Sunday Summary: 11.24.19Would you consider giving your kids an all-new surname? Maybe a smoosh of your last name and your partner’s last name?

This New Zealand couple did just that. Casser + Sheldon = Casseldon.

I have a few thoughts, and I’m curious to hear your reaction, too.

First up: I hear the argument that genealogy suffers from such choices. Except. Surname changes are nothing new. Immigration to the US shaped plenty, both through deliberate choice and accidental evolution. That wasn’t revolutionary then, either. We know that plenty of surnames changed spelling over time, and that families and individuals sometimes deliberately changed their last names for all sorts of reasons.

As for the idea that it somehow devalues family ties? Maybe. But it can feel like an impossible choice, I think – his name or yours? Lots of families struggle with this decision. And while the majority still default to the father’s surname, regardless of family circumstances, that’s changing. Creating a new surname can also been viewed as a way to honor two families, a way to embrace the rich traditions and heritages of each parent.

The part that intrigues me most is the idea that surname choices are motivated by style. Casseldon strikes me as a cool surname. The kind you’d hear on a fictional character, the hero in a quest. It reminds me of lots of existing surnames, like Everhart and Ellington. It’s just a great sound. Not that Casser or Sheldon seem problematic, exactly. Casseldon makes for an elegant combination of sounds, faithful to the roots and more stylish than either original piece.

Is it wrong to choose surnames for style? I don’t know. We all know people saddled with challenging surnames, ones that feel unfortunate. Or just cumbersome. My maiden name was a beast to pronounce – during roll call on the first day of anything, I knew they’d reached me because the teacher would pause. There’s the famous 1923 story of a family with the surname Kabotchnik, who applied to shorten their name to Cabot – only to have the famous Boston family summon all sorts of challenges. (The Kabotchniks prevailed.)

Any name choice involves trade-offs, a balancing of heritage and hope for the future; a sense of belonging and room enough to carve a new path. Surnames aren’t exempt from that, but perhaps we’re at a moment when families feel freer about acknowledging the choice than in years past.

Tell me: would you choose a blended surname? Would you change your last name to something that seemed more appealing?

Elsewhere online:

Polly Peabody’s story delights me. It’s so quirky and rich with the idea of reinvention.

Yet another salvo in the how-to-pronounce-Xavier struggle, this time from a new PBS Kids show. Kate has the story here.

Willow Palin welcomed twin daughters named Banks and Blaise. Yup, daughters. There’s always been a very wide range of acceptable styles for girls’ names, but it’s broader than ever before. That might feel frustrating to parents naming boys, and yet, I think it speaks to an increasing freedom in how we name our sons, too. One other note: Willow’s husband is named Ricky Bailey, so I assume these girls are both B.B., which I do kind of love. (Oh, and did you catch this? Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Kandi Burruss welcomed daughter Blaze – a sister for Ace – recently, too.)

On the other hand, Bode Miller has yet to name his new twin sons. I love this quote from his wife, Morgan: “I come from very traditional names, like my dad is Edward. But Bode’s family, they have much more unique names. For example, his sister’s name is Genesis Wren Bungo Windrushing Turtleheart.” Yeah. That’s a recipe for conflict. But

This is an oldie, but I got a kick out of this list of names maybe-kinda-sorta invented by famous authors. Such things are always complicated. Also: Coraline is not on that list, but most definitely fits.

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

Boy Names 11.24.19 Girl Names 11.24.19


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 don’t think I would do a smoosh name, although I respect the choice for others. It’s mostly that my own name is just not a name that smooshes well with other surnames! It’s like Smith or Jones, what can you do with them?
    Sometimes, you just have to pick a name and stick with it.

  2. My spouse and I tried to combine our surnames into something – unfortunately, we’re both (something)son names, which rather limits the possibilities. No smashing together of the (something) parts created a decent sound (many were unpronounceable) and although we joked about Sonson, we couldn’t really do it. Had we come up with something half as fun as Casseldon the problem of what to do would have been solved! Coming up with something completely new for us all hasn’t happened either, so for now the kids and I are one surname and my spouse is another. If it works, I think it’s a great option for couples and parents.

  3. Some surnames our culture has deemed inappropriate to pass forward. I once heard a news story (perhaps on Paul Harvey?) about how, before WWII, the NY phone book had twelve (or so) families with the surname of Hitler. But by the end of WWII? Zero.

    The name Benedict has flailed miserably in the US ever since Benedict Arnold. He was a junior to a venerated Benedict Arnold, but his father’s grave was defaced because it bore the name of his traitorous son.

    In more current times, the name Monica was given to NO babies the year following the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal.

    So why should a girl have to grow up with the surname of Boob? (I knew one. The sweet thing SUFFERED). Some names die off appropriately.

    All this is to say, why NOT choose a new surname? Why NOT create a smoosh if you can? In America, a person is allowed the underappreciated privilege of reinventing themselves as many times as they want!

  4. My kids have a “smush” surname. I didn’t change my name when we married and neither my husband nor I are fans of double or hyphenated surnames. We had lots of discussions about what to do, what name to use, and why. My main reservation in using the new name was a loss of anonymity for my kids. I was and am concerned that a unique name may make them too easily traceable online.

    Luckily (albeit strangely) the smush name is a real surname though seemingly an uncommon one. Perhaps that will confuse things genealogically. But no more than my husband’s family changing the spelling of their surname last century. Or my father’s family changing their surname altogether and then later changing the spelling of the new surname. Furthermore with digital records and genetic tests it seems bizarre to argue that genealogists are going to suffer difficulties if anyone bucks tradition.