      Pre-announcing names and sexes, however, is weird, and I don’t understand why people do it. Although I guess doing it yourself is at least way less obnoxious than pressuring other people to do it. (If I had a loonie for every time someone asked me whether we were having a boy or a girl and then acted all offended when I said we didn’t know, I could’ve bought myself a nice big ice-cream cake.)

      1. Eden*

        I respect that it can be annoying to you as a parent who doesn’t wish to share, but that doesn’t make it weird for others to share this pretty common information.

        1. iglwif*

          I guess I’m old enough that between my 20s and now, it’s changed (not among people I know, but definitely in the wider society) from something you find out after the baby’s born to something people start talking about months in advance. IOW, it may be “pretty common information” now but that’s quite recent, and the contexts in which I hear about it tend to be contexts where it causes problems, as in this case.

          (I don’t blame the OP for sharing the information when asked! I wouldn’t do it, because it seems like tempting fate / inviting the evil eye / bad luck / whatever, but they clearly don’t feel that way and they had no way of knowing that one employee would be a raging weirdo about it.)

      2. LizM*

        We don’t announce names because I’m superstitious about making a decision before I meet the baby, but I don’t mind sharing the sex. We didn’t do a big gender reveal (no exploding forest fires), but I’m not sure I would consider it weird to share the info once we have it.

        1. Jzilbeck*

          Currently pregnant but too early to publicly announce. I’ll eventually tell immediate team members because we have a big deadline later this year and we’ll all need to plan the work around my maternity leave. I abhor gender reveals and don’t plan on any celebration although I won’t object if someone wanted a cake…I also don’t mind sharing the gender if someone asks. The name will be a secret though; clearly, too many people have opinions on what your child’s name should be!

          1. sunglass*

            People know the sex of the baby I’m currently pregnant with because I use pronouns when talking about him! People I work with will ask me how pregnancy is going and I’ll say things like “Good, he’s moving a lot!” or whatever. I don’t actually think I could have kept it secret.

            We’re not telling people the name we’ve chosen, but that’s a personal choice (because we don’t want people’s opinions!). If other people decide differently that’s totally fine and no one else’s business.

            1. iglwif*

              I never told anyone the sex of my baby because I didn’t know what it was. That’s not to say we would have shared it if we had known–we wouldn’t–but we genuinely did not know.

              And one (of many) reasons we asked not to be given this information was that shortly before we finally got pregnant, one of my spouse’s relatives went around telling everyone their second child was going to be a girl–that’s what the ultrasound said!–and everyone got all excited about that, including the parents and big brother, and then he was born and … was not a girl. I find the amount of weight people ascribe to the genitalia of babies-to-be — because let’s face it, that’s all you can know at that point, what genitalia they have — a little bit disconcerting.

              I would never SAY that to someone who shared that info. I’m not a monster. I do find it weird how far and how quickly the pendulum has swung, though.

      3. Omnivalent*

        If you don’t understand why people do it, why not try to understand? People generally have reasons for doing things, and those reasons may be good for them even if they would be ridiculous and unworkable for us.

      4. Shirley Keeldar*

        There was no such pre-announcing here, though…the OP merely answered a question from a colleague. Personally, I don’t see that much weird about saying, “We’re having a baby girl, yay!” if that’s what you want to say, but that OP didn’t even do that. No oversharing here, just normal conversation and a truly weird snit.

        1. iglwif*

          Oh yeah the employee is definitely the raging weirdo in this situation. The OP answered a question someone asked and had zero way of knowing that someone was going to behave in such a bizarre way about it.

      5. Cat Tree*

        People ask about names and gender because there’s not much else to ask at that point. Most people don’t have an intense desire to know, but they are asking polite follow-up questions to show interest. I recently had a baby and just said that I was keeping gender a surprise and wouldn’t decide on a name until I saw my baby’s face. I can only think of one person who pressed the issue further.

      6. Observer*

        Pre-announcing names and sexes, however, is weird, and I don’t understand why people do it.

        So? I tend to agree with you, but it’s harmless. Also, the OP actually didn’t “announce” it – someone asked and was answered.

        If I had a loonie for every time someone asked me whether we were having a boy or a girl and then acted all offended when I said we didn’t know, I could’ve bought myself a nice big ice-cream cake

        Now THAT is weird – and genuinely rude. Like who gets to tell anyone whether they should find out this stuff? Much less expect you to share the information even if you have it.

        1. iglwif*

          I got a lot of rudeness while I was pregnant, yes.

          At the time I kind of didn’t care because it had taken 5 years and a lot of medical assistance to get pregnant and I’d had scary bleeding in my first trimester so I was kind of floating on the euphoria of still being pregnant for each successive week? But looking back on it after the “fourth trimester” when I was starting to get my brain back (and when all the in-laws had progressed from rude pregnancy questions to rude parenting critiques) I was like … you know what, some of those comments and behaviors were REALLY out of line.

          (Pro tip: Do not come up to a pregnant co-worker you barely know and pat her belly while she’s standing at the coffee station making a pot of tea. It will not go well for you.)

      7. Rocket*

        Is it really “pre-announcing” when it’s in response to a question someone posed? As is in the letter. I feel like it’s a little ridiculous to say people have to be cagey and keep it a secret.

        1. iglwif*

          That’s fair–it was less of an announcement than a reply to a question.

          But I don’t think not sharing information about, and I can’t stress this enough, *a 12-week pregnancy* qualifies as “being cagey”.

    10. Heidi*

      I don’t think it was necessarily a big public announcement. It’s possible that that the OP and wife were ready to share the news (after 12 weeks or whatever) and the OP just started mentioning it to people. I think it’s fine for coworkers to know at least that much about you.

    11. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      That would be like working with robots who have no personal life to inflict on others. I can’t imagine surviving such a cold, impersonal environment.

    12. LizM*

      I spend almost a 1/3 of the day with my coworkers. It seems oddly cold to not share this big of a milestone. I mean, I’m not going to invite them to my ultrasound or give them a play by play of various symptoms, but the fact that I’m having a baby hardly seems “private” any more than mentioning that someone is getting married or having a new house.

    13. Former Retail Lifer*

      I don’t get excited about babies, but we all know some people do get REALLY excited. The OP may have kept the disclosures to a minimum at first, but shared more due to the constant questions from excited colleagues.

    14. RagingADHD*

      And this is how you get coworkers like that letter earlier this year, where they had like nine kids and suddenly realized it was bizarre and constraining to never be able to mention anything they did outside the office, because it was impossible to say anything at all about their life without (quelle horreur!) revealing that they had offspring.

      There’s absolutely nothing odd or inappropriate about telling people you and your partner have a baby on the way.

      The person pitching a fit about her imaginary baby’s imaginary name is the one being strange and inappropriate.

    15. Jean*

      This is more or less where I come down on it too. Not because I’m not happy to hear other people’s big news, or not excited for them, but just because personally I’d rather keep personal things to myself than hear other people’s crappy opinions about it – which many times they feel free to share just because I’ve told them something about my life. It’s just better for everyone, in a workplace context. I’d just rather prevent these situations from the get-go than deal with the fallout. (My ex and I told no one about our son’s name until after he was born, simply because I knew I would not be able to be polite about any “feedback.”)

      1. Hosta*

        The only proper feedback about a baby name is, “Oh, what a great name! You must be so excited to use it!”

    16. Observer*

      I guess I’m just enough of a curmudgeon to think that making a public announcement of your spouse’s pregnancy in the workplace is unnecessary, and that this whole problem could have been avoided by observing a stricter separation between home life and work life.

      Nope. Totally not the case. For one thing, the OP did not “announce” the baby’s name. More importantly, people do not have to keep things secret to keep others from acting like delusional children. Seriously.

      I’m someone who would never have announced my own pregnancy at work at 12 weeks, and my husband wouldn’t have announced my pregnancy at all. But it really doesn’t matter – I could have plastered the information all over my office, the reception area, the conference room, and the copier room. That STILL would not have entitled someone to throw a hissy fit that I “stole” their baby name.

      Besides, what happens when the OP’s baby is born. Are they never allowed to let anyone know that they had a baby? Are they required to keep the new child’s name a secret?

      1. thestik*

        I admit I learned the co-workers’ kids’ names and then gradually dumped that info put of my head. I fpund it unnecessary and distracting. Then again, thanks to an unusually spelled first name and working with sensitive data on a regular basis, I get really paranoid about anyone sharing any personally identifying info related to kids.

        1. Observer*

          You know, I suspect that most of my coworkers have no idea of the names of my kids. Which is fine – it’s not really something that they have any reason to care about. I just can’t imagine it being considered somehow inappropriate to share that information in the normal course of events. And being expected to not answer any questions about them because it might trigger an unreasonable person to act in most unreasonable ways is just. . .

