Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

Marital Name Choice in Situational Comedies







Exploring Surname Decision and its Implications through Discourses in Popular Media


Julie L. G. Walker
Southwest Minnesota State University





            When two individuals decide to publically commit to a lifetime relationship with one another by signing a marriage contract, they must make several decisions. One such decision is by which surnames the individuals will choose to be known following the marriage ceremony.  There are several options from which men and women can choose; options are listed in the appendix.  The most traditional and subscribed to choice in the United States is the Mr. and Mrs. His Name.  Johnson and Scheuble (1995) and Gooding and Kreider (2011) suggested over the past 15 years anywhere from 90 to 95 percent of couples in the United States choose the Mr. and Mrs. His Name option.  Research suggests factors such as desiring individual identity consistency, family unity, identification as a feminist, education level, ethnicity, class, mothers’ practices, and indifference influence naming practices (Johnson and Scheuble, Stafford and Kline, 1996; Kerns, 2011; Kline, Stafford, and Miklosovic, 1996; and Twenge, 1997).

            Scholars have explored why and how couples make the choices, but haven’t looked to the media portrayals of naming practices.  While describing current instances of choice and rationale are important, it is also useful to explore cultural representations of naming choice decisions to recognize themes that may influence viewers’ own naming choices. My study explores the ways sitcoms portray couples engaging in naming practice discussions. Spangler (2003) synthesized research suggesting characterizations portrayed on television sitcoms not only elicit identification by audience members with the characters. She went on to describe how situations depicted in sitcoms may also influence audience members’ actions, causing them to imitate the behaviors portrayed on the shows.

            Marital name choice has been the subject of study by multiple disciplines. Since the creation of the Lucy Stone League in the early 20th century, some women and men have been fighting for the freedom to make unconventional name choices without societal and structural barriers.  Name choice or the apparent ability to choose one’s name when they get married should be a choice individuals can make without fearing legal or social repercussions. However, Stannard (1973) described the historical legal and social barriers faced by women who chose unconventional name choices, which included social harassment, the inability to get or keep a driver’s license in her chosen name, and being required by legal force to be referred to as Mrs. His Name. Today’s structural barriers include any non-Mrs. His Name option costing hundreds of dollars and the requirement of a judge’s approval for other unconventional choices (Walker, 2012). The ability to make our individual “choices” still isn’t solely in the hands of the people involved in making the choice.

            Beyond the structural and social barriers we face, name choice is relevant subject matter because the responses of others to our choices influence the way we view ourselves and our relationships. Walker (2012) found a person’s name to be one of the many facets comprising that individual’s identity. The choices we make regarding the surname taken after getting married have the potential to influence how we and others view our identity. Thus, analyzing portrayals of name choice discussions may provide insight into cultural behaviors (re)created in sitcom situations.

            To better understand the dialogues surrounding marital surname choices, I analyzed texts taken from the sitcoms Friends and How I Met Your Mother.  The shows portray three couples, their naming practices in the context surrounding marriage ceremonies, and the discussions around the practices chosen. The following research questions qualitatively guided my analysis:

RQ1: How do sitcoms portray the name choice negotiations and implications in the context of marriage ceremonies?
RQ2: What long-term commitment considerations are discussed concurrently with naming practice negotiations?
RQ3: In what ways do sitcom portrayals of naming practice discussions suggest personal and relational identity implications resulting from the discussions and/or choices made?

          The qualitative nature of this study means I did not seek through the analysis to specifically find answers to the three previously noted questions.  Instead I used these questions as a start to guide my research. The following sections will explain relevant identity and name concepts to provide the necessary background for the analysis, justify how the sitcom texts were chosen and why they are appropriate, discuss how the texts were analyzed, and present findings from the present analysis.  Suggestions for future research will also be offered.

            Multiple disciplines throughout multiple time-periods have sought to understand the concepts of identity and of names.  Scholarly theories of identity abound, calling identity anything from a substantive soul given to an individual at birth to a constantly re(de)fined and fluid self-creation impacted by judgments and the communicative acts with/of others.  Name theorists at times fundamentally disagree regarding the purposes, functions, and properties of names.  This section will focus on relevant notions of identity and names.  Identity frameworks and concepts explored include personal, relational, material, and performative notions of identity.  Name frameworks and concepts explored include separation from and connection to others and identity. Finally, an overview of sitcoms in research will be shared.


            Identity is conceptualized by some as a noun (a thing someone can have/manipulate/etc) and to some as a verb (something someone must perform or continually formulate), but it should rightfully be considered concurrently as a noun and a verb.  Harper (n.d.) explained the etymology of the word “identity,” describing how it originated circa 16th century from French and Latin roots.  The base words (such as identité and identidem) suggest sameness, oneness, and repetition.  Alcoff (2006) argued (based upon Merleau-Ponty’s work) “identity is a unified set of movements done through a kind of unconscious physical shorthand” (p. 6).  Sekimoto (2011) affirmed Alcoff when she suggested the habit of being one’s self removes the need for intentional daily decisions guiding my actions toward consistent behavior.  Identity, then, is the habitual impetus for everyday behaviors.

