Motherhood Mondays: Would you Hyphenate Your Baby’s Last Name?

Want to hear Toby’s full name?

…Tobias Paul Goddard-Williams. Yup, a big name for a little dude. :)

When Alex and I got married, I kept my last name (Goddard), and Alex’s last name is Williams. So, when I was pregnant, we talked it over and decided we would give our baby both of our last names: Goddard-Williams.

We had three reasons: a) We wanted Toby to feel like an official part of both our extended families, b) We wanted him to be clearly connected to both of us, which would be helpful when I picked him up from school or we’re introduced to people as a family, and c) It sounded sound sort of cool! :)

Alex also laments that his full name–Alex Williams–is very common. Did you know that Williams is the third most common last name in America, behind Smith and Johnson? (Alex googled it!) He always wishes he had a more unforgettable name, since, as a writer, you want a splashy name that people will remember. (Think: Roald Dahl, Virginia Woolf, Jennifer 8. Lee!) So, he figured, Toby Goddard-Williams might be more memorable than Toby Williams.

As we were signing the birth certificate at the hospital, I suddenly got cold feet and wondered if the name was too long. But Alex convinced me to try it out for a year and see what I thought–and now that Toby is a year and a half, I love it and I’m glad we did.

Many of our friends and relatives still give us sideways looks: Really? Goddard-Williams? What a mouthful! Hyphenating a child’s last name is still a pretty rare thing to do. I just hope Toby likes it. :)

This past Thursday, the New York Times featured a fascinating article about hyphenated names. Here are a few fun facts:
1. Some couples combine their last names into a brand new name. In fact, my high school friend Geoff combined his last name (Werner-Allen) with his fiance’s last name (Chapman), so now they both have the new name Challen!
2. Experts predict that “the importance of a family name could begin to decline. Thanks to more divorce, re-marriage, same-sex unions and retention of maiden names, it’s far from unusual for members of the same nuclear family to bear different surnames.”
3. According to a recent study, “only 6 percent of native-born American married women have unconventional last names (meaning they kept their maiden names, hyphenated with their husbands’ names or pulled a Hillary Rodham Clinton).” That seemed surprisingly low to me!
4. If you’re American, hyphenated names can “say something extra about your parents’ egalitarian values. Unless you are British; then it means you’re posh.” (Well, la di da! :) I didn’t know until reading this article…and then seeing this English comedy skit.)

I’m dying to know what you think: Would you (or did you) change your last name when you get married? Would you keep your maiden name? What’s your full name? Would you ever consider hyphenating your baby’s last name–or no way? I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear!

P.S. More Motherhood Monday posts, including an addictive baby name website.

(Photos by J. Crew and René Maltête)

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  2. Rue says...

    My mom never changed her name when my parents were married. I’m the youngest sibling, and she told me she considered giving me her last name, but instead I have my dad’s name only, like my older sibs. I’m torn because I feel sad if she wanted to give me her name and didn’t. But I like having the same name as my siblings. My family on my dad’s side is gigantic and most people have different last names from us, so it’s always felt like something I mostly share with my siblings. On my mom’s side, everyone has her last name, and I’ve always felt like, “a Johnson” even though “Johnson” isn’t legally in my name. I should note that my dad’s last name is rare in the US and my mom’s last name is common.

    I muse about what decision I’ll make if I have kids, but since I’m currently *quite* single, it feels hard to even daydream about. In serious relationships in the past, I’ve thought about adding the guy’s name as a second middle name for me, but only if he did the same with my name. And I’d really like it if my children had my last name, maybe with the dad’s as a middle name. I love the Rodham Clinton choice, but some close friends tell me it’s a hassle to convince people they’ve got two last names that aren’t hyphenated. At the end of the day I’m sure it’ll depend on the conversations I (hopefully) have with a partner. And at this rate, I may just have a kid on my own, in which case, all my last name all the time.

  3. carmen says...

    Hello, I’m female from Spain. Maybe you don’t know about our family names’ costums. We can have 1 or 2 given names, that can be united by the preposition “de”, or “del”, wich means “of”. We also have 2 family names: first from father, second from mother. We keep both our life long and never change, not even by marriage.
    Now that I moved to the US, my problems started when trying to make understandable that the important given name is actually the “third” : María del Carmen (Mary of Carmen) It’s totally legal in Spain to write just Carmen, if you say “María del” something is missing. That was a time when in my country, due to the power of the catholic church, women had to have a “María” or “María del” in their names. In the US I just get my papers under “Maria D.” I’m getting frustrated. I’ll never accept my name “Carmen” taken out of me. I’m thinking of legally give up my “María del”. I’ve also thinking of putting an hyphen between first and second family name. Does someone had the same problem as me?
    Never reject

  4. Amie says...

    My son’s father and I were unmarried when our son was born. He claimed to not care if our son had his last name or not but in an effort to create a bond I chose to hyphenate my son’s last name. I did choose to do *father’s surname-mother’s surname* so I could omit all the inside names and simply put down his first name and my last name. I think it was a premonition I had in the hours after his birth about his father not sticking around. Now as a single parent I’m glad to outwardly have the same name as my son but on paper he’s still a hyphenate. What he chooses to do with that later is his choice, he is the legacy of his parents and one day his idea of that legacy may change. That choice is his.

