November 25, 2011

More great moments in 21st Century hyphenated names

A reader sends me a couple of examples from his local newspaper further helping explain why hyphenated surnames are receding from fashion among the educated classes in America:
"Jose Torrez-Gonzales, 28, and Marcos Gomez-Perez, 21, both illegal immigrants from Mexico" were arrested for stabbing a woman to death in a Walmart parking lot.

"A man charged with fatally stabbing a New York woman during an apparent carjacking attempt in a Walmart parking lot has pleaded not guilty.  Luis Rodriguez-Flamenco was arraigned Wednesday in Albion Town Court on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of 45-year-old Kathleen Byham."

The use of a hyphen would appear to be an attempt at assimilation to American norms, since the Spanish tradition is to not use one. For example, actress Helena Bonham Carter, whose maternal grandfather was a Spanish diplomat, doesn't use a hyphen while her distant cousin actor Crispin Bonham-Carter does.

On a more philosophical level than Walmart parking lot stabbings, I would argue that all surname traditions will be inherently unsatisfactory in some sense or another because the reality of sexual reproduction is incompatible with our feelings of individualism and desire to be remembered as an individual. From two-to-the-nth your genes have come, and, if you are lucky, to two-to-the-nth your genes shall return. 

25 comments:

Polynices said...

I always liked the comment that you should ask a woman who hyphenates her name after marriage why she's so attached to her father's name. What about her mom's maiden name?

Goes to show that naming conventions are all hopelessly arbitrary and you're dropping nearly as many last names when you hyphenate as when you just take one.

Anonymous said...

2 factorial is 2.

Steve, I think you mean 2 to the n.

Jon Claerbout said...

Not the factoial, two to the Nth. Factorial is much much bigger.

Pimpinela Azul Eléctrico said...

I don't know about all the Spanish countries, but in Spain we use officially two surnames (father & mother).

Maybe that's the reason they hiphenated their two surnames, as in the USA there's just one of them.

That's why is relatively rare among Spaniards to have a middle name, being unnecessary to be distinguished.

The wife, on another hand, doesn't lose her maiden name at marriage. That makes a lot easier to find an old flame in the Internet

Victor Morton said...

I suspect that while Hispanics in the US are indeed assimilating to US norms in hyphenating compound last names, it has little to do with feminism or the slatternness it encourages, but a simple desire to avoid confusion. The Spanish and English naming conventions have always been different (the concept of the "maiden name" doesn't really exist in Spanish) and some cognitive dissonance will happen even if every person was a virgin until his wedding night.

Anonymous said...

When women use their maiden name they are really just using their father's name.

Mac said...

"I always liked the comment that you should ask a woman who hyphenates her name after marriage why she's so attached to her father's name. What about her mom's maiden name?"

Interesting. I never thought of it that way.
Marilyn vos Savant suggested once that sons should carry their father's last name, and daughters should carry the mother's last name.
Not that I agree with that, just putting it out there.

There was a survey conducted a few months ago in which 2/3 of respondents said it was best if women took their husband's name after marriage, and half said they would support a law mandating that. Given the times I was pretty surprised to read that.

Personally, I'm not fond of hyphenated names . When I hear a woman's hyphenated name my first reaction is "feminist harpie". When I hear a man's hyphenated name my first reaction is "pretentious bastard". Good lord, how many names do you need?

Anonymous said...

[In Spain and in Spanish-speaking countries (e.g. Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela), people traditionally have two family names: the first family name is the paternal one, inherited from the father's paternal family name, while the second family name is the maternal one, inherited from the mother's paternal family name. In most situations only the first one is used. In some instances, when an individual's given name and first family name are too common (such as in José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mario Vargas Llosa), both family names are used (though not necessarily both given names).]
Wikipedia

Anonymous said...

I think that Hispanics hyphenate not to assimilate, but to emphasize that both last names are surnames. Emily Melendez Rodriguez will tend to be regarded as Emily Rodriguez. Emily Melendez-Rodriguez will be regarded as Emily Melendez-Rodriguez.

Keeping the maiden name is still pretty common among wives who have a professional record. Emily Madison, PhD in Biophysics, has a non-feminist set of branding reasons to remain Emily Madison when she marries Lawrence Jefferson. But her kids will be Jeffersons.

--Discordiax

john barebones smith said...

"Good lord, how many names do you need?" Three's enough.

Anonymous said...

I like the Icelandic naming convention:

"Leif Ericson"

His daughter Erica is "Erica Leifdottir."

Anonymous said...

Note that both those articles relate to the same crime.

ironrailsironweights said...

After reading this I began to recall all the women with hyphenated names I've known over the years. There weren't many; even including the vaguest acquaintances I was able to come up with only eleven. What's most interesting is that with one possible exception, not one of these eleven hyphenated women was born after 1960. It sure looks as if this is one fashion that's well out of date.

My mother and one of my aunts (my mother's sister-in-law) have the same first and last names, and until their retirements were both in the same line of work in the same area. From time to time, when necessary to avoid confusion, they would use their maiden names as their middle names without hyphens, as in Mary Jones Smith and Mary Brown Smith.

Peter

Alat said...

Steve, hyphenation in Hispanics has much more prosaic explanation: they're trying to avoid confusion.

For instance, in the name "Jose Torrez-Gonzales", the father's name is Torrez and the mother's name is Gonzales. If you were to shorten his name to use only one surname, it would become "Jose Torrez" or "Jose Torrez G.".

