Saturday, March 10, 2012

Name Blending

What's in a name? There's quite a lot in a name, I believe. Among so many other things, your name identifies you to others and describes who you are in some way, and it also can describe how a family is related to each other.

Jaymz, Daniel, and I are changing our last name.

Here's the story:

Several years ago when we were preparing to get married, Jaymz and I spent some time discussing our various last name options. We talked about the possibility of both of us keeping our names as-is: Jaymz would continue to be a Reiswig, and I would be a Temple—but then we couldn't agree on what we'd like to do with our future kids' last names. More importantly than that, we both really liked the idea of our whole family having the same last name; it felt like a really nice way to unify ourselves as a family. We toyed around with the idea of Jaymz changing his last name to Temple, but that didn't feel quite right, either. Neither of us was too keen on the idea of a hyphenated last name (Temple-Reiswig and Reiswig-Temple just felt too clunky). We briefly considered a blended name, but didn't come up with any we liked or that didn't sound ridiculous (Reiswemple, anyone?), so that solution was abandoned. Eventually, we decided to settle for the default (most socially-accepted) thing: I added Reiswig to the end of my name and adopted it as my new last name, and that was that.

Since we got married, the name solution we chose just hasn't ever set quite right with either of us. As names go, I don't really identify with Reiswig (nor with Temple). Having grown up with an easily-pronounceable last name, I've quickly grown tired of having people mispronounce Reiswig and having to explain it to everyone phonetically. (My standard line is, "Rice-wig, like you have rice in your hair.") Also, the whole Wife taking on her Husband's identity thing just doesn't fit either of us. (This is by no means meant as an offense to other women who have changed their surnames to their spouses', only that this is how I've come to realize that I feel about my own name).

So for about two years now, Jaymz and I have been revisiting an earlier approach that we discarded too soon: trying again to come up with a new last name for our family, one that is blended from some of the letters in both of our original names. Our respective feminist sides feel like this is the most appropriate solution to this name conundrum, given that it's important to us for our nuclear family to share a last name.

Suzanne playing the Name Game
To help us visually play with the options, we set aside some of Daniel's alphabet blocks with all the letters of our names. After months and months of playing around with those (with a few good last name contenders, but no clear winners), we decided to try a different approach: crowd sourcing.  Jaymz began to write a web application which would serve as a sort of game for people to try their hand at making a new name for us. We called the game "Name Blender," and I drafted a giveaway contest for my blog as incentive for friends, family, and even strangers to play the game and vie to win prizes for coming up with our favorite last name options.

We were working to get it ready to publish right around the time of our Starbucks anniversary...but then it took a little longer than we thought, and, well, it just hasn't been as high of a priority since we've been going through the house buying process.

My sister Suzanne came to town to visit us about a month ago, and at one point she was idly playing with the alphabet blocks, coming up with funny words. Jaymz and I figured that since the "Name Game" contest was about to go live, we would tell her about what was in the works, and let her know that she could feel free to play with the blocks with that in mind (if she wanted). A few days later, Suzanne presented me with a list of favorite last names that she had come up with, and I tried my hardest not to react when I saw our new last name on that tiny paper. I thanked her for playing the game, and I filed the name away in my mind to talk to Jaymz about later.

When I told Jaymz the name so we could begin to discuss it as an option, he said, "It's perfect." We both really like the sound of it, it fits well with all three of our first names, and it's easy to pronounce and spell. So that settles it: our family has a new surname!

More to come: on the name itself, and what exactly we're doing to celebrate this occasion.

Did you (or do you plan to) change your name when getting married? How did your family make this decision? I'd love to hear your story!

25 comments:

  1. Are you kidding me? All that build up and you don't share the name!? ;-)

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  2. You are such a tease!! I wonder if Tom would go for this. Although, being a Junior, his family would probably really be upset if he changed his surname.

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  3. I am sorry for the huge teaser! We will definitely reveal the name sooner than later, and I appreciate your patience. ;)

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  4. What a cool idea!

    I'm pretty happy with having taken my husband's name but I really love this all the same - it seems like something that would have a lot of meaning indeed. Looking forward to hearing what it is!

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  5. ahhhhh now i am dieing to know! so cool!

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  6. love it! mark and i toyed with taking my mother's maiden name but the process to do so is really complicated. i ended up hyphenating my last name, mark kept his, and the boys have his last name. can't wait to hear your new last name!

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  7. What a fun way to come up with a shared name, I love it! Thank you for sharing that, Amy. :)

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  8. Love that this was all worked out with alphabet blocks! I have always thought the blended last name option was the sweetest and most romantic one out there. Like you, I was born with a super easy, phonetic last name. Every time I have to give my information to someone over the phone, I kick myself for letting it go. And I get lots of mail for Melissa Kemembo.

