What to do when your surname is horrible?!!

(55 Posts)
WatchingWaiting Thu 15-Apr-10 14:20:18

Ok, me and DH have a horrible surname. Its a well known travelling-Irish-Gypsy surname. In our area, its the sort of surname that immediately leads to raised eyebrows and judgement. (Just imagine having the surname 'Kray' if you lived in the East End in the 50's, and you can imagine my pain!! grin )

I can forsee some problems our child will have with school applications, applying for jobs in the future etc, so in order to minimise this, I want a very 'posh' sounding first name to counter-act our surname!

So, we are so far thinking of the following names as possibilities:

Cordelia / Tabitha / Felicity / Harriet

Sebastian / Oscar / Benedict / William.

Do they sound a bit too poncey, especially since we are a working class family?

I want it to be as clear as possible that we're not pikeys, but I don't want to sound snobbish and up-myself!! Advice or name suggestions greatly appreciated!

Can you double barrel your surname?

MmeLindt Thu 15-Apr-10 14:23:02

Oh dear.

I can see that you are going to get flamed for this one.

Particularly the use of 'pikeys' is rather offensive.

As to your question, chose the name that you like and that goes with your (unloved) surname.

WatchingWaiting Thu 15-Apr-10 14:26:12

I thought I might get flamed (I even namechanged!) so im prepared for it, dont worry!

Even a few helpful suggestions would make the flaming worthwhile!

Apologies if the use of pikeys was offensive, it wasn't meant to be, I just know that my surname is not looked on favourably in my area, and I don't want my DC to be disadvantaged in anyway!

Can't double barrell, married DH and took on his surname willingly (oh the things you do for love!)

scurryfunge Thu 15-Apr-10 14:27:04

I'm sorry but the tone of your post sounds snobbish and up yourself,so the child's name is going to be the least of the worries.

WatchingWaiting Thu 15-Apr-10 14:28:49

and yes, I appreciate your advice to just choose a name we like best and that goes with our unloved surname, but names we would initially like are Tom/Martin type names, which would just re-inforce traveller-irish sounding surname, which I'm desperate to avoid.

CuppaTeaJanice Thu 15-Apr-10 14:28:59

Does your DH hate the name too? If so why don't you all change to your maiden name?

MmeLindt Thu 15-Apr-10 14:30:04

Thing is, the whole problem is only one if you make it one.

I mean, it is not as if your surname is Hitler or Himmler.

If you and your family stay in the area just ignore any comments or raised eyebrows. And if you or your DC move away from that area, then it is not a problem. I am sure that I would not know a Irish-Gypsy name if I came across it.

WatchingWaiting Thu 15-Apr-10 14:31:01

I don't mean it to sound snobbish and up myself, but every family in my area has been burgled/ mugged by those children of my surname, I want to avoid associations of it as much as possible with my own DC. I can just forsee the teacher on the first day of primary school dreading the fact that my child will be in their class, and want to try and pre-empt this.


Never meant to offend... I'll ask people in RL instead who understand the situation more and could relate. Thanks anyway.

the names definitely don't sound too poncey for you if that helps!

Kbear Thu 15-Apr-10 14:35:20

Just change your surname - easy

CuppaTeaJanice Thu 15-Apr-10 14:35:54

If it's going to be a problem, change your name! No point all having a horrible socially-limiting name just because it's traditional to take the man's name.

Much like the Bogg family did at my school.

MmeLindt Thu 15-Apr-10 14:45:06

Would your DH agree to changing your name?

If it so extreme, and the way you describe it makes me think it is, why don't you change your name?

MmeLindt Thu 15-Apr-10 14:46:41

btw, the names you have chose are all lovely. I particularly like Cordelia and Benedict.

And not too poncey at all.

ChickensHaveSinisterMotives Thu 15-Apr-10 14:48:22

I like the names you've mentioned, and I would still change my surname if its that much of a problem. Can it be lengthened? Add 'son' or 'man' to the end of it? Or shortened?

yy Deed Poll is only £10 online. And it's a legal document. My DH's family had a really stupid sounding surname originally and they changed to a normal one when he was small. Not unusual to do so.