  5. A Grown Hyphenate says...

    Just don’t hyphenate your kid’s last name. Just don’t.
    I’ve had a hyphenated name my whole life and I’ve always hated it. I’ve known the word hyphen since I’ve known my own name. This means a lifetime spelling it out and getting ridiculed for it, and, now that I’m older, answering that no, I’m not married.
    But what do you do when you get married? Let’s say my last name was Hall-Johnson and my partners name was Jackson. What is my name now? Do I take theirs, the suggestion of which angered both my parents? Do I keep mine? But then what are our kids named? Hall-Johnson-Jackson? Or just one or the other?
    There is no real good alternative. I’m thinking about taking the last name of one of my grandparents, but that still doesn’t make my family happy-do I hate the other side of my family?
    It’s a terrible life. Don’t hyphenate your kids last names, for heavens sake.

  6. Laura says...

    My fiance and I are having this conversation right now. He was raised by a single mom and 3 sisters. His Mom has re-married and all 3 sisters are married too, so he’s the only one left with his name. He’s not a fan of it at all, because his father was not a great guy, but we both feel like a guy taking his new wife’s last name isn’t really done. So do we each keep our names and our kids have mine? Do we both hyphenate? Or only the kids are hyphens?

  7. Karin says...

    I kept my maiden name after marriage in most situations, but officially hyphenated it on legal documents (passport, mortgage/deed, medical records). I have been surprised by how few women keep their maiden name OR hyphenate. . . Having grown up in the 1970s I thought everyone would be doing it by now.

    When we had a baby, hyphenating his last name was not an option we considered. Both of our names are unwieldy separately–together they are a huge mouthful of confusion…I didn’t want to doom my kid to hours on the phone patiently spelling out BOTH names.

    After having kids, all of my friends just took their husbands’ names…even those who had once hyphenated or “Rodham Clinton”‘ ed up to that point. I feel like everyone just gave up.

    I would probably feel differently if I were Smith married to Jones. I envy people with simple, one-syllable last names. There needs to be a better system, but I’m not sure what it is.

    • Stephanie Rendall says...

      Oof, that line really gets me, “I feel like everyone just gave up.” I think they did, as well. Why? What happened? Was it too big of an ask? Where are my role models????!!?!?!

      I thought it was too big at first. But then again, I’m stubborn, so 4 years into marriage I popped the big one. I’m 28, I did not take my husband’s last name, and our child will have their father’s surname as their middle, and take my last name. Because, equity. That’s why. Because my husband is expansive and thoughtful and sees the system for what it is. Because I want 50/50 and until that day is upon us I will be the too-radical-feminist. Because I refuse to be regulated by a dusty, archaic, patriarchal naming system that is RELATIVELY RECENT > See Anthony, D. (2015). In the Name of the Father: Compulsion, Tradition, and Law in the Lost History of Women’s Surnames. Journal Jurisprudence 25, 59-95.

  8. Rachel says...

    I think your son’s name sounds lovely. Good decision!!! I like the idea, tho I would be happy to take my partners name if and when we hopefully get married ( fingers crossed) im not a well known person ( ha ha) or don’t have any kind of career where my name is well known so the only reason I would keep my surname which I do like would be to remeber my father who has passed away ( tho I barely new him and had little contact with him) Townsend… But on the other hand having said that- I would really like to take my partners surname – one because it’s nice but two to feel more connected even because our son has his surname and I kind of feel like the odd one out now. It’s funny tho in Italy most women seem to keep their maiden name – it seems like the done thing. ( on a side note: I would have loved my son to have a middle name, my partner doesn’t have one and was quiet against it ?? I agreed, I’m hoping with future children I get to choose a middle name for them – it’s not just nice but handy for passwords and good stories or nicknames etc,) mine had a lovely story and I’m fond of the name too ‘eva’ . When my mum was young and travelling she made friends with a Swedish girl called Eva. They got along really well. Then when I was born my mum wrote to tell her I’d arrived. Turns out we share birthdays and never new. My mum tried to track her down but never could. I’ve seen photos of her, would love to of met her.

