Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What's in a name?

I loooove my last name. Which is very odd considering it is so unoriginal. According to

  • There are 1,898,923 people in the U.S. with the last name Brown.
  • Statistically the 4th most popular last name.
  • There are 3,798 people in the U.S. named Stephanie Brown (I've known 2).
When I got married, I didn't want to change my name. At. All. Ever since kindergarten, I loved having a last name that everyone could say and pronounce! My finance at the time was more than willing to change his, or make up a new last name together (weird) but I decided for his family's sake to go with tradition.

So, I changed my name to one of those "no one can say/pronounce/spell" surnames.


  • There are fewer than 336 people in the U.S. with the last name Kambestad.
  • There are 1 or fewer people in the U.S. named Stephanie Kambestad.
It buuuuuged me having to correct people on pronunciation all the time. Hello, its pronounced exactly like its spelled! And when people asked how to spell it every.time. Ugh! I answered them in the typical Pheobe fashion:

"K as in Kambestad
A as in Ambestad
M as in Mbestad
B as in Bestad
E as in Estad
S as in Stad
T as in Tad
A as in Ad
and D as in Dude."

This cracked Jerad and Danielle up a lot.

It took me about 2 days after my divorce was final to run to the Social Security office and change it back.

Jerad and I have talked a lot about name changing. I decided a few years ago that were I to ever get married again, I would be keeping my name as is. I will have been a "Brown" for 25 years this year. I barely even remember being a "Kambestad" because during that time allll of my friends still called me by my maiden name. My parents even asked for "Steph Brown" when they called me at work. I just didn't keep the new name long enough for it to stick. I like my maiden name, and I want to hold onto it. It has a history behind it, both my own, and my family's (there is a town in Texas founded by my gradpa's grandpa with our family pictures on the museum walls).

Jerad on the other hand, very traditional about the whole affair.

I think its dumb to do anything only on account of "tradition." I also think that its dumb to have to give up your identity just because you are getting married. The writer of this blog had a friend give this reading in her wedding ceremony:

Beyond What
Alice Walker

We reach for destinies beyond
what we have come to know
and in the romantic hush
of promises
perceive each
the other's life
as known mystery.
Shared. But inviolate.
No melting. No squeezing
into One.
We swing our eyes around
as well as side to side
to see the world.

To choose, renounce,
this, or that --
call it a council between equals
call it love.

She went on to say:

"I love this poem for the way it departs from one convention of weddings. There is a moment in most ceremonies that leaves me a little mournful: the one when it's pronounced that two amazing individuals, each of whom I love separately, have become One. It makes it seem as if love's ultimate effect is to reduce by half the number of wonderful people in the world, and I'm pretty sure that we can't spare them. I prefer to think of it as a pooling of resources; a collaboration that will allow each of you to better reach for destinies beyond what we have come to know."

I think that pretty well encapsulates my name-changing feelings. That said, we definitely want kids, and I would want our whole family to have the same name. Although I would have no problem explaining to them that just like I had my father's last name, they had their dad's last name.

For all the reasons that I would want to keep my name, I wouldn't want Jerad to ever change to a "Brown." That'd be ridiculous. Hyphenating? Maybe. It just seems like such a hassle. Keeping my maiden name as a middle name and taking his last name? That's another maybe.

  • There are 61,157 people in the U.S. with the last name Hutchinson.
  • Statistically the 572nd most popular last name.
  • There are 122 people in the U.S. named Stephanie Hutchinson.

Well, no matter what happens, at least most people can say and spell Hutchinson. Part of my job is answering phones and taking messages and lemme tell you, there are some weird-ass last names out there.

Since this isn't anything immediately pressing, I still have some time to mull it over.

What did/would you do? Did you regret it?


Beth McDermott said...

...mmmmm, i miiiight have 2 judge u a lil bit if you dont take jerads last name ;)
ok im kidding about the judging part but i had no idea you felt that way! i think something you didnt mention in your post that you maybe should consider is the kid factor. what would you do about that?... i guess just be prepared to explain why your last names are different to your kids instead of having to explain to the occasional stranger how to spell out a should be common sense last name...

Livin' the dream said...

Hi there! I just happened by your blog, and can totally identify with this! I have been a Mills my entire life... just like Brown, I never had to spell it, people could always pronounce it, etc. I loved it! Even though it was common, it had been mine for forever. When I got married, I did decide to change my name, but there was so much about it I didn't like... I'm now Humphreys. Which has to be spelled EVERY TIME. And then re-spelled. And then spelled wrong. It took a lot of getting used to, but in the end, I love that I have that in common with my husband. I ended up making Mills my middle name, so I can keep that, but still share my husband's name. Good luck on that decision! :)

Jules said...