WatchingWaiting Thu 15-Apr-10 14:49:50

Thanks for your kind suggestions, but I don't think its as easy as changing our surname. I think DH's parents would be very offended by it, and I also think it sort of gives the impression "I'm too good for your surname" - and despite the tone of my previous posts, I don't think that for a second. And my husband is a wonderful man, and although he also is aware of the problem his surname brings, its HIS surname, and I don't think he'd ever take kindly to changing it.

I just don't want my PFB to be judged every time his/her name appears on a form, and thought an upper class surname might counter-act this.

Really love the name Thomas for a boy, and Marie for a girl (grandparents names), and think maybe I should just suck up the traveller connotations these names might have when put together with our surname, and just raise my child with such impeccable manners that people's stereotypes will be challenged upon meeting my perfectly-behaved child?! I have a month or two left to decide anyway, so will give it further thought I suppose.

You've all given me food for thought anyway, so its very appreciated!

WatchingWaiting Thu 15-Apr-10 14:51:26

*sorry, meant to say I thought an upper-class FIRST name would counter-act the surname!

MmeLindt Thu 15-Apr-10 14:52:49

Thomas and Marie are beautiful names. (but I am biased on Thomas)

Go for it.

Once your DC are older, anyone who meets them will recognise immediately that they are lovely well brought up children. Never mind what their surnames are.

WatchingWaiting Thu 15-Apr-10 14:54:40

Thanks very much for advice.

And apologies once again for tone of initial post and any offense caused, I meant it to come across as jokey and light hearted, and it didn't.

I don't think any of the names you chose are 'poncey'. Benedict could be shortened to Ben which might not suit you. William to Bill, Sebastian to Seb, and Oscar to Ozzie.

How about George? I don't think that gets abbreviated. It is a classic name.

scurryfunge Thu 15-Apr-10 14:59:28

No worries -it was only me that got mumpy anyway.My favourites are Sebastian and Felicity from your list.

A friend of a friend (someone I don't actually know) got married to a Mr Glasscock. Or possibly Glascock. Either way, it was pronounced Glass-cock.

When they got married they both changed their names (to a family name that was less of a playground-teasing magnet).

mathanxiety Thu 15-Apr-10 15:06:27

Cordelia / Tabitha / Felicity / Harriet

Of these, I love Tabitha and Cordelia.

Sebastian / Oscar / Benedict / William.

Torn between Oscar and Benedict here.

However, I love Thomas and Marie too.

You know, there are hardly any Traveller surnames that aren't common in the rest of the Irish population. Saying you have a well-known Traveller surname is like saying you have an Irish surname, in other words.

A hoity-toity first name (whatever that is) wouldn't necessarily counterbalance an Irish surname; it would emphasise whatever difference you perceive to be there.

ChickensHaveSinisterMotives Thu 15-Apr-10 15:12:51

I'm dying to know the surname now <nosey bag emoticon>

specialmagiclady Thu 15-Apr-10 15:20:46

I know what you mean - there's a family like that in my home town and I know that the teachers, doctors etc's hearts rather sank when they saw the name... (sorry, I know that's probably not what you hear)

To try and answer your question, is Hermione Boggins better than Jane Boggins? Or does it just sound like Mr & Mrs Boggins are a bit up themselves? Not sure if it's not the latter, really.

I like the George idea - also Thomas, William, Jane, Katy. These are classic british names which work equally well with Boggins or Fotherington-Smythe.

Also, as the parent of a, frankly, quite naughty boy with an unusual name, you need something you can scream across the park without feeling too self-conscious. If you're screaming Felicity Hermione Jocasta Boggins at the top of your lungs you will feel a bit self-conscious!

GladioliBuckets Thu 15-Apr-10 15:53:45

Would stay away from William in case he ends up Billy.

zapostrophe Thu 15-Apr-10 15:57:42

Message withdrawn

annh Thu 15-Apr-10 16:08:24

I am intrigued as to what this surname is, given that I am Irish and can't think of any surname that would immediately make me stereotype a family as travellers. Well, I can think of a few common traveller surnames but they are also widespread in the community at large. If you feel that people really compartmentalise you because of your surname, then I think giving your child a very "posh" sounding name will just make you appear as a desperate social-climber!

tjtheminx Fri 16-Apr-10 02:22:12

Annh I disagree, there are definitely a few traveller specific surnames in some towns.
( I have a few Limerick ones I am thinking of)

I do agree though that giving the kid a posh name is not going to make a difference.

