Having a common name can be frustrating. But so can be having a less common one.

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The author combined her names Sarah and Elizabeth and became Sarahbeth.Courtesy of the author
  • My names were Sarah Elizabeth until I was 22 when I decided to combine them.

  • My new name became Sarahbeth and friends called me SB.

  • When I met my now-husband he started calling me Beth, which is what I go by now.

My love/hate relationship with my name began at the age of 6 when my life goal was to be famous. However, I quickly learned that having a common name was going to make that difficult.

There were enough Sarahs in my school to enact a small army. Had I had a different personality, I might have considered myself part of the sisterhood. Instead, the precocious little diva that I was, every Sarah I encountered posed a threat to my uniqueness.

When choosing a baby name, many parents want something that isn’t too popular. Just when they’ve made their choice, an up-and-coming actor or YouTuber comes out of the woodwork with just that name, and suddenly it’s everywhere. That carefully crafted moniker shoots to the top of the Social Security registry overnight, leading to a phenomenon called “name regret.”

I legally changed my name

At age 22, I asked my parents where they kept my birth certificate. I combined my first and middle names, Sarah Elizabeth, into something I thought was unique, yet not so different that friends and family couldn’t catch on: Sarahbeth. The concept of a double first name intrigued me; it worked for actor Mary-Kate Olsen, though I opted not to go with a hyphen. Within months, friends nicknamed me SB.

No sooner than the ink dried on my new Social Security card did I learn the challenges of having a unique name, which I hadn’t anticipated. One particular annoyance sprouted immediately: having to spell it out or explain it every time I introduced myself (“Sarahbeth, one word, no hyphen, lowercase b…”).

I have IDs and other government statements with different spellings of my name (usually Sarabeth, without the first h). I have to purposely misspell my name when booking plane tickets so they match the spelling on my driver’s license (you never know how picky TSA might be).

As an adult introvert, I can’t think of anything I desire less than the worldwide fame I craved as a child. When I started dating my now-husband, he called me Beth, which was initially his name for me only. But I liked it enough to start going by that instead, which is the name most people know me by today (though SB is still a valid alternative).

It has made my life much easier to have a name that almost everyone can say and spell correctly. But my “name anxiety” isn’t over: now I have to choose a name for the little girl I’m due to have this spring. The name my husband loves was one of the top 10 most popular girl names in 2023.

My name still honors my father

My childhood self wasn’t mature enough to understand that the impact we make on people has little, if anything, to do with our names. How many of us can recall, without Google, the names of the people who invented many of the life or time-saving devices we use on a daily basis? Names may wax and wane with popularity (something no one can truly predict), but our daily choices are what reverberates through history.

Many would-be parents swear off certain names belonging to an ex-partner or the schoolyard bully. In reality, it’s not the name that’s the problem; it’s the negative experience with a particular person’s character. For those whose children are honored after family namesakes, as I was, that character may be a good thing.

I can’t say I regret keeping a piece of my given name because it honors my father (Sarah was his pick, after his grandmother). He died two months before I got married. Should we have a son one day, my husband and I agree that he will be named in Dad’s honor: a name you have probably heard before.

He might hate it, but at least he’ll never have to repeat it twice.

Sarahbeth Caplin is the author of several books, including "Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter." Visit her blog at

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