As a Jones, I’m blessed with a name that’s common as muck. There are thousands of us, enjoying the simple life alongside the Smiths and Johnsons of this world, never having to care how we spell our surname until a lengthy, rage-inducing conversation with an Indian call centre is necessary. It’s great. I’ve no need to ever explain my name, or explain to others why we chose that name – it just is.
But for some reason there’s an ongoing trend in Britain for the double-barreled/worded surname. Once meant for royalty, to establish one’s poshness, we’ve now got surnames coming out of our ears. Most of them aren’t even natural fits, as if a rampant four-year old has run through the Deed Poll offices with scissors and a Pritt Stick.
I don’t have a problem with wild or interesting names; I love that a guy I know is named after his father’s favourite metal (Steel) and there’s no doubting I might actually like Iggy Azalea more if she’d kept her birth name of Amethyst. But a surname is sacred and a mark of honour. It’s a membership, a display of allegiance, a nod to families old and new steeped in tradition and value. There’s no need to fuck it up with hyphens and mashed-up concatenations.
If you’re inflicted with a crap surname like Cockshaft, simply take the other person’s name when you marry. Why claim to be married when you both have different surnames? You’re supposed to be unified, not just a big fan of that person. Every time I see a double-barreled surname, I know that there’s an awkward woman somewhere loving that she got her way. She’s playing havoc with record keepers. She wants to remind everybody that she’s still the same person yet slightly more fancy, as if changing your last name alters your personality. Simultaneously acting as a middle class wannabe and subconsciously preparing for divorce already, it isn’t far removed from the Mrs Bucket/Bouquet of Keeping Up Appearances.
You’re not Oprah Winfrey and you don’t need a stage name to maintain your ‘brand’. Why not go all out and do a Cher by dropping the last name entirely? It’s already in effect, with the queen of chavs herself (Cheryl Cole) refusing to go by her current name Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, instead asking to just be referred to as Cheryl as if it’s unique enough to work. If your music’s not unique enough to stand the test of time, a name like Cheryl won’t either.
What happens when double-barreled adults get married a second time – do we end up with triple or quadruple barreled surnames? Do we go the way of the Brazilian footballers and incorporate seven or eight names, and just give ourselves one-word nicknames to simplify things?
Naming children is one of life’s greatest freedoms yet I’d rather we named our kids Batman or Hannibal than see them suffer the indignation of a Smith-Ramsay hybrid. Be unique, but don’t be pretentious. Names are there to identify us, but also to confirm the union of two people and assign the offspring of those two people with a family name. Not names, name. Unless you’re Greek and suffer from dyslexia, there’s no need to have a surname that has to bend on the back of a football shirt. Nobody needs hyphens or spaces in their surname. It’s a surname, singular. Stop fucking with our heads.