|On Spanish Names
||[Jun. 4th, 2016|01:42 pm]
We had a section in our text about Spanish names, but it's described very well and somewhat amusingly in a few paragraphs in James Michener's Iberia so I'll give you that quote below. (I'm adding more paragraph breaks to make it easier to read.)
A word about Spanish names. To explain the tradition fully would require many pages, for it is unbelievably complicated, but ideally every Spaniard, male or female, has two surnames [last names], the first and more important being the father's and the second the mother's. Thus Pedro Pérez Montilla can properly be referred to as Señor Pérez Montilla or simply as Señor Pérez, but to refer to him as Señor Montilla would be a real gaffe.
Spanish also has the handy little words Don and Doña, which have no equivalent in English and cannot be translated; they are used only preceding a given name [first name], allowing one to refer to a man or woman by the given name with no presumption of intimacy. Thus our friend can be called Don Pedro or Señor Don Pedro Pérez Montilla.
When he [our friend] married, let us say to Leocadia Blanco Alvarez, his wife did not surrender her surnames but merely added his, preceded by the preposition de (of), so that her name became Señora Leocadia Blanco Alvarez de Pérez Montilla, and she may properly be addressed as Doña Leocadia, or as Señora Blanco, or as Señora Blanco Alvarez, or as Señora Blanco Alvarez de Pérez Montilla, or as Señora de Pérez Montilla.
Frequently the paternal and maternal surnames are joined by either a hyphen or an y (and), which means that Don Pedro’s son could be named Antonio Pérez Blanco, or Antonio Pérez-Blanco, or Antonio Pérez y Blanco, although in recent years the last has become less frequent.
Many Spaniards today, in common usage, simply omit the maternal surname entirely or abbreviate it to a single letter. On the other hand, if Don Pedro and Doña Leocadia belong to the nobility or the aristocracy (or if they want to put on airs) the son will adopt the name Señor Don Antonio Pérez Montilla y Blanco Alvarez.
The problem is further complicated when a man has a family name which is unusually common and a maternal name which is less so, for then he becomes known by the more distinctive of his two names, which is only sensible. The five most common Spanish surnames, in order of frequency, are García, Fernández, López, González and Rodríguez, and just as the Englishman named Smith or Jones is accustomed to adding a hyphenated second name, such as Smith-Robertson, so the Spaniard becomes García Montilla, sometimes with the hyphen.
It is in conformity with this custom that the great Spanish poet Federico García Lorca is so often referred to simply by his maternal name. Anglo-Saxon readers encounter difficulties with the names of such historical figures as Spain’s two cardinals who exercised political leadership, Mendoza and Cisneros; in history books you will find many pages about them, and they were at least as famous as Richelieu in France and Wolsey in England, yet if you try to look them up in a Spanish encyclopedia you will find nothing unless you happen to know that the former was born Pedro González de Mendoza and the latter Gonzalo Jiménez de Cisneros. In each of these instances, however, the distinctive name is not maternal but merely a place name added in hopes of making a common name distinctive.
So far I have discussed only the simple cases; the complicated ones I had better skip.
In a small Spanish city to which a friend had sent me a postal money order I had a rueful introduction to this problem of names. My friend had assured me by phone that the money had been sent, and the post office had advised me that it had arrived and that upon presentation of my passport it would be paid. Accordingly, I went to the post office, but before telling the clerk my name, handed him my passport. He studied it, consulted his file of incoming money orders and said, ’Nothing here.’ I explained that I knew it was in hand, so with much politeness he searched his papers again and said, ’Nothing here.’ This time I noticed that he was looking at the A file, so I suggested, ’Perhaps if you look in the ...’
'Please, Señor Albert,’ he said. ’I know my business.’
In my passport he had seen that my name was James Albert Michener and he was smart enough to know from that who I was, and he had no cash for any Señor Albert. When I tried to explain what my name really was he became angry, and I was not able to get my money until Spanish friends came from the hotel to the post office and explained who I was. When the money was paid, the clerk took my passport again, studied my name and shook his head. When he handed back my papers he said, ’I am sorry for your inconvenience, Señor Albert.’
--Michener, James A. Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections. (1968) Random House: New York, pp. 41-42.
Our text describes many countries rather than just Spain and was published in 2012. It says the the double-surname tradition is practiced in many, but not all, Latin-American countries. The way this is described does not perfectly match what Michener wrote.
For example, "When a woman marries in a country where two last names are used, legally she retains her two maiden surnames. However, socially she may take her husband's paternal surname in place of her inherited maternal surname. For example, Mercedes Barcha Pardo, wife of Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, might use the names Mercedes Barcha García or Mercedes Barcha de García in social situations. ... Adopting a husband's last name for social purposes, though widespread, is only legally recognized in Ecuador and Peru." - Blanco, José A. and Philip Redwine Donley, Late. Vistas: Introducción a la Lengua Española (4th ed.) (2012) Vistas higher Learning: p. 86.
Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_naming_customs, 6/4/16) says that in Spain, "gender equality law has allowed surname transposition since 1999, subject to the condition that every sibling must bear the same surname order recorded in the Registro Civil (civil registry), but there have been legal exceptions." And then "In an English-speaking environment, Spanish-named people sometimes hyphenate their surnames to avoid Anglophone confusion or to fill in forms with only one space provided for last name."
The article also says they might have a first and middle name like we do (and go by either informally), though that would be called having a composite (vs. simple) forename rather than two names. "Legislation in Spain under Franco legally limited cultural naming customs to only Christian (Jesus, Mary, saints) and typical Spanish names (Álvaro, Jimena, et al.)." But now "the only naming limitation is the dignity of the child, who cannot be given an insulting name. Similar limitations applied against diminutive, familiar, and colloquial variants not recognized as names proper, and 'those that lead to confusion regarding sex." Wow. But "[a]lthough the first part of a composite forename generally reflects the gender of the child, the second personal name need not (e.g. José María Aznar)" and they can go by either name, so maybe their second name can be gender neutral.
Another interesting thing in the article is that -ez endings can mean "son of" (Hernández = son of Hernando, Sánchez = son of Sancho), implying things were done differently in the past.