Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hyphenated-Last-Name

When I got married, I didn't change my last name. I guess we both could have hyphenated our names, but that wasn't very appealing to either of us, and I certainly wasn't going to hyphenate if my husband wasn't going to. Instead, we did that to our daughter. It just seemed too strange to me to contemplate being in a family in which my daughter had my husband's last name and not mine (too), even stranger than our all having different last names.

Then we had to decide which name would go first. We decided to decide based on what sounded best, and we agreed that the order that sounded best was my name first.

Our first plan was that she would have two last names without a hyphen, but we were told at the hospital when her birth certificate was being filled out that it was illegal to have a 'space' in a last name. I said "What if our name were van Gogh or da Vinci?". They said no go(gh). Perhaps we got an uninformed person doing the birth certificate, but I was desperate to go home and they told us we couldn't leave the hospital until we gave our daughter a last name with no spaces. Bizarre.

So she has a hyphen, and a long last name that doesn't quite make it intact onto some forms.

At her preschool, which was associated with the university, she was not unusual for having a hyphenated last name. At her elementary school, there are a few others, but not many.

The only one who has ever been upset about our daughter's last name is my mother-in-law. She didn't like the hyphenation and she particularly didn't like the fact that my name was first. She told us that she hoped people would think that that name was a middle name and that the real last name was her son's (no matter that my mother-in-law has kept the name of a man she divorced and loathed for the rest of his life).

If at some point our daughter decides she'd rather just have one last name and lops off one (or both), or changes her name when she gets married -- that's up to her and I won't mind whatever she chooses. For now, though, her having a part of my name and a part of her dad's works really well for our family, and we're happy with the decision we made nearly 10 years ago.

51 comments:

Maxine said...

I have wondered idly in the past, before and when confronted with this issue, what would happen when one's child grows up and marries someone else whose parents gave them hyphenated names, etc. Four-hyphenated surnames would be just about manageable for the next generation, but eight and up -- hmmm.

I, of course, did not change my name upon getting married, but I didn't even want to get married and did it very late on (well after I had had my children) for unavoidable extermal reasons. So I don't use my married name or wear ring etc.

But the children? After a lot of dithering I gave them my partner's name -- partly because I prefer it to mine and partly because over here in England things seem to be more conventional and conservative than over there in the New Enlightened World (two coasts and the bit in the upper middle only I guess). Over 95 per cent of children here have their dad's names if they are in a "mom-dad" set-up, so I argued to myself that I'd be imposing my own convictions on them to make them "enforced different".

In retrospect, I could have done what the only other people in my children's class at school who remotely think about these things did, and that is the non-hyphenated double surname (I guess in your hospital scenario the first of thse surnames would have been logged as a "given" name).

But I didn't think of it at the time.

I have to say that I think the US system of adopting your husband's name in hyphenated form upon marriage is rather convenient if you get divorced, as you can just drop him off the hyphen and then put on the next guy's name when you marry him.

tom s. said...

My partner (OK, wife) and I gave our first child her last name and the second my last name (this was 17 and 15 years ago, respectively).

We anticipated questions and problems, but have had none. It's worked pretty well. Perhaps it's the number of "blended" families around - but no one is actually going to ask if X is my child or Y is my wife's, so we don't really care what questions are going on inside their heads.

If someone had told me 20 years ago that different last names would still be a minority choice in 2006, I would not have believed them. Sigh.

maxine - my suspicion (as an emigrant from UK to Canada) is that the class connotations of hyphenated names in the UK are a barrier to their wider adoption.

Emily said...

In Latin America, we use two surnames: paternal and maternal. When I moved to the US I had all sorts of problems because people assumed my first surname was a middle name. I have no middle name; I just have Name Surname1 Surname2. It has become quite annoying to correct people when I get called "Ms Surname2", grrr. Ergo, I slapped a hyphen in between my surnames. There's still people that get confused, but at least I've made it apparent that the whole thing (Surname1-Surname2) is the 'last name'.

