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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 August 2006, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
What a mesh
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

Pete Doherty and Kate Moss
Mr and Mrs Doss?
Women who don't want to lose their name in marriage have traditionally opted for double-barrelling their surname, or keeping their maiden name. Now, from the US, comes a new option: meshing.

If Pete Doherty and Kate Moss ever decide to get married and "mesh", they could be known as Mr and Mrs Doss. Tony Blair and George Bush are sometimes said to act like an old married couple, so they could be Mr and Mr Blush.

"Meshing" is the latest fad for newlyweds in the US and involves joining together a couple's existing surnames to come up with a new one just for them.


A similar phenomenon already exists with celebrities' first names: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had theirs blended by the media to produce TomKat; and who can forget Bennifer - Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, and also - rather handily - current squeeze Jennifer Garner.

Said to be a sign of commitment and togetherness, meshing is also seen by some as an attempt to banish the, some might say, "sexist" tradition of a woman taking her husband's name when she marries.

Antonio Villaraigosa with Tony Blair
Los Angeles mayor and mesher Antonio Villaraigosa (left)
One of the meshing pioneers in the US is the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, who combined his name Villar with his wife's name Raigosa.

But for anyone familiar with the term portmanteaus - meshing will seem like just another twist on a lexical tradition.

"Portmanteaus first came about with Lewis Carroll," says Jonathan Gabay, author of the Copywriter's Compendium - a reference guide to the English language.

"The idea was to blend words and we have many examples in the English language like brunch, which is a blend of breakfast and lunch.

"People blend words this way because sometimes there are words you want that actually don't exist, there's a feeling you are trying to get out."

As well as portmanteaus, "meshing" is a close relation of onomatopoeia - a type of word that sounds like the thing it is describing, such as crunch or smash - and also a "distant cousin" of rhyming slang, says Mr Gabay.

It gives people an essence of who they are within the same name
Jonathan Gabay
Readers of the BBC News website Magazine also have form when it comes to merging words - through the Magazine Monitor's "flexicon": the "flexible lexicon" which aims to chart the creation of a language suitable for modern life. Examples put forward by readers include "littlerature" (the small books you find at bookshop tills) and "reguliars" (a regular feature which is not as regular as it might be).

While such evolution in language keeps dictionary researchers busy, just think of the headaches that meshing will bring to future legions of genealogists.

"Some ancestry companies are claiming meshing is the end of the line, but it isn't," says Mr Gabay. "For years immigrants have been settling in different countries and changed their names.

"Lots of immigrants came to the UK after the Second World War, many officials didn't understand their names and just wrote down what they thought it sounded like and those names stuck. Meshing is purer than that."

Coleen McLoughlin and Wayne Rooney
Meet the McLooneys?
Meshing your surname might sound like one of the sincerest acts of devotion to your other half. Or is it more about fighting sexist traditions?

"It gives people an essence of who they are within the same name," says Mr Gabay. "In double-barrelled names, the hyphen is almost pushing one name away from the other. Meshing says 'I am you and you are me', which is rather romantic."

Some say it is an attempt to banish the tradition of a woman taking her husband's name. But of all the prominent examples in the US, the man's name always comes first, which rather defeats the object.

But will it catch on in the UK? "I don't think so," says Mr Gabay, "the British are too cynical."

Add your comments using the form below.

A sexist tradition it may be, but it is a tradition. Best of luck tracing your family tree when each generation bastardises their historic surname.
Stu, UK

As long as the name is pronouncable and not too silly, it seems like a good idea to me. I've always hated double-barrelling: it sounds so pretentious, and then the children's names are in a mess. What if a child born with a double-barrelled name grows up to marry another with a similar double name, and they both don't want to change: do they then quadruple-barrel it? This meshing idea is much better, for those who want gender equality.
Chris, London, UK

The tradition of a woman taking her husband's name is a rather new cultural phenomenon up here in Scotland. Up until the 19th Century, it was the norm for both to retain their own names after marriage. The famous Mrs Mary King of Edinburgh, for example, was married to a Mr Thomas Nemo. So if we British are too cynical for meshing, why not go back to our roots and just keep our own names all the way through our lives? It will save money on getting new Identity Cards when these get foisted upon us!
Gareth Simpson, Edinburgh, UK

If me and my girlfriend were to get married using this, we would be called Mr and Mrs Wailey! (My last name being Ward, hers Bailey)
Chris, Matlock

