Help with Brit-speak.....Part 3

yoyobon_gw

Is the word whilst still used where we'd say while ?

I'm just getting accustomed to seeing " learnt , spellt ( is that spelled correctly ? ) without passing judgement :0)

How did the past tense of some words come to end with a "t" instead of " ed " ?

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vee_new

yoyo, 'learnt' is fine in 'English' English, apparently it is the Americans who removed the 't' and added 'ed'.

My US spell check likes 'spelt' as it is a type of flour but we often/usually(?) in the UK say spelled as 'spelI' I expect someone with a better grasp of spelling and grammar will know the answer.

Don't know about while and whilst; they both sound fine to me . . . except whilst appears rather more fancy!

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lemonhead101

I learned in grad school the reason why America has all these slightly different spellings: when America was a young country, Noah Webster (the man who wrote the original American dictionary) wanted to emphasize the independence of the US from England, so as he was compiling his book, he rather arbitrarily made some of the spellings different.

Kids, kids, kids... ;-)

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annpanagain

I use "whilst" naturally and I couldn't say why. I got my speech patterns from my maternal family, who came from London and listening to the BBC, also a Sussex drawl because of living there from when I was seven.

Now to the British I have an Aussie/ Colonial accent and to the Aussies, an English one.

I don't mind what I sound like, as long as I am listened to!

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yoyobon_gw

I think the only exposure I had to words like " learnt" was while having to read Dickens in HS. It left me with a slight attitude about that form of "learned".

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friedag

How did the past tense of some words come to end with a "t" instead of " ed " ?

Yoyobon, there are many grammar sites that can explain the reasons in much detail, but I would boil it down this way:

English was once a highly inflected language (such as having different case-endings for nouns and conjugational endings for verbs -- think of Latin and the Romance languages that still have high numbers of inflections). However, English has been shedding inflections for hundreds of (if not a thousand or more) years. Linguists argue about which came first, the -t ending or the -d/-ed ending to indicate the past tense of verbs. They have coexisted for so long it is hard to tell.

Some scholars note that the -t ending was used for verbs ending in the consonants p, l, m, n, and d (and perhaps others I don't remember) and the -d/-ed endings were used for most verbs ending in the other English consonants or vowels. The pronunciations were 'clipped' for the -t ending (kept, slept, burnt, meant, smelt, spelt, bent, sent, etc) but the -d could be clipped (when it came after a vowel such as in smoked, which sounds like a 't' although it ends in 'd'). The -ed ending was pronounced as a separate syllable that we still hear in English words such as learned (learn-id) or beloved (belov-id). Most of the verbs with the separate syllable pronunciations have migrated to the position of adjectives.

It's probably true that Americans are/were willing to jettison the old inflections sooner than the English, although the English had already been doing the same thing for a long, long time. In many ways, however, it has been American English that has been the more conservative. :-)

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yoyobon_gw

It is interesting that many of the words were kept with the "t".....kept being one of them ! Perhaps it boils down to what sounded good . Interesting.

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astrokath

I don't think I use 'whilst' but certainly do use spelt and learnt.

Plus, I think I am the only one who thinks the Harry Potter play should be 'curs-id' child. I just find it much much easier to pronounce that way.


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friedag

Yoyo, I suspect "what sounded good" had a lot to do with it. I forgot the verbs that end with the /v/ sound; e.g., leave (ignore the 'a' and the final 'e', change the 'v' to the /f/ sound, add 't' and the past tense is left -- whew). That one is in little danger of being pronounced leav'd or leav-id any time soon, but who knows? it might someday.

It's a challenge to think of all the remnant inflections, isn't it?


Cheated is still pronounced cheat-id as are quite a number of the verbs Americans are fond of 'regularizing'. How else could one say the verbs already ending in the /t/ sound when the choices are -t or d or a separate syllable -ed?


Bend in the past tense is bent, but bended (bend-id) was apparently used concurrently for generations and became an adjective in "on bended (bend-id) knee." I read that some people (Americans mostly) think 'bended' as an adjective is wrong or it is just slang, but it's not, at least historically. Vee, do the English still say "on bended knee"?

