Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On Surnames and Marriage

Or, "Call You Mr. WHAT?"

One day I'm probably going to marry someone. What is going to become of our last names? There are a lot of options, and none of them are without flaws.

One takes the others' surname.
This is what is usually thought of as the default. The problem here is that it's unequal. Besides, how do you decide whose name to take?

Here we run into a slippery slope. Erik Thompson-Whiting doesn't sound so bad. But what happens when your daughter Lisa Franklin-Morrison marries my son? Even at the second generation we have Freddie Thompson-Whiting-Franklin-Morrison and I think we can agree that sounds ridiculous.

Combine your names in a silly way
Look, I didn't say these were all going to be good options. I'm talking Erik Thompson and Lisa Franklin becomes Erik and Lisa Thomplin. Here again we run into a problem in the next generation or two when you'll eventually be cutting syllables that were the only remainder of previous names, which defeats the purpose of maintaining both partners' last names.

Keep your own last names
While good up until the point at which you have kids, the problem arises once you have children: whose name do the kids take?

Make up a new last name
This seems to be the most "fair" while still unifying the family under one name and preventing any slippery slope situations a few generations down. The problem here is that it ends the family lineage. Part of what makes last names neat is that some of your ancestors shared them many years ago.

Are there other options I have overlooked?


  1. Just annihilate the last names.

    "And what are your names?"
    "I'm Bob, with my wife Jill and son Franklin"
    "And what is your last name?"
    "Umm...we don't have one."

    And that's how every conversation will go.

  2. My Dad, as I'm sure you can imagine, has been scared of this day since we grew up. He has all daughters, and if, in the traditional practice, we all took our husband's last name...his lineage would be over.

    So we will see :D

  3. Kurt Vonnegut has a great way to deal with this. Read "Wompeaters, Foma and Granfalloons" Basically he claims that there should only be 20 surnames world wide, and suggests we use flowers. And you should roll dice to find out which one you get. This makes everyone else in the world who ended up with the same one your relatives. Now no matter where you travel you have relatives to stay with, borrow money from, bail you out of jail, or what ever else you might need them for.