Q&A: What’s in a name?

Today's question is from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. This one made me laugh, but only because it would piss me off to be on the receiving end of it:

"What do you say to family members who just aren't that dumb, but are acting like idiots?

In our family, we have four last names: MyLastName, Husband'sLastName, StepDaughter'sLastName and just to make things fun, we gave the last two kids in the family a hyphenated last name that is both ridiculously long and difficult for strangers to pronounce, MyLastName-Husband'sLastName.  Apparently we hate the kids.

Naturally, my in laws deliberately ignore everybody's actual last names and address everyone as Husband'sLastName, which is particularly confusing for StepDaughter, who will pick up invitations and cards and say "But…that's not my name."  She's old enough to know the difference.  For the record, her last name is neither long nor difficult to spell, nor has it changed recently.

I'm considering sending everyone a card with the correct names on it so they can keep it by the phone or something and stop with the "Oh, really?  I had no idea" crap.  Other ideas?  It's easy to say "Oh, gosh, it just doesn't matter," but eventually it does, as evidenced by my stepdaughter's reaction to her mangled name.

Second problem: One of the youngest babies has a very long name.  It's a beautiful name, and we love it, but it's also four syllables long and kind of overly formal for a teeny weeny little baby who still poops in her underpants.  Because of this, we have assigned her a teeny weeny little nickname.  It's a little old fashioned, but other than that, perfectly acceptable and very common.  We're not calling her Fifi Trixibell or Kal El, is what I'm saying.

I assume you won't be shocked when I tell you that the inlaws now refuse to use this nickname and insist on calling Not-Fifi by her full unweildy name?  This is not surprising, right?  And I know.  "She's a baby, who cares?  Why give her the name if you don't want people to use it?"  Well, because Not-Fifi knows her nickname.  She loves the sound of it, responds to it, and giggles when people say it over and over.  Not-Fifi does not know her full name.  It has as much meaning to her as Asparagus or Albuquerque, so I have to say, it kind of annoys me when my inlaws try to get her attention by using (to her) a nonsensical word.  They're starting to act like they think she's slow, since she 'doesn't respond to her name', despite our repeated suggestions to use her nickname if they want her to give a crap.

Third…I am just tired of this.  Calling people by their correct names is just not difficult.  It's Basic Respect 101.  A few of my inlaws have names that I don't care for or have unusual spellings, but I use their chosen names and spell the darned things correctly.  How big of a stick is it going to take to get them to return the courtesy?

Oh!  Bonus!  I just found out that in all the years I've been in this family (if my tenure with this family was a child, it would be in high school by now), they have never bothered to actually, uh, LEARN my last name, as in they still can't SPELL it.  Because my last name is half of the new kids' last names, this means that by extension, they don't really know the new grandkids' last names, either.

I think my head just exploded.  Sorry about the mess.

I know the standard patter of "Oh, it's no big deal, you can't change people, just ignore it," bla bla bla, but this is just full on ridiculous, and I think I'm about two years past ignoring this crap. What I need to know now is how to approach them, and if there is a place on the human skull that, if thwacked briskly, will knock the sense back INTO someone?

I'd rather be anonymous for this, so you can sign me:
Rumplestiltskin May Need Bail Money"

Here's the part in which I make this all about me: I am so glad I revealed my first name to you guys, because you'll understand when I say I really do know what it's like to have your name constantly messed up. My last name is a big hot ethnic mess that is completely phonetic in the language it's from but makes no sense to Americans or anyone else, really. And I didn't change my name when I got married.

So I had a different last name than my husband when I was married, and my kids have their dad's last name, so I have a different last name than they do. Now we're a four lastname household: mine, the kids', and the the cats' (Alex Rodriguez and Princess Blossom Pepperdoodle Von Yum Yum).

Plus, the whole "How do you pronounce Magda anyway?" issue. (After a long discussion with a linguist friend I finally figured out that I'm not sure Australians have the vowel sound that I use when I pronounce my name! If I could figure out how to record and upload a sound file I'd put it up so you could hear me say it.)

I've always chalked people screwing up my name up to their not really being aware of name issues. Just like I never really thought about what it was like to rely on wheels to get around the city until I had a stroller with me all the time, if your name has nothing particularly daunting about it you may just not be aware that other people's do. (I get called "Monica" ALL THE TIME because it's a normal name people hear when I say my name.)

So now back to Rumplestiltskin's problem: I think it's possible that the relatives, first of all, just don't get it. If they have a more common naming situation, they may just have problems processing the more complicated situation. And it doesn't mean that people who get your name wrong are deliberately trying to hurt you (for the first year or two, anyway.)

Add a little overlay of resentment for any number of reasons (I got a ton from older women in my family for not changing my last name, and I'm guessing there could be all sorts of things going on in Rumplestiltskin's family with a stepdaughter and twins and hyphenation and all kinds of stuff that seems to bug other people for no reason). And maybe some anger that they can't control things like they'd want to. And you have a recipe for naming hijinx and passive-aggressive games and heads exploding on all sides.

Basically, I think this is one of those situations you just have to breathe through. It's disrespectful and crazy-making, but it's also just a symptom of bigger issues of power and intimacy within the family. So if you're going to go head-on about this, you need to be prepared to deal with the rest of the iceberg that's under the surface. And it's probably not worth it, unless you're losing sleep about it. (The exception is that I think you do need to go to bat for your stepdaughter because it's clear that it is starting to bug *her*. If you can put it in those terms–"but it's for the children!"–it may click with the relatives.)

Also, it's not going to hurt or confuse your daughter to be called something else by extended family. Kids grow up with different nicknames on different sides of the family all the time, and they just figure out "oh, that's what Grandma calls me even though my name is X." When she's 30 you can have a conversation in which you confess that it made you crazy when they called her that, but she probably won't care, or will just chalk it up to "the older generation."

I hate to sound all Pollyanna-ish about things, but this is a chance for you to be generous with people who may or may not deserve your generosity, and a chance to model for your kids that they know who they are even when other people can't process it. Take a few deep breaths, relax, and smile, even while you're muttering curses on the inside.


Naming stories?

135 thoughts on “Q&A: What’s in a name?”

  1. Actually, my niece prefers that the family call her by one name (her nick) and the rest of the world call her by her nonnick. Her very own father can’t manage this, even though she and my sister have told him, repeatedly.And now they have both given up, although my sister did so only after saying, “It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it bothers her. You are hurting the feelings of a child by doing this, and you are therefore hurting your relationship with her. We are letting it drop because we are tired of fighting with you about this, but do not think that we have come around to your way of thinking on this issue. What you are doing is not OK with us.”

  2. Well, my name is Gretchen, which despite being a well-known name for about 500 years, is constantly misheard and misspelled. I am often called ‘Bridget’ or ‘Ingrid’. WHY??? Neither of these names is any more common that Gretchen!To Rumple’s problem: my mother (thinks she) is a master of passive-aggressive moves. I struggled with this for years until I hit upon the solution about 2 years ago. In a calm and non-confrontational way, I simply ask her why she’s doing/saying whatever it is she’s being PA about. So in the case of the in-laws, I’d say, “You know, Nickname is used to that version of her name – she knows it and responds to it – why is it that you keep using her Fullname? There’s plenty of time for that when she’s a little older!” As for the last name situation, I’d tell that that they have confused Stepdaughter by omitting her last name, and ask if there is some reason why the continue to do so.
    But I may be a little more willing to get into it – YMMV. My parents and in-laws are all people who would run roughshod all over me (they do to other family members), so I stand pretty tough & head them off at the pass, so to speak. It actually works better for everyone, as it allows us to have a relationship on mutual terms, rather than on their terms alone.

  3. I know I would have problems with my last name if I lived in the US. In addition of the fact that it has six vowels for two consonants, it needs three vowels to make the first vowel sound. Plus, the last vowel sound? Totally doesn’t exist in English. So yeah, I’m glad I live in a French speaking place and I don’t to deal with it in general, only when I speak to English speaking clients.Plus, I don’t really like how Annie is pronounced in English, but there’s nothing I can do about that.

  4. I guess I’m a little confused as to how the reader wishes things to be addressed. If she was my relative I would probably address things to Husband FirstName LastName, Wife FirstName Last Name & Family. Otherwise, it would be hard to fit everyone and their various last names on the envelope.My dad was very adamant that no one call me Shelly as my name was Michelle. Likewise, I named my son David and it bugs me when people call him Dave (his teacher did just this morning) but really I try not to get too annoyed.
    However, I am currently pregnant and my husband would like to use his late mom’s name as a middle name if we have a girl. I’m not particularly fondly of the name but I understand that he wants to honor his mom. My bigger concern that his dad will call the baby by her middle name rather than her given name. But I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it because we don’t even know what we are having at this point.

  5. Names are an issue for our family too. I didn’t change my last name upon marrying my husband and most of the people from both of our families do not acknowledge that difference. Mostly I just ignore it, even though it burns me up inside because I KNOW they are doing it purposefully as a small way to stick it to my (fairly minor) unconventionality. My son has his father’s name but, if we have another child, s/he will get my last name. When I’ve mentioned to people that that is our plan, they get a look like I just admitted to child abuse! Should we have another child, I’m sure the different surnames of our children will cause outrage in the family.

  6. My name is Gretchen, which despite having existed as a name for about 500 years, is constantly misspelled and mispronounced, or greeted by a blank ‘huh?’ when I say it. I get called ‘Bridget’ and ‘Ingrid’ all the time. WHY?? Neither of these names is more common than Gretchen!As for Rumple’s problem – I like what Slim said. My mother (thinks she) is a master of passive aggression. I have learnt that the best way to handle it is to confront her – as gently as possible – and never let things slide. So I’d say “You know, Tiny recognizes that as her name – there’s plenty of time to introduce Longerversion when she’s older. Is there a reason why you want to use it now?” As for the last name issue, I’d bring it up directly. “X is my last name – I get the feeling that you either don’t know it or don’t want to acknowledge it. OK. I’m an adult and I can handle it. But when you omit Stepdaughter’s last name, that confuses her and hurts her feelings. Her last name is Y. Please use it.”

  7. Oh – and the pronunciation of Magda…is the ‘Mag’ like the 1st syllable of ‘magazine’ and the ‘da’ somewhere between ‘duh’ and the 1st syllable of ‘dahlia’? I don’t know how to read, write, or type that international phonetic language alphabet, sorry!

  8. I think the main issue here is the step-daughter’s last name. That is probably what stands out here to me as being the most disrespectful. I’m assuming that the last names are coming into play via birthday cards and whatnot that come in the mail? I can’t think of times when my extended family has had to use my last name for anything other than that.The only thing I can ask is how does your husband feel about all of this? In my experiences dealing with in-laws, it seems to be better to let the blood relatives sort things out for themselves. If your husband feels as strongly about this as you do, can he talk to them about this?

  9. My husband’s “maiden” name is the same as my first name. As a result, there was never any question that I would NOT be taking his last name. It was important to both of us though that we share a last name (and, more to the point, that when we have kids we all share a last name). So we came up with a new last name that is a combination of his maiden name and my maiden name and we both took this new last name as a 2nd last name. So I am MaidenName NewName and he is “Maiden”Name NewName, but aside from legal documents we both use only NewName.His family is pretty traditional, especially when it comes to names (husband is named after his dad and grandfather, who were named after their fathers and grandfathers, etc). They FLIPPED OUT when we told them what we planned to do. It caused a lot of drama and hurt feelings on both sides. My mother-in-law tried to convince me to change my first name (yes, really).
    For several years after we got married all cards, etc. sent to our house were addressed only to our first names. The post office really doesn’t pay any attention and it was, I think, the best that my in-laws could do because they were/are very hurt about the entire name thing. I am thankful that they did not choose to disregard our decision completely by using my husband’s “maiden” name on correspondence. Maybe Rumple’s family would be willing to just use first names if that is amenable to all. Family can get away with being casual like that, I think.

  10. My data point is that my children have English names (for “administrative” purposes) and Hebrew names (what we call them).My father insists on calling my daughter by her English name. It’s quite close to her Hebrew name, and she knows when she’s being addressed (although there was a point during infancy when she didn’t respond to it), but it drives me crazy. I tried for a while to correct him, and everyone else in the family calls her by her Hebrew name, but to no avail. For a while I chalked it up to the fact that it has an unusual vowel combo/spelling, but when my stepmom and her whole family (all not Jewish) managed it by her second birthday, I threw up my hands and gave up. He’s a wonderful grandfather otherwise, I just don’t know what his damage is over the name.
    Now we just have to get everyone to figure out that they’re spelling my son’s [four-letter] name incorrectly.
    Anyway, I agree with eccentriclibertarian about the importance of using the stepdaughter’s name. For me, part of being in a blended family was maintaining my own name/identity, and that meant having a different last name from my mom, stepdad, and [half]brother. If the people in my life could deal with this in 1985….surely 2008 could be a little more, um, with it?

  11. I agree that people who have experienced name issues are much more sensitive about them than others, similar to someone who has personally dealt with a disability is sensitive to incorrect terminology dealing with that disability.I hope no one is implying that Americans are the only people that butcher names. I think we all do our best to pronounce names according to our own ethnic naming customs. Out of all of my Asian friends, some of whom have known me for quite a while none can pronounce my name correctly. I know it is not intentional so I try not to let it bother me. I assume I am related to anyone who pronounces my very German last name correctly on the first try. Seriously it’s a conversation starter if they do.
    We intentionally gave our son a name that cannot logically be shortened and there is no common nickname for because that is a pet peeve of my husband. However some in my family have already found a way to butcher his name. The way I see it we give our children names. What they do with that name is up to them. When my son is old enough to have a preference of names I will go to bat for him with the family. Until then I politely correct mistakes and ignore intentional butchering.
    I think Moxie put it best in that last paragraph. You can always just tell the kids in a loud voice “Crazy old Grandma isn’t trying to hurt your feelings. She just can’t ever keep names straight anymore” ๐Ÿ™‚ And if she is trying to hurt feelings then I think it probably goes way deeper than a name.

  12. yeah, seriously what is it with people and names. I did not change to my husband’s name when we got married, which still (5 years later) seems to confuse people. That was my preference at the time but if he had strongly wanted me to change it I would have. However, his opinion was I fell in love with FirstName X, not FirstName Y.Now we have a 3 yr old and everyone assumes that her last name is the same as her dads. It’s not, her last name is hyphenated MyLastName-HisLastName. We wanted her name to reflect that she was and is a joint effort. She also thinks it’s pretty cool that she gets to have the same name as both of us, ie. I’m ‘X’ like mommy and ‘Y’ like daddy. It seems to make sense to her because she knows that we are both her parents.
    It has definitely been an uphill struggle with our families but I think they’re finally getting the point.
    The thing that surprised me most was at her daycare. She was registered with her hyphenated last name but when they started talking about last names, they referred to her by only her Father’s last name. This actually really upset her because, like I mentioned, she’s pretty stoked about the idea of having both names. In addition to that they also started using a nickname for her (although no shorter, still 2 syllables like her true name) and it didn’t help that I really didn’t like the nickname.
    In the end we decided to fight our battles over the last name and let the nickname slide. Soon enough she’ll be at an age where she’ll determine her own nicknames.