          Don’t get me wrong. If someone doesn’t want to share their kids’ names, I’m certainly not going to insist or give them a hard time. But no one should act as though sharing that information is somehow a problem in most contexts.

    17. anonymous73*

      It’s not curmudgeon-ly to think making a public announcement of your impending child in the workplace is unnecessary, it’s being seriously out of touch. People share major life events with their colleagues and their subordinates. It’s not unusual and just because you may not care, or share similar details, doesn’t make it “unnecessary”. What is unnecessary is his employee throwing a temper tantrum because of the baby name that she likes for her non-existent fictional right now child.

    18. Purple Cat*

      Yup, you’re a curmudgeon.
      There’s nothing to say there was this big dramatic PREGNANCY ANNOUNCEMENT!
      But it’s a normal course of office banter to share huge life-changing news. Now, of course, some people choose to keep that information close to the chest – remember 9 kid guy – and that’s fine too.

    19. I'm just here for the cats*

      Wow! I think this is really harsh, and not how people behave. We are not all in a tiny bubble and do not interact with those that we work with. Having a baby is a big part of life and it’s normal to talk to your coworkers and employees about it. It would be more odd if he didn’t say a word.

      It doesn’t sound like he had a big gender reveal party or ask for gifts and he didn’t throw a used pregnancy test at his coworkers. He has given a life update, which will affect work. He may want/need to go to doctor’s appointments with his wife which may affect his availability. And he, hopefully, will be taking some time off after the baby is born. These are all things that his employees need to know. Because someone asked him a relatively normal question about what he and his wife was choosing for a name his employee shouldn’t be acting this way.

      Also, why cant a man (I’m assuming based on the letter that he is male) be excited and talk about the new baby. If the role was reversed and it was a woman boss that was talking about the baby name would you think this was unnecessary? We need to get over these stereotypes that only women can talk about new baby’s and that men are odd if they are excited or talk about babies.

    20. JustKnope*

      I’m always so intrigued how many people who read this blog take this stance. My workplace isn’t unhealthy by any means by we are all very much aware of each others’ personal lives! I like knowing stuff about their kids, their hobbies, etc. It’s to a reasonable level and doesn’t derail our work but if I found out my boss was going to have a child and I didn’t know about it I would think that was strange.

    21. Rocket*

      I know, right? OP and his wife should have just not gotten pregnant at all. That would have really nipped this problem in the bud.

    22. NotAnotherManager!*

      Wow, I thought I was a curmudgeon, but it never occurred to me that sharing your spouse was pregnant was some sort of overshare. I don’t want to hear the gory details about people’s medical procedures/issues, hour-long conversations about the latest TV show, or the 12 reasons your spouse hates their boss, but knowing that someone’s spouse is expecting is very normal and having some time to plan for their parental leave (since babies have their own schedule) is helpful to the whole team, especially if temp coverage is being arranged.

      My team is made up of human beings who have lives that extend beyond the office and tend to like to be treated like humans rather than worker bees. There is so much lawn between inappropriate workplace oversharing and pretending like you just go into hibernation mode outside of the office rather than having a life.

  7. The boss of me*

    LW3, about interviewing a social acquaintance. Can you recuse yourself? Only if you think if will create a weird dynamic if the are hired or turned down.

    1. River Otter*

      I’m leaning toward LW recusing them self as well. It sounds like they are acquaintances and are not close, so I guess it is not as clear cut toward recusal. In general, however, I do feel like it is hard to be unbiased when interviewing people who you know well outside work, and especially if you don’t know them at all in a work context.

    2. Momma Bear*

      I’ve done interviews where I knew the person (it’s a small industry/small hobby) but it was a team interview so clearly my input was only part of the puzzle. I made the interviewee aware that I was not the final authority, too. Sometimes in small businesses there really isn’t a way to recuse yourself, but if you can add another interviewer it may offset the “but I know them” awkwardness.

  8. Artemesia*

    Not only CAN you ask for details when asked to write a rec, you SHOULD. I always required a resume (not a formal one — one in draft was fine) and a brief discussion of their achievements in classes or work projects with me. I mentioned that while I had good impressions of their work the rec would be stronger if I could be very specific. It makes my job easier but also produces recommendations that are likely to be really helpful to the person needing them.

    1. After 33 years ...*

      Especially if you’re applying to different jobs / academic programmes. I’m better able to highlight the candidate’s strengths if I know what they are applying for.

    2. Smithy*

      I just want to add, that people you worked with more than a few years ago – sharing your resume or tasks you’d want to highlight when you ask someone to be a reference is probably going to help out anyways. Recently, I was a reference for a former coworker – and at one point was asked some more quantitative questions (how long did you work together, when was she promoted) where I needed to pull up her LinkedIn.

      Not to mention, sometimes people have multiple job titles while in a position but may only list one on a resume. Under the context of using a resume as an advertising document, if there was a merger and your title went from Llama, Donkey, and Goat Grooming Associate to Large Animal Grooming Coordinator, and your tasks didn’t significantly change some people would just pick the title they prefer or think is more clear.

    3. Butterfly Counter*

      As a professor who pretty regularly writes letters of recommendation, I typically ask that they send me the cover letter that they’re sending in with their applications because, most of the time, I can really only accurately report the grade they received in my class and a vague recollection of any assignments they have done (if I can even muster that with over 150 students a semester). Knowing their other accomplishments helps put their success in context, which I think will be helpful to letter readers.

  9. Curious Oranj*

    For #4: When I was at grad school, one of the professors in the faculty created a form to send to anyone who’d asked him for a reference. He kept it comprehensive, but light in tone:
    -“What class did you take, again? I’m old and my memory isn’t what it used to be.”
    – “Can you highlight the best three parts of your project? I want to make sure that I highlight the points where you really hit it out of the park.”
    – “How soon do you need this recommendation? Are you planning it along the lines of someone with a normal sense of timing; or are you like me, and you’ve left it until the last minute?”
    It may not have been the most scholarly approach to writing recommendations, but it got him the information that he needed to write really thorough, warm recommendations that helped his learners.

    1. SarahKay*

      I love his last point about time-frames and how he phrases it to make it possible for someone to say “Now! please, sorry, and thank you so much”,

    2. Rock Prof*

      I have something like this! I often forget to use it, but particularly for students/alums who I only saw in class, it’s really helpful. For students who I’ve worked with more one on one, I tend to not rely on it as much.
      I relate way too much to that last question, though.

    3. MissMaple*

      Yes! I wonder if you and I had the same professor. Such a great idea for someone who probably encounters tons of students. I did one round of grad school (MS) and was applying to a MA program a decade down the line and it was nice to touch base and remember what I’d done back then. I assume that the profs who have this kind of rapport with students are also the ones who get asked most often for recs, so good for them for finding a way to simplify it!

  10. iglwif*

    The number of advice-column situations that could be avoided by simply not announcing baby names in advance…

    (I have never understood why people do this. Talk about tempting the evil eye! Not that I believe in the evil eye. But surely avoiding the Baby Name Discourse is reason enough to keep this stuff to yourself?)

      1. iglwif*

        Well, in this case probably, yeah, since OP’s employee is clearly not a reasonable person!

        But I generally find that people are way less weird about names attached to actual babies than they are about names attached to future babies. Or, at least, they trash-talk the name way less in front of you when the baby is right there.

        1. Covered in Bees*

          Not announcing a baby’s name until 8 days after birth is a thing in my culture. While my husband and I didn’t care about the superstitions behind it, we didn’t want anyone’s opinion on so it was an easy out.

          1. turquoisecow*

            I didn’t tell anyone the baby’s name or sex until she was born, even though we knew both months beforehand. I didn’t want everyone’s opinion on the name so I just lied and said we had a few we were considering.

            1. hbc*

              We kept the sex private too, though in our case mostly to prevent gendered baby gear. For anyone who thinks withholding this kind of information will stop people from wheedling, whining, and prying: it does not.

              1. SpaceySteph*

                OMG so many people are deeply offended that you won’t tell them the sex (or in our case that we didn’t find out the sex at all… x3). Why do people care so much about not-their-baby.

        2. pancakes*

          I have never read an advice column letter about someone with a baby name problem and thought they seemed reasonable! It is always and only ever someone who seems bonkers, and I don’t think there are many of them. Someone who is trash-talking a baby a little, also bonkers.

          1. river*

            It’s what I call Main Character Delusion. They think they’re the main character in the book Life, and get angry when anything reminds them that they’re not.

      2. Gracely*

        Nah, because when you present something like a baby’s name as a fait accompli, people just have to suck it up–it’s too late to try and convince people to change. If you tell people before the name is on the paperwork, they think they might still have a chance to change your mind.

