Notes on names

Three recent notes on names: the two-name problem, being a guy named Kris, and an excellently named baseball player.

1. Two names. In the NYT‘s Sunday Review on the 25th, Pamela Paul’s “The Problem That Has Two Names”, beginning:

Fifty years after Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” and countless principled-but-unwieldy hyphenated names later, the problem of married versus maiden names should be good and solved. But many women are still caught in an in-between purgatory: why have to choose?

Like others wanting it both ways, I held on to my professional name while also taking on my husband’s.

… Academics refer to us as “situational name users.” According to several studies, the number of women who keep their names after marriage peaked in the 1990s, falling from 23 percent to roughly 18 percent a decade later. Women are marrying, at older ages, on average five years into their postcollegiate careers. They’ve already established professional reputations and networks of contacts who know them by their given names. Setting aside the shoulds and the whys behind which name to pick, the obvious answer for the ambivalent is to use both.

Paul’s piece goes on to talk about the complexities of having two nominal identities.

In my experience in academia, women have adopted pretty much every naming strategy you can think of, including the dual-use strategy. My wife did the traditional name-change thing (and she preferred to publish as Ann Daingerfield Zwicky, though publishers didn’t always honor this, insisting that she be Ann D. Zwicky, or even less informatively, A. D. Zwicky). My daughter has been Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky or Elizabeth D. Zwicky throughout her life. Others have gone the dual-name route. And others have chosen other paths, for instance, using their first married name through later marriages (keeping the professional name constant and maintaining the same family name as their children). Or, rather bewilderingly to my mind, reverting to their maiden name (as a professional name) after a divorce; Eleanor Rosch published under that name, then as Eleanor Rosch Heider, then later as Eleanor Rosch again — a practice that makes some of her reviews of her publications rather surreal.

2. Being named Kris. In the same issue of the NYT Sunday Review, a piece “A Star Is Born” by Kristopher Jansma about how he got his name, beginning:

My wife gave birth to our first child this April. When you tell people that you’re expecting, the second question they ask (after the gender) is, “Do you have a name picked out?” Because we make a living working with books, my wife and I take the business of naming seriously, and our friends seemed to expect us to pluck a name from literary obscurity. [Jumping ahead: they settled on Joshua.]

But I have always had a complicated relationship with my name. When I was young, Kris Kringle was the only other Kris-with-a-K I knew, until I turned 10 and the charts were topped by Kris Kross. My classmates kept telling me to “jump jump” and wear my clothes backwards. Then there was the summer I turned 13, when a teen fashion magazine began to send me complimentary tampons, believing Kris to be short for Kristen or Kristina. It wasn’t until high school that I learned the truth about my name: My mother had named me after the country-music star and actor Kris Kristofferson.

That crusty vampire hunter from the “Blade” movie? “When I was your age he was very attractive; I had a little crush on him,” my mother explained.

Not a big crush, as it turned out, though through his investigations Jansma got to appreciate Kristofferson.

3. An admirable name. Baseball came by me last night at dinner, and I was presented with Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino. I admired the name, suitably masculine for a jock, but also good for an actor (in general, but a pornstar in particular). There’s word attraction, and name attraction as well.

2 Responses to “Notes on names”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    1. Not just women, as Jason Parker-Burlingham might point out.

    2. I know a man named Kris.

    3. As it happens, two of my favorite baseball names — and I was always disappointed that they were never, as far as I know, on the same team at the same time — are Lastings Milledge and Termel Sledge. (I don’t see either of those as a porn name.)

    Shane Victorino not only has an admirable name, but he is great fun to watch playing the game.

  2. Julian Lander Says:

    There may be other reasons to keep one’s name after marriage. My mother’s maiden name was stereotypically Jewish, but her second marriage was to an Italian man with an obviously Italian last name. When submitting stories to a local Jewish newspaper, she found that her chances of getting the stories published were greatly increased if she spelled out her maiden name in full.

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