  13. I agree with all of the above….seems rather passive aggressive to me, and not just clueless, more traditional-background behavior. Because after so many years, it seems to me it should have sunk in unless there was a real effort to keep it from sinking in.I’m wondering what your husband’s thoughts are on all of this – after all, this is his family. Has he addressed it with them? Perhaps that might be something to consider…..though if this kind of behavior is common within his family it’s also possible that he has learned to deal with their passive aggressiveness by being passive in his own way.
    I like the way people above have phrased addressing it…..but I also agree with Moxie that this is an opportunity for you to model for your kids how to behave and respond when people act like total shits.

  14. I agree with Diane about the stepdaugter’s last name and about having hubby talk to his family about things! I also think that it’s hard to quibble about them using baby’s formal given name, rather than your chosen nickname…I feel like if it were the opposite (like what Michelle describes), and they were giving her a nickname when you prefer the longer name, it’s a little different.I have a similar last-name problem – I’m hyphenated, MyLast-HisLast, but my husband did not change his name (which is a story unto itself!). Our son (and soon-to-be daughter) both have the hyphenated last name (so it’s the same as mine). His immediate family (mom and sister) are generally pretty good about addressing things to The MyLast-HisLast Family or to HisFirst HisLast and MyFirst MyLast-HisLast, but he has LOTS of friends and extended family who address things to Mr. and Mrs. HisLast, The HisLast Family, or even MyFirst HisLast, if it’s something just for me. I usually make a snide remark and then just forget about it. As annoying as it is in the moment, I think Mon…I mean Moxie is right – it may be more due to the not getting it and general discomfort with it, rather than something that is intentionally disrespectful.

  15. I think my head might explode if I had relatives that purposefully called my child a name other than the one he/she answers to – unless they had created their own “pet” name for the child and it was out of total affection for the child. To ignore a nickname that the child responds to (with laughs and giggles!!) in order to use a full given name that has zero meaning to the child- is clearly a power trip thing, conscious or not. I understand in families you have to forgive and forget many things and the dynamics of what works are different for each family and a sense of harmony is essential and what you should strive for. I get it and I do it and I’m pretty easy to get along with – but I would seriously consider drawing a line in the sand about messing with my kid’s name in a disrespectful manner. Old and set in their ways is no excuse for being rude. My grandmother is 83 and she managed to get our two last names correct on the address of our Christmas card. Older sonโ€™s name is one letter away from being a super common boy name and lots of people mistake it. She knows that itโ€™s one or the other and often asks to see if sheโ€™s getting it right. She doesnโ€™t always but at least she cares enough to ask.Maybe it’s because my siblings and I all had different last names and maybe because I’m now in a two last name family and maybe it’s the lack of control over something so personal…I don’t know.
    Maybe you can make a Christmas/Holiday piece of hand painted pottery, a plate with a hand print or coffee mug with a hand print and paint To Grandparent X, Love Nickname. Or a calendar and on each monthโ€™s picture have an overlay of Love, Nickname or cross-stitch a pillow Worldโ€™s Best Grandparent, Love Nickname. Or all three. You get the idea.

  16. I have a name-related issue, that involves in-laws. My partner and I are expecting! That’s great. But the name issue is already arising. I do not like his last name, never have. His name is a smelly, unpleasant kind of food; my last name is simple and classic. Frankly, I want my child to keep my own last name, but I fear widespread revolt and bitterness from my partner’s family, who are already miffed that we’ve decided not to marry. But, seriously. I can’t give my child this last name.Sorry for the hijack… Any advice?

  17. I can totally relate…we had a dog named Lewis, and my friend insisted on calling him “Louie”. This bugged me to no end, and it was just a *dog*!When I married, I really wanted to keep my last name, but I knew it would cause strife with my old-fashioned in-laws (they already think I’m weird), so I compromised my hyphenating it with my married name. I used that for a few years, and then just got tired of saying it. So now I use my married name.
    I can understand Rumple’s frustration, and would definitely go to bat for the kids’ feelings. For my own, though? I would just suck it up and make sure the correct names are on every return address label of everything I send out.

  18. Oh I know the feeling! I didn’t change my name when I got married earlier this year, and my inlaws still act as if it is a personal affront to them. They never address cards etc. to me by anything other than my husband’s name, and bring it up most times we meet (luckily infrequently) as if they hope I will have come to my senses at last! They also can’t spell my first name correctly, which isn’t hard.We are having a child next year, and it will have my husband’s surname – I’m mildly dissatisfied with this but we can’t double-barrel as one of our names is already double, and I don’t have anything against the name itself. I opted not to change my name because it just felt completely wrong to me, like losing part of my identity – just a personal thing.
    I am learning to swallow my irritation, slowly! I’m very aware of how my child will see my attitude towards that side of his/her family and am really trying to rise above stuff like this.

  19. My husband’s name is “Hicham” (hee-sham)–phonetic French and transliterated from Arabic. EVERYBODY here calls him “Hetcham.” Our kids have similary hard-to-pronounce-for-Americans-names, so we just grin and bear it. What is weird for me is that this is the only country I know of where an “i” is not pronounced “ee.”I think naming issues are symptomatic of the post-postmodernist era we are in right now!

  20. I really liked what author Erica Jong had to say on the subject back in the 70s…she didn’t want to take her husband’s name because that seemed so paternalistic, but then she said that her maiden name came from her father, so that’s paternalistic, too.What would be cool is if we could choose a name together, as a couple when we marry, like one of the PPs did. Never would have worked with my in-laws, though, LOL.

  21. This definitely sounds passive aggressive to me. I’d take the direct confrontation approach as explained by eccentriclibertarian, at least for the step-daughter’s last name.I have to admit that, despite having my own first name and maiden name butchered my whole life, I have caught myself using the wrong last name for a friend who didn’t take her husband’s last name because I just forgot. I was quickly addressing Christmas cards or something and realized later what I had done. I felt badly about it, as I’m sure it annoyed her. Maybe the name card idea would be a good one, just so that everyone can see each full name written out in one place.
    Good luck!

  22. I certainly don’t think Americans are the only ones who butcher names, but I do think we may have the problem in greater concentration just because there are so very many different kinds of names to butcher here. Other countries don’t always have as many cultures and languages and countries of origin all crammed in together.RE: my name, the first syllable is *not* the same as “magazine” and that’s the sound that grates on my ears. But I would correct you twice and then let it slide because I’d rather be your friend than worry about how you said my name. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Both syllables are closer to the first syllable of “dahlia.”

  23. My mother does not know how to spell my (married) last name correctly. This drives me crazy. Granted, she has a host of…problems…but a bit of effort to learn my last name might be nice.It also irks me when people call my son “Ben” or “Benji.” And they do it allllll the time. We call him “Benjamin.” If he decides to go by a nickname when he’s older, we’ll support that, of course. But for now, he’s Benjamin. Come on. Is it THAT hard to say the two extra syllables?
    All that said, in essence I agree with “Monica” up there. I have to make a decision every day, am I going to let these things bother me? Some days I do, but I’m happier on the days that I don’t. It’s a lot easier to control your reactions than to try to change obtuse people. It may be worth the trouble to try and stick up for the stepdaughter who feels hurt by this – and to point out that she feels hurt by this – but otherwise, it sounds like sheer cluelessness. And there aren’t a whole lot of ways to buy a clue for people ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. We have had a problem for years with my husband’s family and my daughter’s name. It is a medium-common longish name that has a very common nickname. A nickname that is also used for another much more common name. We NEVER call her by any nickname that is a shortened version of her actual name. Everyone in our family was told of this plan upon her birth and my enitre family and much of my husband’s family is very respectful of our choice. However, both of my SILs insist on calling her/giving her mongrammed things, etc. that use a nickname. To complicate matters, they each have chosen their own (different) preferred spelling of the nickname and they have instructed my daughter’s cousins to call her by the nickname.Since I agree that this behavior is a passive-agressive way of acting out about other beneath-the-surface issues that I can never solve, my husband and I have chosen the following approaches to dealing with the problem. Admittedly these all aren’t the most mature options, but they make us feel better/smile. 1) We make a big point of saying her actual name constantly in front of them, particularly in lage family goupings. For example, if the offending Aunt says “nickname, come over here” then one of us responds “Yes, FULL NAME, go see Aunt X.” 2) We do not publicly correct adults that mis-state her name, but we do correct the child cousins. 3) My husband told the oldest cousin that if he continued to call M by the wrong name, then he would call the cousin a fake name. My husband kept it up for a few months very consistently and now virtually all of the cousins have stopped doing it. Or if they do slip, they correct themselves and apologize (Even though their mother keeps doing it and I know actively encourage their ids to se the wrong name.) 4) We told our daughter to politely correct her Aunts/Uncles whenever she feels like it. My husband wanted to tell her to just not respond to them, but I overruled that idea because it is just rude. Since our daughter actively dislikes the nickname, she will correct her offending relatives most of the time. Also, we don’t make her display any of the personalized items she gets with the nickname since she really does not like it and it’s not her name!

  25. I didn’t take my husband’s last name, and people in his family address things to Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s First Name Husband’s Last Name. I don’t even get a FIRST name. Drives me totally nuts and makes me feel like I don’t exist. Then again, half of his large family didn’t send us so much as a card when we got married, so we’re not what you’d call close. I do think all this name stuff is a symptom of something bigger. My father-in-law doesn’t even know what I do for a living, and we’ve been married now for six years. There’s some backwards (to my way of thinking) gender stuff going on. I try my best to let it roll off me, because it is not worth a fight, and I’d like my son to have a relationship with my husband’s family. I do a lot of praying for patience and take many, many deep breaths and long walks when they’re visiting us.I wonder if Rumplestiltskin’s in-laws would hear it better coming from their son. My in-laws seem to be deaf to things that come from me, but hear oh, maybe 40% of things that come from my husband. He has a penis and, thus, his voice must be easier to hear than mine.
    Yeah, I still need to work on that patience/acceptance/anger thing.

  26. Wow, that sounds so control-freakish and horrible! It is so easy to mess up someone’s last name by accident, especially if they’re someone who you don’t write to very often…but people who are really close and still deliberately doing it wrong…I like your idea of writing a little note explaining exactly whose name is what, and why. I know I kept butchering the spelling of my cousin’s name, even though he kept correcting me, it just never stuck in my head until he walked me through a simple little way to remember (Just take this other name, take this letter out, and you have my name!). And this was someone I really didn’t want to upset, but kept doing it every year until he helped me figure it out. It doesn’t seem like that’s quite what’s going on here…but putting it in writing and sending it to everyone…it might get through to at least one of them.
    On the nick-name topic, that just seems bizarre that they don’t want to use the name that she’s responding to. One of my friends decided to call my daughter by an alternate nickname…right up until the day where she started responding to the nickname we were using…and now we’re all using the same one. I’d start responding to their snarky comments with something like “Oh, you think *she’s* the one who is slow, huh…that’s interesting”. But I think snark-backs always sound better in my own head, and I can never think of them in the moment anyway.

  27. Oops – sorry for double post. The 1st one didn’t show up after a few refreshes, so I figured it was lost in the ether.@Moxie – M*ah*gda…got it! If we should ever meet in person, I will not grate on your ears! At least, I will not do so when saying your name.

  28. My step-son has his mother’s last name. He will get occasional correspondance addressed to Monkey Dad’sLastName. I’m not sure if he feels strongly about it or not. I think it helps that no one really addresses him the wrong way on purpose – it’s more that they think of him as part of our family and forget he has a different last name.As someone who grew up clarifying “Cathy-With-A-C”, I think there’s a big difference between antagonizing you and doing it because you don’t know any better. It’s a good opportunity to coach step-daughter (if you haven’t already) on how to broach the subject with her grandparents, explaining that it hurts her feelings that they can’t get her name right.

  29. I’m going to go out on a limb and offer very practical hands-on advice here, knowing full well it’s just me and worth a grain of salt.a) ask your husband to speak to his family; he’ll have better luck not offending them.
    b) try something somewhat non-confrontational, such as email (but email can come across much more harshly than intended so you’ll have to load it with all kinds of soft talk).
    c) address the issue with a single goal, and state that goal to the people you’re asking to change. (So, don’t try to get them to understand why you chose your naming scheme, don’t try to get them to like it, etc). use language that implies you understand their confusion.
    d) offer them a graceful out (“it’s not you, it’s us. I know we chose something unconventional and you would never have chosen it, but I would be honored if you would show me and our children the respect of at least making an effort to address us by our correct names.” but clearly state your desires. Then, conclude with “if you are either unwilling or unable to change this approach, please know that just because I don’t fight it doesn’t mean I respect your decision.”
    I don’t know you or your family, and only you can know if this would create more problems than it solves. I guess you need to decide if the risk of making things worse is worth it. If it is, then go for it. If it isn’t, then be proud of yourself for being the bigger person and move on.
    If all else fails, you can start calling them all different names (try using their first and middle names every single time you address them, misspelling their names on envelopes, and making your own nicknames for them. How’s that for passive aggressive? Kidding! I kid, I kid!

  30. wow moxie you’re nicer than I am. I would totally start mis-spelling all of those IL’s names and making up new nicknames for them and then getting all pissed when they didnt’ respond to their new names. I might stop short of making up nicknames like “butthead” but I’d want to. :)I had a friend at work with an unusual middle eastern name, and she always complained about how no one could pronounce it (it actually is pronounced exactly like it looks) and no one could spell it, etc… but then she continually would misspell and mispronounce other peoples’ names. Even my friend JENNIFER.. she’d write “Jenn” instead of “Jen”…. and it drove Jen crazy. You’d think that if someone has name issues, they’d be on top of other people’s names. But not if you’re really self-centered I guess. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Anyway, I would probably drop a card in with my Christmas cards this year like a “we’ve moved” type of card that just says “Our Names Haven’t Changed…” and list them. Then at the bottom in small print say “It may seem inconsequential to you to use Husband’s Name for everyone, but it is confusing to the children, and we would prefer if our correct names could be used on future correspondence… thanks for taking the time, and please feel free to call or ask if you have any questions about how to spell or pronoune any of them!”

  31. my view is that this is one of the things you can’t control and can’t change and thus..you know…you may need to let it go. It probably is infuriating but you’ve given them all the info you can give them, they’re just going to be like that.My grandfater tried to introduce the whole family at a big function recently…like he had a microphone and all eyeballs were on us…and he once again fucked up every name. One aunt does take this pretty hard but her tears & admonitions have changed nothing over the years, which is why I am convinced it won’t ever change.

  32. Is there a bigger issue than this with the inlaws? Something underlying? I don’t know. I didn’t change my name but I like my inlaws, think they are just traditional and generally just let it roll off my back. My gut reaction to reading this was… “aren’t there bigger things in life to expend so much time and energy getting upset about?” and then I thought maybe there are … is the fact that they disregard name choices a smaller piece of a bigger picture? Like a general trend of disinterest and disrespect of ALL your family’s choices? I hope I’m explaining myself well – in my circle of friends, we often discuss this and even complain about it, but more in a roll your eyes at them kind of way. When things are otherwise good as they are in my family, it doesn’t seem worthwhile to make a big deal about it. Good luck to you.