        My cousins who have had kids have done this, and it works very well.

      3. RagingADHD*


        There is no “one weird trick!” to stop irrational people with terrible boundaries from being irrational at you. It’s just a matter of luck whether you happen to set them off or not, and if it isn’t one thing now, it will be something else later.

      4. Artemesia*

        It usually doesn’t because even people who don’t like the name you choose are unlikely to say that once it is the name of an actual human. My parents were shocked at the name we chose for our son — there was a long pause when we called them with the news of his birth and name — but never a discouraging word just ‘well, that’s unusual, it it a family name in (husband’s) family.’ The joke here is that his name turned out to be one of the trendiest names of the decade beginning his year — I have no idea where it came from (I KNow where I got it but that is not where others did as it was quite obscure). My mother calmed down when we were at an amusement park when he was 3 and someone yelled out the name and three little kids turned and answered.

      5. Nanani*

        Well, once the kid is named and the birth certificaate is printed there’s a lot less for nosy nellies to interfere with. Before that, the peanut gallery thinks they can actually influence the decision

    1. HannahS*

      The solution to someone being absolutely ridiculous about “stealing” a baby’s name is not for everyone to never share their babies’ names, but for people to stop being ridiculous about it. I chose not to share my baby’s name with my family until we had named her. It still would have been fine for me to expect people to not be weird about it if I had.

      Sharing joyful news is normal. Just because it isn’t yours or my cultural practice to share baby names before they’re born doesn’t make it weird.

    2. JelloStapler*

      I get not want to share your own information personally because of your comfort level and not wanting to deal with jerks.

      But again it goes back to (like I said in the make-up post)… I hesitate to focus on telling people not to do things to stop people’s ridiculous reactions instead of expecting people to not act like a sufferable jerk (by dissing the name, acting like you kicked their puppy because maybe someday they want to name a kid that, etc).

    3. Everything Bagel*

      The baby’s name would come out eventually. This is not on the letter writer, this is on the employee. Frankly, this comment and others in this thread that are putting blame on the letter writer are ridiculous. There’s such a thing as oversharing, but telling people you are close with you’re having a baby and answering someone’s question about the baby’s name are not the same as oversharing. People who get upset about something like this are the ones who need to check themselves.

    4. Tired social worker*

      It says clearly in the letter that the LW was answering a direct question about the name. I don’t know where people are getting the idea that they shared the name as part of an unsolicited “announcement.”

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      Having the name already on the birth certificate definitely reduces the likelihood of debate/criticism, but weirdos gonna weird regardless lol. I was at a baby shower once where the topic of “worst baby names” came up and someone quickly checked what the parents were planning to call their baby before anyone accidentally mocked it :)

      1. Artemesia*

        Told it before — but any mocking of names is dangerous. When I was interviewing I was taken to dinner by the economist and her husband. They knew my husband and I had different last names and so asked how we had chosen to name our son. I said ‘well if my name were (hisname let’s say ‘Rogers’) and his name were (myname let’s say Finklestein) then we would have gone with Rogers Finkelstein as Rogers makes a good first name— but Finklestein would just be a terrible first name, so we hyphenated.’

        Yes, and this is so unfair, but yes, THEIR son’s first name was ‘Finklestein’ i.e. my similarly awkward name. How I could step in it with my own name is hard to fathom but I did. Years later my son told me he was in a book store and someone called out ‘Finklestine’ and a little 3 year old ran up — he figured it must be their grandson. (and I stand by the idea that my last name is a terrible first name — I just don’t say it out loud with people I don’t know well.)

        Never disparage a name — it will be that person’s mother’s name or child’s name.

      2. Nanani*

        Any discussion of “worst names” is on a short road to deeply problematic (that is, racist and xenophobic) territory. A name that sounds weird to mainstream Jim and Karen is normal, traditional, associated with a beloved relative, etc to someone else.

        1. Anon4This*

          To me, “worst names” are those where people have taken a straightforward name and deliberately butchered the spelling of it to make it “unique” and then get angry when you spell their kids name “Olivia” instead of “A’Lyvveah” or some such nonsense. (Pro tip to creative spellers: If it’s only spelled, not pronounced differently, your kid is still going to be A’Lyvveah Q. because it sounds exactly like Olivia A. and Olivia M.)

          I also know many people, myself included, who are named after a beloved relative and still can’t stand their name. My friend Hester’s parents always intended to call her by her middle name but her legal name is still Hester, which she hates. My very favorite person in the world, my grandma, had a name that she begged her children not to bestow upon any of us grandchildren, thankfully. My nephew would have been named a pretty atrocious made-up feminization of his father’s name, had he been a girl. I’m not going to tell someone planning to name their kid Gertrude that I think it’s pretty fug, but it’s normal to have names you don’t like or that are generally considered pretty unfortunate for reasons other than racism and xenophobia.

  11. Jennifer Strange*

    I just had my first baby and during my pregnancy I frequented some message boards regarding pregnancy and parenthood. The number of people who would complain about someone else “stealing” their name (or stealing their thunder if someone had the audacity to also get pregnant) was astounding. It’s a name. Unless you go full on Elon Musk, someone else in the world will share that name.

    1. Binky*

      Elon is actually a fairly common Hebrew name, although I generally don’t see it transliterated like that.

      1. Clarity*

        I think Jennifer is referring to the name of Elon Musk’s son with the singer Grimes. That child’s name is, uh, strange.

      2. RagingADHD*

        She’s referring to Elon’s baby’s name, “X Æ A-12”

        According to Mr Musk, it’s pronounced Ex Ash A Twelve.

        According to meme, it’s pronounced Kyle.

    2. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      Something about the letter made me wonder if the OP’s employee was either struggling with infertility or struggling to find a husband – somehow, she wants kids BAD and feels like other people are getting pregnant “at” her.

  12. Former Retail Lifer*

    As someone born in the 70s, where all of my friends were named Jen, Mike, some variation of Kristy/Kristen, and Brian, I can assure you that these two kids will survive. They probably won’t even know each other!

    1. Sara(h)*

      I’m a Sara(h) who was born in the late 80s/early 90s. My brother and cousin have the same 1st and middle names, just in opposite order (so bro is something like John Michael and cousin is Michael John). Everyone is fine.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        For real. The takeaway is that the coworker is not reacting rationally to the situation.

        1. JelloStapler*

          Right. I am surprised by so many “well then don’t announce a name” comments there are versus “the employee is acting like a brat”.

            1. pancakes*

              You can in fact tell an employee who is being ridiculous that they need to get it together or they’re out of a job, though. You can also tell a personal acquaintance who is being similarly ridiculous that they need to get it together or they won’t hear from you anymore.

            2. Jennifer Strange*

              So no one should ever talk about anything because someone might react unreasonably to it?

            3. Esmae*

              Right, but unless you never share any information about your personal life you’re going to create the situation of “this is the name we’ve chosen for our baby” at some point. It’s just a question of when.

            4. Tired social worker*

              By “you” I assume you mean the other coworker who asked LW about the name and therefore “” “created the situation”, right?

            5. Observer*

              you can’t control other people; you can control situations you create

              Except that this is NOT a “situation” that the OP created. No one made the employee into a loon. Nor, by the way was there any “announcement”. The OP was apparently having a personal conversation with someone who asked about the name, and the employee OVERHEARD it. Do you really think that it’s reasonable to expect people to keep conversations like this TOP SECRET?

            6. Anon4This*

              Having to not share basic information because one person you work with behaves bizarrely is not a reasonable expectation. It sounds like a single person on a larger team is being irrational. That’s not LW’s problem, nor is it acceptable workplace behavior to cold-shoulder your supervisor for such a ridiculous reason.

      2. bunniferous*

        I agree it shouldn’t be an issue and the employee is banana crackers but I have seen so many online posts on places like Reddit about baby name drama…..

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Everything has drama around it when people are unreasonable. It doesn’t put the onus on the job-unreasonable person to keep every innocuous thing quiet if they don’t want to.

    1. Everything Bagel*

      How would that solve the problem of the employee being upset the boss stole her baby name and acting foolish over it?

    2. anonymous73*

      First, he didn’t “announce” the baby’s name. He was asked a question and answered it.
      Second, you are completely missing the point of what the underlying issue is here.

  13. Bethie*

    We named our son Jackson, as its a family name. So far we have lived in 2 houses where the next door neighbor boy is named Jackson. And you cant yell Jackson in a public space without at least 3 other boys turning around. Its a name. A first and last name, at that. So many Jackson’s where I live.