Also DYING to know what the surname is... any hints watchingwaiting
Ah... g'wan!!

annh Fri 16-Apr-10 09:50:10

Theminx, can you give us a couple of examples? I am genuinely intrigued as to what these names are? Perhaps I'll be nodding my head sagely afterwards and thinking "oh of course" when I hear them.

5DollarShake Fri 16-Apr-10 10:15:01

I can understand why you're worried - although I obviously haven't got a clue of any well-known traveller surnames.

But - I really think you're maybe over-worrying about this, and I know that's easy for me to say! grin

I would give yourselves and your DC some credit - any pre-concenived ideas people may have (and yes, plenty of people will be bound to have them; it's human nature), will be completely over-ridden as soon as they get to know your child.

It's the same as any other 'unusual' name - people get flamed on here for choosing so-called chavvy names, but the fact is that a child comes to own their name; they become more than the name itself, and only the worst type of judgey snob will stick to their pre-conceived ideas about a person based on their name, as opposed to going by the person themselves.

I really think you're worrying about something which won't be a problem - and should just choose a name you both genuinely like and want.

pedrothellama Fri 16-Apr-10 10:17:28

I once lived in an area with a large semi permanent travelling community and there was one family name that struck terror into people's hearts.

I do actually understand what WatchingWaiting is saying, the children of this large family were equally feared from a very young age. I remember a fight that started in a wine bar because the owner asked three of these chaps to keep the noise down. It was horrific what they did to him and I steered clear of the family totally after that.

I don't want to promote stereotyping here and apologise for any offence in advance but I would really, really, really have to love the guy to have taken that name.

Complete social suicide.

maryz Fri 16-Apr-10 10:58:16

Connors would be one example of a very Irish traveller name. I can imagine people seeing the name and thinking it might be a traveller family, but surely they will know when they meet you what you are like?

And for what it's worth I know a Tommo Connors who was a rather geeky, very hard-working, successful child at school. I don't know where he is now, but I don't imagine his name will have held him back too much.

annh Fri 16-Apr-10 11:04:05

Yes, Connors was a name which was in my mind but growing up in Ireland I knew a few families called Connors, none of whom were travellers, and stereotyping them as such never crossed my mind. However, I still think that if you believe your family name classifies you as such in peoples minds, then calling your daughter e.g. Cordelia Connors or Sebastian Connors is not the greatest idea!

pedrothellama Fri 16-Apr-10 12:25:53

Watching Waiting

I am from a working class family and my parents gave me what is considered a 'posh' name.

I have always been very proud of my name and it is always complimented on. I have never shared my name with another class member or work collegue but it is not so unusual to cause comment.

A good strong name can open many doors, the only thing I would suggest is choose a name that carries well into adulthood. I personally dislike grown women having 'little girl' names like Betsy.

If you like the name Ellie, then fine call her Ellie but on the birth certificate put Eleanor or Elizabeth or Eliza or Ellen etc so she can choose when she gets older.

There is little you can do if you can't change your surname - but you can give them a good strong first name to start them off. I love all the names you have chosen, hold your head high and make sure your kids are the ones with the whitest socks and best manners grin

TheRedQueen Fri 16-Apr-10 12:40:40

WatchingWaiting - could you perhaps add your maiden name as part of your child's surname to deflect some emphasis off the name you don't like?

WatchingWaiting Fri 16-Apr-10 13:15:28

Annh - I totally see where you're coming from saying re: Irish names & traveller names. And if I lived in Ireland, I'm sure my surname would not have anyone bat an eyelid. But in my town, its a name that has so many negative connotations - its a large extended family that everyone fear because of their violence and crime, and poor DH just happened to share the same surname.

Its never been an issue for me really - I loved DH enough to take the name unquestionably, and I knew I have tough enough skin to confront the stereotype, and deal with the initial preconceptions I might initally meet in doctors surgeries etc. But I suppose some motherly instinct has kicked in already - I can't bear the thought of people thinking badly about my future child before they have a chance to meet him/her. They say first impressions are everything, and I don't want my child to face any barriers in regards to jobs/school applications etc just because of their surname.

