March 18, 2004


OVER AT HIS SWELL NEW SITE, Steve Silver has penned a short commentary on the question of women keeping their maiden names after marriage, as well as the recent bawdy trendiness surrounding hyphenated names. Mr Silver works off an essay by the feminist Katie Roiphe.

We'll admit we have mixed feelings about pretty much all aspects of this.

Like Mr Silver, we would have absolutely no problem if our eventual wife wanted to keep her own name; although that said, we must admit we'd prefer if she took our last name. Everyone else in our family has done this, and it'd be less confusing, and besides, we think being a Kepple rules. On the other hand, we would understand it perfectly if our eventual wife were to keep her name for professional reasons, and in that regard, it is such a small issue that it is not worth arguing.

As for any eventual children, though, we must say we would never permit our children to have a hyphenated last name, with one exception: if we happened to marry into European nobility. Then it would be perfectly acceptable (even if Kepple-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha would be wordy). Although, we note that even then, it would be unnecessary since surname and house would be differentiated. Also, there is that tiny matter of the fact there is no chance of this happening.

So we can stand with our original assertion that our children will be known as Kepples, whether they like it or not. Besides, our ancestors did not suffer through centuries of war, oppression and famine only to have their descendents screw things up. We owe them that much!

But -- again, the caveat -- we do think it a good idea to pay homage to the mother's family in naming one's children, as has been done in our family. It's not difficult to do; one can easily use names of maternal relatives, or the mother's maiden name as a first or middle name.

That said, we think making up a name solely because a man and his wife think it cute is ... No. This is most certainly not cute. This is silly. As such, we would rather eat glass than change our name to "Kepwell" or some such absurdity. Really, the very idea strikes us as being so damned collegiate -- which, as it happens, is the place we first heard of someone doing such a thing.

That is what we consider the "all-time low" -- and on this, we differ with Mr Silver, who argues that for a man to hyphenate his last name along with his wife is the ultimate indignity. We must say we find that practice a bit odd -- but it is more understandable than actually destroying one's name and effectively severing a man's ties with his ancestors.

One last thought on this matter: Ms Roiphe takes note of the problems that cropped up when women kept their names back in the old days. In doing so, Ms Roiphe quotes from a 1925 newspaper report about these "Lucy Stoners," as they were once known:

"Some of its resulting confusions are indelicate and therefore may merely be hinted at. Many moral hotel clerks are troubled at the assignment of rooms to the traveling Lucy Stoners and their husbands."

Absolutely priceless. Of course, in our experience, we have found that in this day and age the moral hotel clerks merely assume a couple is man and wife, and write up the bills accordingly. Without going into further detail, we would merely say that when we first discovered that "Mr and Mrs Kepple" were listed on the register, we found the idea very, very nice.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at March 18, 2004 12:10 AM | TrackBack

I'm not at all a feminist ideologue on this topic however I must say this: You write: "but it is more understandable than actually destroying one's name and effectively severing a man's ties with his ancestors."

I feel exactly the same way, in terms of creating a new name with the beloved, or hyphenating your two names - Yes. That is quite ikky. However, when you talk about severing "a man's ties with his ancestors", I would add to that "a woman's ties with her ancestors" - I think it would be completely unnatural for me to give up my name, and sever my ties with my ancestors who are just as important to me. My name is my name.

I will never subject a child of mine to a hyphenated morphing situation, and I would be happy to give my child my husband's name ... but I'll never change my name.

Imagine being asked, or being expected, to give up your last name, Ben. You sound proud of your last name, proud of the connections it connotes - the continuity it brings up. The Kepples.

Of course. I feel the same way about O'Malley. It would feel completely unnatural for me to give up my name, and I won't do it.

Posted by: red at March 18, 2004 11:51 AM

Ben, I agree, with one caveat. I do believe hyphenated names should exist when both names are strikingly different or similar, therefore funny. Like that Author, Jacqueline Smith-Smith. Or someone named Lance Wojcieczowkapolowicz-Ng.

Posted by: simon from jersey at March 18, 2004 11:56 AM

Hi Sheila:

I am more than willing to say that I can't offer a counter-argument on the sole sub-issue of the wife taking the husband's name; my thoughts in terms of that were in no way based upon logic. Certainly I can see why a woman would want to keep her own last name, and especially if she has strong connections with her own family. And, as I had written, I would be perfectly fine with that decision if my eventual wife decided to do just that. After all, it would be the height of foolishness to let something like that become an issue. Still, I must say that I had not fully considered how a woman might see things.


Hi Simon:

I *knew* you were going to mention Smith-Smith. I just knew it! That said, you get major style points for doing so; I was thinking about that very instance today and was literally biting my lip to keep from laughing out loud. Not that this won me any points with a colleague who thought that I was smirking at said colleague's attempts to fix one of the endless-form printers.

Smith-Smith. Oh my.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at March 18, 2004 08:44 PM