Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Ranting Returns

As promised, double-barreled names. Or, to put it more accurately, names that should not be double barreled.

Reminder: all rants are personal and utterly biased. If you have a double-barreled name, read on at your own risk.

Some poor folks are ancestrally burdened with names that will never fit on an application form. Take one of Scotland's old families, the Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpes. Triple-barreled. Mmm. You'd feel sorry for them if they weren't so rich. Interestingly, they inherited the Gough-Calthorpe part of their name along with a pile of money in the 1800s. Gough-Calthorpe on its own is an application form challenge, however, so I think we must forgive the current generation their outstandingly pretentious name on the grounds that they had no choice in the matter. And respect the daughter of the family, who while trying to make it as an actress, has dropped two of the three names. Sensible lass.

Clever readers, as you all are, will, I'm sure have noticed the use of the word 'pretentious' in the above paragraph. Yes, that is the emotion double-barreled names evoke in the Furbrain. Within the wondrous shores of that land known as Britain, a great many double-barreled names belong to the upper class. That doesn't greatly bother me. Their names are ancient and have often been created as part of marriage deals or financial settlements many centuries ago. Sometimes it indicated that a woman had married beneath her. Now they're stuck with them.

Times have changed, however. What sets my pretensionometer blaring is when people choose to double barrel their names. None of the reasons often cited work for me:

1. 'Well my husband has a very common surname, so we thought if we used both our names it might make it more distinctive.'

The Koala solution: use your name, let him use your name, better yet, don't marry him at all.

2. 'I wanted to keep my maiden name.'

Go right ahead. Keep it. Don't use his nasty patriarchal name at all. In fact, don't marry him.

3. 'I wanted to keep my maiden name and use his name too.'

Go right ahead. We have these handy slots known as 'middle names'. Or, don't marry him.

4. 'I wanted my kids to share my maiden name.'

See answers to 1, 2 and 3 above. Look, just don't marry him. End of problem.

I will, graciously, make one exception. If a child wants to use his/her family name, as well as that of a step-parent, then that's the child's decision and it's a good way to honour all parents. Only if it's the child's decision, though and said child has been thoroughly warned about the pitfalls of application forms.

And so, on to the connection with writing (yes, there is one!). Had you noticed how many writers, particularly female writers, use double-barreled names either with or without hyphen?

Ladies, it is unnecessary. What's more, it is one of the many, admittedly personal and largely senseless reasons, why I will not take your book off the shelf. Georgette Tingle Bingle, you would be unique under either name. Portia Piffleton Prune, likewise. Jane Smith, I have some sympathy for you, but with everybody else fancying up their names like Christmas trees, why not keep it simple? You might find you are the only one. And I might buy your book.


pacatrue said...

How about Jones-Smith?

pacatrue said...

I do think you are underestimating the power of the double last name. Imagine (I am going to use only name I think are public.):

1) If you married Mr. Winter, you could be Snowden-Winter

2) Ello could marry Mr. Mai and be Ms. Oh-Mai.

3) Robin s could marry Mr. Apostrophe and be Mrs. Apostrophe-S. (The marriage would end though because she'd be too possessive.)

4) Precie could first marry Mr. Mai and the Robin S and become Ms. Mai-Precie-s.

5) I will marry Laura Dern and become Mr. Paca-Dern.

6) Phoenix will marry Mr. Sun and all their kids would be the Phoenix-Suns. (basketball joke).

7) Aerin would marry Mr. Out and when she played football, they'd tell her to Aerin-Out. (Gotta say it fast and not dwell on the n).

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week.

laughingwolf said...

bloody brilliant, could not agree more!

JaneyV said...

Oh Paca how funny! Seriously this doesn't really bother me. I don't give a toss about how people chose to label themselves. It should be about how you feel yourself right? So perhaps sticking a newborn with a huge long name is a bit OTT.

I have a friend who lives in Sweden who says that it really gotten silly now because we're onto the next generation of double barrells. SO what does happen when Agneta Ullveson-Falk marries Bjørn Goren-Erikson? Are their children doomed to be the Ullveson-Falk-Goren-Eriksons? And what age are they going to be by the time they can write their name?

I changed my name to my husband's when I got married. I figured I was just swapping one man's name for another so why get my knickers in a twist about it. (The real reason though is that I'd had the same signature since I was 8, which I'd copied from my, then, teacher and I was desperate for an excuse to change it). The only place you will find my name double barrelled s on my e:mail ident (not the address itself) because half the people I knew from before I got married had no idea who this Jane Volker person was so it says Jane Volker-Hannan so the poor dears don't get confused. But I definitely ditched the Hannan bit many many years ago.

Whirlochre said...

Why isn't there a snappy single word for 'double-barreled'?

McKoala said...

I have inspired the Paca! Try the lamb.

Missed one though. What about the McKoala dynasty? Oft referred to fondly as McK. I need to find Mr Mouse. Then I could be McK Mouse. Oddly, my first name is Minnie (confirm all those who have received email from the furry one!). Making me Minnie McK Mouse.

Laughing Wolf you should look out for Miss Down, so you can make her Mrs Wolf-Down.

Janey, let's just say some of this post derives from bitter personal experience. Particularly the application form bit.

Whirl, I heard that double and barreled had an argument recently about cutting down their name. They couldn't agree which one to drop and they weren't happy with combo versions, such as Doubar and Bleled. In the end, Barreled, who didn't want to make the change in the first place, because then he'd have to do the same with Triple and Quadruple, took advantage of his greater size and doubled Double over a barrel.

That didn't quite work, did it?

Robin S. said...

This is great stuff! (And paca's right - I'd be too possessive.)

What I think is kind of funny about the pretend-modern d-n name thing is the woman keeps 'her' name and either she, or she and hubby, db it up. However, 'her' name is actually her daddy's name, and thus, she is simply choosing to keep dada's name over hubby's. Big woo. Big social statement.

McKoala said...

It makes life hard for the kids, too, Robin. When we married, I did think about keeping my name, but concluded that it would be more convenient to take his. We would be moving around a lot, and I knew the visa applications etc would be simplified by our having the same name, and by our (hopefully at that point) future kids sharing that name. It was a practical decision.

However, I kept my maiden name as a middle name - option 3. And I gave it to my son. Along with two other names, plus our surname. My son and I now both have a total of four names, we only use two. Application forms are a challenge. By the time my daughter came along I'd seen sense and she only has three names. I made sure her middle name was a family name from my side, though, lest she one day whinge about Soccer Boy and I sharing a name she doesn't have - she has the clan name.

sylvia said...

My double-barrelled name actually isn't - My mother's maiden name is legally my middle name (due to German naming laws). It causes some problems when I state my surname and then have to say "oh, ok, look up under this then."

I didn't change my name when I got married which kept things simple when I got unmarried. And my son only carries my surname.

But it's my name and I'm keeping it!