Dare to Ask: A serious lack of female 'juniors'
By Phillip Milano
Why don't more women name their children after themselves, and why aren't
there more women with "Jr." after their names, like men?
I think this relates back to the tradition of a family business or trade -
where a father passes the business on to his son. Many businesses were named
"Johnson and Sons," etc. I'm presuming that the practice of naming the son the
same as the father also come from this practice.
Paula, 40, Wellington, New Zealand
Society still expects that women will give up their so-called "maiden" name
for that of the husband, which would nullify the reason for having the suffix in
the first place.
Mara, Dallas, Ga.
I was named for my mom (first and middle name), and it turned out to be a
headache. ... I took a nickname when my mom and I worked at the same business,
but my legal name stayed the same. At one point, we lived at the same address,
worked at the same business and had the same name, so when we checked out our
credit history, my mom had two of every credit card, and I had no credit
Anne, 49, Indianapolis
According to the Web site behindthename.com, "Jr." distinguishes a son with
the same name from his father. He must be a son (not grandson), has to have the
same middle name and Dad must still be alive. If you've got the same name as
your grandpa, you use "II" after your name.
We always wondered if Bacon Cheeseburger Jr.'s dad was still alive, and now
we know. Even though some twit at Wendy's always screws up and puts the "Jr."
before "Bacon Cheeseburger" on the drive-through menu.
As far as why there aren't a lot of girl "Jrs.," Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak,
chief family historian for Ancestry.com, said that back in the day, say in the
1700s or earlier, women were invisible in town records, mainly because they
didn't own property.
So for men, there was a natural progression ... hey, wait a second, you
joker. You've got a double last name.
"I'm a Smolenyak by birth and marriage," she said, "and since most
professional genealogists use their full name, I didn't want to be too timid to
use my full name."
Still kind of tricky. But anyway, for men, there was a progression toward
using Jr. to distinguish a son from a father with the same name, in case the
father passed property down to the son and it needed to be clear in probate and
deed records just who was who.
And the reason these kids had the same name as their dad in the first place?
"It was tradition to name your child after yourself back then, as a way of
preserving the family name and honoring those who came before," Smolenyak
Smolenyak said. "It was habit."
She doubts Jr. will ever become popular for girls now that women own things,
because people are now more into giving their offspring unique names.
"We're more creative these days," she said. Doubly so.
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