thoughts on hyphenated names

Dr Hegarty said: “In the 16th century, naming men before women became the acceptable word-order to use because of the thinking that men were the worthier sex. This grammar has continued with ‘Mr and Mrs’, ‘his and hers’ and the names of romantic couples like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

I often do this without thinking, though I’m getting better at noticing and stopping myself.

I was thinking about this in terms of hyphenated names- do most hetero couples who choose to hyphenate their names together put the man’s name first? How do they decide?

As a person in my 20’s, I have several friends with hyphenated names inherited from their parents. They all hate their last names. They are long and difficult to relay. They are embarrassing.

My boyfriend told me about a study he read (I’m sorry, I can’t find a link) that concluded that hyphenated names are detrimental to women and beneficial to men. People would see “Nathan Smith-Roberts” and think his parents must be progressive, open-minded and tolerant people. The same people would see “Norah Smith-Roberts” and not hire her because she must be a man-hating radical feminist.

I think hyphenated names are a well-intentioned but bad idea. They’re too problematic. What does the next generation do?

I think in a family with multiple children, there are two ideal solutions, assuming the couple wants to pass on both names. They could take turns- name the first child one last name, and the second child the other. Or, for hetero couples, they could give the father’s last name to any sons, and the mother’s last name to any daughters. That makes a lot of sense to me.

Where did your last name come from? Do you like it? Have you ever changed your last name? Why? What would your ideal solution be? I would love to hear your thoughts!



  1. Rupert Myers said,

    March 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Very interesting, I too was looking at the same question. I encourage you to read the many, many comments on my article:

    • dreamingiris said,

      March 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm

      Hi Rupert, thank you for your comment and the link. It’s funny, I actually just read your article this morning right before you commented =) It’s quite interesting and well-written.

      I agree with you on the impracticality of hyphenated and blended names.

      I have to disagree with you on your last sentence: “There lies the justification for the practice: all other things being equal, and the alternative considered, masculists want this more than feminists don’t.” I think the problem lies with status quo vs. change. Feminism is so new in the history of humankind. In this society we are used to the convention of the woman and children taking the man’s name. It is difficult to swim against the current—to change the status quo. Feminists who wish for true equality in naming conventions are fighting an uphill battle, whereas men who wish to perpetuate their names are just going with the flow. Feminists have many battles to fight, and some deem this battle, though still important, not as worthy of their time and energy as others, such as equal pay, ending violence against women, etc.

      Thank you for taking the time to read & comment on my little blog =)

  2. March 17, 2010 at 8:05 am

    […] author of this article about surnames stopped by my little bog and commented on my post about hyphenated names, which was a nice surprise. As I was reading the comments on his article, this one stood out: I […]

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