Star Ford

Essays on lots of things since 1989.

A modest proposal to reverse patronymics

on 2012 May 27

There are a variety of different name endings used to denote a person as the son or daughter of their ancestor. For example, in the British Isles, O’Neill is the son of Neill, MacDonald is the son of Donald, and Danielson is the son of Daniel. In Russia, Ivanovich is the son of Ivan, and Ivanovna is the daughter of Ivan. In Denmark, Martasdatter would be the daughter of Marta.

The systems of ancestor naming – patronymics – around the world have one thing in common, which is the very thing that makes them obsolete today. That is, they append the parent’s name to the child’s name. You see, in “olden times”, ancestors were believed to be important – even moreso than the children themselves!

Now that we understand that the proper place of children as the object of worship in family life, and that a woman’s identity comes from her offspring, it is time to reverse the system of patronymics into a system of filinymics – the use of the child’s name to identify the mother.

People have already started using this system in limited ways. The suffix that has been chosen for this is “smom”. Filinymic email addresses abound: rynansmom@yahoo.com, or kaylasmom@gmail.com are examples (please don’t write to them though). You just append “smom” to your child’s name, to create your name, then grab that email address.

It’s time we converted to this system entirely. There are numerous advantages, such as having to remember fewer names. Next time you see Kayla’s mom, you can just say “Hey Kaylasmom! How’s it going?” You won’t have to remember her obsolete name. There will be no last names. In this memeverse, it is the younger generation, after all, who need shorter names to save time twixting their tumblbots. Their slower-moving pizza providers can use the longer filinymic form as a way to honor the young and maintain family ties.

Some critics of this system claim it can’t be done because they say you would need to change your name after having a child. That is so fail, for two reasons. For one, the entire lineage is simply reversed, so it works exactly the same, just in the other direction; the mother would always have the name of the child, and so on until the end of time – no name changes needed. Second, we’re not talking about people having names like this; we’re only saying that people’s mothers will have those names.

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4 responses to “A modest proposal to reverse patronymics

  1. List of X says:

    I know the system already works, because I can hear my co-worker constantly call somewhere and introduce herself as “hi, this is Kaylasmom” (i’ve changed the name to protect the innocent).
    But what if the mother has several children? Does she take several filinymics at once, as in “Hi, I am Kaylasmom Johnnysmom Ryansmom”?

  2. Anna Smukler says:

    Ian, I think your witty post regarding names is a send-up calculated to find out if your readers are awake. I don’t believe you think women derive their identities from their offspring, nor do I think you really separate “people” from “mothers” as you write in your last sentence. That said, your thoughts about reversing patronymics are interesting.

  3. ianology says:

    In case anyone missed the genre, the piece is satire.

  4. Jessie says:

    Aww, just like the Handmaid’s Tale. I think I have an answer for List of X–she takes the name of the oldest boy, and if there are no boys, the oldest girl. If she has pets but no children, she takes the name of the oldest or most dominant pet.

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