In England, the notion of honour of the family name is almost non-existent (though it exists to some degree in the upper classes, in the other three British nations and among ethnic minorities). In fact, it is easy to change your family name – and you can choose any name you like. In the I980s one person changed his surname to Oddsocks McWeirdo El Tutti Frutti Hello Hippopotamus Bum.
There are no laws in Britain about what surname a wife or child must have. Because of this freedom, names can be useful pointers to social trends. The case of double-barrelled names is an example. These are surnames with two parts separated by a hyphen; for example, Barclay-Finch. For centuries they have been a symbol of upper-class status (originating in the desire to preserve an aristocratic name
When there was no male heir). Until recently, most people in Britain have avoided giving themselves double-barrelled names – they would have been laughed at for their pretensions. In 1962, only one in every 300 surnames was double-barrelled.
By 1992, however, one person in fifty had such a name. Why the change? One reason is feminism. Although an increasing number of women now keep their maiden name when they marry, it is still normal to take the husband`s name. Independent-minded women are now finding a compromise by doing both at the same time – and then passing this new double-barrelled name onto their children. Another motive is the desire of parents from different cultural and racial backgrounds for their children to have a sense of both of their heritages. The same lack of
Rigid traditions applies with regard to the first names that can be given to children. This is usually simply a matter of taste. Moreover, the concept of celebrating name-days is virtually unknown.