There are quite literally thousands of baby name options in the world. For expecting parents, finding the perfect baby name is an entire process, complete with lists, rounds, and finalists. But even though you'll go through the trouble to pick the first name, how much thought do you actually give to the baby's last name? Well, it turns out that your options may be a little more limited when it comes to the surname. In Tennessee, for instance, the attorney general has come out to say that parents have three options for a baby's last name: mom's, dad's, or both.
So if you were thinking of creating a fun hybrid with the parents' names, no such luck. It turns out that your freedom with surnames is actually really restricted.
But why is the attorney general of a state making a big stink over this? Is this even a big deal?
Turns out ... it is!
"Our whole approach to names has become more creative," says Laura Wattenberg, baby name expert & founder of Baby Name Wizard. "And it's a great thing that we're thinking about surnames as a part of that process."
For centuries, most people followed the classic format and automatically gave the child the father's name. Then later on came the hyphenated name. Then lately some have even chosen the mother's name for the child. But not until recently has the idea of hybrid last names really taken hold.
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"Whenever you're forming a family, there's a change," says Wattenberg. "But there is a lot of social pent-up anger behind surnames."
Think about it. How much clearer of a shift can you make than with a name change? If your identity as a family changes, your actual identity might change as well. But with the weight behind last names as heavy as it is, it's hard to just casually make the decision.
First off, you need to consider what the law says -- especially if you live in a state like Tennessee. But don't stop there. Even if your state gives you the OK to make a new last name for baby, think a little longer before combining Jones and Smith to name baby Bob JoSmith.
If the child has a completely different name than his or her parents, it will "maximize confusion in childhood and school," says Wattenberg. There'll be plenty of questions like "where did your name come from?" or "whose name is that?" if you go the hybrid route. That is, if you can even choose that option.
What's your stance on made-up last names? Should states be telling us we can't use them?
For more information on last name options for baby names, go to Baby Name Wizard.
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