I've thought about what to do if/when me and the boyfriend have kids. In Latin America there would be no problem at all: one surname from the dad, one from the mom. But here, in the States... well, I don't know if I would have my kids go through the hyphen hell I have gone through. But, I like my culture's tradition of two surnames, so I think that's just what we'll do, even if it means explaining the hyphen to people who get confused... Regardless, I would keep my own surnames, as the idea of changing surnames upon marriage is completely alien in my native culture. I also don't like the term "Mrs", so I'm glad I'll be done with the PhD in a couple of years -- that way if/when me and the boyfriend get married, I won't be "Mrs" but rather "Dr" :-)

tom s. said...

Emily - I'm hopelessly ignorant here, so maybe you could educate me? I've known the two-surname custom, but I've never understood the mechanics of it.

Is there a convention for which of the two (surname1 surname2) come from the father and which from the mother?

Do you get to choose which of your surname1 surname2 you get to pass on, or is there a convention for that too?

Amelie said...

Germany (unsurprisingly ;) has some rules for this, so when my boyfriend and I get married, either he can hyphenate or I can, but not both of us. The kids are not allowed to get the hyphenated name, and upon birth/naming of the first child it is decided which last name _all_ our children will have. I would have liked the idea of giving our children a combined name...
Emily, we moved to Spain and are now faced with the opposite problem: everyone asks me for my second last name... ;-)

Lisa said...

I am very glad to hear from Tom that it wasn't that difficult to have children with different last names.
I kept my name when I got married, which confused some people since we were young when we married (apparently if I had been mid-career it would have been more "normal"?) Actually, we wanted to flip for it and both take the same last name, but if it ended up being mine we thought that would have caused too much confusion.
I want our first child to take my name if it's a girl, and my husband's name if it's a boy, and the next child to take the other name. I think I'll put the other surname as its middle name.
I am still worried, though, that my family (mostly my husband's family) won't understand.

Emily said...

Tom S:

I believe it varies by country, since my Spanish Lit professor in university mentioned something about a Portuguese friend of his who had the last names 'backwards'...

Anyhoo, the way that I know of (I'm Puerto Rican), is that Surname1 is the father's first surname, and Surname2 is the mother's first surname. From this I assume that my prof's friend had Surname1 as his mother's and Surname2 as his father's.

The 'rule' for passing down surnames (I say 'rule' because I have no idea if this is law or if it's just tradition) is that every child gets two surnames, each surname being the first surname from each parent, with the father's going first and the mother's going second. Then when that child passes down his/her surname to his/her children, the same rules apply: first surname gets passed, and whether it's the first or second depends on whether it's mother's or father's.

Example:
Man A B has kids with Woman X Y.
- The children's names are Girl A X and Boy A X.
Years later, the kids have children of their own.
- Girl A X has kids with Guy C D, and their kids are Kids C A.
- Boy A X has kids with Gal C D and their kids are Kiddies A C.
See how I coupled two pairs of siblings there? Now their kids have the same surnames but in opposite order :-p

And when people have middle names, then they have 4 initials. I always wanted 4 initials but my parents didn't give me a middle name. Oh well...

There's a short way of referring to people, when you don't want to use both surnames, and that is to use only the first surname. Therefore, someone named "Gabriel Garcia Marquez" could be referred to as "Gabriel Garcia" and this is correct -- but not "Gabriel Marquez" because that would be a completely different person. This is the issue I've had since moving to the US, with people calling me "Emily Surname2". That's not me!


Amelie:

In Puerto Rico (not sure if people say this elsewhere) there is a phrase that commonly gets uttered when someone says they have no second surname: "No second surname? What, you have no mother?"

When my boyfriend first went to Puerto Rico with me a couple of years ago, after I introduced him to my younger cousins, they asked the same question. What's his second last name? And I told them he doesn't have one. And they asked if he's an orphan :-p I explained to them that in the US people don't use two surnames and they were very confused, and then asked for his mom's last name. Then I had to explain that my boyfriend's mom has the same last name as his dad, but that her last name before marriage was ___. My cousins thought it was all very confusing :-p

Anonymous said...

Well, my last name is based on a woman's first name, so it's nothing special and is pretty common because of that. I figure if I meet someone with a very distinguished last name with the same cultural/ethnic origin, then the last name is going. If it's a different culture, then my name stays. Also, it's too hard for scientists to change names due to publication record confusion.

Female Science Professor said...

