Thursday, May 02, 2013

Graduation and names

I turned in my application for graduation the other day. Did you know, out of all the degrees Jeremy and I have (or almost have, and to be honest, it's mostly Jeremy - BA and almost-MA for me; BA, 2 MAs, and PhD for Jeremy), we have never once walked in or even attended any of our graduation ceremonies? (Except Jeremy says he was in the graduation ceremony for his Associates Degree (?) at Rick's College back in the day.) So this graduation for me is symbolic of all the ones we've missed, I suppose.

Anyway, on the application, it asked for my First Name, Father/Middle Name, Grandfather Name, and Family Name. What gives? - you might be asking. Well, the university is operating on the regional practice of people here taking their father's first name and grandfather's first name as middle names, followed by their family name (that's last name to us Americans). So a girl named Nora with a father named Ahmad and a grandfather named Abdullah, and family name Shamsi, would be named Nora Ahmad Abdullah Shamsi. Yes, even though Ahmad and Abdullah are both boys' names. And when Nora gets married, she won't change her name at all. Some people have many, many more middle names - as many of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers as they can remember, or at least fit on the page.

In any case, I was just happy to have four clear blanks in which to write my four names.

However, then the graduation registrar lady called. First, she wanted to make sure that my names as I listed them matched my passport (they do). Then she said that they only allow three of those names to actually be read at the ceremony. So which three of my four names did I choose??? It was an on-the-spot decision...but I chose to be Bridget Walker Palmer for the ceremony.

And you guys, that is the beauty of having kept all of my names, even after I got married (actually after I had Miriam, which is when I got around to legally adding "Palmer" to my name). If I want to be regular old Bridget Palmer, I can be. If I want to be Sister Palmer at church or Mrs. Palmer socially or at work, I can. But Maureen and Walker are still there and I can break them out any time I want, for example, in my official signature or what I put on professional or MA work - Bridget M. W. Palmer. There's no need to mess with hyphens. The IRS is the only entity that has ever specifically even asked if Walker is a middle name or a last name (for them, I made it a last name). My name is whatever I want it to be, because I still have all my options right there in front of me.

I know there used to be (is?) a practice of not giving girls middle names, in part because maybe it would complicate things when they got married. I understand this, even as I disagree with it. I submit for your consideration these little-known facts:

- You can keep your maiden name after you get married and still go by your husband's last name socially. Really! I did this for four years and no one ever noticed or cared.

- You can add your married last name after your maiden name - without a hyphen, if that scares you for some reason - and it works just fine.

Anyway, just some thoughts brought on by a graduation application. I'm happy to be  BMWP on my MA diploma and BWP at the ceremony.


Anna said...

I kept my maiden name, and added on my husband's name too. It just felt kind of barbaric to chop off one of my names. Also, I felt it would help genealogists down the line.

Also, FYI I finally opened up Internet Explorer and made your blog my home page so I could make comments again. You should feel honored. IE is probably having a party right now.

Crys said...

I kept all four names as well. And I gave my daughters middle names. It just seems right to have an identity that can encompose your past, present, and future. Many of the female physicians we know never formally take their husbands names because it is such a pain to deal with non matching names on your school transcripts and diploma. We've gone to all our graduations, but if it was up to me I wouldn't go :). They are boring and I can't stand listening to we are the future talks, but hopefully if you've never gone you'll find it fun :)

Señora H-B said...

I really like hearing about the different choices that women make when they get married. I work in Spanish academia, so a majority of the women in my department never do anything with name changes.

I got rid of my middle name only because I never really liked it very much. I hyphenate professionally because I kept getting called FirstName MarriedName. I did quite a bit of work as FirstName MaidenName. At church and socially I'm FirstName MarriedName.

Najla said...

In Spain it's way more simple, we have our name (some compound names like María Cruz, but it's just one name...) and then father family name PLUS mother family name.

We never need to change our names, so it's interesting to read about how people do it in other countries :)

Liz Johnson said...

I got married and changed my maiden name to my middle name because I didn't want to give it up. I'm glad I did, and I never cared for my middle name anyways (Anne).

That said, I'm crazy in love with the way it's done in Mexico - First Name, Middle Name, Father's Last Name, Mother's Maiden Name, Of Husband's Last Name. SO! I'm Elizabeth Anne Layton Gilchrist de Johnson. It's so good for genealogists. (Now if we could just get the men to add "of Wife's Maiden Name", it would be a perfect system.)

