Lithuanian names, spellings and family names
March 4, 2011 8:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm an Englishman married to a Lithuanian - so we have 2 different, though similar, alphabets between us - how can we orthographically regularise our surnames? Alternative spellings? Double-barrelled names?

The Lithuanian alphabet has 32 letters, most of which are the same as English, but some of which are not.

See here for more details:

Also, certain combinations are illogical in Lithuanian spelling and so aren't allowed...

My surname includes letters and letter combinations that aren't allowed in Lithuanian orthography, so we've settled on each keeping our surnames.

Of course my wife's surname also includes data as to her marital status as all Lithuanian surnames do:

This presents another complication.

Our baby daughter currently officially just has my surname as she's registered as a British citizen. Eventually we hope to get her dual nationality, at least til she's 18...!

Has anyone experienced this or something like it? What are some practical solutions for a simpler life? Should I just adopt a Lithuanian surname?!
posted by KMH to Writing & Language (16 answers total)
I don't understand what your question is, as you say you've both decided to keep your names. Could you please clarify it?
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:16 AM on March 4, 2011

Does your wife want to keep her Lithuanian name?

Would your daughter having your surname preclude her from going for Lithuanian citizenship?
posted by k8t at 9:20 AM on March 4, 2011

Best answer: My friend is Chinese, her husband has triple citizenship between Tonga, New Zealand, and the US. Her kids had a Chinese passport with their Chinese names, and now have US passports with their Tongan names. (Lots of red tape with that one.)

Would it be possible for your daughter to do something similar? Maybe hyphenate her last name for the English stuff and drop your name for the Lithuanian stuff, or make that her middle name which can be shortened to an initial for documents.

John Doe (Father) + Jane Smith (Mother)= Julie Doe-Smith (English) and Julie D. Smith (Lithuanian)
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:29 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Alternative spelling would be how I'd do it, since you both want to maintain ties to your respective cultures.

You could also try to modify your name sounds to reflect local norms. My family name was Pakelzcik (we think, lately,) but morphed into Parker.

Maybe, strictly for use in Lithuania for her surname, you could pick a name that's close to yours, and feminize it?
posted by SMPA at 9:53 AM on March 4, 2011

I understand that you've decided to keep your own surnames thus far. Would you be open to changing both of your names to a shared but orthographically neutral name?

That wouldn't solve the masculine/feminine name issue, and it looks like there's still the matter of the letter "ė" in most "short forms" of the feminine, but are there any names that could work without that?

Otherwise, I think the alternate spelling way might be the best -- either that, or ignoring it altogether and just saying, "This is how it's pronounced." Here in university culture, we run into this issue all the time. Examples: (Latvian?) Dace, pronounced DAH-tzuh; (Hungarian) Csilla, pronounced CHEE-la; (Turkish) Hakkı -- who usually spells it with a regular i at the end here in the US -- pronounced AH-ki.

My favorite combined-name couple (friends of friends) spent at least a couple of married years as the hyphenated Lamm-Crapps before changing it to Cralam. So while it might be a little unusual, it's not unheard of.
posted by Madamina at 10:02 AM on March 4, 2011

Best answer: Practical solution for a simpler life? My mom kept her maiden name, I have my father's surname, and it's not a big deal.
posted by domnit at 10:03 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

My surname includes letters and letter combinations that aren't allowed in Lithuanian orthography, so we've settled on each keeping our surnames.

Will the Lithuanian government not even provide documents with your name? If someone immigrated to the US and their name was "Sqwip," they could still get a driver's license/passport etc with that name, even though it doesn't follow English spelling.
posted by dhens at 10:04 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you okay with a patronymic? Because perhaps the easiest way would be to find a Lithuanian analogue to your first name, and then slap on aite/iute/whatever sounds better on the end. I think the new "e" ending is cool too, I'm not really thrilled with the idea of my name giving away my marital status.
posted by crankylex at 10:16 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I guess I'm not sure what the question is.

Every Chinese, Japanese, and Korean immigrant had to come up with some sort of US appropriate spelling for their names when they got here. Everyone who uses the Cyrillic or Arabic alphabets did it. Then you have wonderful Polish names like Zbigniew Brzezinski, which barely has three consecutive letters that look reasonable in English.