  33. When our daughter’s were born my husband and I were not yet married. The girls got my last name, but my husband’s last name as their second (and therefor RARELY) used middle name.I swear every person on my now husband’s side of the family still called the girls by my husband’s last name. We never corrected it, it wasn’t worth the struggle to us.
    I totally agree that people will do what they’re going to do, and truly if it’s really affecting you, then try to help them change, but don’t just do it out of annoyance.
    OR start calling THEM all the wrong name. I’ll bet they’ll notice then! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  34. @ malia – my daughter’s father and I were intentionally unmarried when our daughter was born as well. *Everyone* asked if we had plans to marry, but thankfully we only heard of people’s serious discomfort with the situation once we did marry years later.Anyway, we decided to give her his last name, largely I think to ease everyone’s discomfort about our being un-marrieds. Also because my last name is weird and prone to nicknames and his is normal (though very very common). But I wanted a part of her name as well, so my last name is her second middle name. It’s not a perfect solution, but in our case it seemed the best way to incoporate it, and it can be written out, initialed, or skipped as the need arises. So maybe you could appease your partner’s family by putting his last name in that position. Now that she’s older, she definitely enjoys that she’s got a name in common with each of us! Of course it led to confusion initially, even though we explained it clearly, people would sometimes assume that it was a hyphenated last name.
    Regarding holiday cards and name woes: my husband’s grandmother has always addressed the cards to Mr. and Mrs. His Name (even before we were married!), and I would complain about her imposing her ideas on me. He would insist that she is just absent-minded and forgetful. This year, he made sure to point out that she misspelled his first name (which is very common and easy to spell!) on the envelope, and that the card inside was addressed to another couple all together!

  35. oy. As I mentioned in the last name thread, my real name is Cynthia and I was called Cindy as a child; I had one great-aunt who insisted that was the wrong spelling and constantly addressed cards and sent monogrammed gifts (including christmas ornaments and things she expected to see displayed) with it spelled Cyndy. It drove my parents bonkers, but said aunt was also pretty constantly spoiling for a fight in her oh-so-polite passive-aggressive way, so they let it slide. My mom would just about blow up every time something arrived though.I too have my original last name; Mouse has Mr. C’s last name (eh, it’s traditional, I figured, and easier to spell than mine). When obnoxious people at company functions call me Mrs. X, I’ve been known to respond with “it’s Y, and it’s Ms., but anyway everybody calls me Nickname”. (Nice people at company functions just get “oh, call me Nickname”.) But family is different.
    I like the solution of asking them to address things to everybody’s first names if they can’t get the last names right–I’d talk to them about it with that as an option. And I’d probably make a special effort on behalf of Stepdaughter, since it sounds like her name and own identity is understandably important to her.

  36. I had no plans to take my husbands last name. NONE. He, however, had plans of his own, and I compromised and hypenated.From the beginning, however, I decided that my kids would only have my husband’s last name – I felt strongly that the hyphenation was a “burden” that I took on, and I didn’t want them to deal with it (plus, what if they married a person with a hyphenated last name – they would then be expected to have 4 last names? CRAZY).
    I think being generous is good advice. Now that my son is in school, while I fill out all his paperwork with my legal (hyphenated) last name, I’m “Mrs. Dunn” at school. I am fine with that (especially since my maiden name is really hard to spell and even harder to pronounce.
    Looking back, I wish I would have done things bit diferently. I would have just added his last name (rather than hypenating), as I think it would have added some flexibility to things. I would have also just continued to use my maiden name ONLY at work. The hyphen seems to drive people crazy with jokes about feminism and other shit like that!

  37. Right – in general people are going to do what they are going to do…like name their son Adolf Hitler and wonder why the bakery doesn’t want to make him a personalized birthday cake.

  38. We ran into this same problem with our baby. We loved his name, but didn’t like a common nickname for it. The name itself is fairly old-fashioned, and the common nickname makes me think of a 60 year-old man, so I never thought that people would call him nickname. Hubby especially hates the nickname as he had some weird family stuff with it growing up.All that to say, in utero, EVERYBODY asked if we would call him “nickname”. Even after we made our feelings about the nickname clear, people STILL referred to him as nickname. After he popped out, I haven’t heard one comment about it and everyone calls him what we call him. It seems we were worried for nothing. Most people will eventually call your kid what you call them and what they call themselves.
    I’d definitely let the upset feelings over the hyphenated kids’ names go, especially if you’re dealing with an older generation. And as for the stepdaughter, probably time to teach her the fine art of rolling her eyes.

  39. @megan,Yes, I agree — I think the names are just the tip of a much larger iceberg involving in-laws and respect. Unfortunately, the tension between people and their in-laws often comes out in these teeny, tiny, but oh-so-irritating and hurtful ways.
    So.. why all this in-law angst? I’m certainly victim to it, and never saw it coming. It’s by far the most difficult thing I’ve dealt with in this relationship of over ten years. We’ve had our ups and downs, but the truth is that it’s never 100% pleasant. I feel guilty, too, realizing that it brings out the worst in me.

  40. My husband’s SIL did not take my BIL’s name (my married name) when they married. My MIL (both men’s mother) has told me that she intentionally disregards this decision and addresses things to Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName. She has even discussed it with SIL’s mother in England and they gleefully conspire in this regard. Whenever she brings it up, I say, “Oh really? I always use her chosen name as a way of showing respect. Hm, do you think it bothers her…?” And I’ve mentioned that other cultures (even highly traditional ones!) do not have the same naming conventions that we do and it is not expected that the wife will change her name upon marriage. I admire Moxie’s grace and forbearance, which is certainly the higher road, but for me, I would need to address it if I had tried to let it go (for years!) and it was still bothering me.

  41. I kept my name because I was too lazy to update every last thing. I was also feeling resentful of his family and their control issues. The child has his last name, but that’s because mine only makes sense if you speak Welsh. I am used to knowing it is my turn for something when someone tries to say my name and ends up trailing off and coughing.I list all our names formally on return addresses, but I am used to getting back a bizarre outcome written on envelopes addressed to us. Some people just go for first names only. Some (older) people go with “The HisName Family.” Some go for “The HisName-HerName Household.” Some have been perceptive and switched to correct usage after receiving card after card from me with our names listed as we are legally called. If it bothered me, I would have my husband address it, as we have a “we each deal with our own family of origin” rule.
    In the case of the child who is bothered, I think you have a great “Gosh, I know it’s a mouthful, but do it for the children” angle. If checks or savings bonds or college fund contributions are coming in with the wrong name, that’s a huge hassle too. They should be properly addressed on any correspondence directed to them individually. Honestly, with that many names, it is a bit of a chore to fit it on a single envelope, so in that case, would you be mortally offended by first names only or first names plus correct initials for anything short of a formal wedding invite or a subpoena?
    Also, change your email address to firstname@mylastname.com or something along those lines, if you don’t already use something like that ๐Ÿ˜‰ Then they have to type it/watch it pop up in auto-complete. Poke, poke.

  42. Oh, Rumplestiltskin, my very mature advice is to say “F ‘Em” and have a glass of wine. And for whatever it’s worth know that you have the support of a whole bunch of us in the same boat. Well, to a lesser extent. Your relatives take the cake, big time. If the crappy behavior is that deep, and has been going on for that long, there’s no changing it, and I think your best bet is to protect yourself emotionally in the best way you can.Oy. Good luck. I’m mad at them now.

  43. @Malia – I’m so curious! Is it Herring?Our troubles are just beginning: I kept my last name, and my elder has it as is one and only middle name. We switched for the second kid. So our kids are Firstname MyName HisName and Firstname HisName MyName. Both last names are longish, full of consonants, and easy to misspell. My FIL – the one who once introduced me as “The future Mrs. HisName” and asked if I was some kind of feminist when I objected – has yet to notice/comment (younger is a baby). Weirdly, it’s my mother who has the hardest time with this. She keeps explaining, when, to my mind, our kids have a first name, a middle, and a last. She also had a hard time understanding that I was keeping my name.
    Anyway, I’m just venting. I too haven’t prepared a non-offensive response (I lock horns with these two figures enough already), but I know I’ll have to so am glad to read these.
    Oh – incidentally,, I avoided being called “Auntie Em” for years until my nephews figured it out, and I got them to kick the habit by calling them “Nephew Nickname You Dislike”.

  44. my husbands last name and mine are super complicated so when we had our son we decided to pick an altogether new last name for him (which is a combo of his first name and my last name). Traditionally our families actually use first name as last name (so each generation has a new last name!) and wife takes on husbands first name as her last name. (I didnt) Anyways, i dont know if this soln will work or my son will hate us forever but just wanted to put that out as another data point! So far its okay since nobody calls him by last name anyways.

  45. I think eccentriclibertarian has the best advice to be upfront and ask directly why they are not using the correct chosen names. It is one thing if someone messes up your name unintentionally. My daughter is Juliana, for example. We pronounce it Julie.Anna but people almost always say Julie.Ah-na even though we always introduce her as Julie.Anna. It think some people just can’t hear the difference even though it is obvious to me. But to have your in-laws act so passive-aggressive and controlling and rude is incredibly irritating. I don’t know how you could just grin and bear it. I lived with a lady who insisted on spelling my name (Kathy) with a “C” every time she left me a phone message regardless of how many times I left her notes signed with a K. It was clearly a power thing, like you are not important enough for me to bother to learn your correct name. It bugged me, but I only had to live with it for a couple of months. I couldn’t have done it for a lifetime. I was just thankful I wasn’t her son’s girlfriend whose name was Alison, but the lady insisted on calling her Gayle because “it suited her better.” Puh-lease!

  46. seems like a lot of folks have similar name issues… as someone above stated, i agree, it seems like a lot of passive aggressiveness to me… i’m sorry that you have to deal with it all, especially the nickname thing with the baby and the step daughter’s different lastname…i also wanted to add, i too have name issues, i LOVE LOVE LOVE my maiden name, first and last both begin with C’s, my maiden ln is italian and means a lot to me. i kept my ENTIRE maiden name (middle name and all) and just tacked my married ln onto the end of it all.
    in regards to pronunciation issues… oh god… my name is Cara, pretty simple right? well… i get Carol 95% of the time. and this ONLY started after i took on my married last name, Rolinson…. (sounds like robinson sorta) basically i intro myself and it sounds like Cara Rarablah… yeah say that to yourself… it’s annoying, people somehow hear carole in that whole thing and it makes me crazy… it’s almost like they stop listening after i start to say my name. thus no one can EVER remember my name… ever…. it makes me sad that i will have to deal with this for the rest of my life.
    i hope you get your name issues sorted out soon.

  47. Emily, the “What are you, some kind of Feminist?” comment might have caused steam to come out of my ears.Um, yeah, I AM some kind of feminist.
    Pisses me off to no end that that word has been so twisted that now reasonable people, who ARE feminists won’t go near it.

  48. I’m big on making sure I spell and pronounce people’s names right. Like when I was writing Christmas cards I asked my husband if he knew how to spell his cousin’s son’s name and he spelled it out for me and told me he was 100% sure. I found out the day after I mailed the card that he was wrong. That just drives me insane!So yes, I understand the whole importance of names, but I think with the whole complicated nature of names and last names and hyphenated names and nicknames instead of full names…I think a little grace needs to be shown to the inlaws. That is seriously one crazy, complicated name issue to wade through and figure out.
    And I’ll just say it straight out that I think hyphenating last names just makes things way more complicated than it needs to be but that is of course my own personal opinion, I don’t have a name that rhymes or sounds ridiculous with my husband’s last name so it’s not an issue for me.
    I do like the commenter who thought it important to have the same last name as her husband and they made up a new last name for them both. Kuddos to her and to her husband for being willing to take this route.
    I’d hate to be a geneologist 100 years from now. Sorting through who belongs to what family is going to be INSANE.

  49. I have been with my husband for 12 years. My FIL STILL does not spell my name correctly. It became and issue when he bought some property in our names. And then we sold it and the paperwork almost had issues.I have always gone by Kristine, not Kris or Kristi, it bothers me when people shorten my name – or when they misspell it, but I decided long ago that if I wasn’t going to deal with that person more than twice, it wasn’t worth the effort to make them get my name right. My FIL on the other hand – 11 YEARS, corrected everytime I see it, still does it. It’s become pretty clear in the past few years that to him I was always just a vessel for grandchildren anyway. Clearly he had no intention of learning my name.
    Anyway, I would continue to correct or at least attempt to open up communication about why they do it.

  50. My inlaws just think they are the bees knees, the complete bees knees. I on the otherhand, DON’T! I didn’t take their name when I married their son, in their myopia, they took this as an afront to them, rather than, as I see it, a choice to maintain my name and my identity. They never address any type of card to me with my own name, always my husbands name. Annoying to say the least, but they are not going to change. And really it’s their loss, loss of a good relationship with me, the woman their son married. They just don’t have it in them, so I say move on. The clincher for me, was after the birth of our son…12 days after the death of my father, with my mother in the hospital…my mother in law came to help for 4 days and left, didn’t come back for 6 months. OK…move on!

  51. It’s a sad thing about family, that while the love flows, they just can’t get that you need respect first. Maybe they have a hard time finding respect for themselves. I say show yourself a royal amount of respect and maybe they will subconsciously come to your call–no need to dominate them, just steer their brainwaves a bit. . ..

  52. Wow, I wish Italians were as flexible when it came to naming as the rest of the world.Firstly, up until the middle of this year, the only surname you could have was your ‘father’s’, unless you didn’t have a father that is, and then you got your mother’s. ‘Father’ being the name of the male person down in your birth certificate. If you had a father, you were not able to take your mother’s surname unless you are Alessandra Mussolini (a different set of rules apply to politicians), whose children have her name and not their father’s. And forget ‘inventing’ names. Officially anyway, your surname is that of your pop.
    Secondly, the State can intervene on the choice of name when you register it at the local council. There was a recent case of the name ‘Andrea’, here a boy’s name’, being chosen for a girl, and although originally approved, later rejected. The parents have taken it to the European Courts as they have had no luck fighting it here in Italy.
    Boy, was I worried when we registered our son’s name (Noah) at our council. Fortunately, the public servants had better things to do than dispute the appropriateness of my child’s name. Certain names here though are just a no no. For example, Benito and Adolf are names, which are doomed to never come up at roll call again.
    Oh, and yeah, Moxie, I hear you on the pronunciation. There are just some vowel sounds that Anglo’s can not pronounce. I got ‘polar’ or ‘payola’ most of my life. Hell, what is so difficult about pronouncing it ‘pa-o-la’

  53. @Malia – I was thinking “Haggis” – is that it?!@Moxie – some members of my family (from southern Ohio) would pronounce the “a” in the first syllable in “magazine” and “dahlia” the same. Just sayin’. ๐Ÿ™‚
    My data point comes from my husband – he has a very common first name, but with an “ethnic” spelling. His maternal grandmother didn’t like his father, and so refused to spell my husband’s name properly – instead she spelled it the “traditional” North American way. Obviously, their poor relationship was not caused only by this intentional misspelling, but is indicative of that grandmother’s general approach to grandparenting (she’s notorious for outright favoritism, aong other things). Finally, a few years ago, she was complaining to my SIL that my husband was a terrible grandchild and never kept in touch. FINALLY, SIL came out and said “well, if you had bothered to learn how to spell his name properly sometime in the past 31 years, he might be more invested in the relationship.”
    Next card we got had the correct spelling on it. (of course, he still doesn’t really like her. can’t erase the past)

  54. Oh, the only thing hip about the naming procedure here in Italy is that women keep their surnames. Unfotunately this means that even my brother and SIL don’t know my children’s surname and still after 4 years, my kids get parcel’s mailed to them with their first name and my surname. Deep down it probably doesn’t actually bug me that much as I have never corrected them.

