There are a lot of things you can steal. Not that you would — we’re all law-abiding people here, I hope. But is a baby name on that hypothetical list? Can someone actually steal a baby name?
Technically, of course, the answer is no. Because the very definition of stealing is taking something that somebody else owns, and nobody can actually own a baby name. That’s why 18,688 babies in the United States were given the name Emma last year; if baby names were exclusive to one person, there would only be one Emma.
So no. You cannot “steal” what doesn’t technically belong to anyone.
But people can copy, and sometimes that can be sort of a dick move (although let’s be real — folks get waaaay too territorial about names). They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but people get heated about someone else using “their” baby name of choice.
Maybe it’s because you’ve had your heart set on it since you were practically a baby yourself. Maybe it’s because a loved one chose it, or it’s in honor of someone who has passed away. No matter what the origin story, there are very personal reasons behind choosing a name, and when someone uses “your” baby name, it can feel like backstabbing — especially if the person is close to you, and knew it was the name you’d picked out.
So what should you do if your baby name is “stolen?”
Hire a lawyer. Send a written demand for the guilty party to stop using said name immediately. Enlist the help of a talk show host if you have to. Never speak to that person again except to scream “YOU STOLE MY BABY NAME!” in the most accusatory tone you can muster. Unfriend them on all social media channels. Blast them in online forums. Get a voodoo doll to exact revenge.
Totally kidding, obviously. Although as up in arms as some people get about this sensitive topic, those “solutions” might seem viable.
If someone uses the baby name you’ve had your heart set on before you get a chance to use it, or names their baby the same as yours, here’s what to do (for real this time).
Realize that it may not be as deliberate as you think.
When someone is actively trying to come up with a baby name, everything can be an inspiration — from TV credits to brand names to whatever the barista at Starbucks is calling out. In the process of mentally banking potential baby names, they may have simply latched onto the one they liked best (ahem, “yours”) without recalling where they heard it (ahem, you).
Realize that they, just like you, have every right to use it.
Take a deep breath, make like Frozen, and “let it go.” As much as you’d like to keep it to yourself, it’s not your name to covet. We live in a society where people can (mostly) name their babies whatever they damn well please, and if your friend wants to use Jedediah Zachariah even though it’s “yours,” that’s their prerogative. Sorry folks, but them’s the breaks.
Recognize that means you can still use it.
The good news is, you don’t have to bail on your baby name just because someone else used it. Because the same rights they have to use it also apply to you! There could be 10 Jedediah Zachariahs on your block. That’s the beauty of this country we live in.
Ask yourself if it’s really that important.
What’s the relationship between you and the baby name thief? Is it someone you only see a handful of times a year? Will this person still be in your life within a decade? Are you willing to give up a relationship over an issue like this?
If it’s someone you’re close to, talk to them about how it makes you feel. It may help you come to a compromise, or at the very least, just clear the air.
Try to take it as a compliment.
Nobody names their baby after something they think is ugly or annoying. If someone uses a name you’ve already used for your child, consider it a compliment! They think your baby is just so flippin’ adorable, they hope some of that cuteness rubs off on their little one. (Of course, your Jedediah Zachariah will always be the cuter one, but you don’t have to tell them that.) And if you haven’t used the name yet, they just really like your taste. Either way, it could be flattering if you can see it as such.
Find an alternative.
If you’re absolutely dead-set on your baby having a unique name, switch it up a little bit. Instead of Jedediah Zachariah, it could be Jebediah Zeke: similar sound, same initials. Or morph it into a cool new hybrid, like Jedezee. You get the idea.
If Name-Stealing Nancy is a family member, and the name in question is in honor of another family member (i.e., you and your cousin both want to name your baby after Grandma Frances) you may be able to compromise and use a different version or diminutive of the same name — like Fran, Franny, Francie, or Frankie.
What if you’re the one who wants to use someone else’s baby name?
If you’re hesitant about it, you can ask whether or not it will bother the person whose baby name you’re using. But if you ask for their permission, be prepared to respect their answer.
Obviously, the biggest takeaway here is that if you don’t want anyone to use your baby name choice, you should just keep it under your hat — only announcing it after your baby is born. But in the grand scheme of things, even if someone poaches your pick and you end up using an alternate name, you’re going to love it.
Because whatever name you choose will belong to your kid, and there will come a day when you won’t be able to imagine that name being anything else. Jedediah Zachariah who?
Looking for perfectly unique baby names? The Scary Mommy baby name database has you covered!