Latest News – March 16, 1940

“I feel great after getting my new surname,” says one office clerk. “Only the first week was a bit difficult, ‘adjusting my hand to a new speed’, so to speak, so that I would learn how to sign the new surname well, which was one and a half times shorter than the old one. Until I found the best way to sign it, I had worked almost as much as I would be working in the forest.” An associate, who didn’t have to change his surname, saw a friend on the street, who had just changed his surname, and called out to him, “Agrum, Agrum!”, to stop his friend, but the friend just went along by. “I called out his new surname a few more times, but he didn’t pay any attention!” he says. “Then I called: Gūtman, are you deaf! – My friend spun around quickly – he could still hear his old surname.”

New surnames have also caused confusion in telephone conversations, which one minister’s secretary described. A clerk had called him, already knowing his new surname, and then asked “Could I please speak with Mr. X?” – “There is no one here by that name.” the secretary replied. “What number do you need?” “I want to talk to the secretary.” said the confused caller. “I’m at the phone.” the secretary replied, only then remembering that the name the caller had asked for was his new surname.

These changes have also created merriment in private social gatherings. A man arrived to one function, having just changed his surname. When other guests arrived, he forgot his new surname and introduced himself with the old surname. Only after a moment did he realize his mistake, and had to reintroduce himself to the guests, saying “I’m sorry, there was a bit of a misunderstanding – now I am called by a different name.”

When hearing all of these amusing anecdotes, women just smile and shake their heads, since for them changing surnames is not unusual. Almost every woman, unless she remains a spinster, will change her surname at least once, some even two or three times. When one woman was asked, how her family felt after she changed her non-Latvian name, she just smiled and responded: “If the same husband hadn’t been by my side at the time, they would have just thought that I’d married a second time.”

I think this is an amusing collection of anecdotes on the surname change process, which I talked about in more detail here and here. Getting used to a new surname, especially after having one for decades, could not be easy. But only at the end of the article did the writer remember that almost half of the population would change their name at some point in their lives – reminding readers that the world does not revolve solely around men.

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