That's a good point. It was a minor consideration compared to my other reasons for not changing my name, but I definitely wanted my publication record to be distinct from my husband's. One of my former students once asked me, just before she got married, if she should change her name. I of course said no, in part because she'd be changing her name from a distinctive one to one shared by several people in our field. I was concerned that she'd have trouble establishing her own identity. She ignored my advice and is now a successful professor at a university! I would give the same advice again, but clearly it's a personal issue that doesn't have dire consequences. The key thing is to be comfortable with your decision either way.

sciencegirl said...

i had to ask my boyfriend, but in Brasil it is "backwards" compared to Puerto Rico. Children are given two surnames, but it is the mother's name that comes first and the father's second. But when passed on the mother and father both give their second last name.
i.e. in emily's example:
man AB marries woman XY
they have children, Girl YB and Boy YB
Girl YB marries Boy CD and has: Girl BD
Boy YB marries Girl CD and has:
Boy DB
So the respective double cousins also have reverse last names, but not those that were created using the Puerto Rican system.

B said...

I am getting married in May, and want to keep my name, but if/when we have kids they will have the father's last name. My fiance is fine w/ this arrangement, however I'm not sure how his family will be with it. My brother in law seemed to think it strange to keep my name, when my sister took his name. He said, well why would you need your own name, it isn't like you are famous! True, but my last name is distinctive and so a bonus to me, I think scientifically, vs my fiance's last name of the smith, brown variety! Besides who said you had to be famous to keep your name as a married woman?
Anyway, thanks for writing about this, it helps to know, it can be done!

Emily said...

Sciencegirl:
That's really interesting, how in Brasil the second surname is the one passed, and mother's first. I had an idea that in Portugal they passed the mother's surname first, but I still thought it was the first surname, not the second. Really interesting, and cool :-)

With respect to keeping the surname upon marriage -- I'm doing just that because of (a) cultural background of not changing surnames upon marriage, and (b) publications. Plus, if any telemarketers call asking for Mrs. Hubby'sLastName, I can say that the only person I know with that name is my mother in law, and she doesn't live with us :-)

James said...

So, if I understand this correctly, both the Portuguese and Spanish traditions are still essentially patrilineal. If Maria and Marco have great great... grandchildren, the sons of sons of... sons will carry (one of) Marco's surnames but none of Maria's.

My wife and I have different surnames. My children have mine, mainly because when we had to decide, neither of us cared much and it seemed like it would be less hassle to be more conventional. I think my wife is now somewhat regretful; in any case if we had it to do over, I think we'd use her surname. (Of course, then *I* might well regret it, and if we had it to do over *again* maybe we'd do something else...)

Anonymous said...

The hospital was wrong. We had no trouble getting our first certified with two last names.
For our second, strangely, filling out the exact same form lead to social security sending back a hyphenated last name on the birth certificate, they must have added it on the form.

Anonymous said...

I was very glad to hear that my wife and I are not the only folks in the known universe to choose what seemed to us like a sensible solution--both of us kept our original last names and we gave our two children one of each. As noted above, with divorce and re-marriage rampant, multiple last names in a family doesn't cause anyy consternation, and it is only folks who get to know us that ever find out this was a choice rather than a blended family. My father-in-law, not always noted for his feminist ways, was surprisingly OK with having a gandchild that retained "his" last name.

If I were designing the world, I'd go with the Icelandic solution--when Eric and Inge have children, male children are Ericson and female children are Ingesdottir. No last name outlasts a generation and since gender ratios in children are random and roughly equal....

tom s. said...

Emily - thanks for the explanation. Interesting thread!

Oli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oli said...

At present, it was quite well understood that normal Chinese or Korean names have Surname first format. However, significant ethnic Chinese of Malaysia and Singapore have also a 'Non Chinese Derived Given Name' (Christian Name) that appears in their legal documents.

