Thursday, April 28, 2016

What's in a Name? Does It Really Define Who You Are?

Whether or not to change your name after marriage is a dilemma women the world over suffer with. There are a lot of variables to consider. If you don't change your name you're going to face the challenges of not having the same name as your husband or children and people assuming you're not married. (That's primarily in American culture.)

If you do change your name you have to update every piece of official paper your name was ever entered on. Your identity cards, your passport, your work accounts, and more. You also could feel as if you've undergone a change in your personal sense of identity.

Is your name even real?
According to Kate of Gaia, no it is not. I found a video I think sums up what Kate means without being so wordy. I especially love the Rod Parsley bit near the end in regards to money.

Where does a name come from? 
Cultures throughout the world and throughout history have had many traditions around naming their offspring. Some were taken from things that happened to the mother during pregnancy, some from their fathers and some from their castes or villages. I was given a patronymic name at birth, passed down through the generations before me, that doesn't fit at all. Patronymic names are those that designate a child as someone's son (-son; -ing; -Mac; etc.) Since I am not a son of anyone, the name never would have fit me in the sense that it was first designed for.

In India, it's not uncommon for a wife not to take her husbands name. It doesn't have the same social stigma as it would in America if you don't change it. Chachi never changed her last name because Uncle Ji is officially a Singh and she didn't want to be a Singh and we're not Sikh so she didn't want to be a Kaur either. Which brings up another point. For Sikhs, women take on the name Kaur and it may not be theirs or their husbands.

What does it mean to you?
Does a name really define who you are? I suppose it can. We're given the names shortly after birth. It's inscribed on multiple pieces of paper used to assert our identity. It's how people refer to us for much of our lives. A name has a lot of uses. But then again, so could a nickname. 

What difference does it make if you keep it or change it? 
When a woman gets married, this becomes a huge question in her life. Does she take her husband's name (in whatever form his culture deems she take it - be it middle, last or first name as her new last name)? What if she doesn't? Does changing her name really change anything about the person she has been all of her life? It very well can!

If a name is really given as a means of identification, then yes, changing your name at marriage then changes your identity. You're no longer someone's son nor or you of the same clan. You've now transitioned over to being a member of some other group, clan, culture, etc. But is that even truly important? There is no right or wrong answer.

Without thinking, most people would instinctively assume you're of a certain clan, culture or race when you provide your last name. If you put your name on a job application as John Smith, most interviewers would expect a white, likely English man to walk into the room. If you put your name as Pocahontas, they would expect a Native American woman. So your name matters more on paper than anywhere else.

Your friends and family surely know what race, sex, etc. you are regardless of what your name is. So why be so concerned that random strangers who see your name on paper will?

After all, a name is just another word.... isn't it?

**The websites, videos and views of personalities mentioned in this blog post do not necessarily reflect my own views and thoughts. I do not endorse any of the links on this blog post. Click at your own risk and beware, you may just broaden your own mind.


  1. Hah! My Indian husband couldn't believe all the paper documentation I have to prove who I am to the US gov't. Birth certificates of me & my parents, death certificates of my parents, military discharge papers, 7 yrs of tax invoices, property deeds, professional licenses, driver's license, ssn, etc. He thought I was joking when I carried a very large briefcase full of this documentation on the plane one time to Delhi. I had to explain to him about "identity theft" & the perils & pitfalls thereof.
    That being said on my professional licenses, degrees, published papers, & any recorded documents like property deeds I decided to keep my maiden name as it's just too much trouble changing them after I'd gotten married.

    1. You are so right! Way too many papers and you have to guard them with your life lol. It's too much trouble. And it hasn't stopped or slowed identity theft at all.

  2. Talking about names, all bengalis have two names. One is your pet name and one is good name or official name. Everyone has a pet name but among bengalis your family, friends, relatives use only your pet name. So much so that they do not know what your real name is. Pet name has the same status as the official name. So a boy may have a perfectly good sounding name like "Arijit" but he is known something like "dablu" among his relatives and friends. When asked about his name he would tell his pet name. So much so that sometimes the real name sounds strange to that person.

    It happened to me when in my old neighbourhood everyone knew me by my pet name and when I shifted to a new neighbourhood everyone referred to me by my official name. It took me sometime to register the fact that they are referring to me. This is perculiarly a Bengali problem. Other communities do not have such problems.


    1. My Punjabi husband also has a pet name. Everyone in his family does. Almost no one calls him by his real name - but me. Ha! I know that's very against his culture and I know some who would think I'm shortening his life by calling him his real name but I don't like his pet name. It's weird. And in the US it's a girls name so no one would even pronounce it right, they would think he's a girl or gay. I wouldn't even consider calling him by his pet name here.

    2. Let me guess it is something like "nikki" or "goldie".


    3. Oh no, it's much worse than that! Here it's an old name that isn't used anymore so if you do find someone with that name, it's a little old lady :P

    4. Everyone in my husband's family have pet names too. One of the cousins has changed her real name so many times it's a good thing she has the pet name 😂

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