What’s In A Name?

Getting married used to be a very simple procedure for women. Basically you signed away your life, possessions, and identity to your husband, and were henceforth only known as ‘so-and-s0’s wife’. He was your lord, you submitted to him, and that was that.

Then came feminism, and equality, and other such contraversial ideologies. Women could continue to work after they were married (in professions other than teaching and nursing) without it being considered outside of the cultural norm. They could be financially independent, they could instigate divorce themselves rather than having to wait for their husbands to divorce them, and not only was a social life outside your husband’s no longer frowned upon, it was positively encouraged.

So on the grounds that he felt that taking one’s husband’s name was anachronistic and not relevent to our relationship, which we very much consider an equal partnership, I can completely understand why J was not happy with the idea of me taking his surname when we get married. What surprised me was that I actually want to.

Part of it is that I can actually be quite traditionalist in my own small way. Even if I don’t like the idea of belonging to J as his possession, I do like the idea of essentially becoming part of his family – ‘belonging’ in the other sense of the term. Another reason is the social recognition that it gives to your marriage. Just as everyone knows the significance of having a ring on the fourth finger of your left hand, everyone knows the significance of taking your partner’s surname. Finally, I can see it making things marginally easier if and when children come along, although I do accept that plenty of children have a different surname from at least one of their parents without too much trauma being inflicted.

Part of it, I will be honest, is that I don’t actually terribly like my surname. Aesthetically speaking, that is – it’s got nothing to do with my paternal family history. If I had my maternal grandmother’s surname then it might be a different matter as that one is rather pretty, but as things stand I much prefer J’s. I did suggest that if he felt really strongly then he was welcome to take mine, but even J isn’t quite liberal enough for that 😛

Double-barrels are out, incidentally. Neither of us want that social connotation, and quite frankly with the names involved, HisSurname-MySurname (or indeed MySurname-HisSurname) would be a bit of a mouthful and sound rather stupid.

So we’ve reached a compromise. I will take his surname, but keep my own as a second middle name. Any children will do likewise (ie. be FirstName MiddleName MySurname HisSurname).

Just please don’t write to me as Mrs J HisSurname. I have my limits too.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. teacherface
    Dec 10, 2010 @ 17:37:55

    All my mother’s children have her maiden name in their full name. I used to hate it, specially when a teacher in secondary school read out everyone’s names one day and when she got to mine said What an odd one! now I quite like it, keeping her name alive so to speak.
    I’m with you on the dislike of ones surname. Mine isn’t the easiest to say and frequently people will use my surname as my first name – infuriation!

    I like the idea of taking my future husband’s [whoever he is] surname, I don’t see quite what the fuss is. Like you illustrate, there are still ways and means to keep the ‘lost’ name running through the family.


  2. Flix
    Dec 11, 2010 @ 12:44:26

    Compromise sounds perfect. Superfluous middle names for the win 😉

    I don’t see it so much as “taking a surname” as just both having the same one, for wholesome family’s sake. I don’t really mind if it’s his or hers, it’s just easier (albeit less conversationally intriguing) to have two married parents with the same surname, and/or for that name not to consist of two parts.


  3. Mia
    Dec 15, 2010 @ 00:59:07

    I don’t see it so much as “by taking my surname you become my property” but rather as something like…”by taking my surname you show you belong with me.” In that train of thought, I guess that it wouldn’t be a default that the man’s surname is to be taken. Though personally, if the relationship I am in now actually evolves into marriage, I’d much rather take his surname, simply because I am sick of having to constantly spell mine and have it mispronounced every single time.


  4. Jenny
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 20:18:41

    I completely agree with your reasons, L, for wanting to take your husband’s surname. And I think I’d probably want to do something similar – to keep my surname as a middle name and also take his.

    However, I’ve got a massive problem. My mother kept her surname on marriage, so my middle name is her surname. So what do I do when I get married? I am Jenny MumsName DadsName, so do I then become Jenny MumsName DadsName HusbandsName? Even if I do what she did – stick with Jenny MumsName DadsName, what about our children? For parity’s sake, they’d have to be Child MN DN HN and that’s just insane. Can I give one MN, the next DN, and so on? Or is that daft?

    And yet I don’t want to lose the feeling of bloodlines and continuity inherent in names.

    I suppose the other thing to do is to give them just simply HN as a surname, and their middle names can then just simply be a selection of gender appropriate family names. Our family is big on reusing first names in honour of previous generations of relatives.


  5. Kat
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 18:22:38

    I’m so going to write to you as Mrs L Hissurname though 😛


  6. Flix
    Jan 04, 2011 @ 23:02:50

    @Jenny – pick whichever parent/name you like best and stick with that one 😉

    Or just shuffle them along the way, bopping one name off with each generation. So you’re Jenny MN DN (HN), your child is Kid is DN HN and so on…


  7. Jenny
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 12:43:05

    I suppose so, I just don’t see why I should lose MN rather than DN, or, for that matter, DN rather than MN. I suppose at some point a choice has to be made. I might just be conventional, hang it all and take my husbands name, so that we’re all quite simply Jenny HN, Mr HN, and Kid1 HN, Kid2 HN, and so on…

    Either way, Lucy, that’s really your children’s problem, I think your best bet is, like you say, to be Lucy YourSurname HisSurname :). And if you have children they can fight it out themselves when they get married and provide you with grandchildren several decades from now :).


  8. Flix
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 15:33:10

    Well, if it’s about conventional or not – go with my first suggestion. Pick the name you like the best and so when people ask – oh, so you decided to be traditional then? You can be like. Nah, I just wanted my initials to spell JAM. Or something. :p

    I like names.


  9. Trackback: What’s In A Name Change? « 2 Quakers, 1 wedding, 0 hats!

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