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His & Sur Names 2006-08-03

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Intolerance.

Women who don’t want to lose their name in marriage have traditionally opted for double-barrelling their surname, or keeping their maiden name. Now, from the USA, comes a new option: ‘Meshing’.

If Pete Doherty and Kate Moss ever decide to get married — and ‘mesh’, they could be known as Mr and Mrs Doss. Tony Blair and George Bush are sometimes said to act like an old married couple, so they could be Mr and Mr Blush.’Meshing’ is the latest fad for newlyweds in the US and involves joining together a couple’s existing surnames to come up with a new one just for them.


A similar phenomenon already exists with celebrities’ first names: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had theirs blended by the media to produce ‘TomKat’; and who can forget ‘Bennifer’ — Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, and also — rather handily — current squeeze Jennifer Garner.

Said to be a sign of commitment and togetherness, meshing is also seen by some as an attempt to banish the, some might say, ‘sexist’ tradition of a woman taking her husband’s name when she marries.

One of the meshing pioneers in the USA is ‘The Mayor of Los Angeles’, Mr,Antonio Villaraigosa, who combined his name Villar with his wife’s name Raigosa.

But for anyone familiar with the term ‘portmanteaus’ — ‘meshin’ will seem like just another twist on a lexical tradition.

‘Portmanteaus first came about with Lewis Carroll,’ says Mr.Jonathan Gabay, author of ‘The Copywriter’s Compendium’ — a reference guide to the English language.

‘The idea was to blend words and we have many examples in the English language like brunch, which is a blend of breakfast and lunch.

‘People blend words this way because sometimes there are words you want that actually don’t exist, there’s a feeling you are trying to get out.’

As well as ‘portmanteaus’, ‘meshing’ is a close relation of ‘onomatopoeia’ — a type of word that sounds like the thing it is describing, such as crunch or smash — and also a ‘distant cousin’ of rhyming slang, says Mr.Gabay.

While such evolution in language keeps dictionary researchers busy, just think of the headaches that meshing will bring to future legions of genealogists.

‘Some ancestry companies are claiming meshing is the end of the line, but it isn’t,’ says Mr.Gabay.

‘For years immigrants have been settling in different countries and changed their names.

‘Lots of immigrants came to the UK after the Second World War, many officials didn’t understand their names and just wrote down what they thought it sounded like and those names stuck. “Meshing” is purer than that.’

Meshing your surname might sound like one of the sincerest acts of devotion to your other half. Or is it more about fighting sexist traditions?

‘It gives people an essence of who they are within the same name,’ says Mr Gabay.

‘In double-barrelled names, the hyphen is almost pushing one name away from the other. “Meshing” says “I am you and you are me”, which is rather romantic.’

Some say it is an attempt to banish the tradition of a woman taking her husband’s name. But of all the prominent examples in the USA, the man’s name always comes first, which rather defeats the object.

But will it catch on in the UK?

‘I don’t think so,’ says Mr.Gabay,

‘The British are too cynical.’

  • What a mesh‘, Denise Winterman, BBC News Magazine, Published: 2006/08/03 12:19:41 GMT


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