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Notes on Cultural Name Changes

Notes on Cultural Name Changes published on 8 Comments on Notes on Cultural Name Changes

Birch: In Ceannis, and most of the West Coast countries, it’s common to change your surname when you get married. The rule in Getsun used to be “any non-richest spouse(s) change their name to match whatever the richest one is.” These days, though, you can do whatever change seems right for you.

Annie: Birch has a whole mess of siblings — while I was an only child, don’cha know. So when we married, he switched from Birch Baker to Birch Persil. Some folks flat-out don’t change their names at all! And, why, that’s swell too.

Stanczia: The North used to be made up of scattered fiefdoms, most of which hardly bothered with family names. At some point, human governments — such as the one that became Sønheim — began to make it mandatory.

They even got to vampires, eventually. So, on official documents, all of us have them. Even if those of us over “a certain age” never use the wretched things.

The name “Stanczia” is from a language that humans don’t even speak anymore. (Their loss.) My husband picked a name from the same era — “Imri” — after he transitioned. Humans these days tend to forget that he’s only in his 200’s.

Ivy: Lots and lots of Ceannic names are gender-neutral! Soooo if it turns out your gender isn’t what people thought it was? There’s a really good chance your name still fits!

Vine: Sometimes it doesn’t, though. And sometimes your birth name was totally boring anyway, so having an excuse to swap it out is awesome.

Since we didn’t get these in before, here’s typical Tamaputian names: Hawaiian & Maori names

Matatuhi (“Mata”)
Patotara (“Pato”)
Kahutaroa (“Kahu”)


Mata: When two Tamaputians get married, we take parts of our original surnames and combine them to make a new one! I was born “Mata Kaimahi” and my husband was “Pato Waihanga.”

There aren’t strict rules for how to combine names. You just look at the options together, and pick the one you like best. “Waimahi” is a kind of tastu fermented drink, and “Kaihanga” means “maker” or “builder” — so we decided the second one was more “us.”

Pania: The only thing that makes it complicated is when people from different language groups get married. Then your smushname options don’t have to mean anything at all . . . also, they might sound silly.

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I really like the phrase “what people thought it was.” I am personally of the philosophy that it’s fine to go with “factory default” for little kids, name and pronoun wise, and let them tell you if they want to try out something else. I’m not talking about “oh my baby has a penis so he is a BOY and I will give him BOY CLOTHES.” It’s more like “yeah, we’re gonna use this one unless he says otherwise.” If I have a male baby I’m still gonna put him in cute purple and pink outfits too. I super don’t care if someone else raises their baby neutral (I know someone IRL who is currently doing this), as long as they respect my parenting choices too, y’know?

I’m still unclear on how colors are gendered. I mean, I recognize that people associate them with colors. I also recognize those color associations change over time and aren’t consistent country to country.

Some of my preferred colors are considered “girl colors” and some are considered “boy colors.” What colors I like did not change as I slowly recognized my genderfluidity and they still didn’t change as that kind of stabilized to the point where I’d simply describe myself as gender non-conforming today.

Colors don’t feel to me like they’re gender-related, apart from the recognition that *some* women apparently have visual receptivity that lets them distinguish more shades of red and guys are statistically more likely to be colorblind.

I don’t have kids, but I feel like my inclination if I had them would be to provide them with a variety of clothes and assess which ones they prefer. I’d also have a conversation with them about clothes and society expectations before subjecting them to environments like school where they could be judged based on their choices.

Sure, it’s likely those conversations would start when they were too young to understand what I was talking about, but I’d like to think having the conversations would at least assure them that I was open to them expressing themselves how they saw fit and to them adapting or not as they felt was appropriate to the environments they found themselves in. When they got to the point when they did understand, they wouldn’t be in doubt until whenever I happened to notice that they reached that point and talked with them about it then.

Or, knowing me, more likely the alternative to having those discussions early would be not having them at all, because I’d be filled with regret and cognitive dissonance on how poorly I parented them to put them into the situation they were in, at least until they brought it to a head by broaching the subject with me.

You’re overthinking the color thing! There’s no objective, physical, or biological reason for certain colors to go with certain genders — any more than there’s an objective reason for a specific color to mean “luck” or “danger” or “mourning.”

It’s all arbitrary cultural associations. One culture’s “girl color” or “danger color” can just as easily be another culture’s “boy color” or “luck color.”

Lol at the last set of names for those of us who speak Te Reo Māori (Māori language, the indigenous language of Aotearoa New Zealand). Kaimahi means staff member – kai can mean food or a prefix that implies doing, mahi means work. Because the Pacific is basically one big family, it’s relatively easy to see the similarities in some of the languages. Hawaiian language is closest to Reo Māori. Thanks for representing the Pacific in this comic!

Yes! Also, it’s a gender-neutral term as I’m sure you’re aware but for other people given this comic, I think it’s important to understand Māori and other Pacific cultures have traditionally been welcoming of gender-fluid people and their relationships. .. up until the missionaries came. It shows in the language. E.g. ia is more like “them”, though it’s translated into Reo Pākehā (English) as “she/he” depending on the context.

I also like “hoamahi” which literally is “work friend”! 🙂

Funny, how Pania Kaitangata has so far only appeared in sketchbooks and one off-hand mention in a storyline four years ago in which we found out she is the archmage of Tamapoa, specializing in Nature magic..

And otherwise? 🤷

Wonder if she’ll make an appearance elsewhere, or if she’s made an appearance in the Patron only comics… 🤔

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