Punctuating a compound name

I know its general practice to hyphenate a combined name. But what about a slash? Or an ampersand?

Now, I’m just kind of musing here, but there seems to be a real dearth of accepted punctuation options. People get married, people decide to reclaim their maiden name for business purposes or after a divorce, kids get a new step-parent… For the billions of people who find themselves in need of a compound name, there really ought to be more opportunity for choice.

Check it out. The familiar hyphenated option is like a pronouncement: “I am Jane Smith-Doe. I shall be known like this! From here to the end of days, etc ,etc.” Depending on the letter and syllable count of the names involved, hyphenation looks good on business cards and doorplates.

But there are drawbacks. Every kid I knew in grade school with a hyphenated name was only ever addressed with the first of the two, while only the second seemed to be legally binding for report cards and vaccination records. Both names never made it onto attendance sheets. It’s almost like the tiny little gap afforded by the hyphen negated both the reason and the result of name combination, and confused the heck out of these kids, their teachers, and their classmates.

I offer here some potential options, specifically selected for their individual personality, connotation, and ability to physically reduce the chasm between names, without completely removing the desired distinction between them (or else why would you bother?). I’m also only including those symbols found directly on a keyboard… no fancy special characters.

Jane Smith:Doe           
Vaguely mathematical and indicative of rational thought, don’t you think? Smith is to Doe as _________ is to________.

Jane Smith’Doe
For those waffling on the edge of name-compounding. Reminiscent of MacDougal or DeVreer. It might be some colonial throwback, or maybe h’ is a Dutch phonetic. Should only be attempted with a short, monosyllabic first last-name.

Jane Smith^Doe           
See above.

Jane Smith+Doe           
Nice middle school vibe here. Has good graphic potential for signatures. Bonus: Easily recognized on all continents as a deliberate combination of two separate parts.

Jane Smith&Doe           
Indicates a partnership and has a slight commercial bent. Looks established, like a respected law firm or a good butcher’s shop. Especially well-suited when one name is long and of European or Asian origin.

Jane Smith!Doe           
For cheeky monkeys only. They’ll never know if you’ve got a repetitive typo syndrome, or if you’ll just really that happy. Or odd.

Jane Smith@Doe           
I cringe to even list this. But as an actively employed member of the tech industry, I suppose I must include at least one option that may appeal to people who design, build, and host their own wedding/couple websites. And one for each of their children. And their dogs. And dinner last night.

Jane Smith/Doe           
I list this last because it’s my favorite. I love that it implies versatility and exactitude all at once. “Either or.”  “Also known as.” (Unlike a parenthetical punctuation which implies that the parenthetical name is… well, parenthetical. A minor consideration, and easily removed for convenience.)With a slash, there are two definite descriptions, but both must be included to fully comprehend the whole.  I can’t help but extract a confident insouciance. “Well, you can call me either one. Or both. It’s all me.” Plus, I love the two-sided aesthetic created by a bold, straight line through a curly signature.

Now, we must understand, it may take some time before you’ll be able to get one of these options on your credit card. Perhaps even longer to order a monogrammed tote-bag from L.L. Bean. Pioneers of a compound-name revolution may be faced with confusion, skepticism, and a blatant disregard for their punctuation of choice. But these are the sacrifices of deliberate change, and we will not be deterred! Choose your punctuation and affirm your identity!

Together/Individually, we can make it happen.


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