Last name

August 25, 2013

Mine is Moses, it’s the last name on my birth certificate.  I didn’t change it when I got married.  Willy was fine with that.

I like having a last name that suggests I may be Jewish.  Apparently it may also suggest I am black, and that’s fine with me, too.

There’s also the fact that there have been a lot of people who have called me by my last name or some variation of it, such as Mose, Moïse, Mosita, McMoses, Moses Toes.

I didn’t want to lose that — what those people in my life were connecting to when they addressed me.

A last name for our children fell into place because Jonas arrived in our lives with a Brazilian double last name, so replacing both parts with our two made plenty of sense.  Of course, the lack of hyphen often gets overridden by the needs of a database computer program that will alphabetize as if Moses is a middle name and use Gilson as the last name if a hyphen is not inserted.  So our children have gotten used to hyphenating and not hyphenating depending on context.

I would say it’s my first name that actually causes me more trouble;  no, Diane is not a nickname for Diana, as far as I’m concerned.  I don’t identify with Diane.  Di, or Di-Di, those I can connect to, but Diane sounds to me as though the person is addressing somebody else.  Unless the person is someone like a bank manager about to fill out some document, I don’t bother correcting people, however.  (I used to, and got some flak when I did, but I think I stopped more because I realized I no longer want to expend the energy dealing with the issue unless I have to.)  I think my mother does correct people when to her they refer to me as Diane.  Maybe she feels her choice of name for me is not being respected, I don’t know.  These days, I also get a lot of “Dianna.”  I’m not sure how that got so preeminent in people’s minds, but many people ask me, “Two n’s?” in a voice expecting a yes.  As I’ve said before, I actually like the way DiAnna looks, but it doesn’t look like my name to me.  Dianna just looks wrong to me, like a typo, for my particular name.

My dad used to sometimes make a pun out of my name and call me “D. Claire Moses.”  But Claire has always seemed pretty foreign to me, too.  It startles me when I see it on my Connecticut bar documents or my Phi Beta Kappa mailings.

But Moses I do relate to, so I’ve kept it.

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6 Responses to “Last name”

  1. JAMES KOPPEL Says:

    Interestingly, my father’s only sister was married to a Moses and my mother’s only brother is married to a Moses. And so far as I know they’re not related.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      I suppose that wonderful pattern gets hidden if your mother’s brother’s wife took your uncle’s name when they married. So not many people would know about it, I would suspect. Did your parents remark about it?

  2. Matthew Brooks Says:

    Diana was the Roman goddess of the hunt, corresponding to Artemis, twin sister of Apollo, all of which I’m sure you know.

    My twin sister’s first name is the same as my wife’s, and my sister kept her last name, so my wife kept hers as well. It feels right to me. A woman shouldn’t necessarily lose part of her identity upon marriage. The fact that the children take my last name feels right to me too. I don’t know why exactly.

  3. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    I agree that “Dianna” does not look right. But there is a reason why people want to do that. It is one of the hidden grammatical rules of English spelling, just as there are hidden rules of syntax (pluralizing the verb in third-person singular — I work, you work, but he/she/it WORKS).

    You know that a silent “E” at the end of a word indicates that the vowel before the consonant is pronounced long, as in “cape” or “note.” Without the silent E, these words would be “cap” and “not.” Doubling a consonant that follows a vowel nearly always indicates a short-vowel pronunciation, as in “apple” and “baggage.” “Bag” by itself does not need this. “Diana,” because two adjacent vowels, does not need this either. But think of the name, “Richard Henry Dana.” The first vowel is pronounced long.

    Unlike some languages written in the Roman alphabet, English uses very few diacritical marks. These spelling eccentricities can take their place. The words “cooperation” and “coordination” used to be spelled with a diaresis over the first vowel, to indicate separate pronunciation — not COOP-er-ation. I have seen this in old books. These days, only the hyphen is allowed, and as you say, some word-automation schemes eliminate even that.

    I think that “Diana” is a nice, classical name. Were I the father of a girl, I would consider “Diana” and “Niobe,” which was an ancient Greek female name spelled “Niobih,” or something like that. Artemisia is too long and the pronunciation would confuse people.

    People like to shorten names, or make baby talk words from them (Anne — Annie). So it is good practice to “head them off at the pass” by ending a name with a vowel sound.

    I have never understood the relationship between Anne (from the Roman Annia, as Annia Faustina, wife to Marcus Aurelius) and “Nancy.” Nor do I understand what “Sara” has to do with “Sally.”

    • Diana Moses Says:

      I’ve heard Polly as a nickname for Priscilla, Nesta for Agnes — I’ve never known whether these were just idiosyncratic to the family or regular substitutions.


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