Oh Man, I agree with you! I could never ever imagine changing my name. Its too "Me!" Plus I love having a first name that starts with the same letter as my last name.

I would hyphenate, putting my maiden name last and only using it. Then my hubby couldn't be mad because *technically* I did take his name. Or I would keep my maiden name as my middle name and when I had kids give them 2 middle names, one of which would be my maiden.

Steph said...

Beth: If you were paying attention, you'd see that I said "That said, we definitely want kids, and I would want our whole family to have the same name. Although I would have no problem explaining to them that just like I had my father's last name, they had their dad's last name."

So, if I didn't figure out a solution that I was comfy with, I would have no problem explaining this to them. Plus, in our generation less and less women are changing their names so its not like my kids would be the odd ones out:)

Sarah: Thanks for visiting my blog! I like the idea of making either my or his last name my middle name. Then I could still sign and use "Brown!"

Julia Goulia: I like both of your ideas! And its totally not just about the spelling for me wither. Besides it feeling like I'm giving up a part of "me," I have always just loved my boring old last name:)

Anonymous said...

Ha! Well I too had a "name issue."
I changed mine when I got married and kept waiting for it to feel right.
After 2 years I changed it back.
My hubby isn't willing to ask me to do something he would be unwilling to do, so we're both fine with this decision.
People still call me by my married name, which I don't mind.
We gave our kids his name and never looked back.


Jillian said...

I have a hard time explaining my married last name, may it be spelling or pronunciation. And then having to explain how an American Indian has an Italian last name can be difficult too. But, I feel privileged to have his last name. And at the same time I feel that marriage is about two becoming one and joining into a new family together, just as the circular ring on your finger is symbolic of a never ending union. I personally can't imagine having a different last name as the rest of my family, ie. husband and children. But again that is just my opinion!

The Bitchy Wife said...

Well now, I can definitely state for the record that "Brown" is a fantastic and easy last name, since it was my maiden name!! I wanted to keep it SO badly, but I let my hubby pressure me into taking his name. He is definitely a traditionalist, and I also didn't want to make waves with his family. I considered hyphenating or keeping my maiden name as a middle name, but "Brown Hart" or "Hart Brown" just never sounded right. So, I just became a Hart. And while my name is not difficult at all to pronounce, I do have to spell it EVERY time. Also, it means "male deer." How retarded is that? I will soon have been married 3 years and while I have adjusted, I wish I had been stronger and stood up to hubby and shrugged off any perceived family feelings and just been content knowing I made the right decision. But...I didn't. I say keep that piece of your identity if this is an issue you are even questioning. I once read a book that was apparently not very memorable (can't remember title or author) but I remember one part where a little girl was telling her mom that she never wanted to get married because she thought that married women ceased to be individuals. And it's so true. You take you hubby's name, you are Mrs. Larry Hart, etc, etc, I just think the whole thing is an outdated tradition. For the people who either don't like their maiden names or who are more traditional and want to take a new name, I say great, good for you. I think for anyone who is having second thoughts or if it doesn't feel quite right...go with your gut. I'm all about creating a new family, but why does my family name have to get erased out of it?? Why does the guy dictate what the family name will be? I say the new trend should be for people who get married to create a new last name for both of them :)

Jillian said...

Just remember if you or any of your heirs try to go do a geneology of your family the name changing may cause some problems ; ) HAHA!

Steph said...

Only if we kept it a secret what our names had been:)

Plus My family already has ours going back to like the 1500's or something weirdly ridiculous, so I'm covered there. And Pam or Kanda did your dad's side right? So we're safe:)

Beatrice Blount said...

I changed my name because that's what people do...and then right after I left the Social Security Office, I totally cried.

Helllo! Why should I change MY name? I appreciated that my spouse was willing to share his name with me, but I also didn't feel like losing half of my name that I had grown very attached and accustomed to.

I know my family history back hundreds of years, and being able to 'own' the name Scott was important to me.

So I haven't legally changed it back, but I do use both names now. Tiffany Scott Cagle. And I like that.

If it isn't a huge issue with paperwork, I'd like to add the name Scott to my kids' names as well.

And there's my two cents times ten.

Anonymous said...

Hello. I found your blog on google. I am getting married soon and have talked many times with my future husband about this very subject. I feel strongly that a marriage shouldn't require a woman to give up her identity, who she is. I have worked hard to acquire awards and degrees in *my* name and do not want to throw that away. Any man who does not understand that is very selfish. Do what you feel is right. Abandon your old name all together and embrace your new identity as a married woman starting her new life, keep your name as is and focus on your marriage and new family knowing that a healthy relationship isn't dependent on a name, or merge your two names together symbolizing your new union. Whatever you do, do it for you, not other people.