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surnames as first names
Posted: 24 August 2007 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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One English family of my acquaintance claims a distant, collateral sort of relationship with Joseph Addison (fl. ca. 1720, together with Steele). To this day, male members of the family are given the middle name “Addison”. I suppose they’re lucky it wasn’t Butcher and Steele.

(I can’t help thinking, it must be a very undistinguished family to claim a distinction like that. What have they been doing for the past 290 years? Nothing very remarkable, evidently.)

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Posted: 24 August 2007 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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aldiboronti - 24 August 2007 09:31 AM

happydog - 24 August 2007 07:24 AM
To me it’s like when people use etymology to redefine words. “Pretty used to mean silly so when you call someone pretty you’re really calling them silly.”

I think you (or they) mean nice; pretty originally meant cunning, crafty (from obs. prat, trick).

Right you are, aldi, I was mis-remembering.

Note to self: Drink the cheap stuff later in the day; start off with the good.

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Posted: 25 August 2007 12:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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lionello - 24 August 2007 11:48 AM

One English family of my acquaintance claims a distant, collateral sort of relationship with Joseph Addison (fl. ca. 1720, together with Steele). To this day, male members of the family are given the middle name “Addison”. I suppose they’re lucky it wasn’t Butcher and Steele.

(I can’t help thinking, it must be a very undistinguished family to claim a distinction like that. What have they been doing for the past 290 years? Nothing very remarkable, evidently.)

The Spectator of Addison and Steele still makes glorious reading after all these centuries (the modern Spectator magazine has no connection with the old one). Poor Addison, fancy making an enemy of the greatest satiric poet of all time!

Willing to wound and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault and hesitate dislike......

Like Cato give his little Senate laws
And sit attentive to his own applause
While wits and templars every sentence raise
And wonder with a foolish face of praise.
Who but must laugh if such a man there be?
Who would not weep if Atticus were he?

from the Epistle to Arbuthnot, Alexander Pope

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Posted: 25 August 2007 05:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I think there has always been a trend to name children after various branches of the family.  My father’s second name (the name by which he was universally called) was his mother’s maiden name. 

(In these days of PC, should we stop calling it a “maiden name” and call it instead a gender-non-specific “virgin name”?  Or have you any other suggestions?)

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Posted: 25 August 2007 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Some people call me by my middle name.  My middle name is my father’s middle name which was my grandfather’s _first_ name which was my great-grandfather’s brother’s middle name which was my 2G-grandfather’s middle name which was my 3G-grandfather’s middle name (born in 1814).  We have reason to believe the name comes from somewhere in his mother’s family but we haven’t been able to trace that line yet.  My great-grandfather’s middle name (born 1870) was his mother’s maiden name.  There’s also the possibility that my 3G-grandfather was named firstname lastname ourfamilyname after someone who was famous or important at the time but now forgotten as that was somewhat common in the 1800’s, e.g. George Washington Carver.  I have a grand uncle named for the town doctor (in case you thought that was only a movie/sitcom cliche), and it’s a very odd uncommon last name my cousins now have for middle names.

With the modern uncoupling of changes of status called marriage and virginity, forms asking for “Virgin Name” will seem overly personal and irrelevant (as well as giggle-inducing among the younger set).  Birth name already has a specific meaning and might be a cause of stress or confusion for adoptee’s, step-children, etc. who did not go by the name their birth name prior to their first marriage.  I’ll suggest neename (as in Jane Doe née Smith).

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Posted: 25 August 2007 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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ElizaD - 25 August 2007 05:43 AM

(In these days of PC, should we stop calling it a “maiden name” and call it instead a gender-non-specific “virgin name”?  Or have you any other suggestions?)

On marriage certificates in my part of the world (US Midwest) it’s “pre-married name.”

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Posted: 25 August 2007 01:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Oecolampadius - 25 August 2007 10:08 AM

On marriage certificates in my part of the world (US Midwest) it’s “pre-married name.”

To which Elizabeth Taylor could answer Taylor, Hilton, Wilding, Todd, Fisher, Burton, Burton, Warner, but not Fortensky.  Those were all names she had prior to being married. (^_^)

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Posted: 26 August 2007 01:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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ElizaD - 25 August 2007 05:43 AM

(In these days of PC, should we stop calling it a “maiden name” and call it instead a gender-non-specific “virgin name”?  Or have you any other suggestions?)