  55. We named our first daughter Catherine, but she goes by Cate.When Cate was born my grandmother told me how stupid she thought it was that I named my daughter something we don’t usually call her. (Nevermind my dad, her son, has always gone by his middle name.) After a year or so of making it clear how dumb she thought it was, she seemed to have gotten over it, except that she spells it “Kate”.
    Minor, I know, but it makes me mad. Cate was named after my mom’s grandmother, and she DID NOT spell her name with a “K,” which is the reason we chose the spelling we did. Cate is 3 1/2 and she stills spells it wrong every chance she gets. She tells me that she just likes it better that way.
    My plan, now that Cate is practicing reading skills, is to tell her that I would like her to spell it correctly to reinforce what Cate knows, and so that she doesn’t become confused.
    I know StepDaughter is probably too old for this to work, but perhaps with the younger ones? Stress how much you’re working on teaching them to spell and write their names correctly, and how you need everyone’s help. I agree that the issue needs to be addressed at least in the matter of the children. They don’t need to feel like the family is rejecting any part of them, and it is so rude for relatives to make such an issue out of it. Of course, mistakes in spelling are made, but it shouldn’t happen more than once from any relative.
    Or, if all else fails and you were to feel really passive agressive about things, start spelling their names wrong, or even start calling them by a nickname even if they’ve never had one – if her MIL’s name was Rumpelstiltskin, call her “Rump” til she gets it.

  56. My naming story:1) I didn’t take my husband’s last name when we married because a) I didn’t want to and b) I had already published a lot under my original name. And I didn’t want to have profession/personal divide in the naming thing.
    2) We hyphenated our son’s surname. This was a practical decision because we both travel a lot and thought it would be tricky proving maternity/paternity when a) our kid doesn’t really look like either of us (he’s eurasian so is an amalgam but bears no striking resemblence to either of us) and b) doesn’t have the same name as his parents and c) for some bizarre reason, children’s citizenship documents don’t really have information about parents/guardians. I get that hyphenation is seen, by some, to be cumbersome, outdated, and could make our kid’s life tricky if he decides to hyphenate his children’s names too, but it was the best solution we had at the time.
    3) I am SO used to people mispronouncing my surname (friends, strangers, colleagues, media, you name it) and coming up with some misspelled version of my given name that, through shear habituation, I am no longer offended. What. Ever.
    4) Passive aggression usually needs a partner to dance.

  57. Kids are generally more flexible about names than we give them credit for. For about the first six months of my son’s life, we used a word that means “Little Lord” instead of his name, which was hard for my in-laws, because they would be using his name and he wouldn’t respond. But then we started using his middle name, and he started recognizing only that, again to my in-laws charign, because they’d just gotten used to “Little Lord”. And at 2.5, he knows his first name, but if you ask him what his “full name” is, he says it’s Firstname, middlename, “Little Lord” Lastname. He has scads of nicknames from different family members, and he’s been able to differentiate them from about a year old.I hear you on the family not using the names properly, thing, though. My father *hates* the first name we gave him and insists on calling him by the middle name, even though the middle name was something my husband and I hoped would be just *our* name for our son. I keep wanting to tell my father to cut-it-out, but my husband says it’s not worth the “offended” hurt looks it will cause. But it drives me mad.
    I would intervene in the case of the stepdaughter, but if it doesn’t stop, just teach her to roll eyes and not get upset about it.

  58. This is timely for me, since I got married recently (ok, eight months ago) and have yet to change my name. At first it was because I couldn’t decide between just taking his name, or hyphenating, but now it’s just laziness – I even have all the paperwork filled out to start the process, I just haven’t gotten around to getting stamps to mail it off. :PUltimately, I’m planning to hyphenate my one-syllable but oddly spelled last name with his three-syllable Hispanic name – but I’m already dreading the complications that may (or may not) ensue. Even people in my family have started calling me by his last name (on cards, packages, and in my mom’s case, a savings bond). I haven’t bothered to correct them since it’s largely my fault I’m so behind and they don’t know I’m planning a different change, but still, why assume, you know? And I have no idea how I’m going to correct them when I finally get everything done. A quick email that my name is now “officially Smyth-Garcia” will probably work for most of my family, but most people in his don’t really communicate that way, and using address labels that still list our names as different hasn’t given anyone the hint so far.

  59. One more thing – please do not misunderstand my lack of outrage. I completely understand how irksome it is to have someone misspell or mispronounce your name, I just think that the vast majority of the time no one intentionally does such things to piss someone off. Chances are that the inlaws are embarassed and have never asked the question because it would mean admitting they’ve made a mistake and have perpetuated that mistake by never asking the question. For some strange reason, I get this. I don’t support this course of action, but I get it.

  60. @Malia — Limburger?Our naming dilemma occurs when using DD’s Firstname. We usually call her Nickname, a very common flower name. But we don’t use it “officially.” Her legal, full name is a longer version of the flower name with a European pronunciation on the last syllable instead of the American pronunciation. The spelling has changed to reflect the correct pronunciation but NOBODY gets it right on the first try. I find it incredibly irritating that people can’t say her Firstname correctly when it is pronounced EXACTLY how it is spelled. Even an uncommon name should come out right the first time if it is phonetic according to American English.
    I also get “What’s your last name?” when I introduce myself as Firstname Lastname, because our last name is a common woman’s first name. I have to do a lot of, “Lastname IS my last name.” “WHAT is your last name, again?”
    Gah. Names. Rumplestiltskin, you have my sympathy. Your ILs are being a$$holes. BTW, may we call you “Rump?”

  61. I have to say that when reading payola and pa-o-la both sounded the same in my head. ๐Ÿ™‚ It took me a minute to figure out it must be Pah-o-lah?It’s not that I mind if people get my name wrong or my child’s name wrong (I could have named him Sam if it was going to be a huge deal to me)…it’s the lack of concern when it matters enough to me to correct them or in the case of the OP the intentional “mistake” or outright refusal to respect the choice a parent makes in naming their child, nicknames and all or specific lack thereof. And, yes, big picture, there are more important things to deal with, but, you know, respect is a big deal, too.

  62. @Mom2Boys – HA! Great comment (@1:39pm). You’re right, people are going to do what they’ll do. And we can’t change ’em!Your comment also goes to the issue of foreseeability, and the things we maybe CAN change & control. I’m thinking of a couple I know who named their son Andrew (great name, BTW), but they had many other names they liked, too. Now it’s perfectly foreseeable that a little Andrew might be called, oh heck I dunno, “Andy” or “Drew,” right? Well guess what? The couple HATES those names. It’s like a Serious Dramatic Confrontation Time whenever some well-meaning person calls the boy Andy. Now to me, that’s crazy. There are plenty of nickname-proof names out there in the world – prospective parents please, please find one if it’s going to remotely become an issue, and for gawd’s sake, don’t act so shocked & shaken when the common nicknames get used. Some people just aren’t good listeners nor very detail-oriented. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Personally, I try to be super vigilant about correctly speaking & writing folks’ names, because I think it is a pretty accurate litmus test for whether or not someone is caring. If, after being politely corrected, they can’t make the effort to get a name right, it almost like ipso facto proof that they kind of suck. (I’m talking here about the younger generations – let’s be real, many Depression-era folks don’t hear so well anymore and have never known any Jaidyns, Braidens, or Kadens and that’s ok!)
    As for our Rumplestiltskin, I heart you! Let DH handle any discussions with his family, and you handle any discussions with yours = a good rule of thumb in a marriage. Eccentriclibrarian’s script (@11:43am) would be a good one for DH to follow.

  63. Growing up, nobody could pronounce my name. I hated it, because it was unusual and different.As an adult, I like it for the same reason.
    As an aside, I don’t have the same last name as my husband, but my kids do. We decided before the kids were born that any girls would have my last name, and boys would have my husband.
    Fast forward to my older son at 4 years old, who is now very aware of names, and asks everyone what their middle name and last name are. When my dad told him what his last name was (same as mine), my son was very confused. “but that’s a girl’s name” he said.

  64. In Rumpelstiltskin’s situation, I would probably make an issue out of people not using the correct last name for the StepDaughter, particularly since it is confusing/hurting her. I think that even if the challenge is unsuccessful, it might be good for StepDaughter to see the challenge being made.I would start with the StepDaughter name issue as the most annoying one. I would fight a good fight on that, and if I won, I might consider moving on to the next issue.
    However, names just aren’t a big deal in my family, so my advice may not be relevant. I kept my last name when I married, for the same reason @Chaosgirl mentioned- I’d already published with it and I had watched other female scientists struggle to get “credit” for papers written under their maiden name once they’d switched to a married name.
    BUT- it doesn’t really bother me when someone calls me Mrs. HubbysName and I have always told my family that they can address cards to Mr and Mrs HubbysName if they want. Interestingly, almost no one does- not even the oldest generation.
    And Hubby’s family just don’t care at all, probably because my FIL changed his last name from his moderately funny last name to his mother’s unusual but not humorous last name. They are careful to use my last name, probably because they have always been very careful to be welcoming and respectful to me. I’m very lucky in that regard.
    I do get called Dr. HubbysName every now and then, which is very confusing because (1) I don’t use Dr. much even with my last name and (2) Dr. HubbysName is my FIL.
    And Hubby gets mail to Mr. MyLastName, which is really confusing because my first two initials are M.R., so I get mail addressed to Mr. MyLastName, too.
    Pumpkin has HubbysName, and no one has had any problems with that yet. We decided she should have his last name because, while still reasonably easy to spell and pronounce, it is far more unique than mine, so she’ll have an easier time getting good email addresses and the like in the future. Really- that was our logic.

  65. As noted in the last names post, my full first name is ALWAYS misspelled. I usually ignore it, because I know it’s an unusual spelling (although I’m happy to explicate!), but it bugs me when it’s misspelled on official documents… like ID, you know? I actually got someone on the phone right before I read this that called me “Kathy” (a nickname I intensely dislike for myself), who apologized profusely when I corrected it. Yay for people who get it!For the PP who wishes she’d not hyphenated, but simply added HisLastName on the end of hers – I did that (attempting to make my maiden name a second middle name), and people assume it’s hyphenated. You really can’t win.
    The Infanta (which I think is going to be her intarnet pseudonym henceforth) is named for my great-grandmother, but it includes as part of it my MIL’s name – a nicely inclusive touch, which my MIL loves. We call her by the nickname my great-grandmother used, and she responds to that. DH’s grandmother (the Infanta’s great-grandma) calls her by her full name – but I’m not too upset by that, Great-Grandma’s known for poor grandparenting skills (favoritism among other things), and we see her very rarely. What bugs me (and I know I condemned the mite to this, but…) is that people who encounter the name written first pronounce it like the state (CarolEYEna), not the way we do (CarolEEna). I actually asked them to make a note in her chart about it yesterday at the doctor’s! Topping it off, it turns out that a lot of people around here see it as a Romantic name (Spanish/Italian), and want to say the first ‘a’ as they’re said in Moxie’s name. Dude, her’s is like magazine, not dahlia! My mom referred to her in an email the other day as Lena, not Lina, but that’s prolly just my mom not remembering how we’re spelling it. She’s usually pretty good about that stuff, especially if subtly reminded. To recap (because that got long and possibly incomprehensible): Carol-eena, not Carol-eyena or Car-olina. But Lina for everyday, anyway.
    Rumpelstiltskin, your ILs suck. Totally go to bat for your stepdaughter! Also the rest of the last names. For your youngest – honestly, I think it’s ok for some family members to use variations that *only* they get to use. My godmother is allowed to spell my full name with a ‘C’ and an ‘e’, and I have an adoptive great-aunt who’s allowed to call me Kathy, because that’s her daughter’s name. My $.50.

  66. Haven’t read all comments but the name thing brought up feelings that i thought of sharing.. I kept my last name when we got married. I briefly thought about changing it when the babies were born but for religious reasons (not that i am very) i decided that for now i will follow scripture and not change it. later on if it gets complicated with kids and so forth i may change it and keep maiden name as middle name but for now i am a different name in my family.hubby couldn’t care less. most inlaws live overseas and so there isn’t much of a name issue. when i am visiting overseas i get called by mrs.husband’s first name since that is the culture… doesn’t bother me.
    but what bothers me is the mispronunciation of my first name especially if you know me and are acquainted/ social with me. I can forgive a few mispronunciations etc since it is unusual but most of the times people resort addressing to me as an alcoholic beverage. which again is not a big deal initially but especially when it comes to professional relationships i would much rather not be introduced as a beverage.

  67. I have two extremely unusual names that are difficult for people to remember correctly. As in, people I have worked with for a year or more will still occasionally slip and call me by the wrong name.I don’t really care. Because you know what, when you have unusual names that people have a hard time remembering, that is going to happen to you all your life, so you better learn to shrug it off.
    It’s not disrespectful. (I find the insistence that it’s disrespectful particularly silly, I’m sorry to say.) People are not intentionally being a big jerk to you to mess up your day. They just don’t remember! And instead of being prickly and offended, I just try to shrug and remember that that happens to me all the time. It took me weeks to learn to pronounce my Vietnamese coworker’s name correctly, or to remember that my other coworker’s name was spelled “Stephenie”, not “Stephanie”.
    People are not getting your kids’ names wrong to mess up your day. It’s unnecessarily ego-centric to go through life thinking that way, and to be honest, you saddled the kids with these names, that is the response they’re going to get for life: if even their family who loves them slips up and/or is confused, people they meet in schools and at jobs are not going to be magically better at it. People are just not automatically going to intuit the perfect way to address them. I strongly suggest that you lose the chip on the shoulder, adopt a philosophical attitude, and learn to shrug to your kids and say “Well, we do have complicated names, I guess! Isn’t it nice that Grandma sent you a card, though?”
    Or else you’re going to raise people who will get vociferously angry when the Starbucks employee mangles their name on the paper cup, and it’s just not worth it to go through life perpetually pissed off about something so minor.

  68. Last post I swear -My uncle has called my sister Adele her whole life. Not all the time but whenever he would first see her it was always a greeting to Adele. My sister’s name is not Adele. My sister was supposed to be a boy and when the family asked what her name was going to be if she were a girl, her father cheekily replied Adele. Now this nickname has love and humor behind it and if it had ever bothered my sister to the point of I just can’t hear that name one more time, my uncle would have stopped but it didn’t and it’s just part of their relationship now. And for sure my mom never had any intention of naming my sister Adele. (no offense to any adeles out there)

  69. I would be inclined to address the problem directly, but that is my nature and not always the best approach. The direct approach seems most appropriate for helping your stepdaughter who seems hurt. It’s frustrating when your in-laws seem to do something just to make you mad. Good luck to you.My story about names:
    Names are important to me and I think it’s disrespectful and rude to misspell or mispronounce a name once you know the correct name. My daughter has an unusual middle name and we call her both her first name and her middle name (a “double name” in the South where we are). I wanted to just call her the first name, but my husband (from NY so it surprised me) wanted to call her both names because the middle name came from his side of the family. Okay, I agree. Then it’s HIS family who will not call her the correct name. She’s 2.5 and several people in his family still won’t call her by the correct name.
    When we had our second daughter, we just call her the first name and don’t call her the double name like her sister. It’s less complicated and I’m guessing my older daughter will drop the double name and just go by her first name in a few years anyway because her middle name is so unusual.