    I could be sympathetic if she was also pregnant, maybe, but not even pregnant and just wanted the name for herself? No. Id even be tempted to google what number the name is on the baby names list, or start bringing up famous people with the same name in conversation. Just to be petty and make a point.

    1. anonymous73*

      I wouldn’t even be sympathetic if she had the same due date. She’s being 100% unreasonable and behaving like a toddler.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s a unique supervillain origin story, I guess.

      “No child but mine shall be named Quinn.”

  14. Lizzo*

    LW1: in the very paraphrased words of Captain Awkward, you are not naming the baby *at* her. Good grief.

  15. SheLooksFamiliar*

    When I was a kid, I was loitering around some expecting moms at church who were talking about baby names. One church lady said if she had a girl, she would name her Sarah. Another expecting mom lost her mind, claiming she was going to give birth first and Sarah was *her* choice, and she had rights to it. Things got tense and loud really fast. Clearly, there was some backstory that 7 year old me didn’t understand. When someone yelled, ‘God damn it, Vickie…’ – IN CHURCH – my mom yanked me away. The second mom had a boy, so there was only one Sarah that I can remember at church.

    Yeah, people can be weird about baby names.

    1. not a doctor*

      That’s just bizarre. I went to a tiny, tiny school growing up and there were still 7 Sarahs in my class. They were, like, fully a third of the population. No one cared.

  16. JelloStapler*

    Um, this is weird when a friend or a family member does it… more so when it’s a coworker. LIke, when would your kid and her imaginary child be in a situation where having the same name would be an issue?

    1. Artemesia*

      I have two nieces named Emily and the parents of the first were not pleased that their sister named her baby the same BUT they didn’t make a fuss and it has never been a big issue and when a distinction has to be made in conversation it is either ‘Beth’s Emily’. or Emily Johnson. And that is rare.

  17. RagingADHD*

    This employee is badmouthing and acting huffy toward her boss for “stealing” the name of her hypothetical someday-child, which at this time she has no plans or prospects to have in the foreseeable future?

    I think the boss needs to take a closer look at this employee’s work and relationships with the rest of the team. I absolutely do not believe that someone with this outlandish and irrational of a mindset is functioning in a perfectly normal, productive, collaborative manner in every other aspect of her work.

    She is reaching so hard to create drama over literally nothing. That level of aggressive imaginary victimhood has got to be spilling out all over the place.

  18. generic_username*

    #1 – That employee needs to get over it.

    My sister sort of took the name I wanted for a future child (Different name, but same nickname. ex: I wanted “Madison”, planned to be called “Maddie” for short, and she went with “Madeleine” who is called “Maddie” for short now). I was a bit annoyed, but she had her own reasons for picking the name she picked, and actually for some reason was convinced that no one would shorten her kid’s name even though my family is notorious for shortening everyone’s names to end with that -y sound. Since they’ll be cousins, I’ll just have to scrap my planned name because they can’t have the same name; but there is literally no reason whatsoever that two coworkers can’t have kids with the same name, lol

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      “Little Maddy” and “Big Maddy” or “Maddy Jane” and “Maddy Catherine” would be adorable, though.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        And now I’m a little embarrassed that I seemed to have weighed in your personal choice to name your child….sorry about that! I’m sure you’ll pick the perfect name.

    2. anonymous73*

      I see no problem here. If you want to name your future child Madison, name them Madison. Your family will figure it out.

    3. desdemona*

      I have a cousin with the same name as me – we’re also the same age, so it was a Fun Thing, and made us really close as kids.
      You do you, but just wanted to chime in that it’s ok for cousins to share a name :)

    4. Artemesia*

      my daughter wanted to name her daughter Alice for my mother and her husband’s grandmother but his sister got their first. So she picked a different name. (oddly the same thing happened with her choice for a boy when the other sister got their first). They weren’t competing — I am not sure the sisters were even aware she was interested in those names — but there are a million names. Get a grip and move on.

      1. generic_username*

        I have zero ill-feelings about the whole thing (as many people have said, you can’t really call dibs on a name), which may not have come through in my story. But yeah, I’ve moved on, did so basically immediately. Actually, my now-husband doesn’t even like my original name anyway, so it’s not like I’d have gotten to use it when we do eventually have kids.

    5. ENFP in Texas*

      Cousins can have the same name. My husband (Dan) had a cousin (also Dan). My husband was born first, so his cousin was called “Little Dan”. When “Little Dan” ended up being six inches taller than my husband, they still called him “Little Dan” and it became a running joke.

      If you like a name, use it.

    6. Purple Cat*

      Obviously it’s your own comfort level, but you can absolutely have cousins with the same name. It happens all the time, especially if it’s family names.

    7. Chriama*

      So in my birth country there’s a naming convention based on gender and day of the week you were born on. Some people use it as a middle name, some as a first, but the point is that there’s a 1 in 7 chance of someone else having the same name as you in any given group. We moved to a different country, and my sister had the same name as multiple others in our extended social group. We just rolled with it. Big/little X, boy/girl X, calling X and then clarifying when the wrong one came along… absolutely fine.

      Also, my sister has a nickname that sounds like what we call our dad. Think “poppa” vs “Paula”. Even in the same house, he’s always answering when someone calls for her. Again, we roll with it and it’s never been an issue.

      I think people significantly overestimate how much trouble repeated names are going to be. Maybe part of a larger societal trend towards individualism? People are very adaptable — name your child whatever you want!

      1. Chriama*

        Rereading my post, I should clarify that I’m talking about 2 different sisters. One with a very common name, the other with a name that sounds vaguely similar to what we call our dad. So it’s an occurrence both in and outside our home.

    8. Observer*

      I’ll just have to scrap my planned name because they can’t have the same name;

      If you don’t WANT them to have the same name, there is nothing for me (or anyone else) to say. But there is no reason that they CANNOT. It really, truly is a matter of what you and the other parent want. Nothing else.

      1. generic_username*

        Lol, I’m definitely gathering this from the comments. They’ve got me questioning why I’m so hung up on the idea of naming a kid something similar to what my sister named hers. I think as someone with a crazy common name, I just kind of want to give my kid a name that at least is unique within our family, which is small enough to easily do that.

    9. Lizzo*

      In our family, we have:
      *Grandfather is a senior, his son is a junior, and so junior goes by a nickname that is a shortened version of the family’s last name.
      *Grandmother’s first name is also her daughter’s first name, so daughter goes by middle name.
      *Junior’s first son has a name that is very similar to his (junior’s) sister’s middle name, and son also goes by a shortened version of his name that is the same as sister (aunt).
      *Junior’s second son is named after his (junior’s) brother.
      …and there are some middle names that also repeat across the generations.

      Basically when we all get together, several people are referred to by their entire first name–and sometimes both first and middle names–so that we’re clear on which person we’re referring to. Confusing? Yes, frequently. BUT WE FIGURED IT OUT.

      tl; dr: Name your child Madison. All will be well. :-)

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Our family has similar things going on, but our takeaway was to give the kids their own names and stop the madness. I am called a minimum of three different names, depending on where people know me from. My family uses a nickname of my middle name because I share a first name with a close relative; my mother uses my full middle name; everyone else uses my first name. My only cousin, who knows me both as family and is part of my social circle, gets whiplash trying to figure out what to call me in what situation. It’s a pain, and I can understand why people’d want to avoid it (and, in fact, recommend avoiding having a bunch of people with the same names).

        We got a lot of flack for not naming our son after my husband as both sides of the family are big into juniors (hence why we have 50-year-old Mikeys and Paulies), but my husband goes by the only nickname I like of his first name, and I hate both of his middle names and am not calling a kid either of them. Our son got his own name, and everyone has survived.

    10. RagingADHD*

      If you want your hypothetical kid to be named Maddie, just name them Maddie. If you name them Madison, the family might come up with some other completely reasonable way of telling different cousins/grandchildren apart as countless families do all the damn time.

      But if you just give them Maddie as their real official name, then you win because you get the nickname back. Your sister will also win because she didn’t want her kid to have a nickname in the first place.

      Congratulations, imaginary problem solved.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        As the bearer of a cutesie, -ie ending nickname as a legal first, I do not recommend this. Give the kid some options, they may prefer to be called something more serious-sounding as an adult. Or something entirely different – we’d never considered the nickname my younger child has ultimately chosen to use but it’s what she prefers and we roll with it.

        I am also asked constantly what my name is short for and then have to put up with the “Really? It’s not short for x?”. Yes, random person who just me, I am actually aware of what my full, legal name is. It’s on my driver’s license and everything!