Well, to be very PC and feminist, I could suggest that the whole custom of the woman changing her name on marriage was discontinued, but that’s starting to move off-topic, so I won’t expatiate.

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Posted: 26 August 2007 02:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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There has been a lot of publicity lately regarding the new baby name trends that are arising. Baby Names News covers some of the latest headlines.  Unique and made-up names are slowly becoming a norm rather than an exception.

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Posted: 26 August 2007 06:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I could suggest that the whole custom of the woman changing her name on marriage was discontinued, but that’s starting to move off-topic, so I won’t expatiate.

It’s not really off-topic. It does have to do with naming customs.

But it’s not really true. Sure, there are many women who do not take their husband’s surname, but most still do. (At least I think it’s most; I don’t know the statistics off the top of my head. In any case, the practice of taking a husband’s name, while diminished, is far from gone.)

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Posted: 26 August 2007 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Many thanks for clarifying this naming process for me and correcting stuff especially regarding Kirk Douglas - major gaffe there. Another early one I have just come across is Brit PM Spencer Perceval, shot in 1812, but what you said in various posts about how these names came about explains much. I still find names like Jackson Pollock and Todd Benjamin ‘arresting’ in a way, but this isn’t a names site as Dave said.

Mind you, I looked up Parker Posey in wikipedia and her father named her after a 1960s model called Suzy Parker it says. It seems such an unusual and bizarre name to give a baby girl. Why not Suzy or Suzanne? Mr Posey had clearly never seen the rubbish 1960S TV show Thunderbirds. They based Noel Gallagher on Parker.

Wilton Bede might work for my next-born ‘irregardless’ of gender, however - there’s a lilt to that!

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Posted: 27 August 2007 04:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Dave Wilton - 26 August 2007 06:23 AM

I could suggest that the whole custom of the woman changing her name on marriage was discontinued, but that’s starting to move off-topic, so I won’t expatiate.

It’s not really off-topic. It does have to do with naming customs.

But it’s not really true. Sure, there are many women who do not take their husband’s surname, but most still do. (At least I think it’s most; I don’t know the statistics off the top of my head. In any case, the practice of taking a husband’s name, while diminished, is far from gone.)

Indeed, and I wasn’t intending to imply that it had, only to express a wish that it should.  I can’t think of a single good reason for the continuance of the custom and I’d be interested to hear any suggestions.

Also, I believe that the practice of referring to the wife of John Smith as Mrs Jane Smith, as opposed to Mrs John Smith, is relatively recent (mid to late C20th) and that before that Mrs Jane Smith would have been the divorced wife of John Smith.  Can anyone confirm or refute this?

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Posted: 27 August 2007 06:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Mrs. John Smith was certainly the preferred form until a few decades ago. But I’m not sure how old that naming convention is. It could well be that “Mrs. Jane Smith” was the common form some centuries ago. These things go in and out of fashion.

I’m a bit skeptical of whether Mrs. Jane Smith was ever commonly understood to mean a divorced woman (based on no evidence either way, just that it sounds suspicious). I know some people have claimed that it should be the proper form for a divorcee, but I don’t know if it was ever widely used. Divorces were relatively rare back then and when they did occur, the woman would not advertise the fact and most social contacts would have been cut because of the “scandal,” necessitating even less of a need to make the distinction in formal address.

[ Edited: 27 August 2007 06:19 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 27 August 2007 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Regarding divorcees, I believe I have seen this in old etiquette books.  I have an Emily Post from the 1950s (fascinating reading, by the way) and if I recall correctly it is given there.  On the other hand, it did always have a prescriptive air to it, as if this were more the way the writer thought things ought to be done rather than how they actually were done.

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Posted: 27 August 2007 06:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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In the 19th and 20th centuries it was common for boys to be given surnames as first names (e.g. Stanley, Howard) but rare for girls. But in the first half of the 18th century the Earl of Wemyss had one of his daughters christened “Walpole”, presumably for some family connection. (There’s a fine portrait of her by Allan Ramsay, painted in 1754.)

It may be sheer sexist prejudice, but I feel that while being “the Honourable Walpole Wemyss” would have been tough even for a boy, somehow being “The Lady Walpole Wemyss” must have been even worse.

(The surname is pronounced “Weems”, BTW.)

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