Ev­ery­thing in a name

Dou­ble-bar­relled sur­names a dilemma for new par­ents

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - LIFE - CAS­SAN­DRA SZK­LARSKI

TORONTO — Alexan­dra Si­posKoc­sis doesn’t mean to be dif­fi­cult. And yet through­out her life, her unique sur­name has con­founded teach­ers, tele­mar­keters, air­lines and more than a few ad­min­is­tra­tive forms that didn’t have room for her 12-char­ac­ter, dou­ble-bar­relled name.

But Si­pos-Koc­sis loves it, and when she mar­ried, she was de­ter­mined to keep it.

“My mother never took my fa­ther’s last name. I al­ways thought that was cool and in­de­pen­dent and fem­i­nist,” says Si­pos-Koc­sis (pro­nounced SEE-pose KOE-sis).

“And I liked that I was named af­ter both my par­ents. That al­ways felt im­por­tant to me.”

When she had kids, how­ever, she faced a dilemma: A triple-bar­relled name with her hus­band’s sur­name Gold­stein seemed clunky, and be­stow­ing only one of her names wasn’t an op­tion.

In the end, the 34-year-old dropped both when she named her son and daugh­ter Gold­stein — re­sort­ing to a pa­ter­nal tra­di­tion her par­ents de­lib­er­ately es­chewed.

“There are other things I can pass down for (my kids) that are not just names,” says the Toronto fer­til­ity coach. “And I felt that Gold­stein is a fam­ily name. Even though it’s not from my side, it is our fam­ily name.”

The quick death of her par­ents’ pro­gres­sive ges­ture seems to be the in­evitable fate of a lot of dou­ble-bar­relled sur­names that gained mo­men­tum in the ’80s and ’90s. Now that those hy­phen­ated chil­dren are hav­ing off­spring of their own, the ques­tion of how to pre­serve both the po­lit­i­cal spirit that in­spired their sur­names and the prac­ti­cal con­cerns of day-to­day life seem at odds.

Sheila Em­ble­ton, a York Univer­sity lin­guis­tics pro­fes­sor, says the trend for pro­fes­sional women to keep their maiden name started around the mid-’70s. That was still the case in Canada when she wed in 1981 at age 27, and so she and her hus­band de­cided that any daugh­ters would get her name, and any sons would get his.

“Un­til (our daugh­ter) showed up and then he was kind of up­set that his name wouldn’t be there,” Em­ble­ton says with a chuckle, and who wel­comed a girl in 1989. “So we kind of agreed on Ahren­sEm­ble­ton.” Of course, var­i­ous forms of the dou­ble-bar­relled sur­name have long been stan­dard in many cul­tures, in­clud­ing Que­bec and most Span­ish-speak­ing coun­tries. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the tra­di­tion is for the ma­ter­nal sur­name to drop when a hus­band’s sur­name is added, says Em­ble­ton.

In the end it’s pa­tri­ar­chal, but the mother’s sur­name does sur­vive one gen­er­a­tion longer than most An­glo tra­di­tions. To­day, more fam­i­lies seem willing to chart their own course.

“Your name was pre­scribed be­fore,” says Em­ble­ton. “Now, I think there’s a lit­tle more flu­id­ity in it.”

That sen­ti­ment is what drove Laura Pi­eter­son and Damien Boisvert Neufeld to be­stow their two chil­dren with the in­vented sur­name Pine — an homage to the fact they met while treeplant­ing and con­tinue to work in sil­vi­cul­ture. Neufeld re­cently changed his sur­name to Pine but is still in the process of con­vert­ing all of his iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, while Pi­eter­son plans to fol­low suit once a real-es­tate trans­ac­tion bear­ing her cur­rent name is com­plete.

“We wanted to be a fam­ily unit, we wanted all to have the same name,” says the 32-year-old Pi­eter­son, who lives in Cowichan Bay, B.C. “But I didn’t see why I should take his name.”

And nei­ther did Neufeld, who says he had lit­tle trou­ble de­fy­ing pa­ter­nal tra­di­tions, de­spite his mother’s dis­ap­point­ment.

“I kind of like the idea of your iden­tity chang­ing, I like to think that I’m not stuck in a rut my whole life and I’m just one per­son,” says Neufeld, whose sur­name has its own com­pli­cated back­story.

The 41-year-old added Neufeld as a kid when he was adopted by his step-dad. Boisvert is his late birth fa­ther’s name, and the one he’d pre­fer if forced to pick.

Pine, mean­while, hon­ours all three sur­names be­tween them: it ref­er­ences Boisvert, which means “green wood” in French, and is com­prised of the first two let­ters of the other names.

“It’s not sup­posed to be a snub or turn­ing our backs on our her­itage,” says Pi­eter­son. “We just all wanted the same name and some­thing not too long, some­thing sim­ple.”

Plus, Pi­eter­son and Si­pos-Koc­sis each say they dug deep into their fam­ily lines to find mid­dle names in­spired by great-grand­par­ents.

I kind of like the idea of your iden­tity chang­ing, I like to think that I’m not stuck in a rut my whole life and I’m just one per­son.”

CHAD HIPOLITO/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Laura Pine with her hus­band Damien and their chil­dren Aren, 2, two-month old Jac­que­line and their dog Betty Anne are pho­tographed at their home in Cowichan Bay, B.C., last week. Laura Pi­eter­son and Damien Boisvert Neufeld de­cided to be­stow their two chil­dren with the in­vented sur­name Pine, an homage to the fact they met while tree-plant­ing and con­tinue to work in sil­vi­cul­ture.

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