What’s in a (sur)name?

Paging Dr Dick, paging Dr. Dick..

I was thinking the other day about surnames. A friend of mine, who has no sons, bemoaned the fact ( a number of years ago) that his name ‘Messervy’ will be dying out with him – it’s an old French name and he can trace his family tree back to the time when the Normans invaded England around 1066. He has a huge dusty book with all the family tree in it and it seems ironic that someone who has got so much history down in black and parched brown is finally going to write the last chapter.

Surnames are a funny business, some folk are very proud of their family history and some not so proud but it does seem a bit sexist that it’s usually the woman who loses her maiden name and takes on the husbands (generally). This of course means she has to change her passport, bank details and a whole host of other official documents where-as the bloke doesn’t have to lift a finger and I’m not sure that’s completely fair – or a good way to start a marriage.

I know there are reasons for this from ages gone past and I know there are numerologists and suchlike that will tell you it’s got to do with balance but this is the 21st century and I’m not sure we should follow these conventions simply because that’s the way it’s always been done.

The way I see it is that when two people come together in partnership and marriage then they create a new entity, something unique and I reckon as a mark of that newness then the couple should be allowed to choose a new surname for themselves, perhaps something that they wish the marriage to grow into or perhaps one that reflects who they are now and not their history, I know certain names will always have connotations to them;   Rockafella, Kennedy, Bush but we don’t get to choose any of our names, our parents do, so perhaps choosing a new surname is making a statement that you have finally grown up and are ready to strike out with your own family.

This means of course that both partners have to make equal efforts to change all official documents and titles but that to me seems fairer. As for my friend, well, two of his grandchildren have got ‘Messervy’ as their third Christian names.. :)