  70. What jumped out at me, Rumple, –can I call you Rumple?–is when you wrote: They’re starting to act like they think she’s slow, since she ‘doesn’t respond to her name’ about your youngest DD. Oh my goodness, that would give me seizures. You have my sympathy.DH’s paternal grandparents simply don’t acknowledge that I kept my name. I let it go. That’s not my hill to die on.
    We hyphenized our kids, poor dears. I wanted them to just have my last name, but DH had opinions on that… so… it’s called compromise when both sides walk away feeling they didn’t get exactly what they wanted. I do get very tired about comments about how complicated that is. I guess I don’t see the whole package–not just hypens, but step-children, not-married-partners, and so on, as that freakin’ complicated. I think people act as if it’s complicated in order to make sure their problems with how the world is today are known. They can’t say (at least, the reasonably polite ones can’t) that our choices Are Bad, so they fuss over how confusing the choices are. And they pretend not to understand.
    Hmmm. Rumple, I think you need to get it off your chest, either via you or DH. So I would lay it out on the table, but be willing to move on if you lay it out there and they ignore what you’ve said. But perhaps having clearly spoken your piece will help.

  71. I kept my own name when I got married and due to several recent deaths in the family,I realized people are clueless. My name was on the obits –BUT IT WASN’T MY NAME. It was Firstname HisLastname. I can forgive my ILs because I am 98 percent sure the person who wrote the obit doesn’t actually know I kept my last name, but my OWN FATHER wrote the obit for my grandma and this is the first time he’s pulled that crap in my 8 years of marriage.And? I realized when my first child was born that women CANNOT WIN no matter what we do namewise. I got a lot of flak (from surprising quarters) for keeping my name; then when my daughter was born my now-ex BFF was all “now WHY are you giving her your husband’s name?” Grrr.
    As far as your family, I agree with everyone else — stick up for your stepdaughter and let the rest slide.

  72. Okay, I lied back again, but my starbucks name, the one they write down after I say my name, (because everyone messes up my name and really, I don’t go ballistic when it’s just a perfect stranger or even my 60 year old boss who sometimes calls me his old assistant’s name so really that can’t have much to do with my name at all) is Aidrienne and I like it. It’s more fun than my real name, so for that it makes me happy that they can’t get my name right. I wonder what they would put on my cup if I said my name was Aidrienne…

  73. I too, did not take my husband’s name when we married. My in-laws were (and still are) offended by this. As my mother in law said, “you just don’t want to be part of the family”. Um, no. I just don’t think women should have to change their names. This is my name, my identity and I choose not to change it. Why doesn’t your son change his name to be the same as mine?Regardless, once our little one was born, there was a bunch of hubbub about who’s name he would have and I was fine with giving him my husband’s last name but I wanted him to have a name from my side of the family as well, which he does, and that’s the rule for all the kids. I just want a somewhat equal representation.
    I have heard lots from friends/family about how when our kids are in school it will be a hassle and no one will believe that he’s my child, etc. but my mom always had a different last name from my brother and me and hey guess what? No one ever thought we weren’t her kids! Shocking!
    As for getting things addresses to Mrs. Husband-last-name and not my own, it kind of burns me depending on who it’s from, but I can see why people just assume it should be so. It’s tough to break a cultural norm.

  74. Wow– this post seems to have touched a lot of nerves. Names are a terribly personal issue that strike right at the heart of our identity. However, I’d like to offer an alternative view to some of those expressed here. Hopefully I won’t get flamed for it. :)It seems that the problem in a lot of these situations is old-fashioned etiquette and manners meeting new-fashioned senses of identity and freedom. I’m all for the later, but you’ve got to help out the folks still practicing the former.
    There was a time (including when I was growing up– and I’m not that old) that addressing an envelope to “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” did two things: first it showed that you were being polite (and not informally addressing someone). Second, it made clear which family members you intended to include in the invitation. (Children not listed? They are not invited). Thus, the invitee never had to embarrass the inviter by calling and asking “did you mean to include the children?” (the embarrassment arising when the answer was “no.”).
    In lots of modern families, we’ve created a name stew. We can hardly snark when the traditionalists around us have no idea what to do when faced with sending a Christmas card or a party invitation to the family. How *should* the grandparents address the Christmas card in Rumplestiltskin’s case? I count 4 different last names in this family. Should the grandparents list all members of the family individually? Send 4+ separate cards? Address it to the Smith/Jones/Adams/Smith-Jones family? I’d be tempted to address it to “Residents” and be done with it. (Joke, please, it’s a joke).
    As the chefs who created the name stew, I think these parents (specifically the son– who should address the problem with his own parents) should make some suggestions to help the grandparents out.
    How about this? “We know there are a lot of names in this family, and it can be hard to address an envelope to us. We would be fine if you address it to the Smith-Jones Family. However, Stepdaughter doesn’t share either of these names, and it hurts her feelings when her name is left off. Would you be willing to either list her separately on the envelope or send her a separate card? If you’d like, we’d be happy to do X to help you remember.”
    Only once the issue has been openly, calmly, and politely addressed should we assume that the grandparents are being purposely disrespectful. They might be willing to do the right thing if given a little help.
    As for the baby’s name, I think you have to accept that various family members may end up calling the child by different names. When the child is old enough to express a preference, then the child’s wishes should be respected. Rumplestiltskin says that “It’s a beautiful name, and we love it, but it’s also four syllables long and kind of overly formal.” If that’s the only objection, then remind the grandparents that it may be a while before baby answers to the given name and move on. After all, you can hardly complain that they are using the name you gave your child.
    I’m surprised at how quickly some folks chose to jump on (or write off) others who call them or their children by a common nickname. Can’t you just politely correct the person and continue the conversation? While I do my best to spell and pronounce people’s names correctly, I may just need a pleasant and polite reminder that this Dave is David, this Zach is Zachary, this Kris is Kristine, and this Catherine is Catharine.
    Before you all shout at me, I too have had my name hurdles. Does it bug me to get a Christmas card addressed to Dr. and Mrs. OurLastName, when I have a doctorate too? Yep. Does it bug me to get an invitation addressed to “Professor and Mrs. OurLastName” when I’m a professor too? Yep. Does it bug me to get a card addressed to Mr. and Mrs. HisFirstName OurLastName? Hell yes– I have a name too. But I realize that these folks are mostly just trying to do the right– and what they think is the polite– thing. They deserve a polite response.

  75. I am not Italian, but I understand that my name is well-known in Italy. It’s Chiara – pronounced “key-are-a.” However, the “ch” as “k” sound is rare to Americans, so I grew up like someone else said, always knowing when my name was about to be called when someone squinted and hesitated. I can always spot a telemarketer because it’s “shy-ra” “chee-air-a” or “ch-eye-ra.” Attempted nickname caused its own problems. There are people who have known me for years who still say “key-air-a.” I usually correct a couple times, then give it up. I totally agree that some people don’t hear the difference in certain vowel pronunciations because I have corrected only to hear, “right, key-air-a!” Uh, yeah, nevermind.Until the internet came along, I never heard of another Chiara out there, but now I know there are many (hi!).
    So then I meet my husband and he has a rather unfortunate Austrian last name that 1)would need an “e” on the end for correct pronunciation
    2)is a synonym for butt
    But, in some ways I’m an old-fashioned girl, so taking his name was never in question. I try not to think about what I thought of it when I first met him, ha. He just says I must have really been in love with him to end up with a first name AND last name that no one can say on first glance.
    My grandfather had no problem saying my name, but never, ever could spell it right. He brought me a brooch he had made somewhere with “Chaira” spelled out in gold. I don’t know if I ever wore it out, but I love it. It’s the most “him” thing I have and nothing else brings back so strongly the memory of how much I loved him.

  76. My FIL misspelled my first son’s name for three years, despite corrections. He even ordered a magazine subscription for him at age 3 with the wrong name. Since son was already able to spell his name, he’s the one that corrected his grandfather the last time- the time that “took”.

  77. Oh HO! Do I have a story to contribute today! Baby’s about to wake up so didn’t read all the comments yet but I will asap — I’m interested to see if anyone else has similar issues.My husband and I combined our names when we married. His name was a longish uncommon surname and mine was shorter but completely weird and unpronouncable. Our new name is half his and half mine and is way easier to spell and pronounce. Or so we think, anyway.
    We made this decision in about 2 minutes, while standing in line to get our marriage license at City Hall. I really have NO IDEA what we were thinking.
    The last year — the first of our marriage — has been a long series of conversations about Names and What They Mean. It’s been eye-opening, and that’s a giant understatement.
    We’re finally at a place where everyone in our immediate families feels okay with the name but it was a long, long road.
    My feminist mother (who kept her name when she married and throughout my childhood would actually throw away mail addressed to her in my father’s name) loved the concept and my father was amused. My in-laws were predictably baffled and hurt, though less hurt than they might have been. Extended family on my husband’s side continues to be low-level outraged. It was even hard for my husband to finish all the name-change paperwork, and it was entirely his idea!
    I’m afraid I have no real advice. I’m pretty much following Moxie’s suggestion that it’s an exercise in generosity for me to ignore any name issues…though my son is still too young to feel hurt or confused by them. For me, the take-away message is: do not underestimate the depth of our inner feelings about what we call ourselves. WOW.

  78. Paola, I don’t know if this makes you feel any better, but I have a cousin in the Trieste area who has your name and she is constantly complaining that other Italians screw up her name.She being the only Italian-Italian (as opposed to IT-American, IT-Canadian, etc.) Paola I know, I presume she has a point that it’s one of those names, even to Italians. . . but it might be a dialect thing too, I never thought to ask.
    I do know American Paolas who have been shocked that I know the “real” pronounciation of their name– they all seem rather resigned to being called “Paula.”

  79. “It’s not disrespectful. (I find the insistence that it’s disrespectful particularly silly, I’m sorry to say.) People are not intentionally being a big jerk to you to mess up your day. They just don’t remember!”I buy this is some situations, not in others. I do know some charmingly ditsy types who screw things up, and they mean no harm. But I also know people who deliberately get things wrong either to make a point that they don’t like your decision or because they can’t be bothered to get right something you have made clear is important to you, and in those cases, I think not getting irritated is a favor you do yourself, not a courtesy you owe them.
    People have a right to do what they want. Other people have a right to feel about it the way they do. You don’t get to claim one part of that equation and deny the other.

  80. I read the post and walked away for a while and thought about it, and am now coming back after a while. I haven’t had time to read every single comment yet so I may be repeating (but the baba is waking up from nap and I only have a minute).I think what would be hardest for me in this situation is thinking that the in-laws consider the youngest one “slow” for not responding to her name. That sucks, to think that anyone is judging your child at all, much less negatively and incorrectly. I think others have stated well that kiddos are resilient and figure it all out. It’s probably hardest not for your littlest one in this situation, ’cause she will get it eventually, but for you. I liked what Moxie said about laughing about it thirty years from now.
    But for the rest, I have put a lot of thought into this – into why people have such a hard time with the newfangled way we have of not taking our husbands’ names automatically, and naming our children in the manner that is best for us and our little nuclear families. It sounds like lots and lots of us are facing this. And that’s why I can’t get it out of my head.
    I really think other generations and cultures may sometimes see this as an affront to the way they were raised. And they may not be able to separate their own feelings about “people who don’t take the married name” from the actual situation. For example, my stepmother did not take my dad’s name when she married him, and it is odd for friends and family. I think they see it as her “trying to give herself an out if she needs one”, or trying to find a way to make divorce easier should she want to go down that path. Of course, they have been married now for oh, twenty years and are as much in love as the day they married so I personally don’t think that, I am just reporting what others have hinted about.
    Alternatively some people may personally have taken their husband’s name as a sign of the commitment to the new family they are creating, and because they took the name in such a deliberate and thoughtful way, they may judge others who view it differently. Is that right? Not necessarily. But I think it may have a lot to do with why people are so passive-aggressive about this – particularly husbands’ parents, who may hold on to their own beliefs so tightly that it prevents them from seeing that their daughters-in-law can be completely committed but still want their own name.
    Anyway, I guess distilled, I have three points:
    1) unless your husband’s family does tons and tons of other hurtful things to you, I agree with those who say, try to let it go – if they are basically kind and loving people to you. Because it’s just not worth it to try to fix the feelings behind their actions.
    2) If you really, really need to make a statement, maybe consider giving them pre-printed ADDRESS labels. This will help them see how you want things addressed and maybe will make a point while still being something useful. And you can make a joke out of it.
    3) This is to all of you with complicated names ๐Ÿ™‚ go easy on all of us who inevitably get it wrong when we try to send you holiday cards ๐Ÿ™‚ It sounds to me like most of you do. But it can be so hard to keep all of our friends’ naming conventions straight. Most of us really do our best though.
    Oh, and I was thinking – is the stepdaughter directly related to your husband’s family (it can be so hard to tell and I wasn’t clear on it based on what was written above)? And how old is she? Maybe if she’s in that great 6-10 year old age range, maybe you can encourage her to speak up herself… unless you think that would be hard for her and she may get hurt out of it… but maybe they will take it well when she states clearly what her name is. Just a guess though.

  81. I would say to go easy on people who just might not know/remember. I’ve had this issue when sending out the Christmas cards – I know my second cousin’s wife kept her name, but I don’t quite remember what it is…This was my explanation for why we got so many “Mr and Mrs hisname hislastname” cards from his side, though people seem to be able to remember what my husband’s last name is, even if they were my childhood friend and never met him, and I didn’t change my name.
    Also – hello, charities out there? Can you please allow for donations in the name of couples who have different last names? The latest one was something addressed to Mr. and Ms. Hisname Hislastname. That doesn’t make sense on any front.

  82. When I married, I took my hubby’s last name. My maiden name was my father’s name, and I had no relationship with him. My inlaws were already closer to me than my dad ever was, so I was happy to take their name. (both names are common and easy to spell)Hubby’s first name is now commonly a girls name. Mine can go either way, but the spelling is clearly feminine. When we picked DD’s name, we picked the feminine spelling. Didn’t know it would become a hugely popular boys name. ( boy’s spelling is 1 letter different than the girl’s version)
    So, nobody can figure out just by our names who is the husband/wife. ( sure makes it easy to screen junk mail and telemarketers!)
    And nobody can correctly spell my name or DDs.
    In my opinion, we all have beautiful names.

  83. I have a complicated naming situation, too, but I don’t care if people get it wrong. It also helps that I don’t have inlaws, I’m sure! I think if you set up a complex naming situation you maybe shouldn’t be shocked when people get it wrong, even if they are purposely getting it wrong because it annoys them. I might make a point of the stepdaughter’s last name being different, and let the rest go. The inlaws will learn to use the nickname the little one responds to, or the little one will learn to respond to the longname.My name, Dana, can be pronounced Daa-na or Day-na or Dah-na. I don’t particularly mind which version people use. Sometimes I’ll correct people if they try Diana or Donna, though. I think Magda is a beautiful name as Maa-gda or Mah-gda.
    My husband’s original last name was impossibly long and foreign, so he changed it when he emigrated to Canada. Unfortunately he changed it to a name associated with a nationality he does not possess, this creates mostly amusing confusion. (E.g., calling yourself Kruger when you have an accent but you aren’t German.) He’s so estranged from his family of origin that they don’t even know his new name. I come from a big clan, and I would never have changed my name anyway, let alone to his red-herring of a name. Our kids have my last name. They also have first names that are traditional with lots of traditional nicknames, some of which I try on from time to time.
    So, we get called all sorts of stuff. I might get Mrs. Husbandname, he might get Mr. Wifename, who cares? We’re entitled to use each other’s names if we want to, and I do use Mrs. Husbandname if it’s convenient, like in a hotel. He can use Mr. Wifename when dealing with the school when the time comes. Some of the family will address us (e.g., on a Christmas present tag) as “the Husbandnames,” even though, of course the only one in the family with that name is husband. Maybe they know our kids’ last name is mine, maybe they don’t, but it’s the easiest way to distinguish our particular family among the extended family anyway. With the nicknames, well, of my sons is named Frederick: call him Fred, call him Freddie, call him Federico, I don’t care, just enjoy him and talk to him. I wouldn’t have picked a long name with common nicknames if it would bother me when people used them. When he learns to talk he can tell people if he doesn’t like one of them.
    So, I guess, I would let go of as much of this as possible, but I suppose that’s easy for me to say because, while I do have a crazy naming situation, I don’t attribute any meaning to people getting it wrong.

