Sunday, 29 March 2009

Mixing and matching

A woman I know invented a solution to the dilemma faced by some married women: whether or not to change their names.

This woman and her husband took a syllable from each of their surnames, and put them together. Each then legally changed their name to the new hybrid name. Any future debates on what last name their kids should have were also solved. Best of all, the invented name actually sounded like a real one.

The hybrid name isn't quite enough to lure me away from my own name or de facto status - but I thought it was egalitarian and rather clever!


Anonymous said...

IN sweden not too long agao, they had a problem of a small number of surnames. The givernment encouraged couples when marrying to choose a completely new name for both of them. It quite appealed to me at the time. However I've had my name for too long to consider changing it now not that I have any intention of marrying either.

anna c said...

My partner and I discussed this to make surname for the cat (don't even ask). We ended up with Butts. Her surname is now Snow, a name given to illegitimate children in George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire trilogy.

(No, there is no logical reason why our cat needed a surname.)

Giovanni said...

Mmmmhhhh... leaving aside the neatest solution of all (not getting married in the first place), what happened if you then get divorced? Do you revert to your old surname, wait to get together with somebody else and then combine syllables based on your original surname? or the changed one even?

I must admimt that I have a thing for surnames and the trace memory they leave of old professions and family traits and ways of life. These proposed hybrids would delete all that too.

Anna said...

I share your interest in these things, Giovanni - but your name tells you about only one half of your family anyway (usually). And for a lot of people, spelling has been changed during immigration, so tribal or clan affiliation may have been lost on the way. Luckily, I don't have to rely on my name to tell me my ancestors' professions - ie Celtic drunkards.

Giovanni said...

Yes, surnames historically in most cultures are patrilinear. Which makes sense, quite apart from the whole patriarchal thing, in that you generally know who your mother is, and it's fatherhood that needs to be affirmed. That said, these days you can choose, and it makes a lot of sense to me to mix and match and hyphenate when it comes to kids' names - it's why a parent would like to change their own that mistifies me a bit. But then, as I say, I'm not really into the whole marriage thing.

When it came to our kids, I always assumed we'd hyphenate them and was surprised when my (rather staunch) partner said very matter of factly that she thought they should have my surname. And that was that.

Anonymous said...

"I must admimt that I have a thing for surnames and the trace memory they leave of old professions and family traits and ways of life."

I like that too. My old surname is from the 13th century and means "Salt Miner". So whenever I am having a crappy day I think, "at least things probably aren't as bad as they were for the 13th century ancestor who got us this name".

My new name means "ferryman" which seems somehow more laidback and mellow.


Anna said...

That makes me chuckle - I let my partner choose our kids' surnames (I was 100% indifferent) and he opted for mine. But to be fair, mine is cooler. ;-)

Alison said...

It is a nice solution, assuming you have the names for it - I suspect that for one reason or another, many couples wouldn't be able to.

We didn't really consider combining names because I didn't want us to share a single surname, whosever it was or wasn't. The choice to keep my name was a political decision as well as a personal one for me, and I wanted it to be obvious that I'd kept it. The people who know a couple when they get married know if they both change names, but new acquaintances down the track see a shared surname (albeit perhaps unusual) and assume the usual pattern due to their own preconception. That's certainly not a reason for everyone to reject the option, but it was a reason for me.

If there wasn't so much social expectation of a name change, I might well have felt differently, because in theory I like the idea of a family name, but at this time in our society I wanted my choice to be overt.

Jinerviet said...

My parents did the same thing. Pissed off my paternal grandmother initially, as my brother was the first grandchild and he didn't have the family name. It's a neat story to tell, and sounds almost like a real name.

harvestbird said...

My partner and I live together in a house I owned before we met. As a result, it's my name only that's listed in the white pages, which suits his penchant for staying below the radar of public documentation if he can.

My listing in the white pages includes the title I got as a result of my PhD, with my initials and my surname.

As a result, whenever telemarketers make their frequent calls to us, if it's me who picks up the phone, I'm asked if I'm "Mrs X.", whereas my partner is assumed to be Dr X., when he is in fact Mr Y. I never get asked if I'm Dr X., even though that's who I am.

This happens consistently and irritates us both in a low-level manner, not least because it's not restricted to calls from overseas. Unsolicited mail also arrives for "Dr and Mrs X."

We intend to marry in October and will remain Dr X. and Mr Y. If we have a family they can be the X-Ys or the X Ys (my surname is also a first name) or the Y-Xs or Y Xs if they prefer. My partner took his mother's name as a child but sometimes uses his father's name too, so his flexibility towards family nomenclature is even greater than mine.

Julie said...

"ferryman" is very appropriate for your relationship katy, that's so cool!

Our cat takes my partner's surname just because it is easier to spell. But her middle name is from my paternal grandmother ;-)

hungrymama said...

The vet thinks our cats have my partner's last name because he did the paperwork the first time we took one in (I was busy comforting the near dead victim of cat vs train) but we know they are really hyphenated.

Brenda said...

I'm quite proud of my surname "Wallace", and our family motto "Pro Libertate" (for freedom).

I'm not changing it.

It is the name of my male ancestors which doesn't feel so appropiate anymore - when i was very young I tried to chase it back through my female ancestors to what my name *should* be, but even a young child realises this is futile after so many years.

Anonymous said...

My partner is taking my last name.

We didn't need to discuss it much. I said I was keeping my name and he said "Ok, I'll take yours then".

Done and dusted.

I think the idea of inventing a name is just weird.