I'm so glad you get to be BMWP. That's awesome. And I would've been sad to lose the BMW initials, man.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I love that anything goes now. I suppose theoretically it was always that way, because as far as I know there has never been a law that a woman had to change her name to her husband's name.

My maiden name is now my middle name, and that was easy for me because I was given no middle name at birth (Byzantine Catholic tradition).

I agree w/ Liz--the tradition of attaching surnames from both sides is way cool (I'm a genealogist!)

Amanda Ball said...

I dropped my maiden name and took Tyler's name when I got married. I have toyed with the idea of adding it back in as I've gotten older, but also as I've gotten older, my relationship with my dad has deteriorated significantly and I'm not sure I want to share a name with him. I guess I could always put back in my mom's maiden name, but my mom would probably think that was crazy. Oh well, I guess it's about what I want my name to be anyway.

AmandaStretch said...

I had to go and get married right before my last semester of school. I never had a middle name, so making my maiden my middle name and taking his last name was an easy enough transition. I've legally changed it already and changed it with my school stuff as well. I'm excited to hear my new full name read out in a couple of weeks. Of course, I'm still having a hard time connecting my new last to myself - hearing it or saying it, since I didn't have it for 28.5 years, but that's getting better. Now, the only reason I'm even walking is because after walking three times already (HS, BA, MLIS), my new husband has never seen me do it, so this is for him. And me. I'm a little excited to put on some new hard earned regalia. :)

Myrna said...

One of Nancy's friend has no middle name and the last name Farr. She said that her parents always told that they gave her no middle name so she could use Farr as her middle name when she married. And now she is getting married...and her middle and last names will be Farr Barrs. "I bet my parents never thought that would happen," she quips.

Aimee said...

I dropped my maiden name (a very long last name) and took my husband's name, I have a middle name that I have kept. I don't regret it, but its a good point about genealogist having a much harder time tracking The only girls I know who didn't have middle names were my LDS friends, so I always assumed it was something the church did, but then, some LDS friends do have middle names. It was explained that it was so they could keep their maiden name and I thought that was a great idea. The US has never really allowed many variations than the typical first, middle, last. My sister kept her middle initial, maiden name and her married name, but she uses her middle name all the time, just not legally. I have always used the middle name to honor a relative (or two). My oldest son has a father/grandfather's middle name and my 2nd son has my father's middle name. If we have a daughter it will be a grandmother or great-grandmother's name or middle name, perhaps all of the above! Interesting topic.

Bridget said...

That is hilarious. I'm sure there are worse combinations, but that one sure has an interesting sound.

Bridget said...

I guess maybe it is a Mormon AND a Byzantine Catholic tradition. :)

Susanne said...

I didn't know some faiths discouraged giving middle names so girls could use their maiden names in that spot when they married! Hmmm!

So you went by Bridget Palmer years before you legally changed your name to this?

It's sad that the naming ways of many traditions seem to leave out mom's contribution to making the children. It's always about dads, isn't it?

I kept my maiden name in the middle, but wish now I'd not taken my husband's name at all. He's wonderful, but I am a blend of Kay-Truax-Fuqua-Wilson not a Tuck.

I always think of my middle name as part of me still even though it's legally no longer there. I always liked my initials SRF which my sister has as well so to distinguish the two, I was SuRF and she was StRF.

BTW, my neighbor's maiden name is Walker and it's her first born son's name as well.

I like Liz's Mexican-style name.

I always enjoy name talk...thanks for sharing. And congrats on your upcoming graduation!

Jeremy Palmer said...

Interesting post Bridget and congratulations on your impending graduation! Here is question: If a woman does not take her husband's last name, what would they choose as the last name of their (if any) children?

What if a woman hyphenated her last name with her husbands and did the same for her children. How does that work if her kids and grand kids do the same?

Im just curious if this has happened. Technically you could get a kid with a really long last name.

Jennifer said...

I love walking at graduation! I did it for my bachelor's and master's degrees. It feels so rewarding after doing something so challenging!

Bridget said...

I DO feel honored and I also feel like having a party right now with IE.

Susanne said...

I have a friend who believes a new couple should not take either last name, but come up with one of their own. I'm sure genealogists would be against this idea.


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