The ethnic Chinese of Malaysia and Singapore who have 'non-Chinese derived Given Name(s)' as well as 'Chinese derived Given Name(s)' in identity documents issued in these countries(like Passport and Birth Certificate) will usually have their respective Surname (Last Name) appearing between the two set of Given Names and therefore potentially give the impression to the unacquainted that what is claimed to be the 'Last Name(Surname)' is a 'Middle Name'. For clarity, I will capitalise the Surname of the following hypothetical individual:

Philip WONG Chee Keong

This format baffles some in the Western World. When indexed in Visas issued in English Speaking countries, this name is indexed: WONG, PHILIP CHEE KEONG and therefore this person will write his full legal name post-immigration as:

Philip Chee Keong WONG without any fraudulent intent or motive. To the person bearing this name('Surname in the Middle' per Malaysian/Singaporean documents) the differences in name order as it appears in documents in Malaysia/Singapore and in the West does not amount to different name but rather a result of distinct name recording practice in both environments. This is the format as it appears in Malaysian/Singaporean documents reflect customary (cultural) naming practice. Ethnic Chinese of these two countries with Non-Chinese (Christian) Given Name always face difficulties with authorities in the West because the format is neither traditional Chinese nor Western: It is hybridised name format. It is made worse because the current identity documents of both countries (like Passport and Birth Certificate) do not have differentiated fields for Surname and Given Names and personal names are recorded according to the customary practice of the applicant in question.

Although Spanish and Portuguese names cause confusions (as to how many parts of second portion constitute Surname i.e 'de la Rosa' or 'Rosa'; 'Castro' or 'Castro Ruz') to other European cultures, essentially when written in full - the order (sequence) of the name in full is not altered.(although I am aware that Spanish Second Surname is usually the maternal and therefore dropped in many contexts).

In today's heightened security and paranoia regarding the veracity of bona fide travellers and their identity, a good comprehension of customary naming practice must be paid more attention as there are still a lot of misunderstanding regarding names that may have serious implications to international travel and immigration.

blop said...

I think that no system is perfect. Either you favor a gender (usually male) or you have different rules for different famillies or you have different rules for different person in the family. The icelandic solution gives different names for siblings, I don't think that this is that great. And why a girl should be identified to her mother and a son to his father? That doesn't help to project yourself outside of the traditional male/female roles...

My favorite is still the spanish system, or its portuguese variant. To be complete on that matter, if sir AB has kids with madam XY, they all will be called AX. But if you ask them their "full name", they can say AXBY. Or even go to the grand-grand-parents level and say AXBYCZDT. But that's more folklorical. What I like in this system is that a women doesn't take the name of her husband. Whereas in the (very) "old school" french system for example, a woman can even take the FIRST name of her husband and be called "Madame Pierre Dupont" !

I was somehow shocked by the swiss way. When we got our first kid, we weren't married. So my son got his mother's last name. That was fine with me (but the fact that this, as well as other things, was clearly meaning that a woman who has a child without being married could only be a single mother). But when we married later on, my son's last name changed to mine! (and my wife had to take my name too, either alone or keeping her last name too, but it was impossible for her to keep only her lifelong last name). And that was happening at the exact moment when he was able to tell his complete name...
I still wonder what would happen if we got married while he was 20. Or if he had kids already...

Anonymous said...

My fiancee (male) has a hyphenated last name. Where does this leave me? If I take his last name, then I will have an hyphenated last name--but neither name will belong to me. Furthermore, my new hyphenated name will give the impression that one of the names is my maiden name--something I don't want people to think. However, my fiancee does not want to change his name because he is known throughout his professional field by this hyphenated last name.

What do we do?

This is why parents should not give their kids hyphenated last names--it will cause problems for their kids throughout life.

Sharon said...

I am a child of parents who decided upon a hypehenated last name, and I am so glad that they did. I think it gives exactly the right impression to your children, that neither mother nor father is valued higher, even in matters of societal convention. But my problem is this: how do I continue that tradition with my own children. I fully intend to keep my name when I marry (as my mother did), but what will my husband and I do with our children? I don't want to simply pick one of my last names to hyphenate along with his, because then the entire symbolism of the act of hyphenating my name will be lost. Combine the names all into one that is not shared by parents. That doesn't seem right. I struggle with this, I wish there was an easy solution.

Anonymous said...

I read this idea on another site, and thought it might be helpful here:

"My ex-wife and I took each other's names and hyphenated them in 1990. At the time, we were the only people we knew who were doing that—that is to say, we were the only people we knew where the man actually took upon and used a hyphenated name. Anyway, I thought this matter through long and hard and my solution is both elegant and completely practical.

