Can I Hyphenate My Way Out of This Surname?
I'm looking into hyphenating my last name with [another], telling everyone I have this other name, and only using my full hyphenated name on official documents. Would you recommend me hyphenating my last name at the risk of upsetting my dad? Should I keep it a secret from him? Do I have a right to change it without feeling trapped to this fate forever? Is the other name I'm considering even good?
- Donker No More
I wish I could change your father's attitude toward your decision. Alas, my powers are limited to the realm of names. So sticking to that realm, I'll tell you that the hyphenation solution you've described may seem like a compromise, but could end up as the worst of both worlds.
Let's look at the goals of a surname change:
- To free you and your future children from a surname, Donker, which has made you miserable;
- To give you a surname that's meaningful to you but problem-free in English;
- To appease your parents.
Does your proposed name accomplish any of that?
You'd still have to choose between ending the Donker line or passing on a surname that plagues you to your own children. You'd still leave your dad fuming. As for "problem-free"...I haven't printed the new full surname you're considering, for privacy reasons. But readers should know that the new section is a long name from a different culture than Donker, and that it is uncommon and tricky to pronounce in English. So you would taking on a complicated, hyphenated, six-syllable surname, complete with Donker.
I'm also curious where the new name comes from. I suspect it may be another family surname, from a different branch of your family. That's a natural way to seek meaning and connection, but it could add fuel to your dad's feelings of personal rejection.
After going through the bother of a legal name change, you deserve better returns. If you want to keep Donker but not use it, the simplest way is to make it a middle name. Middle names are easy to tuck away, yet you can still choose to be called Donker around your father. (Deceptions, though, tend to come to light eventually. Perhaps you can tell him that you "use both names"?)
If you're open to a new compromise, consider translation. "Dark," the direct translation of the Dutch "Donker," makes a fine English surname. You could tell your dad that you wanted to keep your family name but make it accessible to your new countrymen. He may still throw a fit, but at least it won't seem that you're choosing another family heritage over his own.