Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Name Game
As part of the first generation to have a large number of persons with hyphenated last names to reach marrying and child-bearing age, I, as have many of my contemporaries (for a recap: Yglesias, A. Butler, Baude, S. Butler, L. Butler, Plocharczyk, Bond) have occasionally pondered what would happen if two people with hyphenated last names had kids. Since "four [last names] is right out", what would they name the kids?
Propositions have included:
--The old-school paternalistic naming scheme--Safe, but boring and slightly unfair
--The "Savant" scheme, most notably espoused by Marilyn von Savant, wherein the child gets the last name of the parent of the same sex. This is sensible to a degree, and fair. But it overlooks the other parent's influence on the child, and what happens when two gay men adopt a baby girl?
--The Spanish surname/mother's maiden name scheme, wherein one gets the last name of your mother's father as a middle name and the last name of your father's father as a last name, or the (mother's father) y (father's father). Carries the mother's name for a generation, then drops it off. But fairer than the current system, I guess.

Finally, we come to the new system. I'm thinking of calling it "interwoven names", but that sounds a bit like those "remixed" last names where they smush the two names together. Screw it. Let me describe it:

Amy Snell and Jeff Hitchcock (we're starting off from one-word names here) have a little girl they name Barbara Snell Hitchcock. Lea Burton and David Judson name their son Richard Burton Judson. Snell Hitchcock and Burton Judson are all "last names", even though I haven't put hyphens in--you know, like Native American last names like "Little Wing". Ms. Snell and Mr. Judson (for formal address, pick one or both of the last names and put an honorific in front) marry and have a son, Daniel Snell Judson. The family will be addressed as "The Snell Judson family"; everyone gets their own listing in the phone book. All cool and fine.

Daniel falls in love with Anthony Dodd Blake (the son of Katherine Dodd Mead and George Gates Blake), and they decide to adopt a child--a baby girl. What do they name her? Jessica Judson Blake (both father's paterlineal surnames)--or Jessica Blake Judson. Either way. Now the only question is, when she marries Matthew Eckhart Ryerson, if their son will be named John Judson Ryerson or John Blake Ryerson.

Of course, there will be variations on this theme. If you feel closer to the parent of the opposite sex, you can choose that parent's last name to go onto your child's last name. If your parents were both assholes, dig through your ancestors and find a person you like and wouldn't mind being named after. And variations on the scheme on aesthetic grounds (Joanna Eggers Bourdieu? No) are entirely welcome.

I don't know. I'm just offering this as an option. I've grown to like the rhythm of my name--two drawn-out syllables followed by a crisp, consonant-rich one-- and I don't particularly feel like changing it. But that's just me.

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