Claire Danes as Juliet

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose ?By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Juliet – Romeo & Juliet

Researchers from Melbourne’s Swinburne and Monash Universities contacted me last year. They are conducting about a survey about choices people make when it comes to names; whether you choose to take a spouse’s surname or how you choose you child’s name, they want to know.

They’ve even started a blog about it.

I’ve written about this topic before on my other Mum’s Word blog, because people always have an opinion on the topic. You can’t escape. If you have a name, you have an opinion.

Lisa Lintern has an opinion
As does Reservoir Dad.

When I got married, I took on my husband’s name. It’s not that I particularly liked it. I didn’t particularly like my maiden name so I was fairly non-plussed. But in the lead-up to the wedding I had a fight with my dad and that pretty much sealed the deal. I wasn’t keeping my father’s name anymore.

Mr M had also mentioned that he would have been happy to change his name to my maiden name. I don’t think my father-in-law would have appreciated that; his only son giving up the family name and all.

Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone

Title Card: The godfather was born Vito Andolini, in the town of Corleone in Sicily. In 1901 his father was murdered for an insult to the local Mafia chieftain.
Don Ciccio: I see you took the name of the town. What was your father’s name?
Vito Corleone: Antonio Andolini.

The Godfather II

Another couple I know relinquished each of their surnames on the day they got married and gave themselves a new one. The start of a brand new dynasty.

A friend of mine is a book-keeper and she worked for 2 different child care centres. At the childcare centre that was in the ‘burbs, the mother was more likely to have taken on her husband’s name. Okay that may be an assumption; the husband may have taken the wife’s name. But I haven’t come across anyone who has done that. Have you? I would love to know.

While the childcare centre that was located closer to the city the mother’s were more likely to have kept their maiden name whilst the child had the father’s surname.

That’s another question to ask. If you keep your maiden name and have children, whose surname does the child get?

Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly

Joe? “Just call me Joe”? As if you were one of those stupid 22-year old girls with no last name? “Hi, I’m Kimberly!” “Hi, I’m Janice!” Don’t they know you’re supposed to have a last name? It’s like they’re an entire generation of cocktail waitresses. Kathleen Kelly – You’ve Got Mail

And baby names. How do you navigate that? My family is Greek so the tradition is the children are given the grandparent’s name. I am named after my paternal grandmother. My sister is named after my maternal grandmother. So if you’ve every wondered why every family has a George or John or Maria or Tina or Ephie. This is why.

My brother named his two children after my parents. I did not name my children after my parents. Marrying an Italian who doesn’t subscribe to that tradition was an easy out.

Some people choose the name of their baby by the meaning of the name. I didn’t do that either. I tried to choose unisex names but that only worked for the first 2 children. So for the next 2 I tried to choose names that would work well together as a pen name if I ever wrote a novel. I don’t think I’m ever going to write a novel; but if I do, I have a name.

So if you’ve got about 10 minutes, do the survey and help out the researchers who are just trying to write in the history books why we choose the names we have.


  • At 2012.01.20 14:28, Lisa Lintern said:

    The ‘naming tradition’ really intrigues me. I guess I break tradition by not taking my husband’s name. And my husband breaks tradition by being so accepting and supportive of my decision to keep my name. My children also have unusual names – Siofra (pronounced She-uh-fra) and Cian (pronounced Kee-an). They are both Irish names that I chose because I simply fell in love with the way they sound and their meaning (Siofra is Gaelic for Little Fairy and Cian is Gaelic for ancient soul…my husband is Irish and I lived in Ireland for five years, just to put everything into context) In Australia, a lot of people’s eyes widen when I introduce my children. But on the other hand, my kids’ daycare buddies don’t flinch – they have no hesitation calling out their names when they arrive in the morning. You’re right. This survey is important for historical reasons and to record and understand the concept of tradition – the driving force of so many of our decisions in life. Great post. x

    • At 2012.01.21 00:51, Warren said:

      My wife doesn’t have my name – around the time we were married, I even considered taking hers, not as a dig at my parents or anything but simply because she seemed more attached to hers, and it’s not like there’s a lack of male siblings on my part to carry on the name in my stead! To me, my surname didn’t define my identity – my sister who has taken on her husband’s name is no less part of our family still. The reason no names changed, in the end, was merely convenience – visas, passports, and all that on top of the usual stuff, and we didn’t want to jeopardize her ability to stay in the country, or mine to return to the UK with her.
      I guess a part of it was also a rebellion against the assumption that women will take their husband’s name (an assumption rapidly evaporating) as that felt like it was implicitly forcing some sort of inequality… Didn’t feel fair, basically. Don’t know whether we’ll end up changing either of our names, in the end, but at the moment, we’re both leaning towards hyphenating or something :p

      • At 2012.02.14 18:00, Grace said:

        In Bali everyone is just names “First Child”, “Second Child” etc. That’s why every second person is Ketut.
        Long before being married I couldn’t wait to get married because I thought my surname was stupid and wanted it changed.
        You know what sealed the deal for me in keeping it ? My nosey MIL asking me out of the blue 3 months after we were married when I was going to change my maiden name.
        Uh, like…try NEVER !

        • At 2012.02.25 12:41, Suebob said:

          I know two men who changed their names to their wives’ names at marriage. Both had bad relationships with their own fathers to the point where they had no contact with them. I think that had something to do with it.

          (Required, will not be published)