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yoyobon_gw

Friedag......and add to all this a particularly annoying glotal "t" ( is that the term?) where the "t" in the approximate center of a word is not pronounced .

For example : mit-un, Lah-in, mow-in , buh-in instead of mitten, Latin, mountain, button. It is rampant around here and I really have a strong bias against it's use which makes the speaker sound uneducated ( IMO).

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vee_new

Frieda, we only use "on bended knee" at times of extreme supplication when cowering before a monarch who is polishing his axe or . . .in my case when brought before the Reverend Mother of my convent school who was about to hand out some stupid punishment for a petty misdemeanor . . . and even then it would probably be in a metaphorical sense.

BTW during dancing lessons we were taught the Court Curtsy just in case we happened to meet a member of Royalty while in the local supermarket . . . one needs to be prepared . . .

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msmeow

Bon, our local morning NPR host does that "T" thing - Martin becomes Mar-In. There is no hint of a T but a stop in the sound before the next syllable. You'd think somewhere in journalism school they would have coached her out of that.

Donna

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yoyobon_gw

Donna, I doubt there is anything like elocution taught any more in the communication curriculum. That particular "T" thing really rankles me and it is very evident in the speech of local folks from two cities nearby. It sounds ignorant to me. Our choir director, who grew up in one of those cities , always omits the "T" and when he says 'Lah-in" I want to scream ! Ironically, he is very picky about how the choir pronounces words when we sing.

Bon

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friedag

For those annoyed with the glottal stop, be warned about visiting Hawai'i where it is heard in about every five seconds of speech by natives and long-time residents of the Islands.. It is a normal feature of all the Polynesian dialects/languages and many of those in the Austronesian Family of languages There are dozens of dialects worldwide that employ the glottal stop. It's prominent in the Arabic languages.


T-glottalization was first analyzed by linguists in the 19th century. The speakers were Scottish Gaelic who were transferring the characteristic sounds of their home dialect to the English they spoke. The bias of the linguists (mostly English in ethnicity) was evident from the start. Perhaps, though, the best-known 'glottal stoppers' are the Cockney and Estuary dialects of London. I know about the Glottal-T users of New York City. What is the other city in your area, Yoyobon, where it is prevalent?


As a linguistics student I had to cultivate neutrality about any dialect pronunciations I was trying to describe. But I am aware that some dialects are chosen to be stigmatized for their perceived 'otherness'. I think it's unfortunate, but it's probably human nature.

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annpanagain

Friedag, my grandmother who came from London, used to put an "a" in front of a word if she wanted to emphasise it. e.g. "I'm a-going to speak to the butcher about them bad sausages!" Have you come across this before in your studies?

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carolyn_ky

Ann, that's common in rural Kentucky, especially among older people, and stems, I believe, from Appalachia where many of the early settlers were Scottish. I understand that is because the mountains looked like home to them. I grew up hearing a-goin' and a-comin', etc., but have never connected it to emphasis. "I'm a-goin' home for the weekend" seems to me to have a bit of sing-song poetry to it, and I probably used it as a child until I "learned better."

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yoyobon_gw

I agree, very rural and a common Hollywood characterization of backwoods, hill folk.

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annpanagain

Grandmother had no Scottish connections so I don't know how that speech pattern developed. Was there a medieval "y-" put before some words that could have been corrupted to an "a"? I am thinking of Chaucer.

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woodnymph2_gw

I second what Carolyn said about hearing "a-going" in the deep south. I noticed it also in West VA where I lived for 3 years: e.g. "Are you a-fixing to get dinner yet?"

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socks

I am seeing “moved house” in an Elizabeth George book. I even saw it in a gardenweb post this morning.

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astrokath

Socks, why does that rankle with you? What would you say?

In Australia we would be likely to just say 'we moved' but 'moved house' still sounds OK to me.