Is there some reason why your daughter can't just keep your name? You say it doesn't work in Lithuanian, but why is that actually a problem? Does every Lithuanian citizen have to have a name that is valid Lithuanian?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:28 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Could you change your name to the masculine equivalent of your wife's Lithuanian surname? This would make your surname the same as your father-in-law's, but it could work. So, for example, if your wife's married-form surname is Gostautiene, you could adopt the masculine Gostautas.

Also, the Lithuanian government has recently allowed women to use a third, abbreviated form of the surname which doesn't indicate marital status.

I know a Lithuanian couple who chose to have all of their children, regardless of sex, adopt their father's surname to avoid confusion.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 11:20 AM on March 4, 2011

Does there need to be a connection? I carry my father's (and his father's) middle name equivalent simply because the family surname is a British invention tagging castes on to people in Pre-Independence India. They dropped it for my generation, born afterwards.

Yes, it has confused people that I have a different surname from my parents (when and if they find out) and its not a husband's name but I never had any red tape issues with passports, visas or residency status in three continents. No problems with school records or college either.
posted by infini at 5:22 AM on March 5, 2011

Response by poster: Sorry - I guess I wasn't even that clear on my own question!

It's a mixture of 2 questions really:

1. How to simplify the situation of having a different surname to my wife and having to choose every time we introduce ourselves, apply / register etc. for something to use mine, or hers or both.

2. What eventual name our daughter can settle on when she's old enough to care about such things (we totally took the pragmatic approach so far - hoping to give her some options later).

I was hoping to hear experiences to clarify the question too, especially from couples where there are two very different languages / naming conventions in play, so thanks for all the ideas so far!
posted by KMH at 1:05 AM on March 8, 2011

Response by poster: @dhens - that's the truly amazing thing (to me) - "Will the Lithuanian government not even provide documents with your name?"... No!
posted by KMH at 1:08 AM on March 8, 2011

Best answer: I can't address the naming conventions, but the rest is easy.

For introductions: "Hello, I'm KMH, and this is my wife, ABC." Register for something: whoever's doing the registering, making the reservation, or what have you does it in their name, usually. It's comparable to deciding which phone number to put on the cable TV account, when both my husband and I have cell phones and we don't have a land line. I occasionally have to say "It might be under my husband's name," which never takes anyone by surprise.

As far as your daughter: she's a baby. When she's old enough to care she can figure it out on her own. Maybe she'll use the name you gave her, maybe she'll pick a different name, but why fuss now? One of my kids has a different last name from me and this, too, has never been a problem. There's nothing unusual about this situation.

My understanding is that England is a bit behind the US (at least the part where I live) when it comes to women keeping their names, and maybe blended families aren't as common. It might be more of an inconvenience for you than it has been for me. But from my perspective, you're borrowing trouble.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:45 AM on March 8, 2011

Response by poster: But how did you know my wife's name is ABC?! ;)
posted by KMH at 2:53 AM on April 6, 2011

I'm an Australian Latvian, with dual citizenship. My situation would be similar to your daughter's in that my surname is English (language at least, actually Irish) but my christian name is Latvian.

The Latvians have always just transliterated my surname into the Latvian alphabet, including the masculine ending. My sisters have the same transliterated surname, but with the feminine ending.

(For example, if my "English" surname were Smith, then in Latvian it might be Smits, and my sisters would be Smita or perhaps Smite)

Latvian & Lithuanian are quite similar, I assume you realise, enough that I can usually follow the gist of written Lithuanian. terms of dual citizenship & transliteration, you should have no problem with using a Lithuanian transliteration of your surname. They'd be used to doing such things, eg for citizens of Russian origin, or Polish, or Latvian or wherever the family originally came from.

The main tip I have for you is that when I applied for my Latvian passport, I ignored the option to have my surname also printed in its original English spelling. This was a mistake, because it can cause administrative hassles with airlines & immigration etc. Eg if my credit card is in my English spelling, and my frequent flyer account & profile with the airline likewise, then the passenger manifest would have me listed as (eg) "Smith" but if I present a passport with "Smits" then Immigration will be all "But there was no Smits on this plane!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:04 AM on April 6, 2011

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