        1. generic_username*

          This was my thought exactly. I particularly am sensitive to this for a woman’s name. While it should not be the case, I worry that with a cutesey -ie name that she will be taken less seriously later in life when she’s trying to be a working professional. I actually have thought about doing a unisex name for that reason as well

    11. Esmeralda*

      My cousin and I have the same first and middle names, we’re a bit over a year apart. No one has ever had any trouble whatsoever telling us apart. It did not confuse or distress us. Really the only problems were people who thought it was cuuuuuuuute or people who thought I (the older one) must be angry about having my unique identity stolen.

      People are strange…

  19. Observer*

    The whole “unique name” thing is not only relatively recent, it’s extremely culture specific.

    In communities where you have Mark Sr and Mark Junior, you’re almost certainly going to have more that one Mark in the extended family. If you have Mark 1, Mark 2, and Mark 3, the odds of NOT having multiple Marks in the extended family are not high. In communities where it’s customary to name after living relatives, you’ll almost always see sets of cousins with the same names. In communities naming after dead relatives, you’ll see not just 1st cousins with the same name.

    And then there are the names that are common within a community. I don’t know which names show up in other communities, but I know that it’s a phenomenon that’s not unique to Orthodox Jewish communities. In some cases, some of these names are so ubiquitous that you can figure out what community a particular group is, just by looking at the roster of names and seeing which name or two show up.

    1. Ruby*

      My large Italian family repeats the same 4 names. It’s hell for any in-laws coming into the family.

      1. Sangamo Girl*

        Ha! If you yelled Anthony/Tony at any family gathering, a good chunk of the room would respond.

      2. Lizzo*

        Yep, Italian tradition is to name the first son after the grandfather and the second son after the father.
        Also hell for later generations trying to figure out who’s who in family history.

  20. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    I understand not wanting your kid, and three of their cousins, to all be named Obadiah Jones–if only so there’s no argument later about which “my grandson, Obadiah Jones” has inherited grandma’s prized llama. But none of that is going to be an issue between Obadiah Jones and Obadiah Smith, who aren’t at all related.

  21. PT*

    The only time I can see here sharing a baby name with the boss might be if it’s a furbaby. If the boss is like “We’re naming my daughter Willow!” and you’re like “My puppy is named Willow!” then maybe that could be awkward if your boss is a jerk.

    But that’s it.

    1. chilipepper*

      College roommate named Mara spent the entire 4 years being upset at the prof who said, oh, I have a dog named Mara!

    2. Rick T*

      We sort of had that issue in my family, my sister-in-law wanted her daughter to have the same name as our last family dog, gone these 20 years. My brother approved and I don’t think my parents cared one way or the other.

      1. Chriama*

        I could imagine being upset if I was named after a dog, but not if I happened to have the same name as a dog. As in, they liked the name and didn’t think about the fact that the dog had it vs. they loved the dog so much they named their human child after it. Probably not a meaningful difference, and likely wouldn’t come up unless I was somehow living in the shadow of the dog’s memory in other ways.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I have a relative who was (sort of) named after the cat.
        He was a very welcome surprise after his parents had been told that they couldn’t have children.
        The cat had been adopted when they first got that news, and given their favourite name, as they didn’t think they were going to have any other opportunity to use it.
        When they very unexpectedly found they could, and were, having a child, a few years later, they decided they still wanted to use that name, so they did.
        (Although they did once have an awkward conversation with the school after someone who knew the child but not the cat overheard them making arrangements for a neighbour to pop in once a day to put down fresh food for ‘George’ while they were away over a weekend…

    3. anonymous73*

      Your example would be a non-issue with reasonable adults. Clearly the employee in the letter is NOT a reasonable adult.

    4. EvilQueenRegina*

      Oh, we’ve had that letter here, although I think the people involved were coworkers who reported to the same boss.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      I honestly can’t figure out why this would be awkward lol. Although my aunt did name her dog a name my mom was considering for my sister and Mom ended up going with a different name.

    6. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      I know two King Charles Spaniel dogs with my daughter’s name. It suits all three of them :D

    7. Lucy Skywalker*

      My parents have a dog named Gabriel, which is also the name of my brother-in-law’s nephew. They wanted to change the dogs’ name to avoid awkwardness, but were told that it just confuses the dog if you change his name.
      So now we talk about “Gabriel the human” and “Gabriel the dog!”

  22. Not really a Waitress*

    My best friend has a dog with the same name as one of my nieces, which is also the middle name of my mom and my sister, whose daughter has that as a middle name which is the feminine version of her brother’s middle name.

    Another friend has a dog with the same name as my oldest son


    1. Not really a Waitress*

      And after 3 kids of my own, 4 nieces, and 3 nephews, the number one piece of advice I tell new parents to be is don’t tell anyone the name you picked. It becomes open season leading up to the baby being born. If you wait till after the baby is born, they will be a lot kinder.
      My sister used an extremely old fashioned name with one of my nieces, like no one uses this name, and when I first heard it I cringed. But since the baby was already born and named, I didn’t say anything. If she had told us before birth, I am sure we would have said something.

  23. Green great dragon*

    One exception to the ‘no dibs’ rule though- a senior colleague of a friend of mine gave his kid the same name as friend, which is a name I’d never heard otherwise before or since. Which felt rather odd when he became my friend’s boss. Ideally he would not have done that.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This seems like a perfectly normal thing to do. Even if you yourself had only encountered the name in this specific context.

      I did know two elementary school teachers who had to cast far and wide for names because so many were firmly linked to one past student, not always in a positive way. That was just them, though–they didn’t suggest anyone else choose names based on this filter.

    2. Green great dragon*

      It does feel odd though. I mean obviously he’s not banned from doing it, but it just feels a little too close to naming your kid after a younger, junior colleague. If there was any chance he’d got the name from elsewhere it’d be fine, but it doesn’t seem likely.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Maybe he just liked the name. Just because the colleague has the same name doesn’t mean the child was named after him. We had an intern at work a couple of years ago who had a name I really liked and had never heard before. I could have seen myself naming my child that simply because I thought it was a nice name, not to name them after the intern.

    3. Lady Danbury*

      Why not? Presumably they used the name because they liked it, not specifically named after the colleague. Name inspiration can come from anywhere/anyone. Nobody “owns” a name.

    4. Chriama*

      Unless this was a bizarre power play where he liked to misleadingly refer to his son in a way that would ascribe strange behaviours to his boss, I think it’s fine. (E.g. “Fergus was sick last night and is staying home today” and then the boss comes in 5 minutes later).

  24. Critical Rolls*

    I don’t understand how some people who work coverage-based jobs come to believe they can have any days off they ask for. Of course the employer should be as accommodating as possible, including proper staffing levels, but it can come up anyway, and it’s not automatically unreasonable. It’s just kinda baked into the job.

  25. Box of Kittens*

    One of the bloggers I follow recently posted a rant about how her sister-in-law is naming her baby (who she is pregnant with) a name that the blogger had mentioned SEVERAL TIMES (/s) was one of her favorites. The blogger is not pregnant nor planning to be anytime soon. I do not get the angst over baby names. No one is naming their baby AT you (and if they are you have bigger problems).

  26. Jasmi*

    Op1 – In a way, I can sort of understand the employee being a little upset – people can get possessive over ‘their’ baby name. However, it’s not reasonable that she’s letting this affect her interactions with you at work (and definitely shouldn’t be badmouthing you to people!!!!) It’s one thing for her to be privately upset about this, whether or not you think she should be, and another to behave the way she is currently. It’s not like you’re a sibling or best friend whose child is going to grow up with hers (not that it would be okay to act this way if that was the case). She might not have a baby for a few years from now and you or she could be working elsewhere at that time. Hopefully it’s something she’ll get over in time but in the meantime I’d suggest a conversation along the lines of ‘ You’ve seemed to be interacting with me differently recently, and from what I can tell it’s been since I mentioned the name I’m planning to give my child. Can you tell me a bit more about what’s going on; I’d like us to figure out a way to move forward?’ That way it opens up the discussion rather than being confrontational and putting her on the defensive, and sets the tone for a more constructive conversation. That’s not to say you might not need to take a tougher stance at some point if she continues to be unreasonable or to badmouth you, but hopefully this would start things off on a better footing. I hope things work out and congratulations on your happy news!

      1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

        I mean, it’s not wildly unreasonable to be a bit upset in the privacy of your own head. Or rather, it kind of is, but you’re *allowed* to be unreasonable quietly to yourself. It’s very unreasonable to act on it, especially to the extent that this person is!

        1. anonymous73*

          Agree to disagree. If being upset about your boss naming their child the same as your non-existent not even guaranteed future child then you need to seriously re-evaluate your life.

          1. Jasmi*

            I’m not saying that this isn’t a rather strange thing to be upset about, and I can see why people would think it’s unreasonable. I just think the employee can feel how she wants to about the situation, but it’s her behaviour that matters. If she was privately upset about the baby name but kept it to herself and didn’t behave in the way she has, there wouldn’t be an issue.