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yoyobon_gw

Astro.....In all my MANY years I have never heard or read that anyone ever used the expression " moved house". We would say " we moved" or if business -related " we were transferred" ( which suggested that you went to another locality/state and then of course rented or bought).

Vee....while reading our newspaper this morning I noted that in " Today In History" in 1846 Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning secretly married in Marylebone Church in London.

Can you tell me why they had to marry secretly ?

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vee_new

yoyo. the original love story! Old Man Barret kept a tight reign on his family and especially the daughters. EB was one of those wilting violet maidens, so loved by Victorians who, after her Mother's death, was in charge of the day to day running of the household . . . from her sick-couch. She also had a side-line in poetry and that's how Robert got to know her.

He eventually managed to whisk her away from the prison that home had become, married her and left for Italy where she quickly recovered and went on to become a better poet than her husband.

Apparently when her tyrannical father found she had eloped he had her favourite dog destroyed.

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yoyobon_gw

Thanks Vee. I wonder how old she as when they wed.

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vee_new

yoyo, she was born in 1806, so not in the first flush of youth by the standards of those days. I think she was one of 12 children!

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annpanagain

Vee, are you sure about the dog? I thought she took it with her.

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yoyobon_gw

I found this on Amazon , Dared And Done by Julia Markus. ( 1995) It is the story of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning , reviewed as " a riveting and brilliant biography". Perhaps I will check our local library for a copy.

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annpanagain

I have been checking and Flush went with them. Although it bit Browning a few times prior to the elopement from jealousy!

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vee_new

Annpan you are correct; what am I mixing it up with?

A rather long but interesting article about EBB below.


Elizabeth Barrett Browning


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friedag

Friedag, my grandmother who came from London, used to put an "a" in front of a word if she wanted to emphasise it. e.g. "I'm a-going to speak to the butcher about them bad sausages!" Have you come across this before in your studies?

Annpan, I'm sorry I'm late in replying. I haven't had Internet access for several days.

Yes, I run across that construction occasionally. It's actually not as rare as it might seem to be. Like Carolyn and Woodnymph, I have heard it in Appalachian and U.S. Deep South dialectal speech, and in some dialects of the western U.S. states. Like you, I heard it in English dialects, particularly among older folk.

The 'a-prefix plus a present participle' pattern is likely to have come into Middle English via Norman French. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Etymology, the 'a-' comes from Latin meaning 'to' and the repetition of 'to' in that phrase plus the 'to' in a different infinitive phrase is intentional.). Indeed it has been used to emphasize an intended action or to indicate an action is imminent. Many of the words used in this 'plug-in' pattern eventually lost the hyphen, such as awaiting and abounding, so that modern English speakers don't realize that it's the same grammatical process. To-day and to-morrow became single words in the same way. Those who disparage the process are just ignorant of the history -- which is not their fault because, as the saying goes, "People don't know what they don't know."

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yoyobon_gw

Friedag......very interesting, thanks !


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socks

It doesn't "rankle" me in the slightest. It just sounds odd to me.

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yoyobon_gw

socks....I agree, to me it's simply sounds "country bumpkin-ish". Sorry !

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colleenoz

I keep thinking of the mediaeval round song, "Summer is icumen in", which was in an old Wessex dialect. I wonder if this and related dialects is where the "a-" prefix on verbs originated?

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friedag

I've been reading E.C.R. Lorac'a Murder in the Mill-Race: A Devon Mystery, published in 1952. Lorac was the pen name of Edith Caroline Rivett (1894-1958), and her crime fiction covers the 1930s through the 1950s. This book is not much of a mystery: I spotted the murderer a quarter of the way into the story. But Lorac's writing is interesting to me for another reason: she tried to give a bit of flavour by using the dialect of the Devonian villagers compared to the educated standards of incomers, such as the new doctor and his wife, as well as the 'quality' of the fictitious village, Sir James and Lady Riddings.


