Judge John Hodgman Episode 143: Namer vs. Namer

Kurt Braunohler

Josh brings the case against his wife Jackie. They each kept their respective surnames when they married, and now can't decide on a last name for their future children. Should the kids take their mom or dad's last name, combine them, or take on a brand new appellation? Only one man can decide.

PLUS, our friend comedian Kurt Braunohler joins us for the docket. If you have not already, please check out his stand up special HOW DO I LAND?, the K Ohle podcast, or see him in person at one of his tourdates.

If you want to join our conversation about this episode, please click on the Forum link below!

Thanks to Connor McGee for suggesting this week's case name! To suggest a title for a future episode, like us on Facebook at Judge John Hodgman! We regularly put out a call for submissions.



Merging Two Naming Systems

Perhaps I'm suffering from my own "flower-fever" for thinking this a great idea, but I think a mix between the Spanish family name system and the current hyphenated trend would be the most logical way to go forward. It would fix the messiness of the second-generation-hyphenated-names, while creating new combinations for all subsequent generations.

Initially the naming convention would start like current hyphenated names do, but by the second generation a baby would inherit both a Matrilineal and a Patrilineal surname. For Subsequent generations, attention would be payed to which surname came from which grandparent, with one surname coming from each parent. The order of the Patrilineal and Matrilineal surnames is determined by musicality.

i.e. the litigants have a hypothetical son and daughter who each have a family tree:

Son (2nd generation)
John Hodgmanilla Kazil Carrico + Arya Hodgmina Waits Vonnegut; (M-P) marries (M-P)

begats a Son (3rd generation)
Benjen "Swordfishtrombone" Carrico Waits + Tyrion Valentine Targaryen Stark; (P-M) marries (M-P)

adopts a Daughter (4th generation)
Asha Rain Carrico Stark (P-P)

- - - - - -
Daughter (2nd generation)
Leona Redbone Kazil Carrico + Davos Zachariah Tully Forel; (M-P) marries (P-M)

begats a Daughter (3rd generation)
Daenerys Alice Kazil Tully + Donal Doc Lannister Seaworth; (M-P) marries (M-P)

begats a Daughter (4th generation)
Rhaenyra Kneller Kazil Seaworth (M-P)

This way there will be some clear benefits:

  • There will eventually be long descendants of both Matrilineal surnames and Patrilineal surnames. (If Jackie has a daughter who has a daughter the Kazil name will carry on, and likewise for male descendants of Josh.)
  • No clutter formed from merging two hyphenated names
  • Unlike the Spanish system, one isn't simply getting the patrimonial name of the mother, so it gives more emphasis to the woman’s heritage.
  • Unlike the Spanish system, Matrilineal and Patrilineal names aren't locked in a certain order so that the father's name is more important.
  • System gives some clear rules that reduces decisions/arguments about names, while not creating a huge mess for later generations.
  • The system does have the drawback, by the very nature of establishing a set of rules, that it reduces choice. One would have to abandon the system to carry on favorite names. (e.g. if Benjen’s parents care more about his Czech heritage than the Kentucky line, and would like to keep the Kazil name)

    Also, although John Hodgman may be right about a hyphen being unnecessary and unappealing, modern US Drivers licenses are rather inflexible with nonstandard names. Therefore the above example would become the following on legal documents:

    John Hodmanilla Kazil-Carrico + Arya Hodgmina Waits-Vonnegut, (M-P) marries (M-P)
    begats a Son, Benjen "Swordfishtrombone" Carrico-Waits (P-M)


I think this is such a great idea. I wish we could adopt something like this in the US.


My favorite solution to the problem discussed in this episode is union names. Basically, the parents of a child get a new middle name (legally) which matches the last name of the child. This name can be chosen freely, so it could be a family name or SwordfishTrombone or whatever. That way everyone can keep their professional surname, but children still share a name with their parents. And you don't end up with a 50-name-long hyphenated name.

The advantages and disadvantages are described in more detail here:

May the best name win

We took the route of who's last name was cooler. Mine is 'Couture', which causes spelling and pronunciation issues, but is pretty classy. His was 'Judy', yes, Judy like the female first name. He was more than happy to ditch his for mine. Now the only confusion comes when someone asked him if he's french, and he looks puzzled and then points at me. We had twin boys, and he is happy to spare them the torture he suffered as a 13 year old boy.

We had friends who married, a 'Camp', and a 'Landis'. They wimped out and hyphenated instead of using the combo, 'Clamdips'.

Thanks for the podcast!

Episode Name

Why was this episode not named "Josh fit the Battle of Carrico"?

Namor vs. Namor?

No matter who wins, we all win.

Best part of my day

JJH is the only thing that gets me through the work day. I pretend I am working at my desk but I am really just listening to the podcasts!