  9. Zoe says...

    Really strange reading all this comments about how difficult it was to have a hyphenated last name. As someone who grew up with one, I love that there is a part of my mom in my name as well as my dad. And in terms of difficulty – yes, my five year old self was not psyched about writing that all out. That’s maybe the smallest struggle anyone has ever experienced. School forms, hospital records, all no problem.

  10. Nicole says...

    My parents hyphenated my name. I love them both very much but am to this day suffering the consequences of my last name. Taxes, Hospital records, University applications, loan documents…basically anything you do after you are a child have all been a personal hell storm.

    Even if my future husbands last name was Shitbag I would be happy to walk hand in hand with him to the courthouse, DMV, and social security office and stand in four hour lines to become the proud, happy, single last name woman that I have always craved to be.

    Please do not give your child this torment, unless childbirth was really painful. Then I get it.

    • Christina says...

      haha this made me chuckle (the last sentence)

  11. Rachel B says...

    I kept my name. My husband kept his. Our daughter is hyphenated. We’ve never really had a problem with any of this in terms of forms and official documentation, and happily, if people have a problem with our choices, they keep it to themselves — which is good, because they’d get an earful from me if they didn’t mind their own business. In retrospect, I do kind of wish we’d considered taking a brand new last name. I didn’t know anyone at the time who had done that, and now that I do, I think it’s a nice idea.

  12. Marta bracken says...

    Ok I am pregnant and am having a big issue with my bf about hyphonating my baby girl’s last name when she is born. My issue is….. I want to honor both sides of our family! I was adopted on my dads side but not mom’s. I am from Estonia and my dad saved me from a hard life and by adopting me he gave be citizenship in the US and has been a father I never had! He is amazing and does not have kids of his own and to keep on his name. My bf wants to have no part in this he thinks it is stupid and a mans name should be the one to carry on. I think it is more pure to have a woman’s name because she is coming out of me! His grandma cheated on grandpa with his best friend but her kid / his dad/ took on her husbands name but he was not the biological father….. And non of his grandmas on his dads side has ever been in his life! It is silly to be to honor only that name! His dad is the only Gill that has ever been in his life! I also think with devorce being such a big issue I want to honor both sides not just one. I feel ladies taking on husbands name is almost like an ownership thing from back in the day. But I understand doing the more treditional thing. But we r not married or engaged and been together for 5 years so that is not that traditional is it……

    • Lenae Riley - Collins says...

      I think you should do what you feel is right because at the end of the day that is your child also. I understand completoy how you feel when my father was born he took on his mothers husbands last name and not his father so when I was born my mother gave me her last name and my dads biological fathers last name to make sure that his name was carried on also so you do what’s right in your heart at the end of the day.

  13. Ronda Mattson says...

    I kept my maiden name when I married. I could imagine my name anything else nor could my husband. When we had our son we talked alot about what baby’s last name would be. My husband wanted the baby to have my last name as he believes that family lineage should be traced through the woman. I on other hand thought it was important for baby to be connected to both of us. Also my daughter from a previous union has her fathers last name and I did not want to hurt her feelings if the baby solely had my last name. Our son has a hypenated last name and he can choose to keep it as status quo or use one or the other when he gets older.

  14. Susheela says...

    I grew up with a hyphenated name and it was a pain :X So much so that I was very quick to change my last name to my husband’s when I got married. I do, however, like the idea of passing names from both parents on — I have a friend who has her mother’s last name as an additional middle name. I also plan on incorporating part of my old hyphenated last name into the first or middle name of any child we might have :)

  15. Sarah says...

    Sorry for commenting on such an old post, was just following link after link from your newest baby names post (love archive hopping!)
    I have a double-barrelled first name, which always made me feel a bit hillbilly growing up. Now I’m married to a Japanese man and decided to hyphenate our surnames because my last name is important to me, plus Japanese women are often forced by law to change their names one married. As a foreign women, I fall between the cracks of the naming laws, so I kind of did it just to annoy the patriarchal system. Anyway, now my initials are S-J. C. R-N, which lets face it, looks like the name of a washing machine ‘the new Panasonic S-JcR-N’, but I love it. I think hyphens add character!

  16. Sarah says...

    Sorry for commenting on such an old post, was just following link after link from your newest baby names post!
    I have a double barrelled first name

  17. SA Williams says...

    My daughter’s name is Harper Elise Williams-Campbell. I was not married when I gave birth to her, so it only seemed right to give her both of our last names. I did have concerns of it being a bit difficult for her to write out when she starts school, but at 17 months, she has already proved to be a pretty smart cookie; I think she’ll be fine.

