Sunday Summary: 8.2.20Choosing your child’s first and middle names? That’s a task.

But now? We also have choices about our child’s last name.

For generations, when most American couples married, the groom’s name became the family surname. It was the default.

Then women started keeping their surnames. But the kids? They still (mostly) stuck with dad’s last name, becoming Jones, even though mom stayed Smith.

Or maybe, sometimes, both parents would hyphenate their surnames at marriage, and all of the kids would be Smith-Jones.

Except it turns out there are lots more options. And parents are considering them.

After all, not every couple is married. And same sex couples face a different set of decisions. The world, well … it’s changing.

It always changes, of course. But now we have the internet with which to dissect it.

Swistle talked about one possible alternative recently: what if the parents both kept their surnames, and then they gave one surname to their first child, and the other parent’s surname to the next child.

This story raised another perspective: does a less ethnic name shield your children? Or is it whitewashing? I keep wanting to say it is whitewashing, because, well, obviously that’s the point. Except that assumes that we’re not free to re-think surname traditions in the first place.

And I can think of a half dozen more possibilities, all rather complex when you really contemplate the details.

How did you go about choosing a surname – or surnames – for your family?

Elsewhere online:

Speaking of change … did you read this tale of sixteenth century baby naming controversy? It’s all about Claude. Well, Claude … and whether parents’ preferences outweigh other considerations.

Did Taylor Swift reveal the name of Blake and Ryan’s third daughter? The couple has always been famously elusive about their girls’ names. But if all the speculation is right, she’s Betty – a little sister for James and Inez. If it’s true, it’s my runaway favorite of the trio.

Random fact: Taye Diggs is actually Scott Leo Diggs. The nickname came from “Scott-taye,” an exaggerated pronunciation of Scottie. How brilliant is that? Oh, and Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman? She’s Ann Marie. I love nickname stories like these two.

Hildegard, Rosamond, Leocadia! How amazing are these grande dame names?

We have winners in this month’s Summer Baby Names Showdown. The all-time champs are Theodore and Eliza. Love!

That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading!

Girl Names 8.2.20 Boy Names 8.2.20










Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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. “How did you go about choosing a surname – or surnames – for your family?”

    I am currently unmarried. I have been married before, but now I am divorced. When I was married, I took my husband’s surname and the plan was that our children will also have his surname. I did that without thought as a matter of course. When I got divorced, I decided that I did not want to have his last name anymore, nor did I want to go back to my maiden name. The name that I ultimately decided to take was that of my great-grandparents. The name that I have now is one that I chose, not one that I have just because. When I remarry, I will not take my husband’s name unless he will also take my name. That is, he will go from being Mr. Smith to being Mr. Smith-Jones or Mr. Jones-Smith and I will go from being Ms. Jones to Ms. Jones-Smith or Ms. Smith-Jones. Of course, any children we have will also be Smith-Joneses or Jones-Smiths I think for the husband to expect his wife to change her name while being unwilling to do so himself is very wrong.

    1. I tend to agree. I took my husband’s name after a lot of thought. We entertained the idea of choosing a new, blended surname, from part of my (really unusual) family surname and his. We knew a few couples who had gone this route, not hyphenating, but blending.

      But ultimately, I decided I liked his surname, style-wise. And while my husband is flexible + open-minded, my in-laws are … not. (They’re lovely people. But they’re also not American, and, looking back, I can see how stressful it was when their first child married outside of their community. I wish I’d been kinder during that time, but then, I suppose I was equally overwhelmed.)

      So we opted for his surname, and I’m content with the decision.

      But it did feel very much like a choice, one in which I could’ve done anything. So I completely understand how you feel.

    1. LOVE! The stories are great. Also, Boudicca makes me want to buy a boat, just so I can use that name, too …