Couples Cast Off Their Surnames for Original Ones

Anyone can change their name, as long as it's not for fraudulent purposes.

ByABC News
July 20, 2007, 10:35 AM

Aug. 15, 2007 — -- When New Jersey writers Alice Kirby and Larry Charny decided to marry in 1988, she refused to take his name, but so did he.

With a nod to the creative world of fiction, the couple abandoned their family names and adopted a new surname. Today, they are Alice and Larry Dark. Alice, 54, is a fiction writer, and Larry, 48, is director of The Story Prize.

"When you get married, you are faced with the decision to keep your name, hyphenate or one changes to the other," said Larry Dark. "Why not come up with a new name? If you don't change your name, you defer a decision you will make when you have children. It's a nonsexist solution to have a common name."

Many women keep their maiden names as a mark of independence. Still, an overwhelming 90 percent of all brides drop their surnames, according to the Lucy Stone League, named for the woman who refused to take her husband's name in 1855.

But today, in a trend that is not new but growing, couples are constructing their own names sometimes mixing syllables from both sides of the family and often just picking a name that has special meaning or rolls well off the tongue.

Kirby-Charny would have been a mouthful, notes Dark, who toyed with the sardonic moniker Dark Jr.

"I think we were ahead of the curve," said Dark, who liked the contrarian aspect of legally changing his name.

"We think about language and words and we kind of free associated," he said. "Charny means black or dark in Russian, and at the time there were no others in the phone book."

Dark's family initially boycotted the name, but eventually succumbed.

Today, Dark's son Asher is happy with his new family name. "He grew up with it," said his father, who added that when Asher marries, "he can do whatever he wants. Ultimately, a name is not that important."

Darcie Shapiro and Jeff Klein created a new name in preparation for their marriage in 2003. The New York City couple, both 28, constructed it from their fathers' and mothers' names.

Darcie's mother was born Behar and Jeff's was Rutberg. "Har" and "berg" mean mountain in Hebrew and German, respectively. They opted for a blended name Sharlein.