Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Sociologists acknowledge that name formulation is correlated with the kind of society that produced them. A paternalist society, for example, will have names that acknowledge the father, for example, the Arabic formulation: (first name) (father's name) (grandfather's name). A collective society will emphasize the family: (family name) (first name). A caste society will have names that reflect that: (first name) (family name) (caste name). I've also heard it argued that the Hispanic use of matronymics leads to a more balanced society, though I have a hard time squaring that with the machismo that seems pervasive in those societies. If this works at all, I think you'd need a greater emphasis on the mother's name. There are also some cultures in India where the sons take the father's family name, and the daughters take the mother's family name. I have no idea how that would change society.

As we all know, correlation does not equal causation, but for the sake of argument, let's assume you can modify a culture by changing its name formulations. If we had to design a name formulation for a society, how should we do it?

For the sake of efficiency, we need to have a limited number of names. (When it comes to hyphenated names, I'm against it. Someone is eventually going to have to "lose" or you'll pile up name after name after name.) From what I've seen, four names is about as much as most people can handle. Which names should they be and what order should they be in?

As a rule, I would say adding a good bit of maternalism to a society is not a bad thing. Promoting marriage is a good thing as well. Making fathers a part of the family, and thus the name, would be beneficial too. Also, individualism is better than collectivism, so I'd keep the first name first.

So here's my plan: in order to fit all the names, I would eliminate the middle name. You don't really need if you're well identified by your other names. Here's the plan: (first name) (father's first name) (mother's family name) (married name). The father's first name, as in Slavic countries, would incorporate the father into the name. Using the mother's name, and thus tracing descent through the maternal line (besides being more accurate--mommy's baby, daddy's maybe), might add a sufficient dose of maternalism to the society. The married name, besides sorting out relationships, would act as an honorific, with both men and women taking on the other's name when they got married. Also, by being tacked onto the end, it would eliminate the name changes that are a plague on those making identification.

So what do you think? Which of my assumptions are invalid? Does tracing through the maternal line AND having the man take on the married name make a society too maternal?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Middle names or initials are nice for helping to differentiate people or authors with the same first and last name without having to use birth dates or suffixes such as Jr and Sr.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

It would be much rarer to have someone with the same first and last name when the father's name is included. You'd have to have the same first name, same mother's last name, and same father's first name.

Also, Jr. and Sr. would cease to exist. The middle name would become the first name, and the last name would be the mother's name, so father and son couldn't have the same name.

4:24 PM  

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