T S Eliot said cats should have three different names.
It’s true for people too, especially in these online days. I’ve this name for work, I’m about to adopt my shiny new husband’s name for rest (or at least for paying the bills) and I’ve a couple of online personas for play.
I wouldn’t bother keeping my current surname, but thanks to Google, names have a longevity that they never had before. If you google ‘Ben Warsop’ you land here and I can’t just email them my marriage certificate and say ‘update your index servers please’. Mind you, one of the search terms captured in the stats here the other day was
meet women in warsop for sex now
which isn’t the sort of web presence I planned. Even so, I’m keeping my existing name for my work, LinkedIn profile, blog and twitter feed. There are eminent precedents: Lady Antonia Fraser continued to use Sir Hugh Fraser’s surname after her marriage to Harold Pinter.
I find this branding so useful that if I were naming a child these days, I’d go for a googlewhack and create accounts in its name with Yahoo and Google before the umbilical cord had dropped from its belly-button. Seriously. However, it’s probably a good job that I don’t have the task of naming a child because having an unusual name is tedious, especially if it hard to spell. You have to smile and be courteous through the same conversation again and again. That experience me so lazy that when I was in Germany I germanicised the pronunciation saying ‘Ich heisse Frau Vaarsopp’ because they heard Vaarsopp and wrote Warsop. Magic.
Changing your name’s common, but not trivial. I’ve friends and relatives who’ve changed their name because they’ve changed religion, sex or marital status, and some just because it’s time to move on. But when you change your first name, it can take people a while to catch up. 45 years, in the case of my godmother and her brother. She converted to Russian Orthodoxy in the 1960s but he still uses the given name she abandoned then.
It’s fun choosing a new name, I remember driving along the motorway up from Cornwall considering possible surnames for my friend Frankie – we wanted something that didn’t make her sound like a bookie or a third rate stand-up. My husband and I have discussed the option of BOTH changing our names because that’s a solution to my name change which doesn’t involve the Patriarchy. But he is reluctant to do that for much the reason that I am and Antonia Fraser was. We all have too much invested in our current names to want to abandon them entirely.
Hand on heart, I’ve been put off by the number of organisations to contact and the number of marriage certificates it involves. But I’ll be moving later in the year (who knew?) and I might as well change my name when I change my address.
And then of course there’s the unalloyed joy of brand new spam-free email accounts. It’s almost worth it for that alone.
I opened with a reference to T S Elliot – if you want to follow it up, here’s his poem given the Andrew Lloyd Webber treatment: