I shall call him… mini-me.

Seriously, what does Ms Deveny expect people to do?

Why do (don’t go there) most children(don’t go there) still end up with (don’t go there, don’t go there, don’t go there!) their father’s surname?

Probably because no-one’s come up with a functional alternative.

Unless every child is to have a different family name (which kind of defeats the point of having a “family name” in the first place), then how do you resolve this? You’ve got to pick one of them, don’t you? Hyphenated names become ridiculously unwieldy after one generation. Using the mother’s name is just as problematic as using the father’s name – only with the added factor of causing confusion to the many, many entities in society that insist on traditional naming conventions.

Believe me, using a naming convention that contradicts the “standard” is a real annoyance for the person affected. Corporate databases are lazily-designed by people who assume the way they were named is the way everyone is named. If you choose to make your child’s given name anything other than their first name, for example, you’re condemning them to years of pointless and frustrating conflict with every institution they come across. (Yes, my first name is “Walter” but my given name is “Jeremy”. No, not everyone is known by their first name! I don’t care what your computer says!)

I just want to know what family name Catherine suggests parents give their children instead.

24 responses to “I shall call him… mini-me.

  1. How about when a couple gets married (or otherwise regard themselves as a family unit) they adopt a new surname for themselves: neither his nor her original surname but a new one, perhaps derived in some way from the two original ones. Then the children are given the same surname.

    Or perhaps couples could opt to call themselves by either his or her original surname, depending which they like better. Neither is less logical than automatically adopting the bloke’s name.

    But I agree: if we’re to keep the notion of surnames at all then it makes sense for parents and children to share them. The real question is what happens when two people with different surnames get together to form a family. Let them pick one surname, any one, and settle on that, I say.

  2. How to pick which one? Coin flip?

    There’s a 50% chance of pissing Catherine off.

  3. That was some of the worst straw man abuse I’ve seen this year. Asking hypothetical questions and answering them herself so that she can kill off those imaginary arguments.

    So desperately ‘right on’.

  4. Zippy the Pinhead

    +1 for Tony’s comment

    Even taking on my wife’s name has been annoying in dealing with powers that be, the concept seems impossible to assimilate for most jobsworths.

    … and simply getting married seriously pissed off a lot of ‘progressive’ friends.

  5. And then there’s the assumption that you couldn’t possibly be interested in getting married, because you must think the institution is outdated. Progression is about choice. Not just about changing the current institution to an equally locked in stone institution.

    As for me, I’ll probably be happy to change my name mainly because I’ve already got planned ways to work my families names into any future kids names. I’d rather honor individual family members than a surname, anyway.

  6. A step family, an adopted family, a same sex or single parent family are no less a family if they do not share the same last name. Families have for a long time come in a myriad of shapes and sizes.

    By falling back on the “it’s just easier” or “there is no other workable option” then you make it harder on those people who our outside the traditional box.

    It may be a pain with institutions – it is something I think is worth working around because I could not imagine being called something other than my name of 30+ years.

  7. I’m with Kat. Not about to go changing the name I’ve lugged around with me so far. Lots of things are easier but not better. Sticking to the father’s surname convention is one of them.

    Besides, institutions are confused by so many things including non-Western names, people with the same names, people whose names are spelled with three Ls and a silent Q. What’s one more?

  8. Most parents don’t sit down, say,
    “well, I don’t want to change my name”
    “neither do I”
    “well, if there are kids whose surname do they take?”
    “they are equally good names”
    “OH, well then the dealbreaker is the easiness of certain forms and societal assumptions that the child will take the father’s name.” (which in a lot of situations is not difficult at all.)

    I don’t think there’s an easy alternative, but I don’t think that’s the reason people still always assume the father’s name, you know?

  9. I’ve heard of one option where daughters got Mum’s original surname, and sons got Dad’s.

  10. Northern Exposure

    We should do what the elves do.

  11. The Spanish seem to manage with their double surname method.

  12. Or maybe people should just do whatever they like…

    Unless you’re taking a common first name and then spelling it funny. Those parents deserve a smackin’.

  13. One thing about consistent surname practice. Researching family trees would be impossible if children were given random surnames. Even with consistency there’s the problem of women changing their surnames upon marriage. They can be hard to trace backwards to their maiden names.