I had three design requirements which absolutely had to be met: 1) parity/equality between the sexes in all ways; 2) familial identity (all member of a nuclear family have the same surname); 3) and of course that names wouldn't combine in a way that was a neverending increase in length.

In the end I decided that as a practical matter in the West, the ordering of the two names didn't imply the primacy of one over the other because for some purposes the one has primacy (such as the first when in the context of alphabetization) while in others the second may be percieved to have priority (because of middle-names and such, the second name, I think, has an implicit primacy in our culture). So I figured that you adopt a protocol concerning the order—I chose matronymic-patronymic—and not worry that it implies an ultimate primacy of one over the other.

My plan was to assume the system already in place and thus a hyphenated name that resulted from marriage could be understood as being a matronymic-patronymic formation. Resulting children take that form. But when they marry, male children abandon their mother's matronym and replace it with their spouse's matronym, and similarly for the female and their patronym from their father replaced by the patronym from their husband.

The result of this is that all three requirements are met but especially the most important and satisfying implication of the first requirement was met in a truly satisfying way: as we now have patronymic lineages with which we form a part of our core identity around, in my scheme we'd still have patronymic lineages but we'd also have matronymic lineages. All male descendents from "Smith-Brown" would have names in the form of Mr. something-Brown while all female descendents of "Smith-Brown" would have names in the form of "Smith-something". And while everyone would give up part of the name that formed their childhood familial identity (the opposite sex portion), so also would everyone keep a part of their name that formed their childhood familial identity.

In the fifteen years hence, I've heard of only one other person also coming up with this exact scheme, and it mefi's own "dame". But I think it's very elegant and in a way obvious and I'm surprised more people didn't adopt it or plan to adopt it. (You'd have to have a subsequent generation marrying for it to actually be realized.) I always like to pipe up when the subject arises because I do feel it's by far the best solution to this sexist problem in our culture."

mcsplurge said...

I have a theory regarding women with hyphenated last names. Could it be that they want an old boyfriend to always be able to find them?

Stacy said...

The only problem with the matronymic-patronymic formation described above is that if you have all boys, the wife's name gets dropped anyway when the boys marry thus ending the mother's surname.

I'm running into this problem right now because my ex & I weren't married when our son was born and I gave him my last name. Now 12 years later, he wants our son to have his last name, which opens a whole new can of worms. For me, my son is the very last person in my family to carry on my father's name.

For him, he thinks tradition should prevail and our son should take on his name. I say tradition should've prevailed 12 years ago and he should've been around to help raise his son, but that doesn't seem to weigh in on his reasoning.

Hyphenating seems like an option but in Latin culture, the father's name comes first and then the mother's is the one to get dropped when the kids have children. This brings us back to my name getting dropped forever, which is basically the same as dropping it now.
Hyphenating it any other way will cause a huge problem in his family. He says it will be an insult but so will dropping my name altogether. Why should I be the one to give up my surname when I raised him? I'd like mine to continue on too and my son has had my name for 12 years. Why change it now?

Anonymous said...

On 10/28/08, my husband and I went to hyphenate our names at the Social Security Administration, and were told that their policy had recently changed, and they "no longer allow special characters such as hyphens" in names! We would have to choose either to run our names together as one word, or to have our two names treated as one "last name" with a space in it. This seems absolutely absurd to us; clearly their system has handled hyphens in the past, and still uses them between the numbers in your SSN; why on earth would they NOT ALLOW HYPHENS? And shouldn't this stealth new 'policy' be publicized and fought against? Has anyone else encountered this problem? --Eliza

Anonymous said...

My former partner and I are co-parenting our daughter. We are changing our daughter's suname to include both of our surnames with a hyphen. Since it is a same-sex parenting situation, how do I figure out which name should go first out of the 2 surnames and is one more primary than the other if it is first or last?

female Science Professor said...

I don't know why it matters whether the parents are same-sex or not in this situation. My husband and I made our decision based on which order sounded best. I don't think the name order implies anything in terms of primacy of parents, unless you want it to.

