Sunday, May 11, 2008

Name Fusions For Nuclear Families

Congratulations to Michael and Diana Bijon, who got the ACLU's help in overturning the California law barring men from taking their wives' names when they marry. From older news coverage, I recall that Michael had a bad relationship with his father, and was very close to his wife's family, and thus wanted to take her name. I don't know exactly what we should call his old name now -- "maiden name" isn't appropriate. Bachelor name, I suppose?

My preference is for both spouses to keep their names, and to invent clever name fusions for their offspring. So if I were to marry a woman named, say, Von Argebargebruger, the kids would be Sinhabargebrugers or Von Sinhas or Argebargebabus or something, depending on how many extra syllables of adversity we wanted them to overcome.

Philosophers Steven Yablo and Sally Haslanger call their clan the 'Yablangers', which always sounded kind of nifty to me. Definitely for academics and other people whose names show up in bibliographies, having people retain their names seems the way to go. You don't want people thinking, "Whatever happened to that book that Von Argebargebruger said she was going to write?" or "Why didn't Baroness Sinhababu publish anything until she got tenure?"


Brandon said...

Holly and I have kept our names and are considering "Bulterson" and "Robutlerson." Our poor poor children.

And their first names are going to be weird, pretentious ones like Stella and Zoe, so they're in for some trouble.

Ben Wolfson said...

I know this scheme isn't my own, but I can't remember whose it is.

Suppose your name is Neil Adams and you marry Catherine Xan. You have a son, Samuel Adams-Xan, and a daughter, Susan Xan-Adams.

You also have a friend, John Barry, who's married to Jennifer York, and they have a daughter, Jessica York-Barry, and a son, Larry Barry-York.

If Larry and Susan get married, they keep their individual names, of course. Their sons are named (eg) Charles Barry-Adams amd their daughters (eg) Celia Xan-York.

If Jessica and Samuel get married, they have sons (eg) Charles Adams-Barry and daughters (eg) Cela York-Xan.

Totally not confusing at all.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Even Robutlerson isn't that terrible. Butlerson sounds perfectly normal. And I'd rather be the only Zoe in my school than the eighth Jennifer.

I see the virtues of your scheme, Ben. It's egalitarian and preserves more information. But there are a couple problems. First, if I marry the Baroness, we will have a freakishly long hyphenated last name. Fusion at least keeps things shorter. And some people (myself included) find hyphens annoying. Second, some people like the idea of giving siblings the same last names.

If that were commonly accepted practice, I'd follow it. But I also think that name fusion is just more fun.

Neil Sinhababu said...

I mean, our kids will have freakishly long hyphenated last names.

Matt said...

"I'd rather be the only Zoe in my school than the eighth Jennifer."

Unfortunately, if you have a kid named 'Zoe' now she will almost certainly be the 8th 'Zoe' in her class. It's a completely common name for young girls these days.

Witt said...

Names are so personal that it's hard to predict what a child's reaction is going to be. I remain surprised at how many total strangers are actively angry/aggressive about my parents' name choice.

And it's quite frustrating that modern-day computer programs are still unable to create fields that allow for my name to appear properly on airline tickets or credit cards. This general passive-aggressive normalizing spills over into government agencies too. I've known a Thai woman who had five extremely long names and was forced to give up two of them when her family came to the US, and several Indonesians who are ___ Fnu or Fnu _____ because the immigration paper simply could not happen with a one-named person. (Fnu is First Name Unknown, which of course is not true.)

Anonymous said...

Now I'm going to be super disappointed if you don't marry someone with a really ridiculously long name, Neil, just because the fusion possibilities are so entertaining.

(And yes, I am somewhat relieved that I don't really want kids, just so I won't have to deal with the whole "should the kids have the same last name?" issue.)

Another possibility I've seen is making up an entirely new last name for both halves of the married couple and all their subsequent children, but I do know that the husband in that arrangement had always hated his last name.