    1. pancakes*

      The way to move forward is for her to commit to not acting weird about this. She needs to do that regardless what’s going on in her personal life.

    2. Observer*

      I don’t think that there is any way to have a constructive conversation here. The response is simply too far out of any level of reasonableness.

      The only conversation is “what is it going to take to get yourself together?” Maybe employee needs a leave of absence, a couple of days off, work on an absorbing project, whatever. But there is simply nothing that she could say about why she’s upset and acting this way that would be actionable for the OP.

  27. Lizard Breath*

    Regarding the internships, since this is a formal program that lasts nearly a year and the OP knows that she’s likely to get a lot of reference requests in the next couple of years since the students are graduating and looking for work, it might make sense to have some kind of semi-formal performance file that she can refer back to. Given that the intent of an internship program really should be the professional development of the interns, it would make sense to have quarterly check-ins with the interns to give them some kind of structured feedback anyway, and if you just hung on to the material for a few years you’d be in good shape. (Of course it’s also always good to ask people asking for a reference if there’s work they did that they’d like you to highlight)

  28. It’s all good*

    The President’s wife was pregnant. She came into the business one day and shared the name they picked. It was one that we had liked if we ever had a boy and I mentioned it. She was upset! I told her no to worry. My 5 year old was a miracle kid and so it was highly unlikely I’d ever get pregnant again. To my surprise a few days later the President gave me an envelope with a list of names. It was from his wife, a list of alternate name we could name our future son! Lol it never happened it when I hear the name I always think of this incident.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I dearly hope the name was one of those chosen because it’s classic but no longer common, and that reasoning was used by half the little boy parents at preschool to all narrow in on the same name.

      1. It's all good*

        Right?! I was not upset at all, but she clearly was. Their son was a cutie and I always enjoyed when he visited. (However, if our miracle son was ever to be, of course we would have used that name). (Also, she was the owner’s daughter and was spoiled so I should have not been surprised, lol).

    2. Purple Cat*

      I’m so confused by this :)
      Was she upset that she “stole” YOUR name and so offered you alternatives? Or was she upset that you might “steal” HER name in the future and so gave you a list of “allowed” options?
      Either one is bonkers because you could just…. use the same name.

      1. It's all good*

        She was upset that we would use the same name in the future. Like I mentioned, it was highly unlikely then (and impossible now) that this could happen. We never socialized beyond a yearly adult party so who knows what the issue was (except she was a spoiled adult)? I left about a year later so no worries. But I always chuckle when I hear this name, cause how can I not think about this crazy lady? lol

    3. Observer*

      To my surprise a few days later the President gave me an envelope with a list of names. It was from his wife, a list of alternate name we could name our future son!

      They are both out of their minds.

      She, for making the list, he, for giving it to you.

      So much for “creating situations” where people get crazy about “their” name.

  29. Catalyst*

    Every first born girl on my father side of the family (including myself) have the same first name. Everyone goes by a variation of it except me (not sure how I swung it since I am not the oldest) but we got by just fine. I don’t understand people being crazy about baby names!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t either. My nephew’s first name is the same one I’d picked out for a future son. I probably would have just changed it if I’d had one, no biggie.

      And, my ex was a junior with the same name as his father. Everyone in his family went by a nickname that had nothing to do with their actual name but was bestowed upon them randomly as a child. So it really didn’t matter, lol.

  30. River Otter*

    It’s the problem really that your employee wants to take an unpaid day off? What if this employee had enough paid vacation time left to take those days? Would you suddenly have coverage for the day that is a problem?

    If coverage is a problem, deny the days off based on coverage. Whether the days off are paid or unpaid is a red herring if the problem is really coverage.

    I also have to ask whether the problem really is the coverage. You bring up a number of other points that are also irrelevant to the coverage question, so are you really just annoyed at this employee and that annoyance is leaking into your decision making on her days off request? Do some introspection and ask yourself, if a different employee had asked for the same days off, would you be looking at ways to get coverage so that they could take their vacation?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This is a good point.

      Nothing kills your perfectly logical reason like adding in a bunch more reasons. The bunch more reasons are your brain deciding it wants to do something and then backfilling reasons why that thing is the only logical response.

    2. chilipepper*

      Yes, I also find it hard to believe that the employee can take all the days they have earned and there are no issues with coverage on those days, but one of the days, the one that is unpaid, is a coverage issue?

      And if it is one difficult day and they had enough PTO to cover all the days, would you really say no to the entire period they are requesting because of one day?

    3. Mm*

      Yep. It also sounds like OP took 3 weeks off to recover from an operation, so it’s not like she’s just taking ton of vacation. I had a few years where my chronic illness was flairing up and I had to take pretty much all my vacation days for that. My company was similarly inflexible on unpaid days (despite not being in a coverage based job) and it was frustrating to go years without a vacation during an already difficult time. I eventually left the company.

      1. Ashley*

        Surgery is not a vacation and honestly employers should try to work with people when possible after stuff like this.

    4. Polecat*

      I think Alison missed on this one. I don’t believe for a minute the issue is coverage. The issue is the manager feels like the employee already had three weeks off (for medical reasons!) and is being greedy by asking for an unpaid day. And doesn’t really care for this employee. My guess is the employee had 4 days off left, wanted to go away for a week and needs that one extra day in order to do that. If I went through a grueling enough medical issue that I was out for 3 weeks and then got shut down for a much needed trip away over a single lousy unpaid day, I’d be pissed too. If coverage is such a dire issue, how could they possibly have managed without the employee for 3 weeks? Doesn’t add up.

    5. Girasol*

      I can see wanting to discourage unpaid time off from getting out of hand. My coworker started spending a lot of time with her new boyfriend. She ran out of PTO and started asking for unpaid time off for trips with him, which the boss allowed. After awhile she started calling in for an “unpaid day off” a couple days a week, because she didn’t want to come in and boyfriend was generous with his money. It seemed fair to her because it wasn’t like she was being paid those days and there was someone available to do her critical tasks. But it made her a very unreliable employee and eventually she was fired. Unpaid time off for a sick baby is one thing, but you don’t want to encourage careless attendance habits.

  31. Falling Diphthong*

    OP1, imagine if she were pulling this with a subordinate, rather than with you. Presumably you would see disparaging the subordinate’s work out of a petty fit as a serious problem to correct, even if the person came in on time every day.

    It doesn’t matter that she’s weird about a baby name, weird because she learned you’re a Patriots fan and she hates them, weird because she just learned you don’t like tacos and who doesn’t like tacos? It matters that she has taken something which in no way affects her, and used it as an excuse to affect work. Focus on the disruption to work and ignore the specific reason she has set as her hill of weirdness on which to die.

  32. Falling Diphthong*

    I like Alison’s phrasing at the end of the response to OP4, which manages to convey “There are a lot of you, and three years on I have a vague pleasant feeling towards you but can’t remember which energetic young person you were” without coming right out and saying that.

  33. Rockette J Squirrel*

    When I married into the family, new SIL (wife of husband’s oldest brother) informed me that the initial “J” belonged to her, and her alone.
    We had our kids thru adoption – imagine my private glee when our son’s birth name began with J. (We didn’t use any J names, because the Irish names we loved didn’t start with a J.)
    Next woman married into family, also was informed that J was SIL’s, and SIL’s alone. New sil didn’t use any J names, because they preferred other names.
    Ready for cake? Next brother marries… a divorced, slightly older woman who has three kids, ALL of whom have J names! Ready to ice that cake? Her oldest has the exact name of one of SIL’s kid… (here comes the cherry on top) and is actually older than SIL’s oldest! (Oh, the gnashing of teeth and wailing over that!)

    I love Karma.

    1. Batgirl*

      Some of the most common names in the world begin with a J! If it was Q or X I could see her getting by, but she was literally begging for a karma slap. What next, no vowels?

      1. Batgirl*

        Yep, just looked it up and Jose, Juan, John, Joseph and Jane are all in the top thirty globally.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          There was actually a baby name book called “Beyond Jennifer and Jason” because it’s SO COMMON!

    2. Gray Lady*

      My brother’s wife announced at a family gathering one day that she would give a certain name to a daughter. I was a bit disappointed, because it was a name I liked, though I was much younger and not even close to being married or having kids. For the record, my brother and his wife were not on the verge of having kids, either.

      The marriage ended painfully some years later and they never did have kids, but I knew that I was never going to use that name — I didn’t want to run the risk of rubbing salt in brother’s wounds. Five kids later, I never did use it. Some things you just leave alone.

