Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Who else forgot to get married?

177 Responses

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  • B Jones,

    It did used to matter for property inheritance - "illegitimate" children couldn't inherit. Back in the day, surnames were a lot more flexible too. I seem to remember characters in Jane Austen books who were sort of openly adopted into a rich but childless sponsor's family, and took on the sponsor's surname in recognition of that relationship. TE Lawrence's parents weren't married - his father was Sir Thomas Chapman and his mother was born Sarah Junner - they became the Lawrences after they ran off together, named after the family Sarah used to work for before she was a governess for the Chapmans. Chapman-Junner of Arabia doesn't sound nearly as cool, though.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to B Jones,

    no full-blooded Maori left

    And that’s one noxious racist bullshit trope I don’t need to hear from anyone – Maori or Pakeha, left, right or whatever – ever again. Sorry for the derail.

    I seem to remember characters in Jane Austen books who were sort of openly adopted into a rich but childless sponsor’s family, and took on the sponsor’s surname in recognition of that relationship.

    And not just in books. That was what happened to Austen's third brother, Edward who caught the attention of Thomas Knight, a wealthy but childless cousin. (And who, incidentally, provided Rev. George Austen with his living at Steventon, which wasn't miserly but not quite generous enough to comfortably raise six sons and two daughters.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Quite common in some cultures to take your mother’s surname, well that is what happens in the Azores and explains why why my surname is Francis (G-g-grandma’s surname ) rather than De Sonza
    So
    Emmanuel De Sonza– changed to when he left home to Francis
    Malcolm Francis–
    Couple of generations
    -Malcolm Rees-Francis added his wife's name

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Hopefully it was clear by the context that I too consider it a noxious racist bullshit trope, repeated only for the purpose of illustrating that where data is absent, people's bullshit fills the gaps. Not that I think there's any point collecting racial purity data, but I so wish there was a silver bullet for that nonsense.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to B Jones,

    Yup, that was crystal clear but boy that's two words and a hyphen that make me twitch. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    On the Spanish – unless things have changed recently, or unless the Spanish do something different from the Latin Americans, the common practice is not for women to retain their birth name when they marry, but to keep the first of their two surnames, and add “de” (of) + [first of husband’s two surnames]. The children get their father’s first surname and their mother’s first surname. It’s a more patriarchal version of Paul Campbell’s suggestion.

    Also, they don’t use hyphens.

    i.e. Paul A B marries Lisa C D

    Paul’s surname stays “A B”. Lisa’s surname changes from “C D” to “C de A”

    The children’s surnames are “A C”

    As for the Marital Surname business, I’ve found it all a whole lot more troublesome than I expected it to be.

    When we married we really wanted to take each other’s surnames as an extra middle name, but when you marry you only get to change your surname for free, not your other names, so we changed our surnames on the assumption that there’s not a whole lot of difference between “Lucy F + Telfar Barnard” and “Lucy F Telfar + Barnard” (and the opposite for Mr Barnard Telfar)

    After 13 years of marriage, however, whenever we have to fill out forms or contracts we find ourselves explaining that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

    How it’s turned out is:

    - Although my husband’s surname is legally “Barnard Telfar”, he uses Telfar everywhere except in legal documents;
    - Although I’d fully intended to also just use “Barnard"…
    –-- our children, like Emma’s children, have their father’s surname as their last name, and their mother’s surname as one of their middle names (incidentally, my half-siblings on my father’s side have this too, so I do think it’s, well, maybe not common, but certainly not rare either). We did this because we didn’t want to lumber them with hyphenated surnames.
    –-- I found I wanted it to be clearer that our children were also my children. So I use Telfar Barnard. This has the additional advantage of making me easy to find in literature searches (except for a book chapter where the system obviously couldn’t cope with two surnames and even after correction I still ended up as L T Barnard. This wouldn’t have been a problem with a hyphen, and the university has also put a hyphen in my standard format email address.) but I do find it a bit of a mouthful.
    –-- I have considered just using one surname, and choosing Telfar over Barnard because it’s a rare name and there’s noone else with that surname in my field, whereas Barnards are common.

    - Our joint cheque book can barely fit our names on it.

    After all this, I have some sympathy for women who just take their husband’s name on marriage. It’s not very feminist, but it must make some things a whole lot easier.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Nat, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    And this is the bit I don’t get. Your family tree is a genetic legacy not a tree of names. It doesn’t matter what you are called you are still genetically related to your ancestors and decendants regardless of what they call each other. Theoretically my family name ends with my brother’s daughters but it certainly doesn’t end the genetic line.

    Right, but when my daughter had to do this exercise for school the other day, when I looked at her tree, and she had the same surname as me and my mother, this felt right to me. (In the same way that if her tree had been swamped by her father's name, it would have felt less satisfactory to me, like she and I had lost something). I'm not saying everyone does or should feel this way, but to me this seems very equitable. (And nothing to do with genetics.)

