Open Thread

by epi on May 31, 2012

Welcome to the Etiquette Daily

This open thread is your space to use as you like. We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Audra May 31, 2012 at 3:07 am

I have 2 1/2 year old twin girls named Sofia and Alexa. My first cousin is expecting twin girls in August, and a couple of weeks ago, she posted an announcement on Facebook stating that the “official” names of her twins are Sophia and Alexie. She made no attempt to contact me before hand, and her family has now condemned me for being “rude” and “making a mountain out of a molehill” for being upset by this situation. We are a small family, and have been close-knit, but they are claiming that since we are separated geographically and won’t see each other that much, that I shouldn’t be concerned at all and it should be none of my business. In response to her FaceBook post, I commented “Except that they already have twin girl cousins named Sofia and Alexa. That’s not weird at all”. My cousin, her sister, and her mother all unfriended me on FaceBook now. Should my cousin have approached me on this matter and considered my reaction?

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Jerry May 31, 2012 at 9:58 am

It is weird to have kissing cousins share the same name. It’s reminiscent of that scene from Newport. (Fast forward to the 2:50 minute mark.)

I would take the whole “unfriending” thing as a declaration of war, and I would escalate. . . . Actually, I would ask a neutral family member to contact the other side of the family and ask if escalation is really what they want. The mass unfriending is the functional equivalent of using a flamethrower to kill a fly. I absolutely would not reach out or engage in any other form of appeasement.

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Alicia May 31, 2012 at 11:55 am

Come on Jerry , seriously escalating and making a family feud over facebook ?? Really, that is not nice, not polite, not warrented, and not a good idea. The mature response is needed instead.

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Jerry May 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I guess it just depends on how you look at these facts — I view the original sin as unfriending someone. That’s the digital equivalent (to my way of thinking) of telling a family member to leave your home over a minor squabble. It appears that you draw the line earlier. I did like your suggestion that the OP tell everyone that their naming their children after their cousins. It’s delightfully snide. (Incidentally, it also has a high likelihood of continuing the feud.)

I guess I’ve never understood the whole “be the bigger person” line of thought. Etiquette does not require anyone to go along to get along.

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Winifred Rosenburg May 31, 2012 at 11:22 am

I agree with Alicia. You shouldn’t have embarrassed her in a public forum like that. They shouldn’t have unfriended you. You can’t do anything about their wrong, but you can do something about your own. It seems impossible to not acknowledge that the names are the same as your daughters’ so Alicia’s response seems like a good one to me (with perhaps adding an apology for overreacting). If they are in fact family names, you can instead say you are happy she chose to name her daughters after Aunt Sofia and Aunt Alexa. After that, just hope that they respond to your kind gesture with one of their own and repair the relationship.

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Audra May 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm

They are not family names, they were unique in our family (which is what I wanted) until this point. My children are not “Aunts” of these unborn twins; they are girl twins, in the same generation, less than three years apart. My response on Facebook was a reflection of the backhanded way in which I was informed of this awkward situation that she intends to put my children in. I have gotten absolutely no acknowledgement from them that a) it’s in poor taste to choose both of these names, and b) I deserved the courtesy to be informed of this privately before it was announced in this manner. Since she chose FB as the means to announce it to me, I responded in kind.

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Winifred Rosenburg May 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I am aware your children are not aunts. My point was if you had named your daughters after your aunts, for example, you could recognize the fact that she might also be naming her daughters after the same people. Although a strange choice given the fact that you already chose those names, you do not have a copyright on the names so you can’t stop her from using them. In fact, as far as choosing unique names goes, Sofia/Sophia is currently the second most popular name for girls so it’s sort of like naming your son Michael and then complaining when your cousin also names her son Michael. Because it seems unlikely that she posted this on Facebook just to anger you, responding in kind would not involve mean-spirited sarcasm as your remark did. Your cousin and other family members are not free of blame, but there is no way they will admit any wrongdoing unless you admit your own wrongdoing first.

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Jerry May 31, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I reiterate my prior position that you are not at fault and have done nothing wrong. Your cousin did not owe you an explanation ahead of time, but your cousin should not have been surprised that copying your kids names would have ruffled some feathers. Her family’s reaction was inappropriate and was the greater wrong.

