Names, Names, and more Names

I ran into a weird conversation about taking your spouse’s name when you get married. I don’t know why it caught my eye, since I’m not married, and I’m not considering getting married. And that’s a decision that’s long since made, anyway. I have a strange fascination with relationships and gender.

I can’t imagine changing my name to match someone else’s. And that’s not a recent development. It’s not something that kicked in the first time I saw my name written on a diploma or a business card. It’s a long-term thing. (Yes, I know. Yes, I’m still on the fence about pen-names.)

I also can’t imagine having someone else change their name to match mine.

Now, that’s one of the things that came up, once upon a time, with a boyfriend of yesteryear.  I had mentioned that I wasn’t going to change my name. And he–being moderately liberated and slightly more than a little impulsive–informed me that he would change his name, because he wanted us to have the same name.

(Conversation re: since when are we getting married? Did I miss something here? omitted for brevity.)

I don’t want us to have the same name.

I’m really not sure what bothered me more, back then. The concept that someone thinks it’s just dandy to “take” your name, or the idea that someone thinks you should “give up” your name. Two sides of the same coin, maybe.


I don’t know what that says about me, either.

What it says about him is that he has gone tiptoe-ing off into the sunset.

I’m always leaving the names to last in my books. (And I may have gotten through the one I’m revising now without naming most of my main characters at all.)

My current mc comes from a culture where people have dozens or even hundreds of names that just sorta… get stacked on top of each other as the individual earns them. So, working out from the family name you got when you were an infant, and proceeding all the way to “Handsy Old Guy in a Home.” Or… you know… something name-like. You get married, and your spouse gets to add one. Why not? It’s one more on the list.


  1. Reply

    My husband wanted to take my last name because it’s easier to pronounce, but I changed to his (mine was also plainer). My daughter and son-in-law hyphenated both of their last names and go by both. Go figure. I guess if everyone is comfortable, do what you want.

  2. Reply

    I don’t have much of an opinion on the married name thing, but I can throw in a couple cents about the pen name. I write both historical romance and erotica, and I use a separate name for the two genres. I really didn’t want any poor history lovers to wander into the erotica thicket by accident. Both of us would probably be unhappy about that. It’s also a safety issue, when you write erotica somehow men on the internet assume you are up for anything, any time and send you gross/stalker-ish messages. It’s easier to stay private with a pen name.

    • Reply

      I probably will wind up with a pen name at some point, although I haven’t had any problems with men asking me to build a robot army for them, yet. (Almost like they’re capable of understanding “fiction” when they want to be.) Keeping genres separate is a good point.

  3. DMT


    I didn’t change my name. It has meant forty years of politely correcting in-laws, colleagues, students, and strangers. My husband would have taken my name but I discouraged him. And our kid has a hyphenated last name which people inevitably get wrong because they think the mother’s name is supposed to come first.

    As for characters in my writing, they tend to have one name when I start writing and then go through several rechristenings. I tried to name a cat in a book after my editor once but she wouldn’t let me.

    • Reply

      Ah, kids. If I ever had one, I think I’d just name it Albert Schweitzer Thor Carnegie the Third. Give it a leg up on life.

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    I didn’t change mine, because both of my sisters had regretted doing so… that turned out for the best, because I don’t have to change it back during the divorce. >_> We’re all three divorced/ing now, so I wonder if that says more about our opinions on names, or our choices in men.

    I don’t feel as though I could NEVER change my last name. But I feel I would only want to… trade up, I guess. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good last name; if someone came along with one not as good or just as good, I would keep mine and they could take or leave it. But if I liked theirs better, then I might swing for it. But it would have to be one hell of a name, and it would have to gel with my first and middle… I guess I’m about aesthetic more than identity!

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