This topic has helped me think about the issue very clearly, and I don't think naming my child Sebastiam Wilhelm or Arabella Cecily is going to do anything other for my child than make them think they should be ashamed of their surname, and I don't want that. We're a loving family, and have every right to be proud of our surname.

So I think I'll stick with my original more simple choices. Thomas/Adam for a boy, and Marie/Lucy for a girl.

If my surname was 'Jones' I would have chosen those names in a heartbeat, and so I think its the right decision. I think!

Am v reluctant to give my surname away for fear of being recognised and sounding snobbish - but it's along the Connors/ Cash/ McCann/ McDonagh lines; surnames that would be perfectly normal in a happy community, or in Ireland, but not in a town that has been terrorised for generations by a family of that name.

Thanks for all the input!

there was a couple of families in my home town that shared my mothers maiden name - but 'outsiders' soon realised that they were different families entirely and not related in the slightest.

The only thing shared was the name, surely in this day and age people arent that small minded, to judge a child because of a surname?

thesecondcoming Fri 16-Apr-10 14:22:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mathanxiety Fri 16-Apr-10 15:29:23

Why not look in the local phone book and see just how many other families there are that share your surname? You might be relieved to see you're not alone.

I love your original name choices.

FWIW, growing up in Ireland, there were plenty of notorious families in my area whose names were synonymous with trouble, and they were not Travellers.

KatiePul Fri 16-Apr-10 15:48:20

Really don't think you should use the word 'pikey' you wouldn't use the 'N' word would you?
don't think your surname will be the problem if you encourage your child to use derogatory terms such as that!

two2many Fri 16-Apr-10 16:11:59

Ward & Mcdonagh are also well known Irish traveller names , op i think you might be worrying a bit too much about this tbh

maryz Fri 16-Apr-10 17:31:10

For what it's worth, I love all those names - Adam and Lucy particularly. And I wouldn't have thought those names would be different enough from Paddy/PaJo/Johnjo, etc to be lovely with whatever surname you have.

ozmetric Fri 16-Apr-10 17:43:30


CakeandRoses Mon 19-Apr-10 09:43:27

We had a similar family in the town where we used to live so I do understand the immediate negative impression a surname like that can have.

If I substitute that name with some of your first name choices e.g. Cordelia then I'm afraid the first name wouldn't counteract the impact of the surname at all.

If I'm being completely honest (and I'm sure this won't be popular): if the surname is viewed as negatively as you say it is then I would seriously considering altering the surname, for your DC's sake. I can only think how I would feel (as a child/teen)introducing myself with that kind of surname - I would hate it.

If you're thinking of choosing first names you're not even keen on so that you can try to make life easier for your DC then (and as I've said above, I don't think this would work anyway) then surely it would make sense to just change a few letters or the ending of your surname and then choose a first name for your DC that you LOVE.

mathanxiety Mon 19-Apr-10 15:02:48

Change your name to the Irish version?

Are they really that bad though? Can teachers, doctors, etc. really not tell the difference between you and the family that shares your name? What has your own experience been of making doctor or midwife appointments or introducing yourself? How about your DH?

laurawardX Thu 13-Dec-12 23:58:58

what's wrong with Irish names tho? I'm a ward and I'm proud

Sorry, I just don't understand your problem. Just change your whole family to your maiden name? Then you can Tom or Martin or whatever you like.

And I don't think the names you picked are posh at all.

shoobidoo Fri 14-Dec-12 10:30:20

This thread is over 2 years old!!

Oh yes, I've been fooled!

How do people these really old threads? lauraward?

GinSoakedMu1berryLush Fri 14-Dec-12 13:34:47

I agree that there aren't any 'traveller sur names' which don't belong to settled people too. You can never assume that a travelling sur name belongs to only a traveller. A very posh man in my office when I lived in the uk had the sur name Ward!! I've had over the years good friends with the sur names McDonagh and Nevin. They never had any issue with people assuming x,y or z.

GinSoakedMu1berryLush Fri 14-Dec-12 13:36:58

Ps, by the way, I have nothing but respect for travellers who manage to get through the education system and apply for jobs, competing with 'settled people'. I think I would make a point of interviewing anybody I thought might have come from a travelling family.

GinSoakedMu1berryLush Fri 14-Dec-12 13:43:52

oh! didn't notice it was so old.

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