    Seattle • Since Jun 2011 • 52 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R,

    When my partner and I got married, it was never seriously considered that either of us would change our names (by anyone except for her mother, who seemed to expect it).

    Our paranoia is such that the only time we really care is when travelling overseas, when we always take a photocopy of the marriage certificate. In the event of one of us ending up in an accident and unable to say "S/he's with me" we can show that we're actually next-of-kin entitled to visit in hospitals etc.

    Thus far, it's never been a problem, but then, I've only once had to use my international drivers permit (NZ drivers licence being acceptable on it's own everywhere except booking a car through a tourist information center in Iceland so far).

    What annoys my partner is that things like airlines demand titles, and she a) hates being called "Mrs" and b) dislikes being called "Miss" or "Ms". Thus far it has not been enough motivation for her to chase a doctorate...

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • kalypso,

    a) hates being called “Mrs” and b) dislikes being called “Miss” or “Ms”.

    That is pretty much the only downside I have found for keeping my name. Well that and enduring the general incredulity that I didn't change my rather amusing (to some) surname when I had the chance. My view - yes, my name is embarrassing but it is too much part of me to change. My kids got their father's name though (for which they are very, very grateful).

    Auckland • Since Apr 2010 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    There are no full-blooded humans left either. Interesting how stupid the statement is that way round.

    I wonder whether H. sapiens sapiens and H.sapiens neanderthalensis had to deal with this shit too while they were busy blending their genomes (yes genetic evidence shows they did interbreed).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Stephen R,

    What annoys my partner is that things like airlines demand titles, and she a) hates being called “Mrs” and b) dislikes being called “Miss” or “Ms”. Thus far it has not been enough motivation for her to chase a doctorate…

    I am not a Mrs, and I hate being called Ms. You'd be astounded how many forms don't have Miss as an option.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    genetic evidence shows they did interbreed

    Randy buggers! Not like us. :-)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    On the Spanish – unless things have changed recently, or unless the Spanish do something different from the Latin Americans

    Yes, Spanish-speaking Latin America does things differently . And yes, I know the Spanish don't literally hyphenate, but they do the equivalent.

    Wikipedia also tells me that Arab women keep their birth-names regardless of martial status. Interesting.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    I think I would be happy with "Mrs" if it carried its original connotation of an adult woman, as "Mr" still does for men, c/f "Master" for a boy.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    All that said, it’s also a non-trivial mark of respect to use the honorific style people express a preference for.

    Just so. Except... hmm... what about people in particular religions using titles that also carry a common meaning in our language. I'm thinking here of "Father" for Roman Catholic priests. I have conflicting views on this, because if Bishop Brian Tamaki wants to be called, "Bishop", then fine, whatever, but I'm not so keen on using father/mother/sister/brother. Not quite sure why.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    There are no full-blooded humans left either.

    It's a pointless argument and not to defend full-blooded whatevers, but I suspect this is a ~Euro-centric view.
    Is there any evidence the vast majority of humanity (H.s.sapiens) and its genome that stayed home in Africa had anything to do with H. s. neanderthalensis?

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 851 posts Report Reply

  • Ross McA.,

    We're not married cos it seems, to me (there's an alternative opinion...), kind of un-necessary and churchy. Been together 18 years and still counting! Our lovely daughter has her mothers surname, cos when she was born there were four generations down the matriarchal line with the same surname. Great grandma; grandma, who changed her name back when divorced and mother who took her mum's surname when a teenager. Did think about hyphenatin' but there were just too many syllables.

    Since Mar 2010 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol, in reply to ChrisW,

    pointless argument

    Especially when you consider our bodies contain 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells. We are not simple organisms.

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Miche Campbell, in reply to Amy Gale,

    High five!

    Dunedin • Since Feb 2011 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Miche Campbell, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Then use Mr or Dr or Rev.

    Dunedin • Since Feb 2011 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Miche Campbell,

    Then use Mr or Dr or Rev.

    I was for a brief and wonderful interlude, a Dame. Sadly, I'm not actually allowed to claim that one, nor, in fact, Mr, Dr, or Rev.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    We married for a visa (not even a green card, ow), and then had a really big party later when we were back in NZ. No pomp and ceremony (okay, there may have been an impromptu Best Best Man speech competition at the party, won by our friend Kathryn); no vows beyond the basic "take thee as lawful wedded whatnot" plus a bonus promise Never To Be Boring.

    But we did put this satirically sniffy dowager duchess line from Dorothy L. Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon on the party invitations, cos, LOL:

    "They were married in the old, coarse, Prayer-book form, and the bride said Obey - I take this to be their idea of humour, for she looks as obstinate as a mule."

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    I've been a Rev. for about 15 years. And you can be one too thanks to the internet.

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to Deborah,

    I think I would be happy with “Mrs” if it carried its original connotation of an adult woman, as “Mr” still does for men, c/f “Master” for a boy.

    What if we made people pronounce it "Mistress"? That could be fun.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Miche Campbell, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Bugger that. Use them anyway.

    Dunedin • Since Feb 2011 • 79 posts Report Reply

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