Anonymous said...

the reason I asked this is because in the 8/30/07 post above someone said the last name is primary. Also, it seems like it usually ends with the father's name which is why i asked if it matters in same-sex parenting situations where you have 2 mothers.

Anonymous said...

the reason I asked this is because in the 8/30/07 post above someone said the last name is primary. Also, it seems like it usually ends with the father's name which is why i asked if it matters in same-sex parenting situations where you have 2 mothers. Also, i was concerned which name would be more likely to be dropped if people didn't want to write the whole name out.

female Science Professor said...

I haven't noticed any trend in terms of whether the name order is dadname-momname or the reverse in mom-dad type families. I know kids with both orders and I really don't think it matters. In my daughter's experiences with officialdom (forms), sometimes the last last name is dropped and sometimes the first last name is dropped for convenience.

If one of the possible last names could theoretically be a first name, it might be annoying to be forever explaining that your kid's LAST NAME is Jane-Smith and that Jane is not a first or middle name. If it really doesn't matter, do what feels best to you. That's my random advice anyway. I'm glad we hyphenated our daughter's name, and so far she enjoys having a unique name.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your advice. I have been doing a lot of research on the internet on this subject and haven't been able to find any info about it.

Anonymous said...

my grandson has a hyphenated name and the mother whom my son is not with dropped off the whole middle for school so he is known only by her name can she do this legally. ex: Terry Lynn Smith-Thomas, they call him and teach him his name is Terry Thomas they dropped the whole middle for school. so he will not learn his real name Is this legal?

Anonymous said...

I think that the school's can teach the child whatever name the parent wants. If your son is upset about it, and he has the legal standing to do so, have him contact the school.

I came here because I'm intending to hyphenate my son's name in the near future. He's 5 already, so it's a bit of an odd situation. When he was born, he got his dad's name, and I was cool with that. But now, his dad is no longer in the picture (by the dad's own choice - and for approximately 85% of my son's life). We live in a small town, in close proximity to my family (who have really been there for me, espescially my dad and brothers who do all the necessary male bonding things with him - even the ones I could live without!). Furthermore, my son will be going to a school in which my parents (and our last name) will cause alot of recognition for my son.

It might be sad, but a kid who no one really knows will not get the same kind of attention as a kid whose family is known. It is sort of a combination of 'the squeaky wheel gets the grease' and 'it's not what you know, it's who you know'. For instance, my son had a very unusual speech delay. He could be understood pretty well, most of the time, but was not saying some of the very basic sounds. It's likely that if the speech pathologist had not known my father, she may have given him only the introductory assessment (where his delay was not easily documented). Instead, she knew my father, and knew that my father knew enough that we wouldn't be bothering with the evaluation unless we honestly believed there was something wrong - so she gave him a more in depth evaluation that showed his delay very clearly.

In this case, she would have been adequately fulfilling her duty by giving the introductory assessment, and making the decision based on that alone. Yet, because she knew my father, and that my son was his grandson, he is getting the therapy he needs instead of having to wait until the delay had caused enough problems to be noticeable in a more severe way.

Thus, in this environment, it will clearly be beneficial for my son to bear a tag that clearly says, "You know my family. You know my mother, my aunts, my uncles, my grandparents, and probably several dozen of my cousins!". At the same time, I don't feel it's right to take away from him a name that has already become his own, and still bears his paternal heritage even if his actual father isn't exactly going to be winning any parenting awards.

So - I'm going to hyphenate his name. I came here trying to figure out which name I should put first. Unfortunately it seems like there's no real cosistency on which name is considered "primary". It seems that slightly more people seem to believe the second name is primary - but almost everyone agrees that alphabetizing and filing goes by the first one. Thus, it's pretty much a toss up.

Heck, maybe I'll just leave it up to my son. It's his name after all!

Anonymous said...

I want to thank all for the interesting insight on the issue. I am from Venezuela, where the "rules" are the same as described by Emily on the post from 11/12/2006 02:39:00 PM. Since I also work in academia outside of Latin America (the Netherlands), to have two last names is a bit of an issue (like missing 1st last name from conference abstracts) or missing the accentuated vowels.