I think I understood most the dialect. Here are a few examples with my explanations, which may or may not be right:


"Iss" -- Lorac gave the pronunciation as 'sibilant', apparently rhymes with 'kiss' and means 'the affirmative'. This sounded very strange to the doctor and his wife.


"Let mun be . . . Him'll tell you all him knows . . ." -- At first I thought "mun" meant man. But then another villager called a woman "mun". Another called an animal mun, and even a handbag was referred to as mun. A good all-purpose word, evidently!


"a-communin' (with nature), a-keepin' (impeccable records), a-goin' to do (intending to accomplish)" - These are very interesting in light of our previous discussions of a-prefixing above and in another thread. Does this bolster the theory of Welsh or Cornish influence?


"I get moithered . . ." - I was surprised that The Concise Oxford . . . had a ready definition without much elaboration. It means 'bothered'. This rang a bell with me, as my friends in the Vale of Pickering use a similar word, mithered, to mean the same thing. Their word comes from Scots Gaelic and is probably pronounced a bit differently from the Devonian version. The root of mither comes from 'mother' who supposedly can bother her offspring like no other person can!


Be'n't -- as in these quotes: "Well, I never did," she exclaimed, "if that be'n't Sister Monica's old bag." and "That be'n't so easy." I think this means the same as 'isn't'. But how is be'n't pronounced?


Vee, are these still heard frequently in Devon nowadays? After all, Lorac's book was published 67 years ago.


Besides the a-prefixing, are any of the above familiar Stateside or in other dialects?

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yoyobon_gw

Colleen.......watching a knitting show this morning and the demonstrator was Australian. She pronounced crochet as " crow-cher" whereas we say " crow-shay". How would you pronounce filet ? I wonder why the "et" became and 'er' .

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annpanagain

I have heard be'n't pronounced as baint. Does that help?

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woodnymph2_gw

In various parts of the South, I've often heard be'n't and a-keepin'. (As well as a-goin', a-fixin'.)

How about the way of speaking in Yorkshire, as in "The Secret Garden"?

Also, has anyone here read the Mary Webb books? I dare say she has gone out of print by now but she used to be quite popular if one could translate the dialects. I used to own several of her novels and especially liked "Precious Bane." I wish I could recall in what part of England these were set.

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vee_new

Frieda, I can't remember when I was last in Devon, possibly 50 odd years ago! Even then these 'old ways' of speech would probably have died out . . . and were no doubt exaggerated by Ms Rivett to show the divide between them and us. The introduction of the radio is largely to blame for the loss of these old dialect words and expressions.

To me iss sounds not dissimilar to 'yes'. If you heard it spoken I think you would know what was meant.

be'n't or baint are both derivations of 'be not' and both pronounced the same way.

I have never heard anyone say moithered!



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colleenoz

Yoyobon, some here say “crow-sher” and some say “crow-shay”. I haven’t heard anyone else say “filet”, but I’d hazard a guess that most would say “fill-et”.

Australians seem to me to not be comfortable with words that end in a vowel, especially if followed by another word that begins with a vowel. To “fix” this they insert an “r” sound between the two, so

”Susannar is going to town tomorrow” for “Susanna is...”

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yoyobon_gw

Colleen, we also have that "r" insertion in areas of the US. We'd pronounced filet as " fill-ay" as the french however there are those who choose to pronounce it as written "fill-et".

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vee_new

yoyo, over here we always say 'fill-et' rather than 'fill-ay'.

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carolyn_ky

Re be'n't/baint, does it suggest to anyone else the ever present use of ain't?

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astrokath

I'd say fill-et and interestingly, both crow-shay and crow-sher.

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annpanagain

I don't say either fillet or filet, far too pricey here!

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yoyobon_gw

How would you pronounce it as a verb .....as in " to filet a fish " ?

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colleenoz

"Fill-it".

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vee_new

Same here!

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annpanagain

Yuk! I wouldn't say it or do it! My fish portion comes in a Microwavable package...

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yoyobon_gw

Anna, lol....long live Mrs. Paul's fish sticks !

