What’s in a name?

January 31, 2014

Strange news from France, where married women will now be addressed in official correspondence by their maiden names.  The idea is to correct gender inequality. I’m sorry, but referring to a woman by her father’s surname instead of by her husband’s is not going to shake the foundations of the patriarchy, is it?

Their intentions are good, but there are more fundamental issues which they might think about. For instance, the very word wife in French is just the same as the word for woman. So a man is saying ‘my woman’ when he refers to his wife. Whereas a woman will usually talk about her ‘mari’, husband, or ‘epoux’, spouse. And, every time you go into a shop, the proprietor will weigh up your age and likely marital status and ‘Mademoiselle’ or ‘Madame’ you accordingly. It’s all pretty caveman stuff. Let’s not even talk about the Pantheon, where France buries its glorious dead. Oh, all right then – it’s stuffed to the gills with men, while there are only two women there – Marie Curie, and somebody whose husband didn’t want to leave her behind. Meanwhile, Francois Hollande throws France’s first lady out of the Elysee because he’s tired of her. Nice.

I’m jaded, I know, because I find the whole surname business a bit of a bind. I’ve had three – a maiden name I was very happy to ditch, my first married name which I did really like, and now my second married name, which no one can spell, pronounce or understand, but which, obviously, means a lot to me. I’ve got bank accounts in two different names, two email accounts, an NHS card in my first name, one of my daughters’  schools knows me by my first married name and at the other I go by the second married name. My early journalistic career was in my first name, my books are published in my second and I use my new name for work nowadays. Sometimes I feel like the least successful spy of all time.

Maybe the solution is to go a bit Spanish, and tack together the father and the mother’s surnames, and maybe stick the husband’s on the end? Or, in my case – maybe not.

Names: Sean Connery's not the only one who finds the whole business confusing

Names: Sean Connery’s not the only one who finds the whole business confusing

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  • Naomi Richards February 5, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I know plenty of women who have gone hyphenated or have just kept their maiden name for work and married pone for everything else. I just changed everything. I think any other way and I would been confused about who I was!!!!

    • Dulwich Divorcee February 12, 2014 at 11:30 am

      I must say it’s all a bit confusing … I think I should have changed everything the first time round but I had a professional byline that I couldn’t really change … now I’m stuck with a big mishmash!

  • Jo Warren February 6, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Do you know what has happened to Dulwich mum, just realised I’m not getting her Twitter updates anymore. I think you were friends? 🙂

    • Dulwich Divorcee February 12, 2014 at 11:29 am

      Hi there, yes we are/were friends, I’ve no idea what’s become of her recently though – she isn’t updating her blog any more but that has the most recent email address for her so I would send her a message via that if I were you – and please tell her I said hi!