TennesseeI’m fascinated by the process of regulating names.

Also, I’m rather glad that I’ve never had to name anyone in Tennessee, which seems to be a rather persnickety state.

Earlier this year, there was the judge who tried to rename a baby Messiah.

Now there’s a kerfuffle about which last name you can choose for your child.

The Sabr family’s dilemma is interesting.  The couple decided to invent a new surname for their children: Sabr, from the first three letters of her last name (Sarubbi) and the first three letters of his (Abramson).

I’ve heard of couples who choose new surnames for themselves when they marry, most often a combination of their surnames.

But this situation is different, as both parents kept their original surnames.  It’s just the kids who answer to Sabr.  And Tennessee says it is a no-go.  Choose one surname or the other, or use both if you like- but you can’t just pluck a surname out of thin air.

The family includes two older children, born elsewhere, where no one batted an eyelash at the unusual approach.

Here’s the thing: survey every household on your block, and there’s a good chance that many of them won’t share the same surname.  Divorce and remarriage, as well as a declining number of women who take their spouse’s name at marriage, all make for families where John Smith and Jane Jones live with their children, Mason Williams and Ava Smith.

It suggests that maybe the way we think about surnames is changing.  But it’s too soon to know – or even guess – how we’ll experience surnames a few generations from now.

Elsewhere online:

  • Speaking of surname dilemmas created by marriage and remarriage – did you see this question at the Name Lady?
  • And, of course, we’re busy bestowing surnames on our children as first names.  Check out this list: Annie Emerson, Banks, Beckett, Archer, Delaney, Hayes, Hunter Talmadge, Turner, Sawyer, Quinn, Jackson Bauer.  Or this one: Tanner, Ridley, Maxen Parker, Sloan, Monroe, Ramsey, Penn.
  • Evelyn, Irene, Camille – the Gibson Girls, celebutantes from the nineteenth century.  Isn’t it wild to think of Irene and Evelyn as daring names?  Oh, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the surname Gibson.  I think it would make a great first.
  • I used to love Laurel as an alternative to Laura and Lauren.  Is she in mom-name territory now, or does Laurel feel like a fresh possibility?
  • Sophie is right – Peridot is definitely the most daring of the formal names for Dot.  But there are lots of great ones on her list.
  • Huh.  Wouldn’t you love to know what Icarus is naming his twins?  I don’t think he’s going to tell …
  • The sibsets in British Baby Names’ birth announcement round-ups are just a treat!  Here’s my favorite from this week: Tacita, Wilfred, and new baby Herbert.
  • In Jakarta, complex and even incomprehensible names are the new thing.
  • Meanwhile, back in the US, is -ander the new -aiden?  There’s Xander, a new(ish) short form of Alexander, as well as respelling Zander.  I’ve seen Vander recently, and now … Lander.
  • I aced this Billy Eichner-David Letterman quiz: “Celebrity Child or Kentucky Derby Winner.”  Because if I’d never heard of it, well, obviously it was a horse …
  • All the names used by Queen Victoria for her nine children.
  • Isn’t it crazy how our families can derail our baby naming plans?  Any words of wisdom for this couple and their nameless newborn?

Now – a very important announcement!

The winner of the Name-alytics give-away is Laney.  Laney, look for an email directly from Kelli soon.

That’s all for this week!  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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What do you think?


  1. I think Laurel is one of those names that are sort of half way between and fresh and mum-style/grandma-style. A bit like Lorelei (and on trend for green plant names like Ivy and Willow), but also like Lauren and Lorraine – would be a great choice where names like that run in the family.

  2. I ran across the cutest sibset the other day and thought I’d share: Paisley, Piper, and Prim. The mom said she hoped for another girl to name Meg. She liked how it sounded different and yet worked so well. I agree with her. I can’t get over Prim–so cute and perfect for the chubby little blonde baby she is now, but does it work later? I’ve spent the last two days saying, “Prim, get over here and do the dishes!” I can’t tell if it works or not but I sure do love it!

  3. I live in New York and know two families who gave their kids an invented surname based on elements of both parents’ surnames. One works really well, the other is a little odd, but I don’t think either family had any trouble with it.

  4. Personally, I think “creating a new surname” is rubbish. To me it just seems like a side effect of the special snowflake syndrome that seems to run rampant amongst the 15-35 age group. As a genealogist it drives me bonkers to think that people would just delete hundreds of years of family history like that in order to be hip and edgy.

  5. I applaud the evolution of surnames. I always assumed I would take my husband’s name but I was surprised how it affected me emotionally, especially going from a unique last name to a very common one. I know I want the same last name as my children but I don’t see the issue with parents choosing a new last name for their kids. (In my immediate family of six, we have four last names just from marriage/divorce.)

  6. I always enjoy the Sunday Summary. Thank you for giving name nerds / name enthusiasts even more sources to check out!