The Corner

The Sexual Politics of Last Names

An e-mail:

There is a bizarro-world custom being perpetrated by many I know in the academy who get married: that of combining both last names with a hyphen to create one last name to be used by both couples.  So, if Bob Smith

and Mary Jones get hitched, they become Bob Smith-Jones and Mary Smith-Jones (could be Jones-Smith, but you get the picture).  O.K. so far, whatever twists your socks. 

But here’s the rub: when the daughter of Bob Smith-Jones and Mary Smith-Jones, one Sally Smith-Jones, decides she wants to marry Frank, the son of Tim Wilson-Garcia and Maria Wilson-Garcia, then, wanting to honor both sets of parents by keeping the name-combining custom, Sally and Frank’s last name will be Wilson-Garcia-Smith-Jones.

Of course, it’s anyone’s guess how much wedding invitation printing will cost when Sally and Frank’s little girl, Janet Wilson-Garcia-Smith-Jones, marries Roger Franklin-Horowitz-Piazza-Broodmier.

Now, don’t go troubling subscribers of the combo-married-name custom with these forward thinking details, lest you suffer the patented “you don’t get it, we’re too, um, forward thinking for that crazy-talk” eye-roll.

Please withhold my name; my spouse is still up for tenure.


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