  84. I changed my last name to my husband’s when we married, and made my old last name my middle (neatly shedding an insipid middle name I’d never liked). Many reasons:- aesthetics – he has a beautiful last name, and I was never crazy about mine, but felt it was nonetheless a part of me.
    – I’d published under the original name a fair bit, and didn’t want the confusion associated with shedding my original last name.
    – support -he had mixed feelings about his own last name, which came from his con-artist father. (Me: “But honey, he always used an alias!”)
    – failure to come up with a new last name that worked well for both of us.
    Anyway, this has worked pretty well, despite people assuming I’ve hyphenated when I haven’t and so throwing me into alphabetization-related confusion I was trying to dodge.
    The one real issue has come from my family, who collectively tend toward the, um, self-referential. They occasionally – not all the time but often enough – address cards, etc. to me using my original name. Annoying. Then my sister addresses a card to my *son* using my original name. Knowing DH has some name issues. Gah.
    OK, she felt terrible when I gently pointed it out – but, c’mon, how hard is it? We just go with “be gracious but firm,” and then roll our eyes later. Still…

  85. ok, i mainly agree with rudyinparis and lawprofmom.my birth cert name is ‘marcia’ which can legitimately be pronounced ‘marsha’. i correct with ‘it’s marSEEa, i go by marci’. not usually a problem, but i know what it’s like to constantly feel you are defending your name/identity. i’ve also not changed my name in marriage before, but i wasn’t all up in arms about christmas cards addressed incorrectly.
    anyway, in perfect fantasy life, i would have a caring calm assertive conversation along the ‘it’s not you, it’s us, i know it’s confusing but please respect our choices’ and then *let it go* with respect to me but not the kids – that one i’d keep gently correcting and trying to not be snarky or sarcastic so as to preserve the kiddos’ relationships.
    in real life, i’d steam and steam and totally freak on hubby when i got him alone in the car after a visit. sigh.
    anyway, yet another ‘pick your battles’ kinda thing – if they know and use the children’s names correctly, i’d let mine mainly go. and i wouldn’t sweat the nickname, though i would require hubby to very firmly take care of any slights on baby’s intelligence.

  86. My oldest daughter’s first name is Mary Grace. Not Mary. Not Grace. Mary Grace. She has no middle name, but when she’s in trouble, I call her “Mary Grace Elizabeth Lastname” because Elizabeth is my middle name and my second daughter’s middle name.We arrived at this name because I wanted to name her “Grace,” but so did everyone else in 2005, so I changed it without making it unpronouncable. I think it’s a beautiful, classic name.
    My two uncles call her Mary. And at 3, she doesn’t recognize that they’re talking to her at all. My husband’s best friend and his family call her “Gracie” and she responds to that. Not sure why. Maybe she only hears the last part of the name when I call her?
    But everyone else calls her “Mary Grace.” That’s her name. And when my uncles call her “Mary” it just drives me insane. How hard is it to add that extra syllable and call her by her name?
    I think it’s fine for kids to have different nicknames from different groups/family members/friends, etc. Although I was “Aimothy George” – a joke because my cousin was Timothy George – with my dad’s family and I hated it. I guess I wouldn’t sweat it if the ‘rents are calling the kid by its given name instead of the nickname. Maybe they’re just more formal. But I wish we had veto power over nicknames and shortened names.
    I guess it’s just part of the parents’ eternal struggle to let go.
    The last name thing, though, that’s just passive aggressive, and I’d be sorely tempted to mark incorrectly addressed mail “return to sender.”
    Amy @ http://prettybabies.blogspot.com

  87. I haven’t read all the posts yet but . . .you obviously have every right to take or not take whatever name you would like. And to name your child whatever you’d like. And, the hangups about women taking the DH’s last name is antiquated in some respects. But it is also the woman’s choice . . .
    That having been said, the OP has a lot of rules/issue going on re: names. From the family’s point of view, it might be a bit much. It is even from mine and I don’t have an interest either way. So, maybe just relax a little and pick your battles. Is calling baby her correct name rather than a nickname THAT big of a deal? I grew up with about 4 diff names/nicknames . . . Just putting this out there.

  88. My son is 18 months and his name is John. I was suprised by how many people had a problem with this standard male name. I think many think its boring, but I think it is classic and strong and kind. I thought for sure I would never call him Johnny, but now you look in his baby eyes, and, well…. he’s a Johnny. My baby nephew’s name is Samuel and I call him Sam or Sammy or Sambo or Samalama or… etc. I do it out of the utmost adoration of the little guy. I always thought people using nicknames was cute (but obviously not in the case of the writers’ in-laws, who are clearly sticking it to her in my book). I think in many cases nicknames are truly just a sign of major endearment.

  89. my name is the germanic version of a name that exists in many other versions. usually people make the effort. a few people deliberately mispronounce it, like my ex-boss’ husband. i have learned to correct people once and then i usually let it go. because it just doesn’t really get to me. i think it’s a power thing. rumple’s in-laws are playing with her, however it doesn’t seem like she has made her wishes clear either.

  90. This is so timely for me. Oh my god, so timely. I haven’t slept well since Thanksgiving because of the disrespectful sh*t that both my husband and I receive from my in-laws (SIL in particular). We’ve been right in the middle of trying to figure out how to stand up for ourselves and have a relationship on mutual terms, not just on their terms (as eccentriclibertarian put so beautifully). I haven’t yet read all of the comments, but will be coming back to them all day. Thanks!

  91. @CatIn Spain, your name doesn’t actually change once you get married. As you mentioned you have your father’s surname followed by your mother’s and it stays this way forever, fortunately. But, it is as though you have a line of other surnames (that you can not see)behind those two names. In fact, in the Basque country, they can calculate how ‘Basque’ someone is by the number of real Basque names that person has. BTW,your kids are the only ones in the family who have the same surnames.
    I lived there for 2 years in the early 90’s and I was just referred to by my one surname, although I would have liked to have had the two surnames like the Spanish.
    You know, I was thinking that people may not actually hear the pronunciation of unusual names correctly and so mimic the sound they think they hear, and not the actual sound. Like when kids pronounce words the way they think they are pronounced (and not the way they are actully pronounced). Like my son, always pronounced our dog ‘Toby”s name ‘Bobby’ and he was able to pronounce the ‘T’ in other words, but not in the poor dog’s name. I’d say no ‘To-by’ and he’d say’Bo-bby’. A good friend of mine (I’ve known him for 20 years) insists on calling me ‘pow-la’, rather than the Paula that all my Anglo friends call me, as he thinks he is one of very few who can actully pronounce it correctly. I correct him like I do my son, no Rob, ‘PAH-O-LA’, and he replies, ‘that’s what I said, ‘powla’.

  92. re: paola. thanks for describing how to pronounce your name! now i’ll be ahead of the curve when i meet someone with your name. i am one of those types who make it a personal point to try to pronounce names correctly. sometimes i even avoid saying someone’s name altogether until i hear them pronounce it.regarding in-laws not specifying the correct last name… i have been gently corrected by my aunt and sister about their new last names, in one instance switching from old husband’s last name to new husband’s last name, and another with spelling. but honestly i was doing the best i could given a lack of upfront information.
    -Sherry H.

  93. My 2 cents and a silly story:My MIL will occasionally call me by DH’s old girlfriend’s name. Old as in, from HIGH SCHOOL. But she loved her dearly, or at least wanted people to think she did for various reasons, and is yet another master of the passive aggressive, so she does it. Honestly, I don’t give a s&*^ and would agree with the have a glass of wine comment. BUT – if she did this to a CHILD who was old enough to be confused by it, I would definitely let her know that that it is confusing and would be much appreciated if she could make some extra effort to get that right.
    As far as the baby, eh, grandparents and babies have pet names amongst themselves. If they want her to respond when they call, they may or may not figure it out. Again, just my two cents.
    Now the silliness: my best friend’s name is Christa and never went by anything else. Unfortunately, she fell in love with a man named Chris. His sweet old grandfather used to call them both Chrissy. Anyone else would have gotten the look of death for it, but Grandpas and sweet old men have special privileges, I suppose. ๐Ÿ™‚

  94. I come at this issue from the side of being the the obnoxious relative who never gets anyone’s name right. But it’s a pronunciation issue since they live in another country and I honestly can’t say, or even hear, some of their names correctly. I say my own husband’s name kinda wrong. But the truth is I could definitely try harder. One sister-in-law has a lovely name that I butcher into some twangy American-sounding thing, and I can say it mostly right if I try but, um, well, I don’t. It’s too hard. Especially when in the middle of an English sentence. I don’t know that she cares–I’m pretty sure my American-o-phile brother-in-law loves that I say his name the American way–but I imagine she would prefer to be called by her actual name. Of course, they pronounce my name the way it is in their language and that irritates me a bit since, after all, that’s not my name, but I also find it a little charming and inclusive, so…None of this is helpful. I like the idea of asking them, all innocent, why they call so-and-so by an incorrect/not-preferred name.

  95. My best friend has a similar problem. Her real first name is something male, and incredibly common in middle eastern countries. She hates this name – doesn’t consider it who she is. Her chosen nickname is also distinctly male, and her family HATES it – her mother specifically chose something that could not be nicknamed. However, I don’t think of her as anything other than her nickname, so I exclusively use that. I usually accompany her to family dinners and such, and so I use her nickname to refer to her without thinking, and am … ahem… gently corrected by her mother, while they both seethe. It’s escalating into world war four. We haven’t found a solution, either.I’m planning, should things progress that far, to use my boyfriend’s last name privately, but publicly and legally retain my own last name in honour of my grandfather. Children will likely take their father’s name just to simplify, but first names will be heavily associated with my family.
    My boyfriend actually doesn’t care about names at all – considers them representations of a person, not part of a person, and are thus mutable. I like that idea.

  96. I’m with asking them about why they do that. It’s a kind of Miss Manners-ish answer. Kind of like ‘why do you ask?’ for nosy questions – it will stump those who are doing it to be mean (because they won’t admit it), and it will draw out the reasons for those who aren’t.MANY of my family members mess up what name I use. I know for a fact that my elder sister L loves me, is fond of me, and respects me a great deal. She can’t remember whether I took ep’s last name, hypenated, or kept my own. She’s been sending me checks for tuition help for the kids for a few years, now, and only in maybe the last year has she settled to the correct name, and that’s after checking how I endorsed the check on a monthly basis for that long. My little brother can’t remember how to spell my kids names (three of the four), and I messed up his son’s name a good half-dozen times before I figured out how to remember it. My mom still mispronounces Miss M’s name regularly, and I’m absolutely certain that she loves, respects, and admires her, and also thinks her name is super cool. It just doesn’t have enough precedent in her language capacity for her to hold the cadence, inflection, and sounds all at once. She’ll get one right, but not the others.
    Then there’s me. I was born with one name, informally adopted my step-dad’s last name, formally adopted my step-dad’s last name (through affidavit, so not LEGALLY formally, just enough to get my passport and drivers license and SSN in it… that loophole is closed, I think, but anyway), and when I got married, I declined to take ep’s last name – it just sounded silly together. My eldest sister took her dad’s last name, my second eldest swapped to her birth dad’s last name, then took her husband’s last name and KEPT that name through two subsequent marriages. My next sister kept the step-dad’s last name, the next brother down (still above me) took our dad’s last name (not step-dad’s), I have my step-dad’s, my little brother (half) has his step-dad’s.
    Head spinning yet? Long story short, we mess up whose names are whose sometimes. Mainly we have it right after about a decade or two. We try to make clear that it isn’t a love thing, or a respect thing, it is just a brain function thing. And we do keep trying to get it right.
    Now, for the common ground issue that seems to be at the heart of the whole deal here – the ILs seem to have issues with the MEANING of the name-being-used. Not the meaning of the actual name, but the implications and metamessage of using one vs the other. Address this, and you may find a comfortable place in the middle.
    You’re stuck both valuing the naming, it seems – they value one side, you value the other. You wanted to choose for your family, they wanted to choose for their family – and that included you. That may be part of your common ground – that you both know that names carry complex relationships with them, and that you both want to control how your family’s names are presented and what they represent.
    There’s also a load of emotional mangle and hurt feelings involved. Yours (please call them what I want you to call them), and theirs (please let us call you what we want to call you).
    So, ‘I notice that you can’t remember that I have a different name than you, and that you can’t remember how my name is spelled. I wonder if you feel I didn’t want to be part of your family because I didn’t take your name? I worry that you always felt that this was a wall between us. I also wonder if you feel that our reasons are a rejection of the things you value most?’ And at the same time, ‘I like to choose how I present myself to the world, and for now we’d like to set the stage for how our kids present themselves to the world. Names are part of that self-image, and it is important, we feel, to allow that to follow forward with everyone who loves them – to respect their name AS USED is to respect who they are right now. They may change their minds later about how they wish to be addressed, but it’s so important to their sense of identity – both as individuals and as members of a multi-layered family – that we’d really like you to pay attention to this and get it right. Would you be willing to try to be more accurate to the AS-USED names for now?’
    I think it’s okay for the child to be called by the long-formal-name by people with a particular relationship to the child. That’s like a nickname, but in reverse – a pet name, really, an act of affection. Both lengthening and shortening names are acts of affection. It may be more uncomfortable right now because there are so MANY other name-related issues involved, it smacks of ‘one MORE thing that they will not attend to with respect!’ – but in fact, that one may be a totally different function. It just smells similar.
    Meanwhile, just talk to them about the meaning of names – maybe get into family history, genealogy, and so forth. Maybe mention that you’re glad that the kids have husbands-last-name so that the history will be easy to track, and you’re equally glad they have yours so that your name won’t get lost, either – and talk about your family history. Also, talk about other people who have done the same things, how the rules change with each generation, and how we’re in the generation that is still figuring out how to do this – maybe next generation will change their minds, but for now, this is what we’ve done to get the maximum usefulness from the process. Plus it means something to you (clearly) so express that, too.
    Okay, back to work for me. I wish I could read all the replies, but it is WORKSHOP day tomorrow. The BIG workshop that the little workshops all were preparation for. My brain is melting.

  97. urg. Little step-brother has his DAD’s (my step-dad’s) (and the eldest sister has a different dad than me, too, so that’s a further different name). Oh, and my mom goes by her maiden name.