    Can't wait to hear the name! :)

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  9. When we got married, I gladly took my husband's last name. I hated my last names, yes I had two, and I liked his. So it was a simple decision for me. :)

    Can't wait to hear what the name is!

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  10. We had this problem too... Our kids are hyphenated, but my husband says we've just passed the problem on to them! That's our job as parents, give them a little material to hae us over!

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  11. I wrote a bit about our last names at the end of this post. The post by Blue Milk (linked there) really did help me feel better about the Critter's hyphenated last name.

    But my husband's objections to inventing our own name really did upset me. (1) He didn't like the idea of having a name disconnected from our families' past. Well, I said, what about all of the mothers' names that have vanished in the patriarchal practice of passing on only the father's name? (Actually, one of my ideas for coming up with a new family name was to see if we had any Irish ancestors with the same name. So the new name wouldn't be so much a new name as a restored mother's name. But there were no shared names in our lineages.) (2) As an artist, he felt that he couldn't really change his name, because his name was so closely tied to his identity as an artist. Welcome to the dilemma of professional women everywhere, I told him.

    Looking forward to learning what your new name will be!

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  12. Genealogists are going to love you! ;) I agree with you completely about names being important. When I was 21 I decided to not change my last name when I got married. Two years after that revelation, I was planning a wedding. The fun thing was that my fiance wanted to change his last name to mine. It was a perfect situation for us as I've been wanting to keep my last name, he wasn't fond of his (the length and pronunciation), yet we could still share one family name for our nuclear family. :)

    Can't wait to find out what the name is!

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  13. AHHH!!! THIS IS SO AWESOME!! I have never heard of anyone else coming up with a completely different last name!!! But THAT'S WHAT MY HUSBAND AND I DID!!! We know what our last name will be eventually. We haven't changed it yet because of an upcoming out of country trip. I don't want to deal with having to change all my identification beforehand, so for now we both have a different last name. Our daughter is due in three weeks. She will be the first in our family with OUR last name. For a few months, our family of 3 will have three last names. That will be kind of strange :) but ultimately we will all have the same last name, and it won't be his clan's surname. It won't be my clan's surname. It will be OUR CLAN'S surname. And we are totally psyched. I am kind of giddy that you're doing the same thing :) congrats!

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  14. that is supposed to say "three *different* last names"

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  15. Great post. Totally excited to learn what your new last name is! :D

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  16. I didn't think twice about taking my husband's name and it fits me perfectly. To me, it represents the fact that he is my other half. After a year of utility and cable companies unable to confirm my identity, my mother said to me the other day..."Well, it would all be much easier if you'd just hyphenated your name!" I've decided it's best to ignore her most times.

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  17. I am conservative, so when we got married, I took my husband's last name. I think this is correct, although I do not see anything wrong in order to keep maiden name.

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  18. Are you forgetting that your "whole family" involves your descendants, people who have loved you into being for generations and generations, people who are you, and who are more than you? You might regret being so small minded, petty, and self absorbed. Why do you want to isolate yourselves as a separate family, and don't forget, you have set a precedent for your children to some day shake this new "name".

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  19. I think family has become very expanded in our current world and the idea that your identity is connected to a surname is become an ideal of a bygone era. When you are called to a name that shows respect to all of your family: using family names to forge your own, you are not doing anyone a disservice. My husband and I used family themes and our own spin to decide my middle child's middle name and I LOVE telling the story. I think doing the same for your family is great.

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  20. There are ways to preserve family history while changing last names, if that is what you choose. :)

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  21. I can't believe you STILL haven't told us your name!! :)

    I think this is such a cool idea. I love the idea of having a shared name that's deeply meaningful to both of you.

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  22. You know something I just realized? Both yours and your husband's original surnames may end up having more meaning for your children than most because he will have such a story attached to them. How many of us just have our last names and hardly ever think about them? Something like this would motivate me to not only be proud of an original surname, but to discover all I could about what went into making it. Certainly NOT a loss of family pride and history in that respect.

    Just a random thought I had and had to share. :) ~Kelly @BecomingCrunchy

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  23. I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that all this time I have been pronouncing your last name wrong. RIZE-wig. (Don't tell Jaymz I said that.)

    When we got married, both my husband and I took my maiden name as our middle names. I use my full name for professional purposes, but just the last name in social circles. It works for us.

    I think it's really awesome you guys are going with a blended name. And I promise to learn to pronounce this one right.

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  24. Wow, this is super innovative. I have never heard of anybody doing this before. Go you!! And you know what happened to my surname...

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