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I don’t know which radio station Mollie King is on, to my shame, but last weekend she spoke to me. “I’ve read that couples are increasingly blending their surnames together,” Mollie boomed to someone who I think was called Producer Dave, or Radio Robbie (I wasn’t really listening), while we sat in traffic.
“A message from the King: by Royal decree, we must blend,” I said to my fiancee, who is great not just because she a) was driving b) is marrying me and c) is obviously the best person I know, but because she has a nice, normal surname: Learoyd. “Not while I’m driving,” she replied, not really listening either.
As a surname, Fishwick has all the subtlety of a trombonist wearing a Hawaiian shirt. It suits me to a tee. But it doesn’t fit my fiancee, a classy badass who doesn’t wish to be lumbered with a husband’s name like some signature on a title deed. She has accepted being lumbered with a husband, and that is wonder enough.
What’s more, the Learoyds are an exceptional family who I love at least as much as my own. Why would she want to ditch that gang? Why don’t I take her surname, hey?
Italian courts this week ruled that children should be given the surnames of both parents, upending the patrilinear tradition by which all newborns are automatically named after their fathers and calling that practice “discriminatory and harmful to the identity” of the child. The onus, rather sweetly, is on the child to choose later in life who they’d rather be. But around 90 per cent of heterosexual women in the UK — and 96 per cent in America — take their husband’s surname when they tie the knot. It wasn’t ever thus. Surnames in England prior to the 17th century weren’t standardised. Many signified a profession (say, Smith) or place of residence (such as Hilton, short for “hill town”).
Plenty of children took their mother’s or grandmother’s last name. That started to change by about the 18th century, when coverture laws — which counted wives as legal property of their husbands — grew more entrenched, and evolved to effectively forbid women from owning land at all. Taking their husband’s last name became a symbol of accepting his authority. So why would we want to do that? Unfortunately, Fishwick doesn’t mesh well with Learoyd. Leawick sounds like the host of a BBC Three prank show. The Fishroyds sound like something you’d need a cream for. We could double-barrel, but that isn’t straightforward either. “Fishwick-Learoyd is best,” I say, “for our children will be higher up the alphabet, get better seats in the classroom and become geniuses.” “Learoyd-Fishwick is best,” she says, “for I do not wish those children to be losers.”
We could simply make a surname up, of course. Signifying my profession? That’s Mr Self-absorbed Journalist to you. Place? Mr Gatwick-Flightpath, at your service. It’s been fun writing for you as a Fishwick, but it’s time to go. Reader, I’m marrying her. If you fancy rechristening us, get in touch.
We’re all tired, Andrew
Is there a man alive with a more TGIF attitude than Andrew Garfield? “I’m going to rest for a little bit,” the Spider-Man star, who earned his second Oscar nom for Tick, Tick… Boom, told Variety this week. “I need to just be a bit ordinary for a while.”
Don’t we all, Andrew, my sweet Relatable King. A little break. A little R&R. Don’t forget, Ed Sheeran took a whole year off from being Ed Sheeran, just as a treat. Jodie Comer still lives at home with her mum. Even Elon Musk has stopped having interesting ideas of his own and has begun buying other people’s, wearily. Celebrities, who eat better, sleep more and get ferried around in cars that someone else has paid for, seem to have gone on strike from being interesting. They’re all tired. The world is just too much. Aren’t these the guys who have it easiest? Fine. I’m going to rest for a bit, too. Wake me if something trivial happens.