What’s In A Name?


A rose by any other name...

It’s been a long time since a man was thought to own a woman, yet many of the traditions remain: offering the woman an engagement ring, asking for the father’s blessing, and the big one – taking the man’s name.

Personally, I never gave it much thought. Just like I vowed to love, honour and obey, I was always going to take his name. It probably helps that mine was a bit crap to begin with. Not literally Abitcrap (as a few people have thought I meant)… although that would be an interesting last name. No, it was just difficult. It was hard to spell, to pronounce, a consistent source of irritation.

I have to admit there was never a day in my whole life I actually planned on keeping my maiden name. Even when I didn’t ever plan on getting married. Plus it was never really mine anyway – it was my father’s name. He never seemed too fussed with it either. He always wanted a daughter, was never a “carry on the family name, son, rah rah” kind of guy.

So when people asked me if I would be keeping my name, I have to say it just never occurred to me to do that.

Don’t get me wrong, I am the daughter of a feminist. She’s so feminist she kept her name. Which only served to compound my laissez faire attitude to my name in the first place. Sure, it was the name of my father, and of my brother, but I never had the same name as my mother. Not most of the time anyway (technically I believe her passport is in my father’s last name).

I know choosing to keep or give up your name is a source of contention, although not quite as big a source as saying ‘obey’ in your wedding vows, as I unwittingly stumbled upon at a recent dinner party, but for me it was never an issue.

We could argue about it all day – does it matter if you have the same name as your kids? Why doesn’t the man take the women’s name? What about hyphenating?

What it comes down to is you. Your preference. So tell me – what did you do? What’s in a name?


Photo: Rose taken in my garden

  • Bek M

    I’m still struggling over this issue. Like you, I didn’t think twice about taking my husband’s name. But now I’m divorced, it doesn’t really make sense to keep it. But my kids don’t want me to change my name, as they want the same last name as me. I don’t think it’s fair to change their last name, they are their father’s kids as well as mine, so at the moment I’m stuck. I don’t want to hyphenate, it makes their last name too long and too hard to spell.

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

      If I were you, I’d just pick the name I wanted ;).

      • Bek M

        So much paperwork involved though. I have to admit, I think of myself as my maiden name in my head.

  • Mandi Aylmore

    I took my husbands name when I married. I’m in the process of going back to my maiden name. I have no emotional attachment to that surname whatsoever.

    I don’t know what I would do if I was to marry again. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

  • Rose Russo

    I’ve always said that I would never change my surname and I don’t think I would hyphenate it either. I’m very close with my dad and my last name holds much significance especially my Sicilian heritage and what role culture plays in my family. I’m very proud of that and feel that would be lost if I took on my future husband’s surname (if I even get married that is!)

    I’ve always wondered why my mum, who has her second husband’s surname (whom she divorced 10 years ago) – has kept his name. He was a violent and aggressive man and I wouldn’t want to have a daily reminder of that showing in my last name. But, I guess it doesn’t bother her too much… she’s brought it up from time to time and wanted to go back to her maiden name but I guess at the end of the day it’s a lot of paperwork, isn’t it??

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

      It wasn’t a lot of paperwork to change it, I can’t imagine it would be too difficult to change it back.

      A friend of mine’s mother kept her married name after they separated. Interesting, really, they separated when we were little and the woman said she just kept it because she liked it. They never actually got divorced because they couldn’t be bothered.

      Well, in the last few years they started dating again. So although they’re still technically married now they’re dating and live in different houses!

  • Sonja van Woerkom

    I’m taking Matt’s last name when we get married. Partly, because mine is hell to spell/pronounce etc (two words, lower case on the first word, DUTCH!) but mostly because I think it helps the symbolize that we’re creating a new family unit. Sure, he could take my name, or we could combine them (eek! three words, a hyphen, ARGH!)but I am still a bit old fashioned…

    That, and I really like his last name!

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

      Yeah, having a bollocks last name to begin with makes the choice just so much easier :)

      • http://www.alibibyally.com Alyssa Robinson

        One word: Robinson. You guys have/had interesting surnames, at least! Mine is like the Home Brand of surnames!

        • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

          It is both an advantage and a disadvantage that I appear to be the only Tamsin Howse in the world.

  • Kell

    I never even thought about whether to take my husband’s name or not. I wasn’t a huge fan of my maiden name (like yours Tamsin, hard to spell etc). I do like having the same family name as my kids and hubby though.

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

      I like having the same name as my husband too, and my stepdaughter (even though she doesn’t have the same last name as her mother, stepfather or two siblings). If I didn’t, this wouldn’t be the Howse House! And that’s far less amusing… 😉

  • Michelle

    While I was at school and uni, I had this thought that I might one day publish stuff as an academic. I thought that if I’d started to publish before I got married, I’d at least keep my maiden name professionally so that I didn’t have to shift my professional identity (and when people searched for my articles, they would be able to find them all under one name!) but that I might still take the new name in private life.

    But as it turned out, aside from some abstracts at conferences, I hadn’t published anything before I got married so that wasn’t a factor anymore. I would still have to change my name in various places professionally and personally, but it didn’t bother me that much. Plus, before we’d even got engaged we had friends referring to me by my future married name – this was all in good fun, but I had a feeling that I’d cop a lot of flack for NOT changing my name!

    So maybe it was the path of least resistance to go along with it? I only changed 3 letters to get from my maiden name to the new one! I’m less individual now, though, which I am sad about. My new surname is much more common than my old one. Names usernames harder to come by 😉

    My sister has told me about some famous feminist who has said essentially what you have said here, T, about it being your father’s name. She said that when a woman marries, all she is really doing (most of the time) is picking between the names of two men – her father or her husband/husband’s father!