            Scholars Cooley (1902), Mead (1934), and Hecht (1993) suggested identity represents a sense of self (from a personal perspective) impacted by context and interaction partners.   Tanno and González (1998) expanded other scholars’ work by suggesting group memberships, such as religion, family, race, skin color, or class, also impact identity (re)formations, must be seen by individuals of themselves or those with whom they interact.  Alexander (2004) maintained identity is a self-arranged series of group membership labels.  Brown (1999) and Frankenberg (1996) contended part of distinguishing between a personal identity and an other’s identity is recognizing how identity is a process of defining the self by what it is not.  So identity is a self-labeling informed by (non)-group membership, interactions, contexts, and judgments. 

            Tanno and González’s (1998) imperative (when considering group memberships such as skin color) could be considered a directive to view identity through a materiality framework.  Sekimoto (2011) argued “the self is an embodied being” (p. 56), meaning a person’s identity and body should not be considered separate entities.  Cutting off an individual’s hand would result in the individual still being their “self,” but that individual’s behaviors would change due to the missing appendage, thereby changing the individual and the individual’s “self.” What should be tacitly understood is using a materiality analysis means treating identity in a matter-like way.  Identity is never created from nothing and it is never destroyed; it merely changes forms.  Identity is not always shifting forms, but it can shift forms when the conditions are correct.  Thus, an identity description should be viewed as a snapshot within a specific context.  Like matter, identity has a sense of positionality, or “social location or position from which the individual relates to others and engages with his or her social world” (Sekimoto, p. 50).  Its positionality, however, is not deterministic.  Because an individual can eventually gain agency over her or his identity, positionality begins the individual’s process, but does not dictate the final end-point of the process. 

            Theories of the performative nature of identity, introduced by Goffman (1954), suggest an individual does not simply have a set of labels, characteristics, or materially controlled components.  Hecht (1993) and Jung and Hecht (2004) suggested identity is not only conveyed through communication, but the communication acts and social behaviors themselves are a manifestation of identity.    When identity is viewed as a performance, it becomes a continually (re)formulating process through which individuals negotiate personal and relational identities.  Hecht further proposed relational identities were the collective identity of a couple acknowledged and affected by others.  Therefore, identity manifestations (through communicative and behavioral acts) must be viewed within its context (stage) and interactions with other communicators (actors).  However, just as with any story told, the beginning and ending of any narrative (or definition) inherently limits the explanation in some way.  As matter cannot be created, identity (characteristics) cannot be created; it/they originate/s from contextual and narrative components. It further impacts the behaviors of other identities present in the context.

            Thus, personal identity refers to an individual’s self-concept as influenced by internal and external social pressures, positionality (though not in a deterministic sense), and the material body and surroundings over which the bearer can develop an agency over her or his identity (re)formation.  An identity at any given moment influences the communicative acts of its bearer and can influence the identity and communicative acts of other interactants.  Having conceptualized identity, we can now explore the concept of names.


            A name and its functions vary across cultures, but within the United States, three functions primarily illustrate the purpose of a name: separation from others, connection to others, and a symbol of identity.  Some scholars believe a name functions as merely an individual’s label and by which that individual is separated from others.  As in a logical definition, a name in the United States usually consists of a genus (or larger group) and differentia (unique characteristic distinguishing that individual from their group).  For instance, John Smith’s genus would be “Smith” and his differentia would be “John.” Thus a name can be thought of as functioning as a non-numeric label differentiating an individual from other individuals.  Emmens (2007) suggested the name as a label notion may have to do with individuals not connecting names with larger societal and historical movements and events.

             Names also may carry connections to family, ethnicity or heritage, religion, or other groups, which can serve as everyday reminders of group affiliation (either positively or negatively).  Connection to a family group is often a central name function, and it can further carry with it a connection to family ethnicity or heritage.  For instance, Germain is my birth family name, which carries with it my French heritage from my father’s side of the family.  de Pina-Cabral (2010b) suggested the geometric concept of triangulation corresponds to our ability to trace our selves through our family identities as labeled by our names.  In determining where we stand between two other points (such as two family members) we are able to determine our own sense of self and where we fit into the world.  There is also a sense of permanence in connecting to a family group.  Additionally, many individuals receive names when they are born or choose names during religious events that tie them to their religious groups.

            The connection between name and identity has been suggested and contested by scholars across disciplines and time periods.  de Pina-Cabral (2010a), Edwards and Caballero (2008), Emmens (2007),  Fleming (2011), and Siegel (2010)  agreed names and identities are connected, but disagreed on the extent to which and ways they are connected.  While for some a name may not connect to identity components, group affiliation inherently impacts the identity of individuals.  Perhaps the simplest way to describe a name-identity relationship is to describe the name as a (potentially) symbolic unifier of an individual’s multiple identity components. 


