Identity “Your name is the most important word to your ears – change it for someone else’s and you disappear from your own history.” Do you own your name or does your name own you? How do you feel about your own surname (or personal name)? To what extent, is it part of your identity? If not, then why do so few people change their surname (except on marriage), given that names have no legal status? Have you ever met anyone with exactly the same combination of forename and surname? How did you react? How did you feel? Or how might you think you would react? Do males and females have different attitudes to their surnames? Girls know they could be expected to change them on marriage, boys not. Do men attach more significance to a surname? Under what circumstances may an involuntary name-change occur? Marriage Divorce Acquired step-parents Self-protection Subterfuge (Spying, con-man) Entertainment Assimilation into another culture Any others? These are individual name-changes, but there have been mass changes: In Finland in 1906, approximately 100,000 non-Finnish surnames were finnicised (Swedish had been the official language) Mass-naming of emancipated slaves in USA Adoption of the clan surname in Scotland Examples of name-shifts: Known as Formerly Marilyn Monroe Norma Jean Baker Cary Grant Archibald Leach Whoopi Goldberg Caryn Johnson Woody Allen Allen Stewart Konigsberg Lenin Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov Madonna Madonna Louise Ciccone George Eliot Mary Anne Evans Cher Cherilyn Sarkisian Tony Curtis Bernard Schwartz Cultural shifts Feminism and Surnames “When I got married in the early 1970s it was simply unknown for a working class woman not to change her name on marriage.” “I did not change my name when I married because I thought it was daft. It’s like having a dog for 12 years then suddenly changing its name from Rex to Rover: very confusing, for the dog.” (Source: Guardian (London) July 18, 2002) The above contrasting quotes suggest that the situation has eased, in the last 30 years? Would you agree this is so? If you consider yourself a feminist, what pressures do you think might still be exerted, overtly or covertly, on you not to keep your name on marriage, by yourself as much as by others? Here are some that have been suggested: Practical Difficulty of persuading others that you are indeed married if retain name; constantly having to correct strangers who make assumptions; coping with disappointment of parents or parents-in-law, especially if children are involved. Emotional Taking husband’s surname is seen as an overt commitment to the relationship. It emotionally signals a transition, a new beginning in your life. (But then does not this also apply to the husband? He could show his commitment by changing his name instead) You may have had a bad relationship with your father, and wish to discard his name. Pride in the ethnic or racial tradition in your name, or alternatively a desire to move away from that tradition. Aesthetic You prefer the sound of your husband’s name; others find your name hard to spell or awkward to pronounce. Case studies Sarah is engaged. She wishes to keep her name on marriage. Her fiance agrees that she should not automatically assume his name. However once married, both her new in-laws (and parents) still insist on referring to Sarah as Mrs (married name). How can she tackle this? A baby is now due. But what will its surname be, the mother’s or father’s? What would you argue for? Should it depend on the baby’s gender (as is the Sikh practice)? In a recent US study (Social Science Journal, 2002), it was indicated that 5% of American married women have retained their birth name and that 25% have hyphenated it to their husbands. America also has a high rate of divorces and re-marriages. It is not uncommon to find families of mingled surnames, in which a parent’s name might differ from their offspring. School authorities cope with this potential source of confusion by addressing communications to “the parents of….” But in a society without the formal Mr and Mrs, how do you address your friends’ parents or step-parents in a family of mixed surnames? Some adults accept being called by their forenames. Perhaps they feel the forced informality will break down barriers. For others, the novelty soon palls: We become the reluctant peers of our kids and their friends, who skip into the kitchen to ask, “Hey Amy, got a soda?” I’ve dealt with this discomfort by asking my young friends to call me Miss Amy. This has gone over limply, at best. “Amy Dickinson.” (Time 2002) Surnames in working life – examples of a cultural shift in the 20th century “In spite of grim surroundings there was an old world charm about our relations with one another. The youngest clerk was addressed as ‘Mister’. Slapdash abbreviations or nicknames were never used. A clerk’s Christian name was, rightly, his personal property, not to be bandied about by ‘the little friends of all the world’ that infest modern publicity.” R B Oram, writing of life as a ledger clerk pre-WW1. “it is strange how fairly significant social change can sometimes be brought about by relatively insignificant things. As late as 1977, when I started working for a famous London-based merchant bank, management referred to all the staff below the level of Partner only by their surnames. This benighted attitude changed almost overnight when they hired a Messenger whose name was George Darling… I bless the memory of George to this day.” D Chandler, 2003 Which of these two outlooks are you more at ease with? Role playing: You have just got engaged. What arguments would you use to persuade your partner that you should keep your maiden name on marriage? your partner should change their name on marriage? (Maybe the boys should be set the challenge of finding arguments for maiden-name retention) What compromise solutions have people found? hyphenation of the two names (but whose name will come first?) by combining elements from each name to form a new surname e.g. if John Daniels married Britney Pilger, their combined name could be Danger or Piliels. different names for different environments. Maiden name for work, but married name otherwise Creating a double-barrelled surname is less usual in the UK. The reason? People are more class-conscious and feel it smacks of pretentiousness. Also they feel that if any future offspring inherit their newly created double-barrelled surnames, those children would be teased mercilessly at school. What do you think? Hyphenated names are not a recent phenomenon. This is a list of the most commonly hyphenated names in England and Wales. The frequencies are not great (ranging from 1,000 to 200) : but enough to suggest that these names have become hereditary. Lloyd-Jones, John-Baptiste, Morgan-Jones, Wynne-Jones, Rees-Jones, Hamilton-Smith, Ul-Haq, Lloyd-Williams, Lloyd-Davies, Lewis-Jones, Al-Ali, Parry-Jones, Owusu-Ansah, Hugh-Jones, Owen-Jones, Gordon-Smith. Welsh names predominate – especially Jones- with a smattering of Arabic names. Explanations? The order of double-barrelled names may be affected by phonological rules. The element which comes last will probably end with a vowel or have a long last vowel (as in Jones). The element which is placed first is likely to have an initial consonant cluster and be monosyllabic. The same rules seem to apply to forenames. Try out some combinations of names with the above elements, and see which order sounds right to your ears Afterword “What I feel is important is that women have choices (my mother never did) and these choices can be about shaping one’s own identity along a number of different axes. There was no-one more surprised [than] my husband when I made my decision [to take his name] and I quite like the idea that feminists can surprise, rather than do the predictable thing.” quote to S Mills, 2003 Have the various feminist campaigns had an effect on surname choice amongst the female population at large? Would your class feel this was an issue today? Would answers vary according to culture, ethnic or social aspiration or regional influences, or maybe the influence of celebrity culture? Some feminist star celebrities have made the conscious choice not to retain their celebrity surname on marriage. Those in same-sex relationships, often decide “to change their surnames on coming out as a mark that they are no longer tied to the names of their fathers” which names are regarded as symbolic of a patriarchal and heterosexist society. In America, the Lucy Stone League campaigns to promote the awareness to retain one’s name. Lucy Stone was an early feminist and suffragette who in 1855 commenced a campaign, with the support of her husband, to retain her maiden name. Her wedding day manifesto is of some interest. I am indebted to Sara Mills of Sheffield Hallam University whose survey of feminist academics has informed much of this section.