12 February 2017

Surnames

Here in England, it used to be the case that double barrelled surnames were the preserve of the rich landowning gentry. Pray rise for Sir Henry and Lady Margaret Ponsonby-Smythe! May I introduce Major Fortescue-McDonald and Sir William Cavendish-Pratt. Often the collision of surnames was connected with estates and noble family histories.

However, during my decades as a secondary school teacher I noticed a growing trend towards double-barrelled surnames in ordinary households.There were various reasons for this phenomenon. Sometimes it was to do with divorce. In other instances it was frequently to do with children being born out of wedlock. Hence Tyson Johnson-Smith was the son of a roofer called Graham Johnson and his mistress Shelley Smith who had two other children by different fathers - Chardonnay O'Reilly-Smith and Cameron Obafemi-Smith.

You can perhaps appreciate the basic reasoning behind these modern surname choices.

But let's suppose that in maturity Chardonnay O'Reilly-Smith hooks up with a fellow called Sam Ramsbottom-Vincent. After a few months, Chardonnay announces that she is pregnant and in due course a beautiful baby is born. Now Sam and Chardonnay are unmarried so how will Baby Elvis be named? Will he have a four-barrelled surname? Elvis O'Reilly-Smith-Ramsbottom-Vincent?

And move onwards twenty or thirty years - Elvis O'Reilly-Smith-Ramsbottom-Vincent falls in love with Madonna Gibson-Williams-Brague-Gray. When they have a little baby girl, does she become Adele O'Reilly-Smith-Ramsbottom-Vincent-Gibson-Williams-Brague-Gray? An eight-barrelled surname! 

It's hard to get your head round this but multiple surnames no longer suggest privilege and land ownership. On the contrary, they often suggest dimness, shaky relationships and a lack of historical perspective or foresight. I often felt a little sorry for children from the local council estates who had to suffer double-barrelled last names so heaven  knows how teachers of the future will feel about eight-barrelled surnames. Perhaps some of the teachers will also bear them - Yes Miss Douglas-Raptor-Dalgleish-Hunter-Fitzpatrick-Martinez-Kruschev-Trump, I do know the answer to your question!

43 comments:

  1. In Sweden we are only beginning to see the consequenses of new namelaws. Double- barrelled surnames are not very common yet, but double- barrelled first names are. Like John-Hubert or Lucy-Margaret. Swedish people often have three first names. The aristocrazy here often have either names taken from the knighthood era or something legendary. One family is called NightandDay f.i. For many years the fathers firstname became the sons surname with an ending. Father Johns son became Andy Johnsson.Today, however, people are creating their surnames to be exceptional..
    Teachers in the future will have some very adventurous days sorting out who is who. I have my mothers maiden name, how about you, mr Pudding??

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    1. My pen surname "Pudding" relates to a culinary delight that emerges from Yorkshire ovens each Sunday. But my real surname was my father's surname and his father's surname going back at least 250 years.

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    2. Hm, I never thought Pudding was a real surname, at least I hoped so. I am yet to taste those delights, maybe next time in London?
      My surname comes from grandfather and several generations before him. Originally it's one of the swedish colonial islands...great stuff huh!? But the line of ancestry is somewhat clouded....

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    3. The Island of Fairtrader where Fairtrade coffee comes from...

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    4. Golly, you got it right in the first guess!!!!

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  2. Ha ha! I've often wondered, too, as many women here started using HerName-HisName surnames when they married, so as not to lose their maiden surname. This only became common in the 1980s here. (Children of unmarried couples took their mother's maiden name only, while children of divorced couples retained their father's surname.) Anyway, the issue hasn't become a problem, here at least. Many women now either keep their maiden name upon marriage or have begun taking thier husband's name again, and the hyphenated surnames are not terribly common anymore. Are we just backward here in the outer colonies??

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    1. No. It is generally accepted that Canada sets trends for the rest of the world to follow - for example in maple syrup production and ice skating sports.

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  3. My father happened to have a double barrelled name (the reasons are complicated by the fact that that the men his mother married kept dying). My mother refused to adopt a double barrelled name so he dropped the hyphen and hence I am simply an Edwards. It could have been fun if I had had a double barrelled name and been 'modern' when I married because my wife also had a double-barrelled name.

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    1. Are you sure that Graham-Edwards isn't your real surname? Perhaps your first name is really Wayne or Spartacus.

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  4. I love your take on this, I have the same thoughts. It boggles the mind to think of 8 barreled surnames. LOL.

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    1. Terra Hangen-Pence-Trump-Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah-BLAH

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  5. Begin' yer pardon, guv'nor, not to belabor the obvious, but in your choice of fictitious double-barreled names using your readers as examples, Madonna and Adele could not possibly be Brague-Grays because the coupling you suggest, though not anatomically impossible, would never produce offspring. Adam and Eve versus Adam and Steve, don't you know. Or perhaps you meant to suggest that John and I adopted little Madonna. Very inventive post, I must say!

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    1. The use of real people's surnames was, I assure you, purely co-incidental with no malice aforethought.