  98. For Rumplestiltskin: try having your husband talk to his parents and tell them that it’s offensive that they don’t even try to get it right. As for the grandchild’s nickname thing – if you’ve repeatedly told them over and over, then there’s nothing you’re going to be able to do about it. The rule in our family was that when we announced our daughter’s name, WE got to choose what she was called – her full name and a nickname of our choice.My own naming story? My mother wanted to name me Christiana and nn me Christy. At birth, the nurse spelled it wrong and while my mom was dealing with a severe infection post-c-section my father allowed the misspelling of Christina to go on the birth certificate. I was 5 years old before I knew my name wasn’t legally Christy and I was in high school before I adopted the name I was supposed to be. ๐Ÿ™‚
    My father hates that I go by Christiana. And he misspells my name all the time. My family are the only ones who call me Christy/Christi (I changed the spelling to a “shortened version of my true name” in jr high) still and my dad can’t even get my preferred spelling right. I don’t think it’s because he’s being obstinate, I think he truly doesn’t notice/care.

  99. Hmm! Very interesting topic and commentary!I’m much like M from page one. I kept my last name when we married. Then we gave our son my husband’s last name, but he has my last name as his second middle name. It was great to see I’m not the only one! (I actually would have really liked to give my son a hyphenated name, but it would have been 16 letters, including a relatively unusual one repeated three times; everyone told me it would be too much.)
    Reading the posts here makes me realize how lucky I am. I never got (or heard, anyway) flak about keeping my name, from strangers or from family. Sometimes I have to specify to administrative personnel–at the doctor’s office or whatever–that I have a different last name from my husband, but it never elicits annoying commentary.
    I do often get mail addressed to Mrs. Hislastname. 99% of the time I’m only bothered in a small way by this sort of error, because it comes from someone who doesn’t know me well, and my botheration is solely due to the fact that I’m a feminist and don’t believe in assuming, in this day and age, that a woman has taken her husband’s name. On the other hand, a lot of times there’s no easy way for someone to find out. In the same way, my husband’s grandmother addresses cards to Mr. & Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname, a convention which I loathe in principle because it totally removes my identity, but the lady’s 83, so it’s no surprise she’s old-school, and she doesn’t even get the spelling of my husband’s common first name correctly (poor guy).
    I have a fairly uncommon first name, so I get everything that comes with that, too, and that might have inured me. There, too, 99% of the time it doesn’t bother me; anyone to whom I’m close enough to feel a personal investment in the issue gets it right.
    I think things take on a very different tone when it’s someone who should know better: a coworker who’s still getting your first name wrong after months or years, or family that you communicate with frequently. In-laws are especially tough because that relationship is so fraught anyway. It sounds as if Rumple’s (hee!) relationship with her in-laws has other issues going on that make the naming issue less bearable.
    I agree with some other posters that the last name situation does sound complicated. Because of this (without knowing all the details, anyway) I would be less inclined to take this part of things personally, because last names don’t come up in regular use. Even if you use return addresses with the correct spelling/distribution of names, they may not look at those closely.
    I would go to bat for the stepdaughter. If you can coach her on bringing it up in a way that flows with their everyday interactions, and she feels comfortable, I would do that.
    Otherwise, I would strongly suggest that you have your husband bring up the issue with your in-laws. Not because he’s the guy, but because he’s the one related to them. I think families just naturally listen more that way. You didn’t mention his feelings on the situation, and that makes me wonder if he doesn’t feel as strongly, or doesn’t want to bring it up with them, etc. As with children, it will be key to have a united front on whatever tack you decide you want to take.
    About Not-Fifi: this one I think is middle-of-the-road; to address, maybe, if you make a dent with stepdaughter. The one thing that is unacceptable is them thinking she is slow because she doesn’t respond to her full name. I would just repeat, repeat, repeat (maybe after having that glass of wine): “Of course she isn’t responding. Since she’s so young, we always call her by her nickname, and that’s what she knows as her name. Watch! [to baby] Maggie!” (or whatever her nick is).
    My sympathies, and I hope you make at least some progress, if not everything you would like.

  100. I’m used to the (minor) butchering of my own first name โ€“ย mispronunciation, misspelling. I got over being irritated by it by the time I was in middle school.My daughter’s name, thoughย โ€“ more of an issue. Her first name is after my great-grandmother, also shared either in the first or middle position by various cousins in various generations. I chose to spell it the ‘traditional’ way, not the ‘family’ way (one silent vowel is removed from the family spelling), basically to spare her the lifetime of correcting spelling that I’ve endured. I wavered, didn’t feel strongly, and just picked one.
    My grandmother has not and will never use the correct spelling. I just got an email from her today, in fact, with the wrong spelling. It doesn’t bother me too much though. As Moxie said, I’m fine with chalking it up to the older generation/force of habit/whatever. My daughter is almost but not quite old enough to notice the discrepancy and I don’t know how she’ll feel about it.
    Her last name, well that is a much more aggravating issue for me, one that will likely always bother me. I stupidly gave her my last name then her father’s last name, no hyphen. So essentially she’s got two middle names and his last name. Since he is in no way involved in a parenting capacity, I would far far rather she have my last name for simplicity’s sake as well as my own emotional reasons. I’d also frankly rather she identify with my family than his โ€“ย screwed up as mine is, his is 100x worse.
    I have waffled over this for her whole life now, sometimes giving his name and sometimes mine on signup sheets, library cards, etc. My intention is to quit the waffling and just use my last name from here on out, but it may be difficult as she has her own opinions on the matter and sometimes prefers his name. I am aware this is one of those things I’m going to have to let go of sooner or later, but I’m not ready to yet.

  101. My son’s name is Kieran. My husband’s father calls him Karen. My aunt calls him Kiernan. It’s not like it’s an unheard of, complicated name! Sigh…

  102. I have the opposite problem: my husband calls me by one of my nicknames and therefore introduced me to his family as such. They, in turn, introduced me to the extended family as Nickname instead of Fullname. Now we get cards and gifts with my nickname on them instead of my full name and it’s driving me crazy. How do you get people to change what they’re used to calling you? I get more and more irritated as time passes, and I’ve been a part of my husband’s family for 7 years now.I’m a firm believer that the correct way to pronounce and write someone’s name is the way they themselves pronounce and write it. Why is this concept so difficult for others? After I married, I became Firstname Maiden Lastname, no hyphen, no middle initial. I use the entire name spelled out all the time, yet I get coworkers and others who insist on abbreviating it as they see fit in print. I find this so disrespectful!

  103. Y’all do know that ‘passive aggressive’ was removed from the psychology references as a disorder, yes? They essentially said, ‘Being a jerk isn’t a disorder, it’s being a jerk’.Case in points all over the place here… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  104. Gosh, I’ve used a few different names when posting comments on this blog, mostly to vary how “out” I am here, and now I just don’t know what to do. So.First, for Rumplestiltskin: you have my sympathy. Your in-laws sound obstinate and unsympathetic. I like several of the suggestions people have made, but I wonder if anything would actually make a difference, given your in-laws’ obstinacy. Their failure may be something that you have to accept, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.
    I think your efforts might be better spent dealing with your stepdaughter — talking it through with her and supporting her emotionally and in whatever course of action she might take. Maybe brainstorm a course of action with her, and help her take ownership of her identity.
    What to do about the baby’s name is beyond me.
    @ Paola: seriously, all I can think of is Charles Boyer in Gaslight saying, “Oh Paola, have you forgotten?”
    I used to get annoyed that people couldn’t get my married name right. Now, I pretty much just let it roll off my back, BUT I can understand that the same problem might mean more to other people in other situations. Similarly, I used to get annoyed at people who got my first name (Kerry) wrong (Carrie — it’s a different name, with a different root and pronunciation). Now, people tend to see my married last name (Wendt) incorrectly and use it as my first name (Wendy!), so the whole Kerry/Carrie thing has gone by the wayside. Anyway, my sister tells me I pronounce my name wrong now that I live 1,000 miles away.
    And my sister — hoo boy. She’s made it a pastime to nickname those nearest and dearest to her the clunkiest names she can imagine. I only avoided something really awful by just being unresponsive to anything but my actual name. My other sister, who’s much younger and so didn’t know better, is now permanently stuck with the name “Heaney.” Or “Hean,” if we’re feeling informal. Or Heanut, Yaya, or Nini. Her real name is Andrea. At this point, what was once a major irritation has become just another weird thing about my family.
    When choosing a name for my son, I knew my family half expected me to choose something they would consider formal, pretentious, or foreign, so I told then we were naming the baby Heinrich, and we’d call him Heine for short. (I actually really love the name, but never intended to actually use it.) It was good fun to see my nicknaming sister squirm a little and try to be nice about it. In the end, we named the baby Stephen Robert, and waited to see how my family would manage to twist the most normal name we could come up with. Within a day, it was SteveBob, because he’s from the South.
    We just ignore it, partly on the hydra principle, and partly because it’s just the way my family rolls. And I know their intent isn’t mean. At least not at this point. When my sister was younger . . . yeah, she could be rather wicked.

  105. I think the PA actions of the inlaws is crazy. But I have a practical question:How would you address the envelope of a card to the whole family? Four last names wouldn’t fit. Do you do her firstname/lastname, his firstname lastname, & family? Everyone’s name? If it were going to the whole family it would be tricky space-wise. What is the answer there so I don’t stick my foot in my mouth by some unfortunate accident if I ever come across a similar situation?
    But it’s total crap if they would send a birthday card to the stepdaughter with the wrong name!! Ugh!! My own passive aggressive suggestion if that were to happen is to see if you could have the post office stamp it with something official looking that said, No Such Person At This Address and return it to sender! Ha!!

  106. I lucked out by getting married in Quebec where the only way the bride can take her groom’s last name is by making a separate, legal name change.As a child, I often daydreamed about exchanging my cumbersome maiden name for a sleeker, more romantic model when I married. But then I fell in love with a man whose Arabic last name is, well, sissyish, to put it bluntly – and even worse in French, poor dear. He was teased incessantly as a boy and when I got pregnant last year, I was in a moral quandry about the possibility of having a son and giving him his father’s family name, secretly sweating about perhaps having to put my foot down and offend my FIL (and maybe even my husband?) who was already non-plussed that I wouldn’t convert to Islam to marry his son (who is agnostic anyway, although his father refuses to believe this is even a spiritual option – lemme tellya, my FIL is an entire topic in itself).
    On another more relevant and empathetic note, MY father calls my nephew (my bro’s son) by his first AND middle name as if it were hyphenated and it drives me NUTS because it either sounds pompous or like the kid’s about to get into a world of trouble. I know he does it because the boy’s middle name was my father’s father’s name (is this getting confusing? It’s like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel…) but even though my brother and his wife asked my dad to stop, he refused. What’s up with that? Oh AND my grandmother (Dad’s side, go figure) refuses to call my daughter by the name we gave her, calling her “Precious” instead. I feel like I’m in a freakin cave in bloody Mordor every time she says it. When I asked her why she won’t say Precious’s real name she replied, “I thought you would have given her a name that’s more, you know.” More WHAT? Whiter? More common so that six of her classmates will also respond to her name? Good lord people are strange. And yes, that strangeness probably includes me, I know, I know.
    Ok but answer me this: Am I Mrs My-Maiden-Name or am I Mrs My-Husband’s-Last-Name? I still don’t know! The former makes me feel like I married my brother (ew) and the latter is not legally my name.
    PS, To top it off, we are moving to Spain where you go by two last names: your father’s (the actual legal surname) THEN your mother’s – the opposite of how we commonly do it here when names are hyphenated. And then, as far as I can tell, when a woman marries, she keeps her father’s surname, drops her mother’s maiden name (are you following?) and adds de + her new husband’s paternal surname! How do they keep it all straight?! And so that’s the rub for me: I may have to adopt my husband’s surname after all. At least it doesn’t sound so sissyish in Spanish.

  107. I grew up with a first and last name that NO ONE could pronounce correctly. Although it isn’t hard to say correctly. People just called me whatever they did and I couldn’t get worked up over it. If it had bothered me that much, I may have exploded because, seriously, only a dozen people have said my name correctly in my lifetime.So…I wouldn’t get worked up over it. At least they’re calling your child the name you picked instead of something they thought up themselves. The kid won’t be the worse for it, and when they grow up they can chalk it up to crazy grandma and grandpa.

  108. Ah, the name thing. My name always gets mispronounced. (Jutta is my real name.)I get everything from A to Z and back again. When I am waiting at the doctor’s office and a nurse comes out with a puzzled look on her face, I usually just get up and assume that it’s my turn.A few years ago I had a client, who continually misspelled and mispronounced my name Julta. I was very unhappy. Her cousin, who didn’t like her so much saw this one day and told me the story of my client’s name. Pamela, my client, used to kick others a lot when she was a little child. To make fun of her for this her friends decided to call her Pam-mule-a. After I heard that story, I ‘accidentally’ called her that name and of course, apologized profusely. She never called me by the wrong name again, and we continued our work relationship for another 4 years.
    My husband is from Africa. His name is common there, but uncommon here and he gets all kinds of pronunciations. He doesn’t mind one bit. And consequently, he doesn’t understand why correct him each time when he makes a mistake. “They react to me, don’t they!So, what’s the big deal?” To this day he still sometimes misspells my name. And such is life.
    I’ve come to realize that folks use a name as a form of power. And if I get all bent out of shape, as I sometimes do, I usually end up on the loosing end. Nowadays I chose to be the winner and not make an issue out of it as much. These folks just don’t get to have me for friends. And on the day my husband misspells my name, neither does he.

  109. I kept my name when we got married. His family was fuming, wondering what we were going to do about the name thing. I just started telling them, “You know, he has really encouraged me to keep my name – it’s who I was when he met me, he says.” Later, when I was pregnant and getting a lot of prying questions about what our daughter’s last name would be, I would say, “I’m leaving it up to him.” I practically died inside saying something so … subservient!! But it definitely kept the comments to a minimum when we gave her my last name – worht it in the long run. And it was made a easier by the fact that my last name is the same as his mother’s maiden name.Still, we get mail address to “The HisLastName Family” and it annoys me to no end!

  110. I think that a letter outlining what everyone is called is not a bad idea. And it might be time to accept that if you have 4 different last names, it might not even be possible to address all of them on the envelope. Especially if the envelope is coming from a different country with specific naming conventions for mail.I have cousins, now grown, whose last names I was never sure of until they joined Facebook. It was a confusing situation. Mom had two kids with father married to someone else (but living with my cousins). Mom couldn’t change name since she wasn’t married. In that country the legal issues meant they had to take mother’s name only at that time. After father died, mother remarried and changed her last name. We were never notified if the kids’ names changed or not, so we called them all The “New Husband’s Name” family on cards etc. New husband raised those kids only to turn out to be a piece of crap. After the divorce we still didn’t know if anyone changed their names. Until Facebook. Thank goodness for facebook.
    BTW, the laws there have changed so they now all go by father’s last name. It’s quite nice.

