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When Hyphen Boy Meets Hyphen Girl

It's regular ol' love story: boy meets girl, they fall in love, and then they started thinking about marriage. But then, there's a twist: both have hyphenated last names, and merging the two would create a household that sounds like a law firm ...

The pair chatted and flirted for a bit. Those were the good old days, before they started discovering the kind of issues that inevitably pop up later. Like when Brendan first noticed the name on Leila's mailbox.

"I remember looking at hers and being like, 'Holy crap, there's another hyphenated last name!' "

Brendan's last name is Greene-Walsh, and Leila's, Rathert-Knowles.

They both hoped things would continue to go well — but they both also knew they were a pileup waiting to happen.

"My names would probably be Leila Rathert-Knowles Greene-Walsh," Leila says, laughing.

Brendan smirks, too. "It just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?"

What do you think they should do? I, for one, vote that they use the letters of their last names to come up with a new one. Tovia Smith of NPR's All Things Considered has the story: Link (Photo: Brendan Greene-Walsh)

A real dilemma here. My husband & I both detest the historical roots of name change; marriage meant the woman became here husband's property.

Thus my husband was completely understanding if I wanted to keep my last name. His mother kept her maiden name back in the '60s way before it was acceptable. My family has lived in our hometown for four generations now and our name carries a positive reputation (plus lots of family members). I was also reluctant to change my name as I am one of three daughters and wanted our name to live on.

However, we plan to have a family someday and I want to share my name with my children. We toyed with the idea of creating a new name but then we lose our family lineage; so many things to consider.

We were digging through family records and discovered his family was actually Johansson (not Johnson) when migrating from Sweden to America. We found our solution! We are both changing our names to the original family name and starting anew together. We will both go through the process of changing our identity while maintaining an intact lineage. Our children will share our name and take my maiden name as a middle name; as will I. Every couple has a different perceptive and a variety of considerations in this big decision. This was our solution and I am incredibly proud and happy with our decision. Good luck in your journey together.
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Does it strike anyone else that people with hyphenated last names can be incredibly self-absorbed and narcissistic?

They should be more worried about their bad hair.
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I didn't change my last name when I got married three years ago. So my last name is neither my father's nor my current husband's, but it is my children's last name.

I didn't want my kids to be the odds ones out.
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perhaps they could just change their last name to douche-bag ? nobody cares about your nutty hyphenated name, let it go. guys with hyphenated last names are even more annoying then women with them.
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Use the man's last name OR the woman's last name. That's what almost everyone else does. Or perhaps they could exchange names - he gets hers, she gets his?

Failing that, just pick or invent a completely new name which sounds right to both of them. It's just a name, after all. When I changed my last name one of the criteria was: is the domain name still available?!
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Alex: indeed, the doubled surnames in Spanish is a great way to tell your Jose Marias from your Maria Joses.

I dub these two "Brendan and Leila Hyphen".
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I'm against the hyphenated names altogether. I don't care if the wife takes the husband's last name, if the husband takes his wife's, or if they both change to something completely different. I will have the same last name as my wife so that people know we're a family.
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That's what we did - combined the letters of our two last names. And we weren't even hyphen-boy and hyphen-girl.

My wife and I married in 1996. At the time, we lived in the Bay Area, so when discussing how to solve the problem of potentially commingling names, we'd seen it all: couples who'd each kept their surnames-of-origin, couples who'd gone the traditional route of woman-takes-man's-surname, couples who'd hyphenated. None of it really sat right with us. I don't want to offend anyone who's chosen any of the aforementioned options, here, this was just our thought process at the time.

Keeping our own individual last names offered the greatest convenience. All your old high-school friends would still be able to find you on the then-not-yet-existent Facebook, and nobody would have to go through the hassle of a legal name change. The downside (for us) was that it just seemed very sterile: why even bother getting married if you're not going to share a name?

The traditional route of woman-takes-man's-name probably rubbed both of us the wrong way more than any of the other options, perhaps not surprisingly. I grew up on the west coast, first in San Diego, moving to the Bay Area to attend Berkeley (and staying because I liked it), and my wife was a Georgia girl who got tired of the cultural climate in her home state, voluntarily packed up everything she owned into a convertible Mustang and drove across the country to San Francisco to start a new life. So "traditional" has never described either of us, and when it came to choosing a married surname, neither of us was all that keen to simply have her take my last name.

By the time we got married, we'd both been exposed to plenty of hyphenated couples, or even just people we knew who already had hyphenated last names because their parents chose that route. It always seemed like a bit of a load to carry around, especially for kids: "hi, I'm Jessica Rabinowitz-Chakraborty." Plus, believe it or not, we really did think about the exact issue you raise here: what happens to the next generation - and the one after that, and the next one - if most couples adopt the hyphenation solution? By the third or fourth generation, you've got kids with eight or sixteen last names? At some point, it just becomes untenable.

Which brought us to the solution you alluded to here: take a portion of each of our last names-of-origin, and create a new name. We were both a little bit apprehensive at first, but it quickly became apparent to us that we were onto something. After all, the entire point of hyphenating last names is because a couple wants to perhaps reject the culturally assumed patristic nomenclature of women abandoning their families of origin when they take a married name, and/or the hyphenating couple simply wants to honor BOTH families of origin (something of which we approve!).

But it struck me one day that if I were to discover a never-before-known comet, or a new element for the periodic table, or a new species deep in the rainforest or something, one of the things that comes along with creating (or discovering) something truly original like that is the undisputed right to NAME one's discovery. Why should marriage be any different? You're intentionally choosing to create a new family, a combination that has never existed before -- so why shouldn't IT have a new name, too? One that still respects and refers to the families from which it comes, but which is unmistakably its own entity, not just a tediously long laundry list of prior families?

So we did.

Because this is the Internet and all, I won't go into detail about which names were the original ones, and how we got to our current married name, but it was exactly what you suggest: a mixture of our previous last names. And we've never regretted it. Our children - like all children - will never know themselves as anything other than this last name (though of course we've told them how we did this), and we are a unique family entity.

I will say that we were lucky in that both of our surnames-of-origin were from the same general part of the world, making the combination relatively easy. We had friends in the Bay Area who wanted to do something similar, but their nationalities were just so different that any resulting combination would have been an unpronouncable mouthful. So I recognize it might be tougher for, say, a Pakistani man and a German woman than it was for my wife and I. Nevertheless, I don't regret our decision at all.

Just thought your readers might like to hear a real life example.
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Hmmm. My wife doesn't use her Maiden name as a middle name, she just kept the middle name she had. She is from New Jersey, and I from Tennessee. She told me that she thought using a maiden name as a middle name was a "southern tradition".
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This entire situation was lampooned in a great South Park episode:

The link should be PG. No swearing or anything. The worst it gets is people smelling their own gas. If that offends, you probably shouldn't watch.
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Why don't they put an end to the trendy foolishness and use his father's surname? They can name the children to honor the grandparents and do like others have done for centuries.
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