Naming things is hard Part 2. Choosing a name for yourself

Part 1. Choosing a name for your brand: Four examples of companies that I think made mistakes with their brand names. 

Part 2. My own branding mistakes:

Names can be messy

It confused me as a kid that women had to give up their names when they married. Mostly for the obvious reason that it was simply unfair, but also because it seemed messy. 

What about all the places my partner would have to change her name? How would her relatives be remembered or respected? Or, what if her surname just sounded better than mine? It’d be a shame to both lose out. Why should the man’s name always win? 

From quite a young age then, I felt certain that my partner wouldn’t give up her name. Later on, I reckoned I would suggest going double-barreled. But even then I could see that this just pushed the issue on to the next generation. Leaving my double-barreled kids and their potentially double-barreled partners to either fight it out, or crazily opt for quadruple-barreled names. 

Most people I shared this idea with thought it was silly, and even a bit posh, and that I should just go with tradition. As if tradition by default means the correct way of doing a thing. In that case, which tradition?

Too many traditions 

How about the Scandinavian tradition, where the family name runs down the paternal line by adding a suffix to the fathers given name (patronymic). So, Mathew Rasmussen for example, would mean that my Dad was called Rasmus and I am Rasmus’ son.  

Or, what if we ditch the whole paternal line thing and go with the relatively new Greek tradition of women keeping their surnames. Although, being forced by law to do this sounds less appealing. Like a slightly different flavour of patriarchy.  

Maybe then we go with Icelandic names, where they still do patronymic and matronymic. There, a woman called Harpa Stefánsdóttir could call her daughter Minerva Harpasdóttir and her son Róbert Harpasson. 

And if that’s not complicated enough for you then there’s always the Spanish tradition, which I personally find a tad to difficult to decipher. 

Whichever tradition you choose, they all end up changing at some point. To this end, and with a joint dislike of forced patriarchal naming, when my partner and I had kids, we decided on new names for ourselves, as well as for them.

The self branding workshop 

We started with the obvious, but felt that Wilson Anderson was too long to go double barrelled. And it sounded like a law firm. Also, a bit too son-son-son. 

We toyed with merging the names. Wanderson or Wilderson. But they felt a bit daft and too made up. 

We considered just picking a favourite random surname, but couldn’t decide as they all had too many external connotations. 

In the end, we were drawn toward my partners maternal side. The most extended and diverse part of either of our families: O’Day. Then, inline with my old feeling of fairness, we decided to both add O’Day to the end of our names. Tidy. 

I became Wilson O’Day, she, Anderson O’Day (with us agreeing somewhere along the line that hyphens weren’t necessary, because they were too fussy or something). 

Next, on to naming the kids. I won’t share their actual names, but to illustrate a point, we can call them Winston and Dexter. But, whose surname do they get? Humm. 

Long story short, they got mine, and we’ve ended up with Winston Wilson O’Day and Dexter Wilson O’Day. 

We were a family. With a family name. And a break from tradition. Happy days. Happy O’Days!

We love our names. Especially those of our kids. I love that my wife didn’t lose her identity, and that I effectively joined her family as much as it feels like she joined mine.

The messiness begins

OK. Bottom line time. I picked on other brands in Part 1. But it was more out of recognition than criticism. Naming things is hard, and even if you think you’ve given it thorough thought, there are a load of practical issues that you need to consider (and that we didn’t).


When babies are born, and you’re in and out of hospitals, doctors clinics, and pharmacies, you realise some benefits to the more traditional approach.

In particular, because medical institutions tend to use surnames first on their lists and systems. This was when we realised our kids each had a surname for a first names, two more surnames on the ends, and another sneaky surname in their mothers name. Arriving at appointments or collecting prescriptions went in some variation of this:

Um, Dexter?
Ah, yes

The missing hyphen is the main mistake here I think, because I get it also when arriving at bookings or events. 

Try Wilson
Try O’Day
Ah yes

Computer says no

This one drives me mad, and I can’t believe this is still an issue in 2022: The apostrophe in O’Day causes havoc with web forms and almost every digital platform.

Sometimes it works, sometimes not. I’ll try the O on its own but some systems won’t allow it. ODay it is then, which autocorrect links to change to Okay.

And then there’s the digital version of the issue above, where even though I’ve typed ‘Wilson ODay’ in the surname field, my debit card or badge or utility bill will appear for Mathew ODay. Banks and serious institutions don’t like this. But even fewer services like fixing it.

Admin woes

Not a new issue – and one that I shouldn’t really be moaning about – but changing your name is a right administrative headache.

Married women, millions and millions of you, who have taken your partners name over the centuries, oh my days! Men have no clue the sort of work and ongoing legacy issues that you’ve had to go through.

It adds fuel to my hatred of the tradition of women having to change their names. But I’m embarrassed that I never realised this aspect of it before experiencing it myself.

Failing to see it through 

I’m embarrassed by this bit as well. As you might already have noticed. I still go by Mathew Wilson.

Part of me began this two part series in attempt to out myself for this rubbishness. A way to put it out in public and force myself to adopt it. But I’m still not sure.

The apostrophe issue and the missing hyphen cause the biggest issue. But most cowardly of all, I’m just struggling to let go of my old short name and all it’s old connections.

It’s written up now though. Let’s see how it sits. Hoping I can make peace with this one way or another.


When researching names, I noticed that the men’s England football team had quite a few players with double barrelled names. The squad as of September 2022 has 8 for example (Smith-Rowe, Calvert-Lewin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Hudson-Odoi, Maitland-Niles, Ward-Prowse, Alexander-Arnold, Walker-Peters).

World Cup 1990 Italy meanwhile: Nil.