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Elizabeth May 31, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Audra,
I think what your cousin is doing is just *weird* and I understand how offputting it would be. I could see maybe using one of the names if they were just in love with it – but both? Creepy and weird. However, as everyone else has pointed out, they have every right to choose whatever names they want, and there’s just nothing you can do about it now. I also understand why you reacted on facebook, but if your intention was to really find out why she had chosen these names, to express your concerns and maybe try to change their minds – a phone call would have done much better.

But what’s done is done, and the fight seems to have escalated. I think the question now is: do you want to break up the formerly good relations you have with members of your small family or not? If you can get over this name thing, you would do well to be the bigger person, offer your apologies and try to make amends. The other option is to stand your ground, remain unhappy about it, and then your girls will never know their cousins. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a silly thing to destroy a relationship over IMHO.

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Chocobo May 31, 2012 at 11:54 pm

You are probably not getting an acknowledgement from them that it is “in poor taste” because it isn’t. Seeing as you did not invent the names I fail to see how you have any authority over their use. You asked whether your cousin was required by etiquette to approach you on this matter first and the answer is no. Even if the answer was yes, your actions were still wrong and you would still owe her an apology.

I hope that if one of your daughters uses the excuse “She started it!” to defend her own childish behavior, you will not reply “Well, in that case go right ahead, then.”

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Chocobo May 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Have you really never met an Italian family where every man is named Tony or Al?

It might have been gracious for the cousin to tell you personally that she is using similar names. But no, she isn’t required to get your approval to name her own children. You do not have exclusive rights to baby names. And now, instead of being flattered that you chose such nice names for your twins that your cousin wants to emulate it, you take offense and resort to rudeness on a public forum. Rest assured that everyone who knows you both will have caught the odd similarity without your help, but now you look petty.

The way that you have written the story, your cousin and her family have done nothing wrong and you have insulted them. So now you must take the steps towards mending family harmony: call or write a letter claiming temporary insanity (“Dear Cousin, I don’t know what I was thinking when I…”) and make a sincere apology for your insensitivity, adding that you hope the girls can all be good friends together. An extra-thoughtful gift for her twins, especially one bearing their names, will help you to make amends.

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Rusty Shackleford May 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Ha, I was thinking more of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where the main character had 27 first cousins, all were in groups of 3 named Anita, Diane, and Nick.

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Nina May 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Dear Audra,

This is an interesting situation. I am Jewish, and as a Jew, your perspective makes sense to me–in our faith, it is completely unthinkable to use the name of a living family member for a new baby. I won’t even get into the ramifcations. But I had understood that in other faiths, it is common to name after the living. I know a few boys who have the same names as their fathers, and they seem fine with it–it doesn’t seem to even get confusing, somehow. I ‘m not certain if you have a cultural object here, but just thought I’d mention I’ve seen both sides of this argument play out in different ways.

Best,
Nina

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ap May 31, 2012 at 4:46 pm

There’s nothing you can do about the fact that they plan to name their children the same names. It’s silly that they would even want to, seeing as how it’s obviously a copycat move. One name could be coincidental but two is just ridiculous.

Regardless, ignore the Facebook junk. I once had a close uncle of mine unfriend me and my business page just for not engaging him in political discourse on my own wall. Perhaps apologize for the public chastising though?

Rest assured after this has blown over that your cousin is completely unoriginal and your kids will ALWAYS be older, and therefore the originals.

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Emma May 31, 2012 at 11:45 pm

I absolutely sympathize with you. I think initially, I would be beyond annoyed. The good news is, that no matter what happens, your twins are older and everyone in the family will know that they were named FIRST.

I think the best way to reconcile (if that is what you want) would be to send an email to your cousin, her sister, and her mother and apologize for your reaction, saying that you should have been excited that these second cousins would share something as special as a name and that you are very happy for this huge event in your cousin’s life. (Even if you don’t feel this way today, if you can express this sentiment to those hurt, the feeling may come eventually. If it doesn’t, at least you will know you did your best to appease hurt feelings.) Regardless of their response, you come out to be the more mature person and like I said before, EVERYONE in your family will know your children were named first.

I think the positive result of this is that maybe, just maybe, these will become family names and it will be you who started it. That could be something to be proud of. Best of luck to you.

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Hope June 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Audra, I’ve seen a lot of comments informing you that you don’t own the names, which I’m sure you were already aware of. :) I think it is VERY weird and I understand why you were so upset. However, I don’t think that your children are being put in an awkward situation, as you posted below; they’ll probably think it’s the coolest thing ever when they grow up! Rather, I think you are disappointed and hurt because the names you chose so carefully have been copied, especially since you mentioned you had wanted them to be unique (though I have seen that Sophie and Sophia are in the top 3 baby names) But here it’s the combination that’s being copied; creepy and weird IMHO. I agree with the posters that point out that your children will ALWAYS be the older ones so there is no question about who was named first and who “copied.” Hopefully time will heal this wound; when you feel able, perhaps you can be the bigger person and broach the subject.