Mea culpa, I spelled filet incorrectly from the start of this thread ! I meant to spell it with one "l " :0) oooops , trigger-happy finger on the keyboard. I pronounce it " fil-ay" as always.

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vee_new

Annpan, I can remember my father insisting we learnt to fillet a cooked fish . . . usually a breakfast kipper . . . when very young. His mother had run a hotel and he made us do anything 'meal-time related' the correct way! So there was never any eating a whole slice of bread without first cutting it half and absolutely never holding a knife like a pencil.

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annpanagain

Vee, I am not sure how we learned our table manners but suspect my Mother's mother had a lot to do with our general behaviour when we lived with her during WW2.

She had been "in service" in middle-class houses before marriage and a lot of their habits had rubbed off on her. We always had to ask permission to leave the meal table when we had finished, leaving the grown-ups to enjoy their pot of tea afterwards.

With the later interest in the "Upstairs, Downstairs" life, I wish I had questioned her more about what she experienced. She would mention the odd story but I am sure she would have told me a lot more, if I had asked! The stories I was most interested in were about her overseas trip to the Channel Island of Guernsey with one family. I still have a brooch she had made from two coins from there.

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yoyobon_gw

I have noticed that many women in UK magazines or tv shows seem to have hyphenated last names . I'd like to know the significance of this .

In the US it was a common thing for the "new , liberated " woman to do after marriage to affirm her identity. ( it seemed to begin with the 70's Hippie phase).

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vee_new

yoyo, usually is is not just the name of the woman (ie she hasn't so-named herself) but of her family or if she is married, her husband. You often find families with an ordinary surname (Smith, Jones etc) poshed them up, to add what they thought was a bit of class, so you might get Burlington-Jones, or Anstruther-Smith.

As far as I know we never follow the American custom of inserting/including a woman's pre-marriage surname (without the hyphen) before that of her husband.

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yoyobon_gw

Vee, where do they get the poshed up surname to add to their ordinary one ?

That is very interesting...it does give the feeling of "nose in the air" :0)

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annpanagain

I don't know if this still happens in the UK but at one time a married woman would use her husband's initials when being written to. This caused a bit of confusion at my Australian bank when I wanted to deposit a cheque sent from my parents as the initials weren't mine. The cashier had to refer to a senior who was familiar with the practice!

In Australia, it is common for children born from a de facto relationship to use both parents surnames, hyphenated. De factos have legal rights here that I don't think US unmarried people have in the US, from what I see on Judge Judy.

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colleenoz

Annpan, they used to do this in the US. I recall that when I was young, reading the social pages in the paper, you’d see a story where Mrs John Smith baked a cake which was well received at a tea given by Mrs Robert Jones. As a five year old I wondered why all these ladies had men’s names.

And I was gobsmacked when my feminist MIL addressed a letter to me using “Mrs my husband’s initials”.

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vee_new

yoyo, I had always presumed that when Miss Anstruther married Mr Smith or Mr Jones married Miss Burlington they hooked the names together. They wouldn't have chosen a name out of 'thin air'.

Over here letters to a couple are still addressed to Mr & Mrs (husband's initials) So and So.

I notice from letters received from younger US relations/friends that the Mr, Mrs, Miss is no longer used and only the names are on the envelope. Is this just a 'trend' because we are all so informal these days?

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yoyobon_gw

Vee, regarding the hyphenated surname, this is how it is done in the US.

The bride keeps her last name and simply adds the groom's last name with a hyphen. That same woman would never use Mrs. John in her name. I will assume her husband simply goes by his surname. I tend to agree with that . I personally do not sign my name as Mrs. It is simply my actual name. The only time Mr and Mrs might be used would be for official situations. Otherwise I will use Tom and Mary Smith instead of Mr and Mrs Tom Smith.

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msmeow

Bon, I know several families where the husband added the wife's name to his. For example, John Stiles married Jenn Williams and they became John & Jenn Stiles-Williams. So all their kids have the hyphenated name. Maybe when the daughters get married they'll become Stiles-Williams-something else!