  34. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I remember in class once everyone sat 4 to a table, and we had the Table of Todds. For someone to get mad over “taking a name” when said child hasn’t even made their appearance yet… I hope she chooses Tom for being so petty.

  35. chilipepper*

    I have a not very common for most of my life first name that got popular when I was about 15-20. So there are more with that name who are 15 years or younger or more than I am. But I can still count on one hand the number of people I have ever met with my name – one when I was a kid, one in college, one at my last job, and now my boss at my new job. Maybe a couple

    At oldjob, people thought that the two of us with the same first name were sisters?? She was tall and slim with blonde hair, I am short and not slim with very dark hair. Did they think our dad was George Forman?

    At newjob, one coworker keeps trying to rename us in all kids of ways like name1 and name2. But no one is confused, we use name last initial where it matters and it all works. I’ve used AAM wording several times to get her to stop but the kicker was when she started calling us Thing 1 and Thing 2!!

    1. Ruby*

      My best friend has the same name as me (spelled differently). We constantly get people asking if we are sisters.

  36. ggg*

    Certainly a hypothetical future child does not get rights to a name from the parent’s entire social/professional network.

    When I was a boss, one of my employees named her daughter the same not-so-common name as my daughter (who was ten at the time). I am sure she did not get the idea from me, but we both thought it was great.

  37. Cayte Newmann*

    “ However, she continues to complete all her work properly”

    Except she’s not. Professionalism and teamwork are basic expectations of any job and she’s not delivering.

  38. WantonSeedStitch*

    One of my coworkers has a son whose name is the same as my son’s. I had completely forgotten his son’s name when I picked my baby’s name. I wasn’t about to change it because it took my entire damn pregnancy to pick one!

  39. S*

    Re the unpaid day off, I would be sympathetic to the fact that the employee spent three weeks off recovering from an operation. While she had time off, it seems like it was for a serious health issue, and presumably not relaxing. Perhaps a short vacation would let her actually relax and come back well-rested and ready to work. It might not be that she is a bad employee, but rather she is experiencing burnout after using up all her time off on surgery.

  40. Batgirl*

    Honestly OP you’d be doing her a favour if you clued her in that passive aggressiveness is not invisible (which she knows) and can absolutely be commented upon (which she doesn’t know) and she can be made to pack it in or pack it up (this will be the shocker). I teach a lot of students who think that I won’t actually admit to being able to see disrespectful facial expressions, body language or the pattern of an attitude. You can even start out by asking if they’re aware how much they are doing it, or how obvious it is. Conclude with “and I expect it to stop”.

  41. Random Internet Stranger*

    I would love to know more about how much paid leave the employee looking for an unpaid day gets before choosing a side. The LW mentions the employee used three weeks of leave recovering from an operation and I know from experience how much it sucks to have to use ALL of your leave for medical reasons (meaning no vacation for you).

    At OldJob, I had to burn my two weeks of sick time before being eligible for short term disability meaning that once I returned, I had zero sick time. If I, you know, got sick, I would have to burn vacation time.

    At NewJob, I am taking my three weeks (paid) maternity leave, followed by two (paid) weeks, followed by at least three unpaid weeks. When I get back, I will have negative two weeks of PTO and that just kind of sucks… If I or the baby get sick, if I want to enjoy life by taking some semblance of a vacation, etc. I have less than zero PTO. Luckily my company is flexible and I am able to flex my hours, work remotely, etc., but it still sucks.

    1. LizM*

      yeah, I wonder if coverage would have been an issue had it been the other way around (she took a full week vacation off, and then had to take a day of unpaid leave at the end of a 3 week recovery). This is why I’m not a huge fan of vacation and sick leave coming out of the same pot. It stinks to have to cancel your vacation because you had a medical emergency 3 or 4 months ago. It’s one thing to deny unpaid leave if all of an employee’s leave was used on fun stuff, because I don’t think it’s reasonable for employees to assume they can have unlimited time off, especially in coverage-based roles, but I think managers should be a little more flexible if they ran out of PTO due to circumstances beyond their control. It just feels like a suspicious coincidence that the one day OP can’t find coverage for is the one day the employee wants to use unpaid.

  42. Jane*

    My real name is much rarer and I almost never had anyone else in my life who shared my name, except on a religious retreat as a teen where there was an adult leader who had the same name as me. Several people tried calling us “Big Jane” and “Little Jane”. which was mildly annoying to me (no teen wants to be called little!) but extremely offensive to the other Jane, who was quite heavyset. We decided together on Jane 1 and Jane 2 and corrected people until it stuck. Far better. It really wasn’t hard at all to resolve, but people can be strangely insensitive.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      My sophomore year of college I lived in a dorm apartment with three other girls and one of them had the same (fairly unique!) name as me. We did J1 and J2, but neither of us felt upset by it (can’t speak for her, but I was tickled to meet someone else late with the same name!)

    2. Merrie*

      In my college friend group we had Josh the Elder, Josh the Younger, and Amy’s Josh (he didn’t go to our school and we didn’t really see him, but he came up in conversation and when need arose that was how we’d refer to him). We thought “Elder” and “Younger” was a lot more fun than Big Josh and Little Josh.

  43. Raven*

    For the unpaid day off, I mean this seems a bit questionable to me. My guess is, they wouldn’t have brought in a temp if you were out sick that day, or if you requested the monday instead of the Friday off. I “get” why you are saying this, but I’d ask if coverage would really be affected, or you just don’t want to set that precedent. That said, companies not allowing an unpaid day off here and there seems oddly strict, and is a good way to lose good employees.

  44. AimeeS*

    For the reference provider, Exit Memos are great. As the intern wraps up their tenure, they write their projects and accomplishments. Then, you already have it on hand for future references checks, and the interns can use it themselves for resume writing.

  45. AthenaC*

    Re: the baby name.

    Once upon a time, I had a roommate. She got pregnant and named the baby something very pretty, not one-of-a-kind, but not overly common, either. We lost touch.

    Fast forward about 3 years and (insert convoluted story here) I get pregnant. The only name the father and I could agree on is that same very pretty, not one-of-a-kind, but not overly common name. I didn’t want to use it in case former roommate and I get back in touch (spoiler: we did! Thanks Facebook!), but since we couldn’t agree on any other name, we did end up using it.

    To my knowledge, my old roommate isn’t bothered by this because she’s a sensible, sweet person that doesn’t feel like she has a copywright on her childrens’ names.

    OP – your employee is not being sensible, to put it mildly.

    1. Someone*

      2 of my old roommates named their daughters Evelyn. The second one to use it asked permission first though.

  46. I'm just here for the cats*

    in regards to #2. I think Alison missed something important here. the LW says “She has also recently had three weeks off recovering after an operation.”

    I don’t think this should be a factor at all. The employee had an operation and was not on vacation. if the employee wants to use the rest of her vacation time up now, and it won’t put any harsh restraints on the rest of the team I would say to allow it. For the unpaid day I can see not allowing for that day off.

    I do wonder if the employee had to use her vacation days for the operation. If so that’s another big factor and why she might be bad-mouthing the LW. I don’t think a good boss or employer would make an employee use all of their vacation time for a surgery and then not allow them to have time off until they earn it again.

  47. Stevesie*

    When I was pregnant I changed the name we were giving our son because a coworker used it for his newborn son. I think in most cases I wouldn’t have cared, but it was a unique name and the coworker in question had sexually harassed me. The idea that every conversation upon returning from maternity leave would have started with “oh, you know so and so has a son with that name” would have been incredibly distressing.

    1. not a doctor*

      That’s, like, the one legit reason to not want to share a baby name: unpleasant associations. I don’t get what the hell is wrong with all these other people who just don’t want to share at all, though.

      1. Stevesie*

        I will say I remained very professional with him and only disclosed to a few close friends that I work with how it upset me. I’m the end, I’m very happy with the name we ended up with. Part of the naming process is falling in and out of love with names until one (hopefully) sticks.

  48. Sled Dog Mama*

    The name letter writer can send the employee to join my family. She would not last long calling dibs on a name. The women in my family mostly have 1 first name and we mostly go by either the middle name or a double name at family events. The first time my now husband went to family reunion he actually pulled me aside and asked why everyone was calling me by my middle name when I normally go by my first name I was like umm…I’m named after grandma and everyone called her first + middle, because her aunt went by just first name.
    At one point the rest of the family decided to get in on the fun and one year we all had name tags that said first + other name so imagine my dad walking around with a name tag that says “Hi my name is—Ann Brian”
    My daughter is so disappointed not to part of the first name crew that she insists on being called by a double name.

  49. Hailrobonia*

    My inlaws had a fight about a baby name many years before I married into the family… like decades ago… and it’s still a sore subject.