  18. Daisy says...

    I definitely want my son to have both my last name (Pimentel) & my boyfriends last name (Mejia). But I also worry that my sons name will be too long, so we decided to not give him a middle name (sad face). But now that I see that you did it, I might just forget about what people think and do it. Also, I want to keep my maiden name and add my boyfriends last name when we get married. Family name is so important to me! So if I do this my name will be Daisy Celia Pimentel-Mejia. :)

  19. I’m just running across this old post, but figured I’d throw in my 2 cents for fun! :) I have a maiden name that I was constantly teased about – Dorman (Doorbell, Doormat… you get the picture). My husbands last name is Storm. Bad ass. So I went with his name only, though we did briefly consider changing both our names to Stormindorman. :)

  20. Hmmm……quite an interesting post. I’m Indian, and I have two surnames, which makes it a bit difficult to explain to everyone else in the country as Indians normally don’t have two surnames. That, as well as making it clear that I’m not South Indian, which confuses them all the more. I have to tell them that it’s a hyphenated surname without the hyphen! Although I wouldn’t like to lose my surname later on, I don’t really know what I’d do when I get married!

  21. I married in 1987 (right??) and too my husband’s name and kept my completely epic maiden name (maiden?? when will we get rid of that concept??) — so I became Susan Tron Cottrell. But oddly, I don’t ever use the Tron. Hm. But interestingly, my daughter wants to combine her guy’s name with Tron for an epic new name… a tribute to my family, which is short on namebearers. I love the idea!

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  24. I have a similar name! Coming from two Hispanic families, having both parent’s last names is the most common thing in the world (dad’s first, mom’s second). But since we’re all American, we have our last names hyphenated, which turns me into Irene Paola Gomez-Pineiro, quite a mouthful. HOWEVER, my mom’s name is also Irene, so I just go by my middle name Paola, which is then just an enormous complication, especially because I normally shorten it to Paola Gomez to avoid having spelling issues… anyways, I can’t wait to change my name when I get married, I would love to take my future husband’s last name and in the process, simplify mine!

  25. In Britain a hyphenated name can sometimes mean you’re posh – it used to, it’s more likely these days that you’re just pretentious!!

    It is very unusual for parents to give their child both their surnames, I can only think of one child at my children’s school who has done it – and yes, it is mouthful. I wouldn’t do it for my child’s sake, if nothing else!

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  27. Not married yet but engaged, so I’m thinking about these things for sure I like either hyphenating it or combining it to form a new last name.. I think that’s cute! I don’t really want the kid to take my husband’s last name. I don’t want people to think I’m a feminist / bitch / Nazi.. I just don’t know why but that idea doesn’t sit well with me.

    I’m a professional, I will most likely be supporting my husband through some school.

    And honestly, if your kid has a long name, or 5 names, nobody uses those names anyway! They use the immediate first name and the last name. When that child grows up and gets a job and their employers have a problem calling them by the hyphenated name ‘Mr. So-so’ they can simply shorten it! Or use only one of those names.

  28. Anonymous says...

    My mom kept her maiden name when my parents got married, pretty uncommon at the time. Then when I was born they decided instead of hyphenating their two last names into one, they would gave me two middle names, my Grandma’s first name and my mother’s maiden name. This is great except both of my middle names and my surname have great meaning to me and I have no idea what I’m going to do when I get married! I want to incorporate my boyfriend’s name into mine but I don’t want to have such a long name!

  29. Anonymous says...

    I’m non-traditional enough that I kept my maiden name after marriage, but traditional enough that our kids have my husband’s last name.

  30. Anonymous says...

    Just wondering – if your husband dislikes his name so much, why didn’t he take yours?

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  32. Judy says...

    My fiance and I are considering taking my mother’s maiden name – Grace. We think it’s a beautiful name, and his name is his stepfather’s so he doesn’t feel any really strong ties to it (and it’s a bit of a mouthful!), so Grace would be a name we could take together.

  33. I’m in an interesting situation – my bf is technically a “junior” since he shares the same name as his da, but I come from a family of all sisters, and none of my dad’s siblings have male children, so I’d rather like to keep my last name and keep the line going. Both our names won’t hyphenate well, either. We’ll see how he feels about it later, I suppose, but I certainly won’t be giving up my last without a fight! ;3

  34. We did the exact same thing. Our daughter’s name is Olivia Lily Hall Conley. No hyphen since I wanted to distinguish her names are separate. If she wants to use her Mom’s maiden name, Hall, she’s have it easier than her Dad’s, Conley, which is often misspelled or mispronounced. She is also an only child, as I am so I wanted to extend our last name which is also my Mom’s maiden name. My only issue is I hope all those L’s don’t cause her to get teased in school.