I agree with the solution by the Female Science Professor. When I married, me and my wife decided for her to keep her last names intact (she is also from Venezuela). Regarding our future children, I hope they allow the space in the last name... otherwise the hyphenated form should work. It's silly that in the 21st century the world still has such complications. I am a man, so I don't even want to imagine all the hassle for female researchers. My sympathy for you girls, don't change your name and keep that expanding publication record.

Anonymous said...

When we got married, my husband and I both hyphenated professionally and socially but legally I took his last name and he took my last name as a middle name. We thought this would be the easiest way of balancing our concerns (he really didn't want to have a long last name, I wanted us to share a last name when we got married). The woman at Social Security was very confused, and asked us why he was changing his name, too, and he gets that frequently. We are the only couple I know where both people have hyphenated names (we have MyLastName-HisLastName, which we thought sounded better), but all of our female friends who've hyphenated have put their maiden last name first, then their husband's last name. Now I'm regretting it and wish I'd simply kept my own name. It's a hassle to have such a long last name (15 characters; my work email is 43 characters long) and I don't care so much now about having the same last name professionally. If we were doing it over again, we would have each kept our own names professionally & legally and just hyphenated socially.(and the ironic thing is, that was my husband's original solution to our dilemma, and I really pushed for us having the same last name--now, however, if I reject his last name, I think that he'd be hurt, and so would his family)

Anonymous said...

Nothing says I love you like hyphenating (or not changing) your name... Grrrrr... Good luck with the divorce...

Colin Purrington said...

I read recently that Germany bans multiple generations of hyphenation. Will be fascinating to what the half-life of hyphenated names is in the United States. Haven't met a person with a double hyphen yet, even though I travel in social circles where a single hyphen is very, very common. As (another) aside, I think 100% of the hyphenated kids I've met are female. Are parents prone to hyphenating also parents who have just girls? Or do boys just drop the hyphen as soon as they turn 18? Enquiring minds would love to know.

Anonymous said...

I inherited a hyphenated last name from parents who both hyphenated their last names, and use the shared name legally and socially. (My father says this has been great for giving him feminist street cred!) With my siblings, this means I have an absolutely distinct name, which is going to be great for when I publish.

The troubles I have had with it are as follows:
1) Other cumbersome last names are just what you got by luck- mine, people think they get to have an opinion.

2)Some computers don't like the hyphenated last name. When this happens, I make a point of writing a letter of complaint to the companies that use them, and usually get something apologetic back about it.

3) People think one portion is the "real" last name, and will try to use that. Correcting them takes all of three seconds.

4) I do kind of wish I had the option of hyphenating my whole last name with that of my future spouse, because it actually sounds quite nice together. But it would never fit on forms. I'm considering dropping the lastlast name and rehyphenating with his (both of us would do this- leading to the first instance of the system suggested by the anonymous poster of 11/07/2007 01:47:00 AM) but I feel that the hassle of changing my last name would probably be really annoying. I think I'm sticking with my current arrangement.


For the vast majority of my life, though? It's just been my last name, no problem one way or another.

grendelion said...

Glad to know this thread is still going. I'm a man who got married in June; my wife and I both hyphenated our names. however, we both went with birthname-marriedname, which means that we share our names elements but in reverse order from each other.

Now my parents, who I thought were pretty liberal, are giving me hell about having rejected various family traditions, etc. But they say it would have been less bad to them if I'd gone with marriedname-birthname, because (as has been mentioned in an earlier comment) the final last name gets priority. In all the examples I'm familiar with, though, the first last name gets priority if one of them does, while the last one gets priority if they're not hyphenated.

From this thread, it seems that order is essentially arbitrary, at least in the US. Has that been the general experience? At this point, I'm not even think about hypothetical children; I'm just wondering if there's a convention that we missed somewhere in our efforts at equality and celebrating our joined families.

And as an aside, what do you think about Antonio Villaraigosa (mayor of LA), who blended his and his (former) wife's names, Villar and Raigosa respectively? Here in California, both spouses have the right to change name at marriage, although everyone (at, say, county clerk, DMV, SocSecAdmin) has noted, generally with admiration and/or curiosity, that my situation is the first of its kind that they have seen.

Anonymous said...

I guess its just a modern world of feminist and political correctness or selfishness and pretentiousness... who knows.

I just know these hyphenated names- are problems for many people.