  50. not a doctor*

    This may ID me to some, but: when I was growing up, I had a RIDICULOUSLY common name. I knew, no lie, at least 10 people who shared my name. I also hated it and never felt like it ‘fit’ right, not because it was shared, but for reasons I still can’t quite articulate. It just didn’t suit me, so in my 20s I more or less picked a new one that did and had it legally changed. The ironic part: the new name is extremely uncommon for people my age, and when I meet someone who shares it now, I get SUPER excited.

    1. Avery*

      Oh hey, I’m the same way! I grew up with a super common name, and changed it to a super unique name (not my name on here), though in my case it’s largely for gender reasons (though I never liked my birth name even before I figured out the gender stuff). I’m actually thinking of going by Avery IRL because the new name is so uncommon that it gets misspelled or mistaken for more common names frequently, which irks me, and I don’t THINK Avery would have the same problem.

    2. Mannequin*

      Yep, I don’t feel like my ridiculously common name suits me either…but I’ve never found one that did, so there it hangs…

  51. Jennifer*

    For the love of…she has no immediate plans to have a baby, I’m assuming. For all we know, she may not even be working there by the time she gets around to having kids, or the OP may have moved on. Even if they still work together – it’s highly unlikely these kids will even know each other. I think I saw the kids from my dad’s office once or twice the entire time he worked there.

  52. CoveredinBees*

    Even as an adult who has worked with her references for years, I will forward my resume, cover letter, and job posting to my references if I am in the final round of interviews. They might not look at them but they have thme just in case.

  53. Which Jane Smith is this anyway?*

    I feel a little weird about the idea of my future kids sharing a name with any family members or close friends. It rules out a lot of names, but I grew up as one of many ‘Janes’, and it’s always been weird – though sometimes it has its fun moments confusing other people. I could never get any of those mugs or keychains with your name on them though since they were always sold out :(

    -All through school there were a good five or six Janes in any year, and in my class there was Jane M Smith to my Jane L Smith AND a Jane L Jones. It made nicknames difficult.

    -My uncle had a daughter a few years younger than me, and his wife loved the name Jane but decided two cousins who were both Jane Smith would be a too weird. So they named her Janet… and nicknamed her Jane anyway, because apparently THAT somehow counted as not-weird?

    -I got married and changed my last name to Jane L ‘Oppenheimer’… and now my brother in law is dating another Jane, so there may be two of us again soon.

    Coworkers’ names and their kids’ names are fair game, though, in my opinion.

    1. Avery*

      At least they make those mugs/keychains for you–I changed my name from a common one that was always available on those to one so uncommon (not my name on here) that I’ve literally never seen it on such products in person. Kinda miss it, especially since my new name is more meaningful to me and I want to show it off!

  54. Anon Mom*

    Early in my career, I told a colleague that if he put a rush on something that I needed, I would name my first born son after him. He did, and five years later, I did. I never did tell my son and husband why I picked the name. Colleague doesn’t know either, because we weren’t working together by the time my son was born. SHHHHH!

  55. raida7*

    “I don’t know if I can or should do anything because her work is up to par. The name won’t change so I’m not sure how to address this with my staff member.”

    Of course you can do something – you’ve just said this woman is bad-mouthing you. That’s unacceptable and unprofessional behaviour, bullying, toxic, and slander.

    Are you telling me that you, as a manager, simply allow people to talk sh*t about other staff provided they do good work? How is that going to create a happy workplace mate? Making people exempt from policies designed to protect people from bullying and educate staff on what bullying is for any reason makes you a bad manager and one that will help build a resentful environment with smug ars*holes nailing their KPIs.

    Duh? Go to HR, or your manager, to facilitate your written complaint about this rumour spreading. She can and should be fired if she doesn’t stop and write an apology for the irrational and spiteful behaviour towards a co-worker.
    She needs a dose of reality – if you’ve got an EAP then during this complaints process HR/your manager should direct her to use that to work through the distress of the situation.

  56. Dragonfly7*

    I agree with all of the commenters that being possessive about names is generally unreasonable, especially in the LW’s situation (I understand wanting diverse names within a family). And yet, I’m possessive about my favorite first and middle name combination and refuse to share it with anyone in case someone “steals” it. *laughing at myself*

  57. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    So THAT’s why Here Comes Treble had such awful nicknames! They were all named Andrew!

  58. Witches, Orcs, Monsters*

    Being allowed to take unpaid time off is controversial at my work place. If one person does it, everyone can do it. We had one staffer who was out for a total of 9 weeks in one year, including unpaid time. The unpaid time was to go on vacation, rather than for being sick or a special event like a wedding.

    We can’t allow people to “borrow” time off in advance because if the person quits, it is illegal in our state to make them pay it back.

    One extra day of unpaid time is a lot different, though.

  59. Olivia Oil*

    Really goes to show that some people live in their own reality. I can’t believe this is even an issue.

  60. Not a Sarah*

    Back in High School in year 11 (I’m from Australia) there were 7 Sarahs in the 1 classroom.
    One day our teacher was absent and the senior year coordinator substituted for the day. When marking the names on the class roll she exclaimed “who on earth put all you Sarahs in the one class..” only to realise “oh yeah…it was me..oops”

    The names Jessica and Rachel were very popular as well.

  61. AlphabetSoupCity*

    I go by a nickname that while relatively common, is not immediately associated with my given name. Think Andy as being short for Alexander rather than Andrew. I didn’t use to go by this nickname but it was used by someone who worked in my very large department that I didn’t work with very closely. I realized I liked it for myself better than my given name so I adopted it, and now go by it exclusively. It’s maybe a little weird but far from unacceptable, and I left that department after a few months anyway. It had nothing to do with that person and all to do with my own tastes. I would say the same about the baby names.

  62. LittleMarshmallow*

    At work I had 4 Jims on one of my crews… it was a crew of 4… so all Jims. Hehe. We just went by last names. I’ve found at work you were go thru weird times where you’ll have a bunch of one name and then they move on and a new name moves in. We had a ton of Josh’s and Mikes in my dept for a while. You could pretty much say one of those names and have almost a 50% chance of getting it right. That said… I get irrationally competitive (internally… I’m good at hiding my weird) with women that have my name… I don’t have an uncommon name in general but I have known that many of me either so I guess I never got used to it.

  63. Sheepgetlambs*

    My freshman year of college I was in an honors music theory class that had 16 students. There were five Davids and three Sarahs. So, half the class had one of two names.

  64. Despachito*

    I think all the “calling dibs on a name” stuff utterly ridiculous, even if this is in one’s own family, let alone on the workplace.

    I have heard of (fortunately not experienced it myself) a sister (or even a sister-in-law) going hysterical because the other (pregnant) sister chose a name for her kid she herself picked for her future (by that time inexistent) child. I find this highly unreasonable and definitely nothing to be catered for (what’s the problem if there are cousins with the same first name)?

    Having this at work just adds another layer of unreasonableness to an already unreasonable situation.

    The coworker is in the wrong, is acting stupid and if need be, should feel the repercussions of it (if she is in any way impolite / unresponsive)

  65. PollyBu*

    Chiming in, this reminds me of when I was a PhD student and four supervisors named Peter. Two at my university and two based at our industry partner. Meetings were fun as we had to address the correct Peter each time – I think we went with full names. My 5th supervisor was unique enough in name that it was always clear when they were needed.

  66. yala*

    I can’t imagine being mad about this. Heck, my cousin named her latest kid the exact (not strange, but not exactly common) name I’ve always wanted to name my hypothetical kid…but she also has kids, and I don’t, and don’t really see that changing any time soon.

    Or, like. My friend and her cousin have the same name–they were born around the same time, and her father specifically said “Oh, we want to name our kid X” and his sibling was like “Hey, that’s a nice name” and yoinked it.

    And it’s…fine?

    People can have the same name.

  67. PuzzleObsessed*

    When my second cousin was born, her mother asked for name ideas. My mom suggested one, which became my second cousin’s name. Four years later I was born, and my mom liked the name enough that she used it for me. It’s not a super common name, not unique either, but there’s never been a time anyone has said a word about us having the same first name. Unless you name your kid something like X-AE- whatever Elon Musk used, there’s gonna be someone else who has it. It’s very strange that this employee is having an issue with it.

  68. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    As I’m reading the letter with the name “stealing” – You have GOT to be kidding me. This is BANANA CRACKERS.

  69. Spoo*

    For the intern reference one I’d recommend keep a spreadsheet with just some very basic notes on projects and performance. It will save a lot of time in the future.

  70. Generic Elf*

    In a previous position, we had three Zacks in the same room, doing the same work. We called them Z1, Z2, and Z3 – of course, the nomenclature and order decided by the Zack Counsel themselves.

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