  35. We had this dilemma as well when we got pregnant with our son. I kept my maiden name when we got married. So our son has a hyphenated name as well. We kept his first and middle name short since my last name is long. So he’s Quil Macy Madrilejos-Towne! But, of course, they messed up his birth certificate. We filled it out correctly, but when they put it in the system, they failed to put in the hyphen. We then had to go through the tedious process of getting his name corrected! Oh well, we love it nonetheless :)

  36. Anonymous says...

    A friend of mine recently got married and her husband had a hyphenated last name. It was difficult for both of them because when his last name is already hyphenated, there wasn’t space for her maiden name and she didn’t want to take on two surnames from someone else. After some long talks, they decided to both take his father’s last name.

    The tough lesson I learned was, don’t hyphenate your kid’s last name (especially a boy’s) because it’s going to cause problems down the road.

  37. Anonymous says...

    The number of comments here is a pretty good indication of just how complicated an issue this is…

    I consider myself very traditional about most things, but this topic? This is one where I break with tradition and say that everyone really should do what feels right to them and works best for their family.
    When I married the first time, I really wrestled with the decision, but eventually added my husband’s name to the end of mine. Over time, my original middle name (which was also my deceased mother’s middle name) became lost completely. On top of that, I struggled to get people to include both of my last names and often ended up using only my husband’s last name against my wishes. When we divorced, I returned to my maiden name and promised myself that I would never change my name again.

    My second husband and I had a child a few years back and I worried that naming our son would be a real struggle. However, my husband, who has a fairly common last name, very graciously agreed to give our son MY last name. He knows how important it is to me, and between my brother and my two cousins with our family name, none of them had male children to carry on the name, so my son is doing it. I’m relieved and thrilled! The one thing that bothers me is that we can’t be referred to as “The Blank Family,” but I think the trade-off is worth it.

  38. Anonymous says...

    My husband and I both kept our last names. His last name is Smith, so when we had our son we decided to give him our last name since, as my husband said, there are already too many Smiths in the world.

  39. Ed says...

    We thought about the same thing and it is still a bit unclear at times due to the requirements of social security etc. When we got married my wife took my name but kept her surname, unhyphenated, much like Hilary Rodham Clinton. Sometimes she goes by the single name but tries to go by the unhyphenated two names where possible. As for our son, he has taken my surname but all his names have significance form both sides of the family. See my comment on your baby names post of 12/5/2011.

  40. When I got married, I had a serious identity crisis giving up my last name. I was so proud of it, so I made my maiden name my middle name and changed my last name to my husband’s name. I was sad to find that my mom gave me my middle name from my great aunt (did not know that when I gave it up), but am so happy that I kept my maiden last name. Besides, it’s the name I used to create the name I am currently blogging under :)

  41. Jess says...

    My parents each kept their names, and hyphenated my name, and I have loved it. I only wish more parents did as you do–its a great thing. I didn’t care that I had a longer name and had to spell it for people–that’s my life, and a little name spelling now and then is worth it! I was glad to be part of both families in spirit and in name, and was glad my parents kept their names, instead of one parent ‘taking’ the other’s name (the politics of women becoming men’s property, etc, so loaded with so much problematic history!). Using both names teaches equality of both parent’s histories and names instead of favoring one (usually the man’s) over the other. I prefer equality! When I have children, I will keep my name (it is who I am, I am not him, or ‘his’, therefore don’t need to take his name, I’m happy being me without needing his name), and combine part of it with their fathers to create a new hyphenated name from both he and I. So, i think your son will be just fine, and will appreciate your solid reasoning for why you named him this way! Don’t worry, there is no harm in it, only good :) Great topic of discussion, thanks!

  42. Alissa says...

    I kept my name when my husband and I got married. When we had our kiddos, we decided to give them my husband’s last name.

    BUT it was important to us that my last name be connected to them somehow – so they were both given my last name as a second middle name. It ends up being kind of a mouthful but we figured that middle names are used so infrequently that at least they wouldn’t have to use it or write it very often.

  43. If I do ever get married I will definitely keep my last name. By this point in my life I’ve had it for sooo long that it’s a major part of my identity that I couldn’t see giving up. My sister got married in October and is now Lesley Zinn Abacar (née Zinn); she also felt that her birth surname was a big part of who she is but wanted to take her hubs’ name as well.