Myself I won't marry a woman if she will not take my last name.

Its bad enough seeing these long (explitive) last names on the back of sports jerseys like macijewski-cummings that don't even fit and the ppl can't read it when they watch the said player. What was his or her name again?

I honestly hate doing name changes for people when I work with email servers. They create such a pains for other people with longer logins and mail forwarding and all the other mess. Sometimes they won't fit because there are too many characters

I don't get why women seem to think they're equal and just trash traditionalist thinking just because they want to.

I'm proud my mother kept her last name after divorce. Then again she didn't have children out of wedlock either.

But to each their own I guess. 9 of 10 times when I look at a hyphenated name- I feel sorry for the chilren of that mother. She's usually divorced, remarried 3 times and has zero commitment to making marriage last- as it were- for life. And yes in my experiences 9 of these 10 women with hyphenated names- are from such backgrounds and/or are overbearing feminists.

Its time some people revert back to their traditional values.


Matthew 7 13-14
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said..."I don't get why women seem to think they're equal"

your lucky wife

Anonymous said...

There is currently a pro NFL football player whose name is
BenJarvus Jeremy Green-Ellis. When you hear BenJarvus, you'd think it's two names. I'd never heard the middle name (Jeremy) until I looked on wikipedia. So when they call his name you hear Ben Jarvus Green Ellis.
They jokingly refer to him as the "Law Firm". His wiki gives no insight as to why he has a hyphenated name, but the subject made me do a Google search and I came across this extremely interesting thread. I've learned a ton on a pretty obscure subject.

Paul said...

My fiancee and I are both research scientists as well, and this question came up for us regarding future plans for kids' names and, of course, science publication records.

I mentioned to her that if she were to change her last name to mine, she could still retain her publication name (in PubMed, etc.) as I know of no rule against that. Mark Twain and others wrote several books in their careers using a pen name, so why should scientific publications be any different?

Anonymous said...

Paul - The same goes for you as well. You could change your last name and still retain your pre-marriage name for publications. Just an idea.

Paul said...

Certainly true, 'Anonymous'. The point I was trying to convey is that a person need not be concerned over whether to legally change or not change a surname based on one's preferred scientific publication name.

Female Science Professor said...

This is my most recent take on this issue:

http://science-professor.blogspot.com/2010/04/unchanging.html

Anonymous said...

It's interesting your mother in law objected to your name coming first - in the British Aristocracy the more 'important' name always came last! Eg the current royal family is Mountbatten(Queen eliz husband's name) Windsor (queen's name - much more important!!) I am secretly a little bit annoyed that MySurname-HusbandsSurname runs very well together but is awkward the other way around, since a little part of me would like to be in the 'more important' position. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it all depends in what society you are living. If it is patriarchal society than the child takes the fathers last name and the wife can take the husband's last name or leave it her own, it is her to decide.

I am not surprised that in Spanish driven cultures mothers surname presents in child's last name. I think it is because those cultures are not 100% patriarchal, even the language has genders where else some languages don't.

In my opinion having two or more surnames makes things more confusing.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy! None of you would want to be from the south of india, where there are two first names and two surnames. I mean two words/parts for each.

Example:

Firstname1 Firstname2 Surname1 Surname2

Surname1 is the place you/ your family is from.

Surname2 is your father's firstname.

God save you if your dad has two firstnames!

Living with that in Australia has been frustrating. No space on the forms and I keep getting referred to as Mr.Surname1..

Which is like calling someone Mr.Westend

Now would you all please get some perspective and stop complaining.

Have heard some arab names are longer.

Anonymous said...

What if every generation gave their children both last names? It would take ten minutes to sign their names. It makes no sense.

Erin said...

My kids have two last names (no hyphen). This is my second marriage and I was not taking his last name. He adopted my daughter (from said previous marriage) and so she lost her middle name (while he bio dad gave her so no loss there- ek!) and got our two last names. When our son came along we opted, again, for no middle name and the two last names. I admit that it is frustratng when people cut you off after the first name but it's nothing to get angry about. The arguement from an outsider was their names were two long. I admit that I counted letters in the kindergarten class list and my daughters was NOT the longest. One letter shorter and that was without the other kid's middle name! hahaha...