My full name is Anna Gene Moriarty Lev. Anna comes from my dad’s aunt, lovely and gracious, who died young. Gene comes from my mom’s uncle, who also died young and had her sticking-out ears and big smile. Moriarty is my mom’s last name– one she chose for herself in her early twenties, at a time when she needed to make her own name. She chose it from her favorite literary character, Dean Moriarty, of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. My sister and I are the only living people who carry it now. Lev is my dad’s last name, brought over from Russia, meaning “heart” in Hebrew. There are only four of us left using that name: My dad, one of his sisters, my sister, and me.

When Greg and I got married, most people who know me well already knew I wasn’t changing my name. I am publicly proud of this name, and would never change it. There are some people who assume I added Howard onto the end, or who call me Mrs. Howard. I try to correct them politely. Now that we are having a baby, they’ve started asking what the baby’s last name will be.

“Moriarty-Lev-Howard,” I say, “or Howard-Moriarty-Lev.”

“I can’t believe you’d do that to your child,” most people respond, shaking their heads.

Yes, it’s a long last name. It’s three words. It has two hyphens. But so what?

I get really bothered when people judge this choice. It’s like they’re asking the question with the expectation of a certain answer (that we’re only giving the baby one last name, most likely Greg’s), and they aren’t ready to support another answer. It makes me angry.

My name is special. It is a huge part of my identity, and I want to pass that onto my children. I want to tell them about their Meme who they will never meet in person, Viola Rose Moriarty, who’s chosen name they carry in that unwieldy double hyphenate. And about the Levs who escaped Europe with that name meaning heart. And Greg can tell them about the Howards, and all the history that comes with his name.




3 thoughts on “names

  1. Hi Anna, I love your posts¡¡ I read them all, and I specially love this one, because in Chile we carry both our parents names, for example my full name is Rocio del Pilar Gonzalez Saldivia, “Gonzalez” from my Dad and “Saldivia” from my Mom. In Brasil, the name of the Mom goes first¡ (the way it should be if you ask me¡ jajaj). I never had problems about my name when I married Mike, but I guess is because I´m from another country so nobody question me when I “decided” to keep my name. It´s funny to actually say “decided” because (and I´m sorry if I´m a little bit rude) but I think it´s ridiculous for women to change their name when they get marry, it´s so machista, it´s throwing away your identity, your past and your family¡ I couldn´t believe it coming from such a progressive country like the U.S. Anyways, we are the owner of our lifes and our future. We can´t wait to see you¡ it´s gonna be so much fun¡ hugs from Chile.

    • Rocio, I love this! I am often surprised too that here in the US the majority of women change their names when they marry (in heterosexual couples). I know some women really want to, and have their own reasons. I just wish it was more equally split, that sometimes men changed their names, or each keep their own name, etc. It’s crazy that it’s still so “progressive” for a woman to keep her own name. Can’t wait to see you! So soon!!!! So excited to bring my little baby to Chile in untero.

  2. I love this post too!

    Charlotte wanted to take the feminine version of my name (which would be Voznesenskaya) when we were doing all the official marriage registration stuff but was told by the country clerk that she couldn’t use the feminine form. Either my masculine form (Voznesenskiy) or nothing. I don’t believe that, because clearly people can choose whatever name they wish. But rather than argue it, we decided to just skip it. Legally Charlotte remains Charlotte Mills Mouquin – and the Mouquin name has a fascinating history behind it. I love it.

    But Charlotte loves my name, loves that it’s so “foreign” sounding and has adopted it as her second last name on Facebook (so to the network of her 100s of friends) and in her creative endeavors. An idea for a future studio: MouqVoz Studio. Her full name (just not according to the government) is Charlotte Mouquin Voznesenskaya! 29 letters long.

    We do have some name ideas for our future child or children incorporating both names. One pleasing and meaningful aspect of our child having my name would be the fact that he or she would be the first Voznesenskiy (our little Voz!) born in the United States. Generation 1. I immigrated to the US when I was 10.
    One day I will be in the family’s history as “my great grandpa who came from Ukraine” and that pleases me a lot. I often think about generations and history and the science behind genetic replication. Beacause of our rich emotional and intellectual lives, we humans attach many things to “the meaning of life,” but the true meaning of life at a basic evolutionary level is to replicate your genetic code and keep it going. We are the direct descendants of a process that has been active for billions of years. Just think, every single one of your direct genetic ancestors (going back to the little organisms that came out of sea, to the first vertebrates, through the more advanced mammals to our pre-human cousins) all were successful! Because here you are! The chances are slim and yet here you are and you are adding to this ancient dance. I think it’s beautiful and it makes me happy.

    Charlotte is a 4th generation US citizen and she does have two brothers Mouquin. The Mouquin story is really interesting too and out little Voz will certainly learn about it and her mama’s family history. We have a framed photo of one of the Mouquin restaurants (there were two in NYC at turn of the century up until Prohibition) and I look forward to explaining what it is and how is started and the history behind it.

    I just had a great time writing all that! But my point is, I think it’s important for children to learn the history and stories behind the names of both of their parents and neither one should be automatically assumed as the name of the child, certainly not “just because” it’s the husband’s name.

    I’ve always loved you name and I’ve always known about the On the Road connection. 🙂 I asked Lar or Diana many moons ago if it was just a coincidence or if it’s a deliberate connection to Dean Moriarty. They told
    me it’s the latter, but I assumed you were the first one. I didn’t know about the choice your mother made. It’s beautiful and wonderful and meaningful.

    Oh and Lev literally translates to Lion in Russian. 🙂 with the Hebrew is LionHeart I suppose!

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