Category: Family Names
It was early April in 2014 when my husband, Rick, and I learned we were pregnant. After a long struggle with infertility, we were stunned, cautious, and absolutely thrilled. My husband immediately got busy turning the home office into a nursery; I immediately got busy searching for the perfect name. As an academic who spent years studying naming practices, I was excited to finally put my research skills to personal use. And when I later learned that I was expecting twins – a boy and a girl to boot – I felt like I hit the onomastic jackpot. Choosing the perfect names for our little girl and our little boy became a top priority during the pregnancy.
They found a great family name for their firstborn, but now they’re stuck finding something every bit as meaningful and stylish for their new daughter.
We are now expecting a second girl and are at a stalemate. We feel compelled to give her a family name as well, because we love having that connection. My husband’s mother, Brenda, is deceased and so we’d love to honor her. But Brenda (and similar names Brenna, Brianna) just don’t resonate with us.
We’ve come up with a few names that start with B to honor her, but nothing is really exciting us yet. We are also considering Annabeth Claire (a mashup of our three sisters’ middle names) but aren’t quite sold on it yet. Any suggestions?
The Name Sage replies:
He’s all about family names, but she’s not convinced. How do they move forward when he thinks their son is already named?
The dilemma? I don’t care for the name Jonathan!
The Name Sage replies:
Since medieval times, the majority of couples in the West—including the United States, United Kingdom and Australia—have passed on the father’s last name to the baby. While there have always been exceptions to this rule, it remains a dominant social convention.
But for the last few decades, last name choices have been changing because families are changing.
Many of us grew up with mothers who kept their last name after they married, or in blended families where family members had different last names. We may have changed our last name to a stepfather’s name, or gone back to a mother’s maiden name when we were teenagers. Whichever way you look at it, the idea of the traditional nuclear family is changing. Nevertheless, the practice of passing on the father’s last name has remained.
Many couples are happy to continue the tradition and pass on the father’s last name. But for others, that tradition has become increasingly jarring and uncomfortable. Over the past few decades, many families have been searching for—and finding—alternatives.
I read an online comment recently from a name enthusiast arguing that “lots of men” give their own names to their sons (whether as Juniors—using their exact names—or using variants in the first or middle spots), while “very few women” do the same for their daughters.
This argument didn’t seem quite right to me, based on my limited experience, so I posed the question on my blog and indeed, my readers produced quite a lot of examples of girls named after their moms. Nevertheless, it is true that the idea of specifically “Junior” girls—girls with at least the same first name as their moms, never mind the same first+middle combo—is an unfamiliar one to many of us, and I wondered why.