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Alicia May 31, 2012 at 8:44 am

Sounds like everyone involved overreacted.
Yes it is slightly wierd to copy the names of your daughters. However if they are family names that is much less wierd as it is not uncommon to have family names used over and over again. However yes she probably should have said something to you prior to announcing it on facebook.
However, your reaction on facebook was unkind and their response was also an overreaction.
I would call or email your cousin and tell her congrats again on the twin girls and that if she wants to name them after their second cousins that this is very flattering andthat you are happy for her no matter what names she picks .

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Zakafury May 31, 2012 at 9:40 am

Suggesting that she named her children after their cousins continues the snarky tone of the opening Facebook comment, and is only going to extend this ridiculous feud.

I suggest that the next contact should begin with an apology and not with a second sarcastic insult.

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Chocobo May 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Agreed with Zakafury. Whatever the reason for the similar names, there is no way for anyone to know for sure why they were chosen. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are anyway, since the names are not owned by the O.P. Opening with an egotistical assumption that the girls are named after their second cousins will only add fuel to the fire.

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scdeb May 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm

One of the proudest moments for American parents is selecting & bestowing a name on their child. The fact that the cousin chose the exact same name not once but twice makes a bold statement and not a good one. What are the odds that those 2 names would be the ones she just had to use despite everything when there are thousands of other names to use that won’t bring up bad memories for everyone for years to come? The cousin’s family & friends might be too afraid to tell her she is making a mistake but you can bet that everyone else is laughing at her & will be for years to come. The OP has my sympathy…there will only be more of these “little” incidents in the future.

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Vanna Keiler June 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Etiquette or no, I’m tending to agree with scdeb and those who find it a little odd that the names are exactly the same. Although I may or may not have reacted how Audra did on Facebook, I can certainly understand her knee-jerk reaction to seeing the post. It also seems somewhat passive-aggressive to broadcast the new names on Facebook, in full view of Audra, not expecting her to respond in some fashion (positively elated, surprised, flattered, annoyed, etc.). Similarly, regardless of their names, I’m sure you will get used to their names and just chalk it up to the fact that you picked two really good ones. So if no communication is forthcoming by either party until August, send them a gift and well-wishes and move on. Hopefully they will too and as families go, other drama will take center stage shortly after.

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Alice Saligman November 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm

If this is not the right place, please tell me where to send it.
A question about an old, old topic:
My granddaughter was recently confirmed. I was supposed to go to the ceremony but was hospitalized with a sudden and serious illness at the time. I had bought a gift and was able to get someone else to give it to her on the day of ceremony. Three weeks went by and no thank you. I finally asked the parent, my daughter, if it was indeed given to her. She wasn’t sure. That night the granddaughter called and thanked me for the gift, saying she was sorry it had slipped by her. No mention was made of my illness. (At this point in time I was recuperating at home.)
I was deeply hurt as I felt close to this child and think she returns the feeling. My hurt feelings were about her not referring to the illness in any way , including asking how I was.
I never said anymore – to parent or child – maybe she doesn’t return the warm feeling I thought she had. What do I do? She is 16 and a loving, caring girl. She has almost never thanked me for birthday gifts unless I asked (sometimes I did , sometimes not.) Do I tell my daughter? Is it not too late to teach her? I know this is a common problem among grandparents.

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Jerry November 5, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Dear Alice:

There is no easy solution to your situation, and I don’t really have all the facts.

Is it just your granddaughter who has ignored your illness? (i.e., has your daughter asked how you were?) This is something that might be fixed with a simple call to your daughter explaining how you were disappointed that your granddaughter didn’t inquire about your illness. Has everyone in that side of the family ignored your illness? Perhaps you might consider directing your attention to other family members or to charitable causes.

With respect to the gifts to your granddaughter, Miss Manners has always said that a recipient’s failure to thank the giver for a gift means that (1) the gift was not appreciated, and (2) the giver should not send presents in the future. A 16-year-old is mature enough to know her own mind — if she cannot be troubled to offer thanks (either by phone, email, or mail), you no longer need to trouble yourself by sending her gifts.

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