  14. David, the world changes.

    Researching family trees is a completely different world with the internet and different family structures.

    My closest friends on social networking sites are listed as my “family” because they are closer to me than distant cousins.

    Historically speaking, the “problem” with name changes isn’t restricted to women getting married. Migrants have often cut or shortened names. Remarriage of widows results in changes in names. Of course you also had numbers of people who were not blood relations of their fathers due to affairs etc.

  15. I have two foster children, so my 3 children all have differnt surnames (my daughter is one of those people with a hyphenated name).

    You know what? We are no more or less a family because none of us have a name in common.

    Mind you, I do agree with the thrust of the original article. As a single mother, there was never any doubt my daughter would have my name (even though we ended up hyphenating it to include his), but it never ceases to amaze me when other single mothers give their children the father’s name. You went through the pain of childbirth and it will be you that provides the continuity of care throughout the child’s life, so why the hell shouldn’t they have your name?

  16. Long story short – I had three surnames by the time I was 20, my father’s alone, my father’s and my mother’s boyfriend’s hyphenated (assumed), and my mother’s boyfriend’s (he insisted, since he paid all the bills). It was a paper work nightmare. Then mother split from her boyfriend and later married another man. Instead of taking his name, we waited until my sister turned 18 and changed our names to a completely unrelated surname.

    Since then we’ve both married. I kept my name, my sister hyphenated hers.

    Surnames change over time, whether because someone assumes a different name, or their original name was changed for some reason (anglicizing, for instance), so making such a fuss over where the name comes from seems rather silly to me. Perhaps the best way is to let the child choose at 18, and prior to that use a hyphenated surname?

  17. I suggest alternate letters from the parents’ names.

    Our kids’ll be Jemrs. Or Saeer.

  18. “You know what? We are no more or less a family because none of us have a name in common.”

    Of course you aren’t! I have step-brothers and sisters, my mother has a different surname to me. Are we any less of a family? Of course not! Is it confusing for an outsider? Yep. Do we care? Nope.

    But as far as I am concerned, my main tie to my own family is not through my fathers surname. I love my father and my grandfather, but my Grandmothers surname has always loomed larger, simply because she was one of five sisters, all but one of whom took on a different name, so surnames don’t mean a huge deal in terms of family. Plus the whole Brady Bunch aspect of my family means we don’t set a huge amount of store in differentiating by surname.

    My ties to my family are deeper than a surname, and it’s the first names of my relatives I want to honour and preserve in my future children’s names, anyway.

    For me, it simply comes down to one thing – choice. I’ll choose to take a different surname simply because that’s what works for me in the context of my family. Do I make assumptions based on the surname of others? Not with the eclectic range of surnames in my immediate family, no.

  19. Skepticus Autartikus

    Even in the modern age, there are still very good reasons for a child to take the father’s name. It is a public acknowledgement of paternity.

    There is little need for a such a public declaration by the mother. Given many mothers have had more pricks than a pin cushion, at some stage there has to be a reckoning over who is the actual father.

    For the turkey-baster issue of lesbos, what else is to be said, except to said issue, ‘our condolences and prayers are with you.’

  20. One work colleague (Australian with a German surname) and his wife (Japanese), had two boys. One had a Western name and his mother’s surname, the other had a Japanese name and his father’s surname.

    Very fair, and who cares if there is initial confusion? 30 seconds of explanation sorts it out.

  21. Skepticus Autartikus, help an idiot out: are you being facetious?

  22. FWIW, when our son was born, I was informed in no uncertain terms by my beautiful bride-to-be that “He’s your bloody son, and he’s getting your bloody surname so you’ll never have any doubt. Or excuse”.
    Erm. Yes, dear. I hadn’t really worried about paternity BEFORE she brought that up-!

    And of course now she (mockingly) complains that she’s only taking my name so she’s not the odd one out. You can’t win.
    As for Deveney… Lawrence Mooney had the best response a few columns back; Lazy thinking, lazy arguments, all topped with lazy comedy.

  23. Skepticus Autartikus

    Deveney is surely the perfect counter-argument to those who oppose abortion. 😉

  24. Skepticus Autartikus


    I believe Mords answered your question.

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