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meshing

noun [uncountable]

the practice of joining together two names to make a new name for a married couple

mesh

verb [intransitive]

'If Pete Doherty and Kate Moss ever decide to get married and mesh, they could be known as Mr and Mrs Doss. Tony Blair and George Bush are sometimes said to act like an old married couple, so they could be Mr and Mr Blush … Meshing is the latest fad for newlyweds in the US and involves joining together a couple's existing surnames to come up with a new one just for them.'

BBC News Magazine 3rd August 2006

It's a quandary most women contemplating marriage find themselves in: you have a surname that you've probably been perfectly happy with your whole life, and suddenly you have to decide whether to change it. Worse still, you might not even like your intended's surname as much as your own, but there's that nagging feeling that you ought to show a sense of 'unity' with your partner, not to mention the implications for any children you might have … Most bureaucratic systems still fundamentally assume that the woman will change her name when she gets married, but if you're someone who objects to this principle, then the new concept of meshing might just be the answer.

by blending the distinctive syllables of both the man's and woman's surnames, the meshing couple both adopt a new name

Meshing is a trend recently begun in the US which attempts to address the sexist implications of a woman taking her new husband's surname. By blending the distinctive syllables of both the man's and woman's surnames, the meshing couple both adopt a new name. So, for example, Maria Watson and Jeremy Daniel become Maria and Jeremy Danson – Maria no longer feels hard done by nor faces the prospect of her offspring being referred to as the little 'Watson-Daniels'. In fact, in both America and the UK, the official processes surrounding meshing are identical to those involved in adopting a double-barrelled surname after marriage.

As well as the activity noun meshing, there is also plenty of evidence for an intransitive verb mesh. Predictably, both the verb and the noun have gained currency in the context of media coverage of celebrity marriages, such as, on the announcement of English footballer Wayne Rooney's prospective marriage to childhood sweetheart Colleen McCloughlin, tongue-in-cheek speculation about the new Mr and Mrs McLooney!

Background – meshing

One of the earliest public examples of meshing (also sometimes referred to as name meshing) occurred in 1988, when a Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villar, combined his name with that of his new wife, Raigosa, and became Antonio Villaraigosa. However the concept didn't hit the general spotlight until much more recently, gaining currency with the media-driven fusion of the first names of popular celebrities. Actor Tom Cruise and partner Katie Holmes were recently christened TomKat by the tabloids, and Brangelina has become the new epithet for famous married couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

The use of mesh and meshing in this way is simply a new sense of the established verb 'to mesh', which in its core meaning describes the action of two things connecting with each other and working together.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 17 December 2007.

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