Donna

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woodnymph2_gw

I can think of several US friends who are married with hyphenated names. I don't think it is done to sound "posh" necessarily. Perhaps a statement for many women who wish to maintain their identity.

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vee_new

I know of no-one who has changed their name, other than wives taking their husband's name.

Obviously it was done occasionally in the past, as mentioned above. Some modern women who want to keep their identity just keep their own surname and never use that of their husband . . . which is a nuisance when sending Christmas cards etc!

I don't know what the regulations are elsewhere but in the UK, although you are allowed to 'call yourself' what ever you like, if you want that name to be recognised you have to change it by Deed Poll, a service you must pay for and questions may be asked if the reasons you give are considered frivolous.

Then you must go to all the trouble of changing the information on your passport, drivers licence, bank accountants and all the other documents that will have accumulated over the years.

Going back a hundred and fifty years or so some distant ancestors of mine had the surname Tebbet. Many of them had the prefix King (with no hyphen). My late Grandmother ( a terrible snob of the old school) on hearing the name as a child assumed them to be at least aristocrats, if not royalty.

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annpanagain

I believe that the Australian Registrar of Births will not allow titles to be used as a first name. A new father from the USA wanted to use Earl, which was a family name but was told it had to come after a permissable first name.

Strangely my GD was just given an initial as her second name and that was allowed! Don't ask me why she only got an initial! I have no idea...

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colleenoz

I knew a girl when I was young, whose family name was Hanrahan-Smith. It seems her mother, Miss Hanrahan, did not want to be plain Mrs Smith and insisted on the hyphenation. This would have been over 60 years ago.

My late stepfather changed his legal name as an adult when he was rebaptised as a Catholic. Besides choosing saints’ names, it made his legal name different from a dishonest cousin’s name, which was the same as my stepdad’s original name. The cousin had a habit of charging up bills and claiming they had been incurred by my stepdad. But to the end my stepdad was always known by his boyhood first name.

When I married, all I had to do to change my family name to my husband’s was to show my marriage certificate at the relevant places and tell them “this is my name now”. But when my DD married a few years ago and took her new husband’s name (which surprised me as I didn’t think she was that traditional :-) )she had to fill out a raft of forms and go through a legal process. It used to be here that as long as your intent in changing your name wasn’t for fraudulent purposes, you could call yourself whatever you liked, but I suspect that’s changed now.

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msmeow

Colleen, I imagine the rules or laws regarding legal names have changed a lot since 9/11.

To renew your driver's license in Florida you now have to produce multiple documents showing your current legal name, including your birth certificate. For women who have been married more than once, they have to produce divorce decrees and new marriage licenses to document the name changes.

Donna

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annpanagain

What a palaver! I think I would sell the car and take the bus!

Seriously though, it is good to see that security has been tightened up. It makes me feel safer to know checks are in place. I have never minded security cameras everywhere either. Also I now have been sent little machines to oversee my online banking transactions, which I never had before.

Another thing I liked, after some blackmail attempts, was having tamper-proofed food. I once saw a woman plunge her finger into a chutney jar in a supermarket for a taste and then return it to the shelf! Yuk!!

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colleenoz

That’s disgusting, annpan! I hope you alerted the shop staff.

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annpanagain

I know I should have done but I couldn't see which one she had replaced. For all I knew, it could have been a common occurrence back then, anyway!

I just made sure any jars I bought had tightly sealed lids!

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woodnymph2_gw


Donna, it was the same for me when I moved from VA to SC. I was told there was no reciprocity agreement between these two states. I had to go to the bureau twice, with a lot of documents to show that I am I. Luckily for me, I am a "saver" so was able to dig up what was needed.

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Inspiration for some backyard chats
Inspiration for a warm welcome
Inspiration for dinner time under the stars
Inspiration for a little quality time
Inspiration for making that best pizza ever
An extensive list of exclusive trade relationships with quality manufacturers, vendors, artisans, and contractors... Read More