  44. Joyce says...

    I kept my last name so my partner insisted on my daughter having his surname. I got to pick her first name,without his input, so she still gained something from me.

  45. I changed my last name to my husband’s when we got married, but I added my maiden name to my middle name, so now my legal name is ridiculously long. But I love it because I’m still tied to my parents and my grandmother (her name is my middle name), while being tied to my husband too.

  46. I just feel bad for Toby’s future wife. What if she wanted to take her husbands last name but now she cant because people would think her maiden name is Goddard. Or what if she wanted to hyphen, now she has 2 hypens? Just kind of stinks for that girl.

  47. Ginger says...

    My husband & I married in our mid 30s and were both pretty attached to our names. We also both hate hyphens. Luckily we have one syllable names so we just combined them to make a new one Jamesleigh. Some people still don’t get it & put a hyphen but when we (politely) correct them they think it’s pretty cool. We wanted to have the same name as each other and as our kids and this works out great.

    Our cousin & her wife both changed their names to a totally different third name. And our friends each kept their name and gave their daughter her last name and their son has his last name (not too confusing!). I’m just glad that there are so many options for everyone =D

  48. Michelle says...

    I kept my maiden name after I married my husband. 10 years of marriage and 3 kids later he still asks me if I’m going to change it. I’m not sure that I will. Combining our last names together was never an option. I think it’s a great idea.

  49. I had no issue about changing my last name when I got married. Many think it was because my maiden name was ‘unfavourable’ but to me it was more about making a family unit. I wanted us to be all part of the same unit. Whether that was my surname or my husbands surname didn’t really matter in the long run, but his made more sense because his family held on to their name and were proud of it (and their history). My surname came from my dad’s dad (most obviously) and that was a grandfather I’d never met, who didn’t want my father and always resented his birth. There was no sentimental reason to hang onto that name.

    I know everyone is different, and lots of families have different surnames between mother, father and child, but I was trying to imagine when my child learns their full name and trying to explain why there name was different to mine and I don’t know what I’d say. I want them to know that they are part of something that we all have in common.

    And I know it’s just a name but at a young age that’s sometimes easier to explain than something deeper

  50. I kept my last name as well when I married my husband. My dad might freaking out if i changed my surname. ^^ He is very traditional Korean man. We kept our maiden name in korea. I gave Korean first name to my daughter and she has her dad(who is chinese)’s surname. Jenna(we actually pronounce Yenna) Gao. Simple name.

  51. Anonymous says...

    This is such an interesting topic, and one that I’ve spent so much time thinking about! My husband’s last name is Johnson, (the 2nd most common name in America, I think you said?), and my last name is Wachter (German: Vok-ter; American: Whacked-her). I didn’t take his name because I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of it. Also, I’m not crazy about my husband’s father, and I love my own father so much that the idea of taking a man’s name who I dislike (even though I love my husband who, of course, has the same name) seemed absurd. And then there’s the whole feminist aspect of it – women are treated as property, men aren’t expected to change their names, blah, blah, blah. I still have moments where I think that I should take my husband’s name, but I don’t think I will. We don’t have kids yet, but hyphenating is something we’ve talked a lot about. I think we’ve finally decided that we’ll either hyphenate both of our names, or just hypenate the kids’ names. Goddard-Williams is a great sounding combo! Ours is a little more of a mouthful: Wachter-Johnson. Add to that the fact that no one can pronounce my last name, and it makes me a little bit reticent. It makes me dread what other people will say. However, I just can’t imagine having children who have a different last name. I don’t want to be the only Wachter in the house. I want my name represented!

    P.S. I just started reading your blog and I love it!
    xo, kat

  52. Although I’m far from what most would call a traditional girl, there are certain traditions I love and taking my future husbands name is something i look forward. Ok, part of it could be so my initials are no longer “E.T. phone home” lol but in all realness I think its a sign of your commitment.
    I don’t think combining names is smart as what happens if you should divorce and remarry, are you going to create another name? Not for me but to each their own!

  53. Anonymous says...

    I really don’t like our patriarchal naming system, and I don’t like how little thought women put into changing their names and naming their kids. It would be a little easier to take if more men were willing to take their wife’s name, but since society deems that to be emasculating, it probably won’t happen any time soon. I will be keeping my name when I get married, and the current plan is to hyphenate our kid’s surname. We discussed combing the names, which would be easy to do, but I don’t know if I would really want to do that. (And seeing the actual statistic about how few women hold on to their own name after marriage is depressing!)

  54. Vale Cervarich says...

    I dislike hyphenating because it is a system that can’t continue. Well not practically. I like a consistent thing for something so important (too bad it isn’t a matriarchal line).
    What happens when ‘baby 1-2’ marries ‘baby 3-4’ and their poor children have 4 names to deal with. That just isn’t the best situation to me.

