11 Comments

  1. A name is as much chosen as it is given, and you have the right to whatever name you like. I actually hated my family name and the part of my family that it represented, so when I turned 18 I went to court and chose a new one.

    Now, with all the marriages, divorces, and kids, we seem to be playing the “how many different surnames can you fit around a dinner table” game, but we all love each other fiercely and wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

  2. My great grandparents did keep their last name, although adjusted the pronunciation. My aunt eventually moved back to Norway and raised her kids there. Now our lives are filled with more Norwegian culture. On the other side, my grandfather moved off the Indian Reservation and never looked back. We rarely went to the Powwows, or ceremonies. We never learned to speak the language. It feels weird. Our family still owns a lot of land on the reservation, and the museum is filled with our families artifacts. But there is a disconnect, because he never wanted to be labeled as “an Indian.”

  3. One half of my family is an amalgamation of so many European countries that we might as well be the visualization of the entire EU within a single family.

    However, the Scottish and German threads were particularly strong, but all that was ever passed down was whispers of bagpipes and fighting against Nazis.

    The other half of my family is Native American/random white dude who stole away my Native grandmother. She died when my mom was just a wee one, and my white grandpa didn’t really take care of my mom, so she was adopted out at quite an early age and has little remembrance of her heritage besides the Objibwe word for “bad little boy.” Apparently my uncle didn’t behave well as a kid for that to stick in her head? lol!

  4. I, too, had a made-up maiden name. 🙂 My ancestors were Germans who settled in Virginia in the 1600s. They were all illiterate farmers and didn’t speak English, so our last name was recorded incorrectly on census records.

    Oh, well!

    At the end of the day, changing your name is a personal choice. I made the decision to take Mr. Picky Pincher’s name mostly because my maiden name was a bitch to spell and it was a nightmare. Either way, we should celebrate people’s (specifically women’s) choices to keep or change their names according to what works for them.

  5. My name is quite obviously Jewish and I’ve never given a second thought to that. I was raised in a Jewish neighborhood and didn’t even realize how my name reflected that until I went away to college. On the other side, my wife’s name (which she kept) is truncated from its original Jewish form and you wouldn’t suspect its origin. I never felt discriminated against because of my name or background, but I can certainly understand why someone might feel that way. Hopefully the day will come when no one will feel the need to hide who they are in order to be treated fairly.

  6. My Dutch ancestors didn’t Anglicize their names when they all came over turn of the century (though there would have been little point other than making them easier to spell.) Jon and I did talk about possibly anglicizing my grandmother’s maiden name, Braak, into Brock and using it as a first name if we had a boy. The pronunciation is the same. But it never got past the “talked about” stage. Our girl has Jon’s Mom’s very Anglo-Saxon maiden name as a first name.

    The other side of the family is Heinz 57 Southerners. No strong identity other than as Southerners. I did take Jon’s last name shortly before Little Bit was born (although not for the 4 years of marriage before that.) Jividen is an anglicized version of Gevaudan, a French town with a werewolf legend. Needless to say, Jon loves making jokes about that.

  7. How soon this country forgets how it virulently and viciously othered every kind of immigrant that arrived on these shores: Italian, Polish, Chinese, Japanese… Not to mention doing the same to the Natives who were here to begin with.

    My family chose to assimilate as well, though only partially. We were given American first names, but I keep my non-American last name because it’s my name. The fact that it has my heritage, and identifies me to the world as Asian, is a bonus and a bit of a challenge to the world as well. Because y’know what? I see your racism, I see how you treat people who look like me. And I’m still going to persevere.

  8. Bonnie

    My dad’s family is from Northern Italy as well, and I did agonize as to whether to change my name to my husband’s. I felt like I was losing a part of that easily identifiable “Italian” identity by losing that name. However, although my husband didn’t ask me to change it, I could tell he was happy when I did. I still have my old email, though. 🙂

  9. There is so much danger and safety in a name.

    My girlfriend has not yet agreed to marry me, but I think we will both keep our names. We’ve built them both up professionally and she is close to her family. Perhaps if I did not have a business named after me, I would think long and hard about taking her last name because Mrs. & Mrs. Her Last Name could provide some safety for us as a same-sex couple. Or maybe not.

    • That’s such an important perspective, ZJ. I’m so glad you shared. And I can’t wait to hear about the decisions you both make when that wonderful time comes. I always smile when I hear you talk about her.

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