When your child’s carefully chosen moniker is suddenly all over the news.
I spent years coming up with unique baby names, and then the unthinkable happened: My baby names were stolen! Not by a mom from my playgroup or a friend on Facebook, but by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Yes, just like William and Kate, I have a Charlotte and a George. Prince George was born 10 days after my son; Princess Charlotte, about two years later. Even though my children came first, I immediately felt like I had to explain myself to everyone.
“No—I do not think my children are royalty.”
“No, I did not intentionally copy Kate Middleton.”
“Yes, it would be funny to get a dog and name it Harry or Pippa.”
I loved the name Charlotte long before it became the princess’s name. One of my favorite books growing up, Charlotte’s Web introduced me to so many notions—selflessness, friendship, grief—and ultimately explained the circle of life and how there is a time for everything to live and to die. Charlotte’s Web was the first book that made me cry, and once I saw the 1973 animated film, I instantly fell in love with the movie’s namesake.
Of course, there were other Charlottes that I admired: authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Charlotte Brontë; the actress Charlotte Rae, whose role as Mrs. Garrett as the patient and pansophical housekeeper on Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life made me yearn for a live-in mentor who could offer no-nonsense advice and a cup full of comfort. But it was the homage to my grandfather Charles that pushed the name over the finish line. And once Charlotte arrived, I loved telling people her name—especially older women. They would smile and say, “Now that’s a name you don’t hear much anymore.”
Three years later, my husband and I were blessed with a son. After reading lots of baby naming books, we settled on George—an equally old-fashioned name that managed to stand out simply because it’s not as popular as it once was. When we read that George, the patron saint of England, defeated a fire-breathing dragon, we knew that we picked the right one, even when the nurse in the hospital giggled and said “That’s an old man’s name!”
Now, not only do I have to constantly explain that I didn’t name my kids after the prince and princess, but Charlotte is no longer the old-fashioned name it used to be. On the contrary, it’s risen to number seven in the U.S. for girls' names—and other celebs like Chelsea Clinton, Sarah Michelle Gellar,and Dylan McDermott have all since chosen to name their daughters Charlotte. (George meanwhile is still way down at number 125 in the U.S.—Phew.)
I admit, I feel a little cheated that my baby names were stolen by a celebrity, and I know I’m not the only one. I can commiserate with Zach, a friend of a friend with a toddler named Rumi. He felt the same sting when Beyoncé chose the unusual name for one of her newborn twins."We chose the name Rumi for a few reasons,” Zach explains. “My wife’s grandfather who died years ago, lived in Iran, liked the poet, and his name also began with R. I had studied Rumi’s poetry for years, but when we found out the name also meant ‘flowing water’ in Japanese, we were hooked,” he says. One has to wonder: Did Beyoncé put in the same caliber of research to the name?
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Certainly, there is no one person in the world that lays claim to a name, but when a celebrity names their child the same name as yours, you can’t help wishing you had copyrighted the name before they had the chance to use it. We all want our children to feel unique and special—because they are!—and when the famous among us co-opts your baby name, not only does it jump up in popularity, but it gets a new association you never meant it to have. Luckily, Princess Charlotte and Prince George are so far not only adorable, but they also seem to be well-mannered and tastefully dressed. I guess if I had to have my kids share a name with celebrities, the Prince and Princess aren’t half bad. I’m sure that both sets of George and Charlotte will be excellent ambassadors of their names on their respective sides of the pond.