    Plus I don’t think anyone is so special they should get to make up their own last names. That’s what the first two are for. (sorry.)

    ps. I was a Stipovich, and married a Cervarich. We met thru sports. I used to tell people we were hyphenating just to see the polite horror on their faces.

  55. Elise says...

    When my mother got married, she hyphenated her last name. So, when I was born, my parents gave me the same hyphenated name. Honestly, despite it being long, I prefer having both last names. I find it quite outdated and a bit sexist to just expect a woman to take her husband’s last name and drop her own family name. If I ever get married, I will not be changing mine.

  56. Anonymous says...

    I did not take my husband’s last name because my last name starts with “A” and his last name is with a letter near the end of the alphabet. As much as I love him, almost everything in life is organized by alphabetical order and I won’t go to the end of the alphabet for anyone!


    Ms. A

  57. I love the idea of hyphenated names! When I was in Brazil it was interesting to hear that everyone has two surnames. The mother’s and father’s last name. I think it’s a great way to appreciate both sides of the family. In fact, if I ever have baby-they’re definitely going to be named after a family member.

  58. I have a different way of looking at my last name, I suppose. I have been married three times now, divorced twice. (Third time’s the charm apparently! ;) I feel like I have led 4 completely different lives. With every marriage and then divorce I changed so much from what I had been before. The me now and the me back when I was my maiden name are like night and day! So when people would ask me after the divorce why I didn’t just go back to my maiden name, I would simply reply, “I’m just not that person anymore.”

  59. I have a friend that has a hyphenated last name. He hated it and changed it as soon as he could. The neat thing was that he had a choice, right?

  60. Raquel says...

    To be quite honest with you Joanna, I think that giving the surname of the dad only is a very sexist thing! Why a child deserves only their dads name? I am brazilian and over here everyone gets their dads AND mums surnames!

  61. Anonymous says...

    I was happy to leave my maiden name as it was very silly. But I know one girl who had REALLY silly maiden name (we are Czech, and it ment something like Stinky) and her husband has very common and nice name (meaning fox in Czech language). And she decided to keep both names. So now she is Vera Stinky Fox.

  62. It’s not so bad! I have been thinking about my son’s name for a looong time and wondering too if it’s too long. His full name has 5 parts, a first name, a middle name, his last name and then 2 words are his mandarin name written in english!

    My parents always say that he’s going to have a hard time writing so many parts when he starts primary school!

    I’m divorced, but I’m letting him keep his dad’s last name because well, his dad is still his dad. Though changing his mandarin name to chinese characters did cross my mind for him to have an easier time when writing his name in english when he goes to school. :)

  63. HI HI HI!

    thank you for writing about this
    a friend and i were just talking about this yesterday

    when i was 13 i legally changed my middle name to a family name (after my great great grandfather Lawence Spencer, I am Lauren Spencer now)
    i am not married but already know i will keep my last name, King.
    for lots of reasons: one, i think it is an old tradition, one that as a feminist makes me uncomfortable, and i am an artist already working under my name, and my family name means a lot to me, and it is an awesome last name if i do say so myself – King!
    who wouldn’t want that?!!

    and – also – as my friend and i were talking yesterday, we have both had parents that have passed away, and i only have one sibling, and he is gay and has strongly said he would not have children (though he would make a great dad one day), and therefore it is down to me to carry on the King family name as my dad doesn’t have any brothers and sisters anymore. it’s just me. and for this reason i wanted to keep my last name. but then became really sad when i thought about the name of my child (which i have already picked, a combo of my grandmothers names, lets just hope my future husband is ok with this! ha)

    but i LOVE the idea of using both names…
    KING is a good one, it seems like it would go with everything (sometimes it really doesn’t work as a combo) but my fingers are crossed. we will see what my future husbands name will be! i am hopeful!

    i love toby’s name! he already sounds like a famous writer or historian!


  64. I kept them all. I feel like I earned each name I have (First, Middle, Sur)…So why should I have to relinquish one?
    I just tacked the new one on the end and moved my maiden last name to a second middle. My mother thought it was obnoxious… I didn’t care. It makes for a long drivers license… and a pain when there is only one middle initial spot on forms. Regardless – I love my FULL, long name.

  65. I kept my madien name since I had already started my career and my husband’s last name (Thompson) is uber-common. We gave our twin daughters my last name as their middle name so their full names include both our last names, but techically the share (only) their father’s last name. They are 7 months old now and I think we made the right decision. They may decide to go by their full name in the future, or just Thompson, but it does help to make me feel like I’m a part of their legal identity.

