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Name Change

Sara Butler points to this article about women's decisions about post-marital last-name changes, which has also been discussed by several people at Crescat Sententia.

I don't share the hostility expressed in the article and Amanda Butler's comments toward creating a new name out of parts of the partners' old ones. Obviously it doesn't work for all combinations of last names (though it's amusing when they have strong but contrasting ethnic flavors, as Mr. and Ms. McLopez can attest). But when it produces something nice-sounding, I see no problem. And it's much better than hyphenating.

I think there's something to be said for the idea of taking a new name, either from pieces of the old ones or out of the air, when forming a new family. After all, ours is a neolocal society, so why not exchange our patrilineal naming convention for a neolineal one? Will Baude at Crescat brings out the "unwieldy fourth-generation hyphenation" argument to demonstrate that we have to either give up on retaining connections to parts of our ancestry, or give up on the idea that our last name is the place where we acknowledge our heritage. I prefer the latter -- I'm no less a descendant of Demeyer Tengstrand for having Marshall Danielson's last name.

Beyond questions of personal identity-formation, neolineal naming also makes sense from the perspective of the outsider. Outside of the upper-upper-upper class (the Kennedys and Rockefellers and such) and tiny communities where everyone knows everyone else, one's last name doesn't tell others anything about you and your family, beyond a general ethnic indication (and even that is limited given the increase in interracial marriage). The only potential problem is if you choose a name that already exists, people with that name might think you're trying to illegitimately join their family.


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