That's right Mr Gabay, the British are too cynical and I'm glad. It's a ridiculous idea. What would really turn the world on its head would be for men to take their wives names! I look forward to that day!
Suzy, London

We have been 'meshing' for years without realising it. Jo/n (Jo and Jon).
Jo/n , Stafford, UK

But will it catch on in the UK? "I don't think so," says Mr Gabay, "the British are too cynical." Or perhaps it's just a stupid idea in the first place?
Tim, Cambridge UK

Damn stupid idea !! Only could have come from the US. All those traditional and familiy names gone with a surname that is neither the bride or the gooms surname. Double barrelling it makes more sense.
Rich, West Midlands

I bet this will mess up the geneaology industry! Your family tree won't be quite as special if you lose the family name!
Andrew, Maidenhead

My partner and i have trialed this, by moving to a street, the name of which is a 'mesh' of our surnames. It confuses people no end when giving out our address. In this case his name does proceed mine, but is infinitely preferable to the alternative Emma Letchford P.S My partners surname is Buckland
emma, ashford, Kent

Personally I'm not a fan. 'Meshing' will mean that every couple has their own unique surname, but I think it's good to have the same surname as the rest of your family, i.e. brothers and sisters and parents. I don't actually have a decent solution for what happens with the wife's surname though.
Andy, Southampton

Why have the same name at all? Why shouldn't each keep their own name? Why do two people have to give up their identity completely and become just one half of a single entity? And it would save all that annoying 'changing names on every bit of official documentation' bother too.
Michelle, London

What a load of shollocks.
Mark, Manchester, England

Had my ex and I gotten married, we could have been Mr & Mrs Crapenfus.
Dan, London

Given that my fiancee's surname is Marsh, and mine is Hussey, meshing only really offers the prospect of becoming Mr. and Mrs. 'Harsh' or Mr. and Mrs. 'Mushey'. I'll think I'll stick with tradition.
Andrew, Cheshire

Fadvert - Psudo-article covering a transient social idea in the hope of promoting it.
Phil Standen, Hove

Meshing is nothing new. The Japanese have been doing it for centuries. A friend of mine who married a Japanese lady, about seven years ago, meshed his surname with hers, although they didn't call it meshing at the time; they called it 'melding', which, interestingly enough, is another example of a portmanteau.
Steve McBride, London

If Freddie Flintoff married Sharon Stone he could be Freddie FlintStone....
Paul Williams, Taunton

Oh joy, now I can be known as Mrs Farty - a meshing of my maiden name, Fern, and my husband's name, Hogarty.
Jackie Hogarty, Eversley, Hampshire

Meshing is like the double barrel approach in that it only works if surnames go. I'm getting married next year to Mr Reilly. Should I go for Kelly-Reilly, Kreilly or just change to Reilly?? Not keen on any of these.

All very bizarre. Here in Belgium women never change their names on marriage. People here don't understand why anyone would choose to do that, and I have to say I agree with them! What's the point?
Jane, Belgium

The whole point of taking someone's surname in marriage and giving it to the children is to keep the name going, and meshing undermines that! I think lineage should go down the female side anyway - after all, there is never any doubt who the mother is!
Amy, London

My surname's Humphreys; my wife's maiden name was Pee (yes, really). For some reason, neither Hee nor Pumphreys really do it for me.
Peter, Newbury, UK

Well one obvious problem if this were to be adopted is what would happen at the second and further generations of meshing of names! Do you then try to incorporate all 4, 8, 16, 32.... names into one? If not, which ones do you then choose to drop? surely the process ends up being selective in some way and so will eventually cause offense in one direction or another. I currently quite like the way that Surnames are inherited with Y chromosomes. A similar passage would not be possible to monitor with X chromosomes, due to the presence of two somewhat indistinguishable copies in females... Perhaps a better idea would be for women to add their marrital name to their maiden name as an addition, rather than a replacement?
Darren Barnes, Cambridge

It was a source of amusement to my friends when, many years ago, I became engaged to a certain Miss Locke, as a double-barreling of our names would have given an interesting outcome.
Bob Chubb, Basel Switzerland

This is nothing new. My wife and I did this years ago when we got married.
andrew alderson, UK, Newcastle

I know a couple who didnt want either of their surnames, and chose an completely new one based on a village they liked! But I am a genealogist, and think the double barrelling is great - musch easier to find ancestors that way!
Liz, Manchester

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