Photo Credit: Mychal Watts/WireImage
Drea de Matteo (of Sopranos fame) and singer Shooter Jennings just named their newborn Waylon -- after dad and grandpa. Shooter’s full name is Waylon Albright Jennings, and his late father, the famous singer, was Waylon Arnold Jennings. (Baby Waylon Albert will be called “Blackjack,” according to Shooter’s recent tweet, but that's another story...)
This got us thinking: giving baby the same name as dad or grandpa is such a sweet, old-school tradition -- living relatives feel honored, deceased relatives will forever be remembered, and the child gets an instant sense of belonging. (Plus, you can avoid hours of sifting through baby naming books!) But there is the whole issue of dad (or grandpa) and baby having the same name, which we'd imagine can get confusing. What's the best way to make it work?
“The sentiment is something everyone can embrace,” says Amanda Barden, author of Baby Names Made Easy: The Complete Reverse-Dictionary of Baby Names. But she also suggests this twist: “When you use a family name, have a nickname or middle name that is unique to the child. This way you'll have the best of both worlds -- family togetherness and individuality.”
Family names are really common in certain ethnicities -- Chinese parents often give the mother's maiden name as the baby's middle name. In some Middle Eastern cultures, baby’s middle name is automatically dad’s first name -- even if it's a girl. In Italy, sons are often named after the fahter's father. And in the Jewish tradition, it's custom to name your kids after the deceased (and bad luck to name baby after someone who's alive).
Family names aren't without drawbacks, of course. There's that two-people-with-the-same-name thing, which "might be especially hard if you're named after someone as famous as Waylon Jennings,” says Barden. It can also make it hard for a child to live up to expectations if the namesake was particularly successful in life. And if you're choosing the name because you feel obligated to, that’s no fun.
So how does family factor into your baby naming decisions? Here’s how some parents to-be from the iVillage message boards plan to handle it:
"Both DH and I...[have a] paternal grandmother [named] Lucille so we'll likely use it as a middle name for our first daughter. Rheal was his paternal grandfather's name and it's so lovely to look at and say, which is why I like it so much. But it'll likely be a middle name as well, since my English family may have a hard time saying such a French name." --rubyshoes03
"I'll be naming my first son Robert John. Robert is after my grandfather and John is after Donny's grandfather (it's also Donny's middle name). If we had a second boy, I like William Kurt. Kurt [is] my dad and brother's name. I think having another Kurt in the family might be crazy, so if we decide to use those names, we'll put the William first and call him Will. Donny's father goes by Bill so there wouldn't be any mixups, which is good." --chaoticch-emistry
"I thought most people wouldn't like Frances Nell. In all honesty, it isn't my favorite either, but it was my DH mother's name and she passed away almost 8 years ago. She went by Nell." --monkeyshineaj