Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rant: Stop With The Hyphenated Last Names

Hyphenation is a bad idea.

And it bugs me.

First of all, I'm lucky if I can remember your first name, let alone your last name.  But two last names?  

Okay, Wang-Holder I'd remember. 

Anything else?  Fuggedaboutit.

I have to wonder what, exactly, one is trying to communicate through hyphenation.  Independence?  Strength?  Feminism?  

Because it doesn't accomplish any of those things.  Now, you bear the name of not just one man, but two.   

Not exactly a symbol of empowerment.

And why on earth would a woman hyphenate her name when a man doesn't? (This principle applies to same sex couples as well.)   For example, if she's going to be Susie Jones-Smith then he should be John Smith-Jones.  Or John Jones-Smith.  

Honestly, I hardly ever see men doing this, probably for the same reason they don't wear tube tops, fishnets or thigh high boots. 

Because it makes no sense and it looks stupid. 

Let's take it a step further.  Say Susie and John have kids.  Are they Jones-Smith, too? And when their daughter, Cindy Jones-Smith gets married, is she Cindy Jones-Smith-Brown?

I'm just sayin', think it through.

If you really want to make a statement about your identity, through your name, consider these option:

1)  Go traditional.  Take your husband's name or you and your partner decide whose name will be the official surname, then you both use it.  But never assume a hideous last name just to prove your love or to honor tradition.

2)  Keep your original surname and use that forever and ever, regardless of the name of your husband/partner.

3)  Use only your first name (Madonna, Rihanna) or your first and middle name, ditching the surname altogether. 

4)  Choose any damn name you want - just because you like it - and use it consistently.  

But please, don't expect me to remember, nor admire, the fact that you have attached another last name to your signature with a hyphen.  

In return, I promise never to wear a tube top. 

photo from


  1. You are truly skilled in the art of the random rant.

    I know a couple who made up a last name to share. I have no idea what their names used to be.

    So far I'm solving this problem by just not getting married!

  2. Is it mostly to do with the fact that traditionally women assume the surname of their husband and feel bereft at losing a link to their past, namely a name! I don't know. As a matter of interest, what is it with people who call themselves Jim Jones the first, second and third, like they're royalty?

  3. Elisa, hello and thanks for the compliment - it's nice coming from you, another one skilled in the art of random thoughts.

    Love the idea of making up a name and sharing it. My husband and I have different last names and we're good with it, although people still sometimes ask...'you're really married?'


  4. Hi Michael - You may be right in your assessment and I love the word 'bereft' - must use it in a sentence today. ;)

    I'm with you - what's the deal with 'Jim Jones' the first, second and third? We act like it means something special when it may just be that their parents lack creativity in naming their children...

  5. I am SO on-board with this rant! I usually err on the side of being more formal using Ms. or Mr. so and so when calling patients names in the reception area, but with hypenated names I just go straight to their first name and just take a chance on getting a dressing-down for being too personal. Grrr

  6. Hi Cymbaline - I feel your pain! It can be a pain to try and say it all and say it right. Thanks for your comment!

  7. I just got married and have thus far kept my maiden name. Everyone still gives me shit about it - like I'm a bad/unloving/uncommitted wife because I don't do this one stupid thing.

    Changing my last name won't put a home cooked meal in front of him nor will it take out the trash or pour him a drink after a particularly hard day. I do those things because I love him and he knows it. He also loves me enough to not press traditions on me that I think are lame.

    Our dog is offically "Ruby Mylast Hislast". No hyphen. Sometimes we just call her Ruby Von Stinkybutt. Maybe we should make that our new family name? Von Stinkybutt will certainly be memorable :-)

    I've been plenty patient w/ my mom/aunts/sister about the issue of my last name. Next person who gives me a hard time just gets an old-school "SHUT UP!" Rude, perhaps, but I'm sick of defending myself.

  8. Gretchen, your comment made me LOL! Here's the thing; why does anyone give a damn whether you do or don't take your husband's name?

    I mean, really, read a book or something.

    It's between the two of you and everyone else can just get over it. And I LOVE 'Ruby Von Stinkybutt!' Choosing that as a family name would certainly set everyone free!

    Hell, now I want it for OUR family name!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Josephine,

    "why does anyone give a damn whether you do or don't take your husband's name?

    I mean, really, read a book or something.

    It's between the two of you and everyone else can just get over it."

    The same could easily be said of your hatred from hyphenated last names. I'm going to be getting married relatively soon and am considering hyphenation. I will, however, only use my last name professionally. My future in-laws are very traditional, as is my future husband in some ways, so this is a compromise that I don't mind making. Though I'm considering asking him to take my last name if he asks me to reconsider one more times, haha. It'll hopefully prove a point. A study conducted not too long ago showed that women who keep their last names earn 40% more in the same positions, even within the same companies, than women who take on their husbands' names. On a somewhat related note, women who are mothers earn the least for a given position while men who are fathers earn the most. Why? Mothers are associated with warmth and tenderness, but not brains (undesirable) while fathers are seen as responsible (desirable). Gotta love that sexism that ingrained sexism...

  10. Hi Anonymous - isn't it nice that everyone can choose what they want to do...and say? That's what a rant is all about.

    Nothing is more sexist, nor controlling, than tradition.

    Well, perhaps religion.

    So make whatever justification you need to, but don't ask too many questions. Because in the bright light of logic, taking his name or hyphenating your own feeds the ingrained sexism you describe so well.

  11. I know thi guy named Neil Gordon-Tennant, who is dating Desirae Smith-Hammil. If they have a kid named mary it "Mary Anne Smith-Hammil-Gordon-Tennant"??



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