Can I start hyphenating my name?
April 5, 2011 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Can I abruptly start hyphenating my last name?

Right now my legal name is of the form Jane Plain Smith; I usually go by Jane Smith. Thinking of taking a form of my mother's maiden name so that I'd be, say, Jane Doe-Smith. I partly want to do this to feel like I have a different identity, and partly because my name in its current form doesn't reflect my mixed heritage whatsoever.

I don't like using my real middle name or my mother's real maiden name much because of ID theft issues. There are several possible phonetic spellings of my mother's maiden name in English; I'd avoid using the form my family has volunteered in "Forget your password?" type questions, which is probably now firmly lodged in multiple databases.

I'm asking in part because I'll be applying to jobs soon, and I (foolishly) run a semi-obscure political blog in my own name, which is pretty easily googled. I was earnest enough when I wrote the posts, but I've had a hard time finding any sort of employment in like-minded think tanks and nonprofits, and at this point I'm pretty burned out on it. At best, I don't think its content is very transferable/interesting to people outside of that little circle, and at worst it probably makes me sound like a bit of a wackadoodle.

So, is it cool to just start doing this? Is it going to look like I'm trying to conceal my activities? I don't have any intention of changing my name on official documents for now. Will I have to do so later down the line?
posted by ziggly to Law & Government (9 answers total)
When I filled out job applications last, they always asked me if I'd ever changed my name. So sure, you can do it, but I don't think you're going to escape the Google issue.
posted by SMPA at 4:31 PM on April 5, 2011

Before I got married, I used my mom's maiden name (also happened to be my middle name) for everything but my taxes. I always just told employers "Oh, I have both of my parents last names and I really don't use this one for anything but legal stuff." End of story. Never, ever came up beyond that.

(And no, there's nothing you can do to hide from the almighty Google.)
posted by sonika at 4:43 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Many companies have policies that prohibit them from googling, facebooking, or otherwise searching for potential employees on the internet. It can be really messy in terms of equal opportunity laws and other HR policies.

Most of the time, recruiters simply aren't spending enough time on a particular CV to get that far, anyway. When I was a recruiter, a first round, entry-level CV got maybe 2-3 minutes, tops.
posted by charmcityblues at 5:08 PM on April 5, 2011

Well, you can address the google issue directly by removing your site from google. If you host it yourself, you can update your robots.txt file and then go to google and request that they reindex your site (and remove it). It won't fix anywhere that you've appeared or been quoted elsewhere online, but it will get your own blog fixed right up. I'm not sure what you'd do if you don't self host. Maybe mark your blog as private, then resubmit to google.

Seems easier than changing your name, anyway.
posted by instamatic at 5:33 PM on April 5, 2011

If you are in the US, you can use whatever name/pseudo-name/alias you wish for whatever purpose so long as it is not to defraud anyone. IANAL, IANYL
posted by Blasdelb at 8:57 PM on April 5, 2011

I have a relatively common first and last name. When I google my name, quite a few other people with hyphenated variants on my name come up. E.g. if I'm Sara Calrissian, I also get results for Sarah Lando-Calrissian. If you are honestly looking to change your name in order to distance yourself from mistakes you made on the internet, you are going to have to completely change your name.

Frankly, unless your political blog advocates the violent overthrow of the government or something, I don't think you need to change your name to distance yourself from it. I know plenty of people who used to do one (easily googled) thing and now do something else.
posted by Sara C. at 9:03 PM on April 5, 2011

posted by SuperNova at 10:39 PM on April 5, 2011

Go for it! You have a good reason (in reflecting your heritage) for changing your name, and as you are keeping the same last part of your surname it should cause very little problem e.g. your education certificates still "match".

I would not worry too much about the blog. In many ways the problem is to stand out, and an interviewer might ask about it without it being a cause of concern to them, just a way to differentiate you from others with the same qualifications. Have a story prepared so that you can present the positives "I care about my community... some of my views have changed"
posted by Idcoytco at 10:19 AM on April 6, 2011

How do you want to use it? People can call you whatever you want, but do you want to start working under this new name, opening up bank accounts, registering a car, in a name that is not your legal name? I would seriously advise against it.

Up until I was 17 I used a last name that was not my legal last name, I was even enrolled in school under my assumed name and had a bank account. It was extremely annoying to do simple tasks like cash a check or apply for jobs, not to mention things like traveling or applying to college were fairly difficult.

Yes, it will probably be a little easier for you since it will be hyphenated and you will still have part of your legal last name, but I wouldn't want to go through all the trouble when you could just legally change it and be done with it.
posted by inertia at 12:15 PM on April 6, 2011

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