Of course, this would cause confusion, as an American would normally shorten the name to "Jose T. Gonzales", which is wrong. So hyphenation in Hispanic names is due to the need to avoid this error, which arises from the difference between English-language and Spanish-language naming rules.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

As a suburban hippie from a prestigious Eastern college in the 70's, I thought the hyphenation idea for the kids was just great. It sounded elegant; it gave women identity; it told you some history.

Over time and actual experience, my opinion has shifted to something like Mac's: an unusual percentage of the women were strident, thin-skinned, difficult. Many of the children were entitled. It seemed more a marker of wealth than anything.

I don't think it had to be that way - but it is.

Crawfurdmuir said...

What the British call a double-barreled name originates with the marriage of a gentleman to an heraldic heiress - i.e., a woman who is the heiress to the lands, name, and arms of a noble or gentle family because there is no male heir. The husband attaches the name to his own by deed-poll, and displays the heiress's arms in an escutcheon of pretense upon his own; the children quarter their mother's arms with their father's, and the names descend thence to their progeny This essentially aristocratic practice is the result of a desire - often mandated in the marriage contract or in the will of the heiress's father - to perpetuate the name and arms of his family. This consideration would be absent in the usual non-aristocratic marriage, where -
whether an only child or not - the bride would normally take her husband's name.

It is a source of some amusement that feminists in the U.S., who are typically of left-wing egalitarian sentiments, have adopted what is, on the other side of the Atlantic, considered a practice of "toffs" and an identifier not perhaps of aristocracy, but at the very least or aristocratic pretensions.

There is a story about the English historian Hugh Trevor-Roper (ennobled toward the end of his life as Lord Dacre) that during a conversation with a member of a noble family he became increasingly annoyed by the latter's continual reference to him as "Roper". Finally he could stand it no longer, and corrected him: "It's Trevor-Roper." The aristocrat supposedly replied, "My dear fellow, I hardly know you that well."

Anonymous said...

On a historical note, I believe that the whole concept of surnames originated with the Romans, who in turn were inspired by the Etruscans.
The univrsal practice beforehand (still followed in remote places and with Indonesia's Suharto), was that an inividual only had one given name - something that only slaves in Rome had.For example all ancient Greeks only had one name, as did Britons, Gauls, Germans etc.
Apparently Scandinavia kept this practice right up to relatively recent times hence theproliferation of '-son(sen)' names in Scandinavia.When surnames were finally required by law, people just followed the ancient custom of distinguishing themselves by the father's name ie Sven son of Carl.
Russians still keep the father's name as a middle name ie Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin.
In the British Isles, the Welsh were latecomers to surnames.Hence the proliferation of Jones, Davis, Edwards, Thomas etc etc - folk just took the Dad's name as the surname after ancient tradition.
I believe Italians have the oldest set of surnames in the world.

Anonymous said...

+ 1 Crawfurdmuir, funniest comment I have read on Steve's site, you must be a "toff"! Although I find it hard to think Lord Dacre would take exception to being called Roper, he would have been called far worse at prep school.

In South Africa, we hear of the well known Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and all the other other anti-Imperialists raging about the injustices of the past ( and rightly so) without any sense of irony.

Yours, etc

Anonymous said...

Bonham Carter was her paternal grandfather's surname

Crawfurdmuir said...

@Anon. of 11/26 at 1:36PM - the story about Lord Dacre is widespread, but without a reliable source - probably apocryphal. Nonetheless, Trevor-Roper was noted for his snobbery and desire to be associated with his social betters; the anecdote is a reference to that.

Steve Sailer said...

How about the two Baron Cohens in England? Why is one distant cousin hyphenated while the other is not?

Anonymous said...

An interesting anecdote on nomenclauture for British readers of a certain age:

Back in the golden age of British TV in the 1960s and 70s, there were two outstandingly popular TV shows (one for kids, one for adults) being broadcast on British TV.The kiddies' one was 'Sooty and Sweep' which featured a teddy bear glove puppet wielded by one Harry Corbett, an avuncular elderly Yorkshireman and veteran children's entertainer.The BBC, however, broadcast the extremely popular comedy 'Steptoe and Son' (apparently the entire nation ground to a halt when it was broadcast), a sitcom about an oedipal rag and bone man son (Harold, played by Harry H. Corbett), trapped in a dysfunctional relationship with his overbearing unhygienic father Albert (Wifrid Brambell).
It was a coinicidence of striking magnitude that two performers shared the same relatively uncommon name combination simultaneously (Harry Corbett).Equity, the British actors' trade uinon has a rule that in cases of shared names, the first registered performer has priority, and any namesakes must cahnge their 'stage name', - hence the ridiculous David Walliams with an 'a'.
So, the Steptoe actor acted within the rules and was always billed as 'Harry H. Corbett'.
When asked what the H. stood for, he would always reply 'hanything'.

corvinus said...

In the British Isles, the Welsh were latecomers to surnames.Hence the proliferation of Jones, Davis, Edwards, Thomas etc etc - folk just took the Dad's name as the surname after ancient tradition.
I believe Italians have the oldest set of surnames in the world.


That's interesting how the Welsh came to surnames very late. Ireland is at the other extreme, with very old surnames. When someone from Wales came over to Ireland, they were just given the surname "Walsh" (or its Irish equivalent).

Lise said...

I think the hyphens are errors on the journalists part. They likely are less familiar with Spanish naming conventions than feminazi ones.

Drawbacks said...

Apparently, in olden times in (parts, at least, of) the Netherlands, children would take the parent's surname that had higher social status. When Vennegoor married Hesselink, however, they couldn't decide which name was better, so they used both. Hence, the Dutch soccer player, Jan Vennegoor of (i.e. 'or') Hesselink.
Don't know how they decided on VofH versus HofV, though.