  111. @Moxie ” Kids grow up with different nicknames on different sides of the family all the time, and they just figure out “oh, that’s what Grandma calls me even though my name is X.” “This made me laugh because it reminded me exactly of a funny thing in my husband’s family. One of his nephews is named Jason, but his sweet, non-English-speaking great-grandma used to always get his name wrong – she usually called him Joshua. It has now become an endearing nickname for the rest of us to use, too. Great-grandma has passed on, but calling Jason “Joshua” is one nice way we have of remembering grandma. ๐Ÿ™‚

  112. I think that the level of comfort you have with people messing with a name has a great deal to do with you over level of comfort with that person. If I knew my mom always had my best interest at heart and she couldn’t get a name right, well, then I’d chalk it up to her being slightly daft and nothing more. But if my mom tended to the jerkier side of things (f/n/a passive aggressive) on a regular basis, well then, it would just be one more thing that she did that was jerky and it would be one more thing that hurt my feelings. When I look at it from the point of view of it being one more thing from people who consistently act like a jerk to me and then they transfer that to my child in the form of I can’t be bothered to remember her name or I’ll just call her whatever I want, that’s when my head would explode and that was the tone of the OP.I had a co-worker, his name was David Peters. I called him Peter one day in passing and realized later what I did. I apologized, he said it happens all the time. What if I just continued to call him Peter because that was what I liked best/was easiest/what I thought of first when I saw him? A name that was neither his first nor last name? He would think I was an idiot or a jerk and, really, he would be right.

  113. Well, I have a fairly common name and I still come across people who can’t pronounce it or spell it. Erin was one of the most popular girls names the year I was born. And combined with my last name (also common), I have a lovely Irish sounding name. My husbands family, one aunt specifically, has never been able to spell my name. Even after she received an invitation to our wedding, she continued to spell my name Aryn. We have been together for 10 years and I have decided to stop caring! It probably has something to do with the weirdly spelled, trendy names she gave her kids.Also, a lot of people hear Anne when I say my name. Odd, but not terribly offensive.

  114. I’m very lucky that my family and in-laws have been respectful and polite about our names. My husband and I both kept our own last names when we married, and then combined them to create an entirely new unique last name for our children.Mail for the whole family is often addressed to “The Children’sLastName Family” which I think is creative and accurate – because we are the family of the Children’s Last Name. However, one acquaintance will always have a special place in my heart because she addresses Christmas cards (in her gorgeous calligraphy) to HusbandFirstName HisLastName, WifeFirstName HerLastName, Child1 and Child2 TheirLastName. She uses two lines for the names, but they all fit. And it looks beautiful too.

  115. My grandmother and extended family call me by a nickname that my mother never has. It may have been lost on me as a baby, but as I got older that was just what grandma called me. And, I kind of like that it became something special between us.I changed my name to my husband’s ethnic/foreign name and it’s been fun (eyeroll) dealing with people mangling it. It’s quite phonetic, but with 5 syllables people look at and stare dumbly. Since it’s not a recognizable ethnicity most don’t even try to say it. I feel for my kids. At least I chose this name.

  116. Oohh, this certainly hits nerves with a lot of people.Possible solutions:
    Step 1: Ask your husband to ring up and mention the Christmas card was incorrectly addressed and its bothering stepdaughter. They are likely to listen more to him. Have a solution ready eg ‘we’d like you to address it to X Family’ or ‘we’d like you to address it to all of us individually and are happy to send you address labels’.
    Step 2: Talk to your stepdaughter about names and family trees before the holidays and then when you see the inlaws over Xmas, say you’ve been discussing it and would like to draw a family tree. Stepdaughter does it (providing she’s old enough) and you and her dad hover and make sure its all going down correctly. You start with the youngest and put down ‘non-fifi, known as trixi’ and then work your way up through the family. Sure as eggs are eggs there will be an Uncle David, known as Dave or something similar in the family history. At the end, suggest to step daughter that she leave the family tree (or a copy) at Grandma’s house – no excuses then for getting the names wrong. All done nicely, educational for stepdaughter to learn about her family, reinforces the correct name and a reminder is left.
    Step 3: I would stamp HARD on any suggestion that your daughter is backward for not recognizing her full name at this age. Stamp, but in a nice way – big grin ‘don’t be silly Grandma, of course she knows her name is Trixi and look how she’s giggling at it now, aren’t you, my clever girl. And Grandma, did I tell you what she did the other day? She did X, she’s so smart, just like all my girls’ etc etc.
    Naming nightmare of my own – 2 months into dating my husband I was told by my SIL to be ‘You do know if you have children together, your first born son will be named Robert’!!!! Eeeeppp! My reply was a raised eyebrow and the comment ‘oh, really’ in a sarcastic tone of voice. I was stunned. For several generations, the first born son of the first born son has ALWAYS been called Robert. Ah, but it doesn’t stop there, all the first born sons of the siblings of the first borns are ALSO called Robert (hope that makes sense!). So if we follow the tradition, our son would be called Robert Lastname and could also have three first cousins called Robert Lastname, which I think is frankly ridiculous. I mean, its a nice name, but come on!
    Fast forward to now, my SIL is pregnant and due her second child (first was a girl) in Jan. If its a boy it will be called Robert and they will call it Rob. Which is what I call my husband. I know they won’t want me to call the baby, Baby Rob or Little Rob, but how the hell am I supposed to differentiate between referring to the baby and my husband? I am NOT going to call my husband by another name after 8 years together when he specifically wants me to call him Rob.Is it very wicked of me that I am hoping they have another girl?
    Interestingly I am also pregnant(baby 1 was a girl) and due in Spring. My agreement with my husband is that I will consider the name Robert UNLESS his family start bugging me about it. He has had words with them and there has not been anything said at all – phew! Our agreement at the moment is that, if a boy, baby will be named Robert John and will be known as John. Although I may get hormonal and start insisting on other family names – Zenas and Valentine for boys are in the family trees!

  117. My intended and I plan to both hyphenate our names. I told him that I had no plans to do any changing of my own – if he wanted to go in with me to hyphenate, I would do that, but I wasn’t going to add his name to mine as some sort of halfway point.I have a pretty big chip on my shoulder about it. I’ve already gotten mail (we aren’t even married yet!) from MY OWN FAMILY to M___ and Emily K___ and I’m like, umm… what?
    I’m worried his family won’t spell it. Or acknowledge the hyphenation. I’m worried our friends won’t.
    I called a shoe company the other day – he’d ordered some shoes as a present for me and we’d paid extra for fast shipping so they’d arrive before we left on vacation. They didn’t, so I called to ask for the money back on the fast shipping. The woman on the phone asked who the name on the order was, and I told her M____ K___ and she said, oh, is this Mrs. K___?
    I said yes, because that was easier than saying that I wasn’t yet his wife or that I have a different last name. But wouldn’t it have been just as effective for her to ask me if I was his wife? Argh.
    Best of luck to Rumplestilskin, and I’m reading these responses with interest as I am sure I will have this to fight in the years to come.

  118. What is up with the in-laws? Mine too. They address cards to MyFirst Husband’sLast, even though we clearly label all our correspondence with MyLast/HisLast. (I kept my maiden name; our daughter has his.) I attribute it to insensitive cluelessness instead of maliciousness.But it does seem to reflect an internalized devaluation of a woman’s role as an individual. Like a previous poster said, my in-laws don’t even know what my job is. My head exploded last visit when I was talking about my work on a university publication and my father-in-law interrupted to say he had some manuscript work I could help him with: typing out his old handwritten journals. Um, no!
    I think they believed that having a child would settle me down good and proper, and they are honestly confused by the fact that it hasn’t happened. The name thing is just a reflection of that world view.
    Annoying, yes, but I’ve learned that validation will not be forthcoming from that quarter and learned to limit visits and let it go.
    I would go to bat for step-daughter though, if I were Rumplestiltskin. Respect for her identity should be non-negotiable.

  119. @Nella (4:19)-If I were to be truly honest here, I would say yes, part of the reason I kept my name was because I didn’t want to be part of husband’s (dysfunctional) family.

  120. Like many many of the posters before, I would make an issue for Stepdaughter’s name, but probably leave the rest lying there.I took my husband’s last name, because noone seeing my original last name pronounces it right, nor hearing it spells it right. And his is in the top 10 most popular last names. NOONE ever spells it wrong YAY!
    His first name, on the other hand, is also a popular last name. In fact, it is a popular first name with a little addition on the end. Like “Jameson”. So we are used to saying, “Jameson, like a last name, but it’s a first name, J-a-m-e-s-o-n.” and still getting things addressed to James.
    Our son’s name is one we truly adore that is close to another name (and we didn’t make it up, like Devin instead of Kevin), so we are used to saying, “His name is Devin, like Kevin with a “D””.

  121. I have a nice name story — my husband is Swedish, and his very elderly grandparents could not manage my name which when pronounced in a Swedish way sounds like the Swedish verb to bark, as in like a dog. (Fortunately most Swedes speak English well enough to pronounce it in a somewhat English way, although Swedish is a lot more rhythmic). Anyway. They called me “den lilla flickan,” the little girl. I loved that and took it in the affectionate way it was obviously intended. Further, in Sweden you call *everyone* by their first names — CourtesyTitle Lastname sounds positively 19th-century. So I was supposed to call his grandparents by their first names, which I could never do, so instead I called them Farmor and Farfar (grandmother and grandfather), like my husband. They loved that too ๐Ÿ™‚ … they were lovely people.

  122. @Erin – I too am continually called “Anne” by people! I hear the two syllables when I say my name; why don’t they? And after I moved to the east coast, I have also found that many people who meet me over email assume I’m a man.I have little to add to the naming discussion, aside from the fact that my in-laws couldn’t care less that I kept my last name and gave said last name to my daughter, but my own family addresses both daughter and me as Respective Firstname HusbandLastname. I don’t bother correcting them, as this lets me continue to obnoxiously address my cousins as Firstname OriginalLastname HusbandLastname when they have all dropped the OriginalLastname.
    HOWEVER, I can address Rump’s question about what area of the skull to thwack to induce behavioral change. Aim for that bump at the upper center-left (theirs, not yours) forehead. My evidence? For 23 years, I hated bell peppers. The very smell of them nauseated me. And, having worked in pizzerias since I was 15, I handled bell peppers almost every day. By my early 20s, I was working as a prep cook, chopping dozens of them a day, finding them slimy, smelly, and completely unappetizing the entire time. And then one balmy evening, I got talked into playing softball, and was soundly thumped in the head by a ball I failed to catch. The next morning I trundled off to work with a goose egg on my forehead … and the bell peppers smelled … good. I’ve loved them ever since.
    So give it a shot. A couple inches above the eye. Try not to throw balls indoors. It sets a bad example.

  123. 1. Strangers (and distant family) should be given some slack since your family name situation is somewhat out of the norm (example: invitation from a kid from school addressed to the whole family — excusable) BUT close family should (and can) get it.2. We can have a whole discussion about evolution and patriarchy but lets not go there. Suffice it to say, we are a patriarchal society and our names (in the US) *typically* follow the husband/father line… it makes sense for families to adopt the same/similar names so we know they are together. If your family falls outside of this norm you have to expect some confusion from others.
    3. Every 6 months or so I have a brain fart when emailing my sister-in-law and can’t remember if she spells her name Stacy or Stacey. I don’t love her any less, I’m just forgetful and even though I email her weekly or monthly, every now and then I slip. Everyone does. If someone is being intentionally rude then, of course, they are out of line, but a lot of this is probably unintentional. I’m sure once you tell them how much it bothers you, they will TRY to make some improvements.

  124. Am very happy we don’t do last names here. We still use the old method so we’re Firstname Father’s-first-name-daughter/son, or mother’s, if the father is unknown/absent/jerk or the family wants to use the mother’s for other reasons (I would like to when my children arrive).On the other hand, you can’t choose any name you want… there is a limited pool of “authentic” names that fit with the language with proper spelling and deflections. Foreigners can use their names but only if they’re actually foreign… which my N-American friends seem to think is the end of the world, lol. But I understand why.
    Using this style of names is hell, though, when outside of the country. People keep trying to address things to my “last name” which isn’t a last name at all but simply an addendum indicating who my parents are … my first names is my name. Forms are the bane of my existence.
    Good luck to Rumplestiltskin! I know your pain.

  125. My son’s name is Basil, pronounced like the spice, with a long a. A friend of my mother, an elderly woman, actually CORRECTS me when I say his name. MY SON’S name. I will say, “Basil (Bay-zil) just turned three today!”, and she will say, “Bazz-ill.” Every time. Every time I say his name, she “repeats” the name in the traditional, British pronunciation. It drives me crazy. Similarly, when we told my sister we were going to name our baby Basil, she said, “The name is Basil (Bazz-ill).” “Um, no, it isn’t. WE are going to name him Basil, like the spice.” “It is Basil (Bazz-ill)”, she would respond. And it sounds like some of this is going on in Rumplestiltskin’s in-laws. They have certain ideas about how things should go, how names should have been worked out, and they will continue to “correct” you until you get it right! Maybe?

  126. Here’s my name situation… I am married and kept my name (it is also my mother’s maiden name, which she uses) and now my daughter has the same last name. For me, keeping my name and giving it to my daughter wasn’t about making a feminist statement, it just made sense for personal reasons, and my husband supported it.My husband and I get mixed reactions to the fact that he has one name and my daughter and I have another… but people who get to know us usually think it’s cool even if they wouldn’t do it themselves. Our families are both fine with the name situation, which is great.
    I figure if we are happy that’s all that matters, but I know it would bother me if my daughter heard negative comments about it later on, or if her correct name were not acknowledged (like with the reader’s stepdaughter). It’s one thing for adults to express their opinions to other adults, but I would hope they would be more sensitive when children are involved.
    I think it takes time for people to get used to these things (women keeping maiden names, hypenating names, creating new family names) and that as more families choose to pass on mom’s name it won’t be such a big deal.
    It’s funny, though, that some people have such strong negative reactions to these things without knowing all of the details… you’d think that people would understand that there is complicated family/life experience stuff that sometimes leads to these decisions.

  127. My inlaws can’t say or spell any of our names correctly…they’re from the old country and never bothered to learn proper English – after 50 years they just know what they picked up from the street, which is minimal. In many ways I think they’re lazy though the reality is they’re probably just tired.One time, after opening a wildly mispelled card for my littlest, I asked FIL if he’d like to know the proper spelling of his name. He flat out told me no, it wasn’t important, and he didn’t care. Allrightythen…how do you argue with that?

  128. My husband and I have been married for 9 years. I kept my name. No one acknowledged that I kept my name, even MY family, so I had to let it go. And finally, about three years ago, I started getting mail with my name on it, instead of my first name and my husband’s last name. I don’t know what finally did it but it wasn’t graduating from grad school or the birth announcements when my son was born, or anything obvious. I never corrected anyone, I just always used my own name.As for my son, his proper name is James but since we have so many Jims in the family (including my husband and my dad) so I decided to call him Jamie. My grandmother protested and said she’d use her own name (she’s done this with other grandkids, but using nicknames like “Shamrock,” so it’s not like shes naming them all over again) but eventually she gave up and used Jamie. She’s gone now and I’d let her call him Frank if she was only here to see him. ๐Ÿ™

  129. It took me two years to come to the decision to change my name to my married name… but I actually just added my husband’s last name, I didn’t loose any other names. So now I have one first, two middle, and one last name. This through the DMV lady for a loop when I went to change my name on my license. She claimed that there wasn’t enough room on the computer to type that many last names. I told her that wasn’t my problem and that the social security office had no problem with it either. She got a little pissy and starting blabbing about name consistancy on IDs so now most of my “important” information has my first name two middle initials, and my last. I always wonder what her reaction would have been if I just hyphenated my last name… I just wasn’t interested in having puncution as part of my name.

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