Published: 12th April 2021
Welcome to Reason: Should a person’s surname matter?
Some names or surnames have professional brand value, particularly in creative fields like acting. Aishwarya Rai didn't change her surname when she married Abhishek Bachchan
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
-William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatic poet, in Romeo and Juliet
I am going one step ahead of Shakespeare and asking: “What’s in a surname?” The question has acquired new currency after Kamala Harris has become Vice-President of the United States.
Who is Kamala Harris? She is the elder of two daughters of Donald J Harris from Jamaica and Shyamala Gopalan, an Indian residing in the US as a naturalised citizen, with her ancestry originating back to what was then-called Madras. Both of them had migrated to the United States in a quest of PhDs, fell in love and got married.
It is taken for granted that after marriage, the wife takes on the surname of the husband. But there are many cases where brides retain their family surname by sometimes taking on a compound surname. Following the marriage of my daughter Primrose Monteiro to Kevin D’Souza, she had considerable investment in her journalistic writings and was attached to her byline. A solution was Monteiro-D’Sousa, easily accepted by Kevin and his family. Their son, Zach, has the uncompounded surname ‘D’Souza’. Changes in names and surnames are not uncommon if we go by notices published in newspapers about change of names or surnames.
Some names or surnames have professional brand value, particularly in creative fields like acting. Aishwarya Rai didn’t change her surname when she married Abhishek Bachchan. In some communities, compounding surnames is common. For instance, Goans are notable for their long compounded surnames which are perhaps meant to trace their ancestry on both their father’s and mother’s sides.