If you have an unusual name how much does it bother you to pronounce it and correct others? Swistle asked the question earlier this week, and the answers were interesting.

For me, I think it’s a matter of degree. My maiden name – wow, that sounds old-fashioned, doesn’t it? – was really, really unusual and impossible to pronounce. There’s a D next to a N. I loathed it.

But with the passing of time, I’ve come to appreciate it – now that it’s more of an ideal and less than a practical matter. My sisters, who both kept the surname, don’t mind much at all.

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Comparing Jennifer and Tawanda

You know those studies that claim “white” names are more likely to get job offers than “black” names? Laura dives into the research and finds that the studies … don’t really show that at all.

Names from Sonoma County, California

Nancy reports that Olivia and Mateo top the popularity lists for 2023. More interesting: the rare names, used just once. I’m borderline obsessed with Ariodante now. Hewitt, Merari + Honorae, too.

Dorothy Mabel, 91 years apart

This is the sweetest reel of two Dorothys, great-grandmother and great-granddaughter. So many great vintage gems mentioned in the comments, too!

Millie & Otto

Love this list of vintage boy-girl twin name ideas. Millie & Otto leapt off the screen for me, but Thora is my favorite name on the list. (I’d use it as a nickname for Theodora.)

That’s all for now. As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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  1. Re: The term “maiden name” – I am actually opposed to using the term “birth name” as a direct synonym for “maiden name” because (in the context of forms, etc.) it forces transpeople to “deadname” themselves when they didn’t before unless there is further clarification (since “maiden name” applies only to LAST names).

    A real-life example where such a change resulted in inadvertent deadnaming in the early-mid 2010s was the federal Form I-9 used to verify employment eligibility (in the context of citizenship/immigration status); a bunch of women complained that the term “maiden name” (used on previous versions of the form) was “sexist” and so the form was changed to ask for other names used in general. That then forced transgender people to effectively out themselves to their employers, and because of that the next revision of the form was changed to ask only for other LAST names used (which is where it stands as of the date of this comment).

    What we need is a (gender-neutral) term to refer to a person’s name exclusive of any marriage-related name changes but inclusive of name changes done for other reasons (e.g. gender change, adoption, Abby’s case of simply wanting a different first/middle name, etc.). I’ve heard the term “unmarried name” floated around, and I’ve discovered that on Spanish-language forms the translation of “single name” is the most commonly used phrasing in that language. (An example of where this would apply is how a parent’s name should appear on their children’s birth certificates.)

    1. It’s really complicated, isn’t it? And, of course, I know more couples where both partners change their name at marriage for all sorts of reasons, or have been married more than once. So yes – any number of circumstances where maiden name isn’t accurate at all. And I’m not sure I see the point of asking in the first place?

      1. I brought up the birth certificate issue because I recall you making a post regarding an issue with one of your child’s birth certificates regarding your name change.

        In the spirit of things, they want the parents to provide their names without taking into account any changes from marriage when completing their child’s birth certificate (so that except for coincidences they will have distinct last names for more identifying information, and since if the parent divorces or remarries the name may change again). Name changes for other reasons are generally different with those regards (more likely to be permanent, deeper issues with the former name, etc.) – and using “birth name” generically in such cases would at best lead to the form being completed in the unintended way and at worst lead to an uncomfortable situation for people such as those who have undergone a gender transition. (The same logic applies with how genealogists, etc. should list a person’s name.)

        I should also say that a side-effect of the rise in transgender and non-binary people transitioning is the normalization of changing one’s first name (benefitting even people like you who changed their name for reasons not related to their gender identity).

        1. That’s a good point.

          It often strikes me that this moment in time when name changes are so laborious is actually, in many ways, the exception.

          For generations, if you COULD leave home + start fresh, you could call yourself anything you liked. I mean maybe not in practice, but my family tree is riddled with people who left Country A as X name and landed in Country B as Z name.

          Of course, the question of who could do something like that is another matter altogether. And I’m really not longing for the past in any way. It’s just interesting that we assume changing your name should be a complicated legal process when really … the norm for most of human existence was something completely different.

          I remember in the River Phoenix movie “Running on Empty,” the parents are on the run from the law, but they manage to register their kids for school in a new town without records on a vague promise of having them forwarded. (I think I’m remembering that right?) And that movie was from 1988 – not exactly the distant past, so …

          1. Abby, if you could please change my display name on my last comment to simply “Kelly”; it turns out the other name was my default comment name on WordPress without me realizing it (and since it’s part of my email address I don’t want it public). Sorry about my mistake (and afterwards you can delete this comment).