  66. i’m getting married soon, and my fiance and i are both adopting each other’s last name, so we will be first middle mysurname hissurname. we are both really excited to be connected to each other’s history and lineage, and also to each other, as a unit. interestingly, he has been married before and sharing names was never in the agenda (i sometimes think that that is part of what excites him so much about taking my name). as for children, if they ever happen, they’d share the names too, but i’d probably saddle them with my mother’s maiden name (tiffany), plus a first and a middle, just to make it difficult. a mean mommy, right from the start!

  67. Mydear says...

    LOVE this post & the comments. I got a lot of flack & rudeness for keeping my maiden name after getting married AND for giving our kids my last name too, so its nice to see so many others who went the same route(I don’t know anyone else personally who has).

    I don’t understand why some people have such a hard time saying the “abc name- xyz name” family as opposed to the “XYZ family”; its silly.

    Keep the maiden name, change the maiden name; whatever works best for you…I wish more people got that. Just because married people have differnt names doesn’t make them any less married, it doesn’t mean our family is less of a family.

  68. I kept my last name when we got married, and I’m so glad I did. If we do have children, we will hyphenate their last names (it will be Fisk-Miller). I had no idea that I was part of such a small minority!

  69. Amy Baker says...

    My maiden name is Johnson, which as you know is very common. Though my husband’s last name is also heard often, Amy Baker just flowed better. It makes me a little sad now though, my father passed away when I was very young and I have never met any of his family. Even though there are a ton of Johnsons about, there aren’t many of THOSE Johnson folk left.
    Then when I was pregnant with my daughter Evelyn, my husband and I talked it over and we decided we would carry on my father’s name a different way. Evelyn got both my father’s middle name and his mother’s first name as a middle name. She is Evelyn Jean Harlan Baker…which is also a mouthful, but a meaningful one!

  70. My mom kept her name when she married my dad, but my sister and I got her last name as a second middle name, and our dad’s last name as our last name. Growing up, I was always annoyed (perhaps irrationally)–two middle names was strange, and if my mom thought her last name was so important, why didn’t she give it to me and my sister? (Not that I was a highly critical, judgmental child or anything, no.)

    My boyfriend was shocked when I told him that if I carry a fetus around for nine months and birth a baby, he’d better BELIEVE I’m stamping my name on the product of all of that labor. I told him we could consider his name, too, but I didn’t want him to think that one college try entitled him to erase my part of the endeavor. (Again, strong personality? Me? Nawwww.) Now we’ve both softened–I don’t think he can imagine a kid only having his last name, and I suppose that I assume we’ll either hyphenate or combine our last names.

  71. I think it’s a wonderful idea! I would be happy to change my last name to my partners, as I have a brother who will carry our last name on. Our children however would keep my partners name, because he is the last member of his family, so carrying on his name is important to him, and it’s important to me. I think it depends on the individual relations, but hyphenated names can sound wonderful and powerful :)

  72. I have a super long name – my full name is Fen Frances Felton-Pitt! I used to feel it was too long but now I love it! I just don’t know what me and my partner will do once we have kids (triple barrel anyone??) x

  73. I think Toby’s name is lovely! My cousin and his wife nearly hyphenated their sons’ last name to Little-Hammer. I think they should have!

    And that Catherine Tate clip is hilarious! Reminds me of this one with her and David Tennant.

  74. I couldn’t decide what to do when my husband and I got married, so I ended up adding his last name to mine. So I now have two middle initials. It’s a mouthful but it worked for me. We didn’t hyphenate but my daughter has my same middle name which I thought was a nice way to link her to my side of the family. I love Toby’s name :)

  75. Tara says...

    I am currently struggling with this as I am almost 5 months pregnant now. I kept my maiden name (Lynch) and would like my baby to have it in some way. My husband is not a big fan of us hyphenating it though I think Lynch-Anderson isn’t too bad. Thinking maybe just adding it as an extra middle name.

  76. Anonymous says...

    My last name is two words (not hyphenated, just two words) and my boyfriend has a hyphenated last name. We get our share of jokes about how ridiculous our combined name would have to be. “Burnside-Mesnik-Clapp-Greene? Mesburn-Cleene? Burnclapp-Mesgreene?” I would probably just change mine to be over it. And I know neither of my parents would be offended if I chose one name over the other.

    When my parents were getting married, they thought about changing both their names to an entirely new, unrelated name, but ultimately liked combining them too much.

    My sister’s taking a different tack and dropping her two last names entirely. She plans to changer her middle name to her last name, and become Ms. Grace.