What’s in a name?

I remember being a teenager, going through that feminist stage that most young girls do.

And I found out – and what a revelation this was – that it wasn’t ‘The Law’ that you had to take your husband’s surname once you got hitched.

Amazing. In that case, I was totally going to keep mine.

“There’s absolutely no way I would change my name if I got married,” I told my friends in the sixth form, who probably nodded in agreement.

We’d never lose our identities because of some man. Humph to that.

But as I got older I kind of changed my mind. Not that I didn’t like my surname. (Oh it never got boring being serenaded with Mrs Robinson by boys that thought it would impress you.)

It’s just it seemed like a nice thing to do – the perfect symbol of starting a new chapter of your life.

Not that I was going to become one of those girls that starts practicing her new signature (inserting her new boyfriend’s surname in place of her own). Oh no, not me – not in this life, anyway.

I was all prepared to give up my surname. So imagine my disappointment when I learned that Spanish brides all, without exception, keep their own names.

J tried to explain it to me. I would still be a Mrs – ie Señora whatever, but I would still be Katherine Robinson. Our children – like all Spanish children, would have two surnames – His first, followed by mine.

A perfect blend of Spanish and British – just like our future kids would be.

OK, but I felt cheated. True, on the plus side – I wouldn’t have to change my passport, or my work email or my Facebook name or anything, but it was the principal of the matter.

The choice had been taken away from me. It would look weird if I did take his name, because the only other women who had it in his family would be his sisters.

And it’s such a fun surname to have – Borrachero, which basically means drunkard. Mrs Drunkard – it’s just brilliant.

Actually, I should clarify that the origins of the name don’t really come from the verb emborrachar (i.e. to get drunk). People who’ve traced it think it could have come from Portugal, where a ‘boracha’ is a typical container for olive oil and wine.

Or it could be something to do with the Borrachero plant, which grows in Mexico. Perhaps in days of old, the people who farmed or picked these plants, which have medicinal uses, adopted the surname.

There are very few people in Spain who have it as a surname. People do a double take – and sometimes laugh (how rude!) – whenever J has to tell people – whether to book a table at a restaurant or whatever.

When he was paying in a shop once, one guy even borrowed his ID to show it to his friends ‘cos he couldn’t believe it.

The icing on the cake is that J’s father’s full last name is Borrachero Tirado (you could interpret this as ‘fallen down drunkard’, with the literal translation) And he doesn’t even drink!

Anyway, I’m getting off the point. What I really wanted to say is that I love my future husband’s unique surname, and I’m sad I won’t be taking it.

But really I don’t need a new name to prove to myself I’m married, or starting a new chapter.

In many ways I feel like I’ve already turned the page.

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8 comments

  1. I reacted exactly the same way as you did when I found out absolutely no Spanish bride changes their name! I was disappointed when I first heard but then Sergio, my husband, explained to me it would look like I was his sister or something and it could give rise to some weird situations! I am also very relieved I don´t have to go through the nightmare of name changing here because how however complicated it is in the UK I´m guessing it would be 20times worse here!
    The one thing I still don´t like is, thinking of the future, if we have kids I won´t have the same name as them and I really hate that!!! Also I think i have explained it 20 times to family and friends and they still don´t get it!

    • Katherine Robinson

      Hi Sharon,

      Glad to know I’m not alone. And I hadn’t even thought about the children’s names. Ah well! At least they’ll still have my last name somewhere in there – Borrachero Robinson will be an unusual one in Spain.

      • Hi Katherine,
        I’ve just discovered your blog! Congratulations for the wedding!
        I am a 30-year-old Spanish girl, bride, too, later this year. For me it was such a shock when the English teacher told us (14-year-olds) that you used to change your names! In fact in Spain, nowadays, when Mrs. Lopez marries Mr. Perez, they are called “señores Perez Lopez” and it would be old fashioned to call the wife “señora de Perez”. She’s still called “señora Lopez”. Also, you can surname your children either Perez Lopez or Lopez Perez, parents decide. (Sorry for my English!!)

        • Katherine Robinson

          Hi Christina – glad you found my blog – hope you like it. From what you’re saying i won’t be señora Borrachero then, but Señora Robinson? That’s so weird – my mother is Señora Robinson – not me! I’m finding this whole thing very confusing indeed.

          Congrats on your wedding – where are you getting married? xxx

          PS – your English is great – don’t apologise!

  2. Hi Katherine,

    In the Netherlands wives usually take their husband’s surname, but only as social convention because their ID’s still have their maiden names. You see how cultural determined these things are because, as Spanish, I thought it was weird (and machista) to take my husband’s surname. The only balanced half-way that I could think of is that he would add my surname to his and I would do the same, as a couple of friends recently did, but he did not agree, so we both kept our surnames as they were before getting married. At school many people ask me what is my name now :)
    A British friend of mine, living in the Netherlands for many years and married with a Dutchman, told me that in her UK documentation her surname was changed automatically, she did not have a choice there.

    • Katherine Robinson

      Hi Paula,

      i think combining the names is a great idea, but I doubt my husband would agree to that either! x

  3. Hi Katherine,

    It is so nice to read about your experience. I am marrying my lovely Catalan man next August, just outside Barcelona and can’t wait! The only strange thing for me is the name change…or not to be precise! My boyfriend has said that he is happy for me to change my name but I know that he would find it weird and he just saying that because he wants me to be happy. It will be strange being called the same as my Mum and my Dads second wife, I’ll feel like I’m married to my Dad!

    Do you have any fun and practical alternatives? Do you know if there’s a way to be one name in Spain and another in the UK?? As one of the other women said above, it’s going to odd when we have children and I have a different name to them.

    • Katherine Robinson

      Hi Kat, congrats on your wedding! How lovely to get married in Catalunya!

      One thing you could do is have a ‘professional name’ and an unofficial married name. In the same way that Zara Phillips said she would be Mrs Tindall privately.

      In the end I’ve decided to keep Katherine Robinson on all my offical documents but I’ve changed my name on facebook to Katherine Robinson Borrachero on facebook and the like, and that’s how I’ll be known to friends and in unofficial situations.

      At the end of the day though, if your future husband says he happy with you changing your name though, and it’s what you really want to do, why don’t you go for it?

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