Once upon a time when a woman, say Miss Sally Smith, married a man, say, Mr John Brown. She took his name and became Mrs Sally Brown, in an even earlier era, she was known as Mrs John Brown.
For generations, that was accepted as the right and proper way of arranging things.
Then came the feminist movement and even after marriage the blushing bride was still known as Sally Smith, although the “Miss” was contracted to “Ms”. Nowadays it seems every woman on the planet with the exception of my mummy is “Ms” and the use of “Miss” now is probably limited to females under the age of twelve in obscure and undiscovered jungle communities.
It reminds me of a woman I know who refused to take her husband’s name because, as she explained, “I am not going to be known by a man’s name” which was odd because the name she kept was her father’s name.
The next development was the sharing, caring and equal marriage – a true, civilised partnership – where the happy couple let it be known that, henceforth, they would be known as Sally and John Smith-Brown, or perhaps, Brown-Smith. How they decided which name came first is a mystery -– perhaps it was decided by drawing one surname from a hat or perhaps it was decided by the devoted couple arm-wrestling.
The use of hyphenated names was once the preserve of the English aristocracy and those aspiring to be seen as upper class. Snobs all.
Back in late 1993, there was some silly controversy over a proposed dining table for the Prime Minister’s Official Residence, The Lodge, and PM Keating was subject to some asinine criticism, especially from certain society ladies. Never a shrinking violet, Keating let fly in a John Laws radio interview at those who were criticising him and his wife over the matter.
“Look, I think this is the revenge of the hyphenated names,” Keating declared, adding when asked, “The hyphenated names. It’s all the people with their hyphens showing didn’t you see? This is more double names in this stunt than you have ever seen in your life. It is all the … basically it is either the blue rinse set of the hyphenated names striking back. Whenever you read it there is Dawson-Damer, there is all these sorts of hyphenated names…basically it is the old Tory antique club…”
I cannot recall exactly but I presume a Mrs Dawson-Damer was among the public critics which got Keating agitated. If he had really wanted to insult the Dawson-Damer family he could have pointed out that they are related to the Earl of Portalington , an Irish peerage, which is the very lowest rank of the peerage who were never entitled to sit in the House of Lords and who are very definitely “the second eleven”. Being a republican, Keating probably didn’t know that.
Let us presume that the Smith-Browns have a boy Fred who meets a nice girl Mary, the product of an equally caring, sharing and equal relationship, the Black-Thompsons and love blooms and they marry. Will they be as equally caring, sharing and equal as their parents and now become Fred and Mary Smith-Brown-Black-Thompson – in whatever order they decide?
When will this lunacy stop? When great-grandchildren have a hyphenated name that is not only nearly impossible to fit on the birth certificate but every single government form?
It has happened.
One example is the British MP Richard Grosvenor Blunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, a former Coldstream Guards officer and, surprise, surprise, a Conservative. Wisely, he prefers to be known as Richard Drax although he hasn’t actually disowned his illustrious name. But even gentle, rolling and rural Dorset in south-west England on the Channel coast can only take so much of silly tradition and even sillier names. And, I suppose, the voting paper wasn’t wide enough for his full moniker.
British Conservative PM David Cameron in 2009 appealed to Tory MPs and candidates to shrug off antiquated extended surnames in 2009 to improve the image of the Conservative Party.
So while the British PM was appealing for a more modern image people who probably aren’t likely to vote Conservative – or, here, Liberal or National – are busy resuscitating the tradition. Think of Senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Peter Whish-Wilson who are both Greens although the Liberals have Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.
The fact is that this silly fad of hyphenating was surely destined to hit a wall after one generation.
British man Ian McKenna-Thomas met a nice girl with the surname of Camera-Smith and they considered marriage.
“So, sure enough, we had the potential of being the McKenna-Thomas Camera-Smith household which sounded too much like a law firm, really,” he told British media.
Like any good boy, he went to his mother for advice and her comment, according to Ian, was basically, “You figure it out.”
Mother love can only extend so far, can’t it?