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What's in a name?



I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while. On the 27th October it was a year since I changed my surname, I didn’t get married or divorced I changed it in part for reasons of the PhD. It’s an odd thing to do I appreciate but I strongly felt it was necessary. A year on it is odd to see my old name, although I had that name for 26 years it already feels like somebody else. 

I took my mother’s maiden name and dropped my father’s family name (I won’t write either of them here because this blog is still semi-anonymous to the wider web). It was something I’d toyed with for a while and a few things happened to push me towards doing so. 

Academic’s names are like actors-once taken difficult to shift and they appear everywhere so on starting the PhD I was very aware that whatever name I graduated with-and published with-I’d be stuck with for life, professionally at least. Now it’s not an unfair statement to say that my old name wasn’t up there on the top ten best names list, it wasn’t anything everyone has like Smith or Jones, neither was it faintly rude or sounding like a fruit or vegetable. It was just unusual simple yet apparently impossible to spell.  And it didn’t sound good with ’Dr’ in front of it. (Yes I checked-it’s my equivalent of seeing what ‘Mrs-so-in-so’ looks like).

I never liked the association with that side of the family- these aren’t the people I identify with, they didn’t raise me, they didn’t influence my life in any way and they’ll have nothing to do with it in the future. The people who did raise me, who are responsible for who I am have the name I have now-or did at one point- my mother, my grandmother, aunts and uncles and cousins, we’re not a close family on either side but these people have been part of my life, and more importantly I look at these people and say ‘yes I fit there, I belong with them’. Receiving birthday cards from them with my new name this year meant so much more than seeing it somewhere else.  
Many people find it disrespectful that I chose to change the name of my dead father, to which I answer the only difference being if he was alive I’d have told him, and told him exactly why. A year ago some things came to light about my father, things I’ll never be certain were true or not (but I can hazard a guess). I won’t air my dirty laundry on the world wide web, but anyone who knows me in real life can ask I’ll tell you the details should you care. Suffice to say a series of events simply made the decision for me: this is no longer a person I want to be associated with, this person through their actions made this decision as much as I did.  

Names are important, they tell us where we have come from and where we belong finally now I feel like I have both and that I’ve taken ownership of this new name and this new identity.Everything I do in my research, in my life makes sense with the new name and is so at odds with the old one and what it stands for in my mind. I rarely make decisions I am certain of but this for once was one of them.

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