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    2. Not suggesting malice aforethought in any way! ''Twas quite funny, actually.

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    3. 'Tis a relief that my accidental use of the noble French patronym Brague did not cause an involuntary boiling of your blue blood.

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  6. I was happy to take Gregg's last name when we married, even if it's old fashioned. Team Barlow! ❤

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    1. In England we have a long-running soap opera called "Coronation Street" and the only ever-present character is called Ken Barlow! Also, five miles away from our house there is a village in Derbyshire called Barlow!

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  7. I like the simple life...and I like simplicity in names...mine is as pretty brief and to the point as a name can get! It's as simple as that...and I like it!Boy! If I hyphenated the surnames I had...there would be four in total...I still with my present one.

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    1. I agree - simple is best - as in most aspects of life. As always, your visit was greatly appreciated Ms George.

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    2. And my response was full of typos! I blame it on the heat of today and the past few days! It's been horrendous and my concentration has been out the door!

      I still haven't finished reading Saturday's paper..I've just not been bothered!

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    3. Go to the local butcher's shop and ask if you can stand in their fridge for an hour or two.

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  8. I have wondered about the double barreled names. Where does it end? Many of my nieces have taken their maiden name and married name and put them together. Their children go by the married name. I like this as it has an immediate ending.

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    1. That seems like a good solution to the connection of a series of surnames. How many nieces have you got?

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  9. When my parents married in 1965, there was no question of my Mum NOT taking my Dad's surname - it simply was the way things were done. So she gave up her maiden surname (which was her father's surname) and became Mrs. H. My sister and I went by our parents' surname, and my sister still does - it was no question at all.
    When I first married, I took my husband's (Italian) surname. After we were divorced, I reverted back to my maiden name, which cost me about 25 euros. Marrying Steve, I became Mrs. Riley, and have stayed that way after his death. I don't want a hyphenated surname, but I think it is a good thing that couple today have all the choice - he can take her name (I know one couple like that), she can take his, they both keep their own, or either of them hyphenates.
    As far as I know, German law does not foresee multi-barrelled surnames.

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    1. Maybe one day you will be Frau Kaiser... or Kaufmann or Keller?

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    2. Krämer, if you must know :-) I have not been asked the question yet, but my answer would definitely be YES!!!

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    3. After all that you have been through, I hope that this daydream comes true. It's Valentine's Day tomorrow!

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  10. Good one YP ! Let's hope not too many youngsters read your blog - you'll give them ideas. You know how impressionable they can be !

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    1. This blog is a youngster-free zone, open only to old fuddy duddies and those who can remember the birth of colour TV.

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  11. A friend's son took his new wife's surname along with his own on marriage as the wife is from a family of 6 girls, and that was one way to carry on the name. My maiden name has died out with my generation in our family as my brother is gay, and my cousin is a sandwich short of a picnic and never married!! ( I haven't seen him for 60 yrs or so!!)

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    1. I like that metaphor - "a sandwich short of a picnic". It's a bit like "not the sharpest pencil in the box". So sorry to learn that the Nutgrabber surname has reached a road block

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  12. Exactly what I have thought for years about this modern double-barrelled phenomenon. Well said!

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    1. Just wait till I get on to people who write their names in block CAPITALS!

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    2. Haha. You can blame Google for that!

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  13. I worked with someone whose surname was Dudley-Southern that he had taken when he married. For a long time I assumed that his name had been plain Dudley until he explained that it had actually been Southern and he had gone for the reverse option as Southern-Dudley would sound too much like a town in the midlands!

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    1. Was your missus's maiden name Cecil by any chance or maybe Bumpy?

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  14. However...
    Surnames appear to be dying out, in that everyone - even in professional situations - insist on using ones first name.

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    1. That's true. I hate that growing phenomenon Mrs Butterworth. Sometimes you want distance.

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  15. This echoes my thoughts YP. In my day it was common to take your husbands surname and as a young girl I would doodle the surname of any current boyfriend after my first name just to see how it looked! Now of course it is different...my niece and her boyfriend both have unusual surnames and are both the end of the line...but don't want to hyphenate....one of them will win!

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  16. I actually don't mind hyphenated names, as a compromise between a woman jettisoning her maiden name and adopting the name of her husband. Hyphenating makes sense. And actually, I think the Spanish often do this -- I'm not an expert in Spanish names but hyphenation there reflects the mother's and father's names...I think?

    Anyway, the key, it seems to me, is knowing when to stop. I'd say a maximum of one hyphen. After a generation you have to start dropping parts of that name!

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  17. The married Princess uses lots of names. As a doctor, doctor (VMD and PhD) she uses her family name. In business, she uses her family name-husband's name. In social settings, she uses her first name and her husband's last name as her last name. Very confusing sometimes.

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  18. I never knew that about the history behind double surnames.

    I've wondered the same thing every time a client comes in with a double surname (I work for a divorce lawyer). Will the kids from the next marriage have all the surnames, plus the new parent's name?

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.