            Situational comedies, or sitcoms, have been a part of television programming for over 50 years (Spangler, 2003). Programs ranging from I Love Lucy to Seinfeld have consistently filled primetime television slots, drawing audiences and advertisers to the television screen. While Jordan (2011) described the recent movement toward reality television shows based on the decreased financial risks as compared to sitcoms, the ability of sitcoms to pull key audience demographics and their appeal to advertisers mean sitcoms like Friends and How I Met Your Mother will continue to portray the lives of characters with whom audience can relate.

            Several scholars have specifically examined the show Friends from a variety of perspectives. Some studies have examined Friends and its global influences, such as Chitnis, Thombre, Rogers, Singhal, and Sengupta’s (2006) analysis of the ability of Friends to transcend cultural differences for Indian viewers. Within the United States, Rockler (2006) used Friends to examine depictions of Jewish practices in the media, contending “sitcoms are a useful genre within which to study cultural trends of depoliticization” (p. 454). Collins, Elliott, Berry, Kanouse, and Hunter (2003) found entertainment television depictions, specifically the episode of Friends where the characters discuss condom efficiency, of sexual topics to be a useful tool in sexual education for children and adolescents. Heyd (2010), Stokoe (2008), and Tagliamonte and Roberts (2005) analyzed texts from Friends for insights into the current uses of language and dialogue. These studies represent just a few of the ways the texts of sitcoms, and specifically Friends, have been used to understand the influence and representations of culture on television.

            Sitcoms present important research opportunities for a number of reasons. Skovmand (2002) argued sitcoms both depict ongoing behavioral anxieties and negotiations, but also articulate audience “relations to contemporary culture as a whole” (p. 205). Collins, Elliott, Berry, Kanouse, and Hunter (2003) suggested entertaining television can “model socially responsible behavior without explicitly advocating it” (p. 1120). Coupling their assertion with Spangler’s (2003) research suggesting the power of sitcoms to elicit behavior imitation of sitcom characters, the depictions of situations in sitcoms have the potential to influence audience member behaviors. While media scholars agree sitcoms are polysemic, that is as Dines and Humez (2011) described it open to multiple interpretations, Spangler argued “the important point is that these images can affect us—how we feel about ourselves, what we think we can achieve in life, and even how we treat other people” (p. xiii). When considering sitcoms’ ability to influence the way we view ourselves and our actions, and we couple this with the notion that our behaviors impact the identities of others, it becomes clear that sitcoms have the potential to not only represent cultural norms, but to generate behaviors based on their depictions.

            In short, a name is/can be a signifier for the combined snapshot identity an individual formulates through interpersonal, contextual, and individual evaluations and pressures.  Names function to separate and connect individuals to various groups partially by differentiating and grouping specific individuals.  Sitcoms represent and have the power to generate new cultural norms for a given group of people. Having conceptualized identities, names, and sitcoms, we can move to the case study analyses.

            To explore examples of how sitcoms portray conversations surrounding naming practices and any resulting impacts on identity, I explored three couples from two popular television sitcoms.  The three case studies allowed me to explore not only examples of how the conversations were performed, but other issues brought up during the dialogues.  While a sitcom does not portray a real live conversation between interactants, the humor of a sitcom is the way it subtly manipulates real situations, feelings, and conversations.  Walsh, Fürsich, and Jefferson (2008) suggested gender role portrayals, specifically through the humor in sitcoms, (re)presented traditional gender roles in mass media contexts.

            The shows How I Met Your Mother (abbreviated to Mother from here forward) and Friends were appropriate for my case studies for several reasons. Each show targets the age group most likely to be considering marriage in the United States today.  According to Elliot and Simmons (2011), the U.S. Census Bureau found of those getting married in 2009, nearly 65% of men and nearly 70% of women got married between 15 and 34 years of age.  The characters on Mother and Friends range between 25 and 35 years old, suggesting the conversations and situations portrayed are representational of and relevant to individuals within the similar age group.  Friends and Mother depict setting appropriate clothing, hair, make-up, and other popular culture references for the time periods in which they were filmed (Friends from 1994 to 2004 and Mother from 2005 to present), suggesting writers attempted to (re)create both visually and through content realistic events. Additionally, both shows are popular; Friends was nominated for over one hundred different awards and ran for over 10 seasons (, n.d.).  Mother has run for eight seasons and has either won or been nominated for over 70 awards (, including the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy in 2009 (Academy of Television and Arts Sciences, n.d.) and the People’s Choice award for Favorite Network TV Comedy in 2012 (  Gorman (2011, November) and Seidmen (2011, November) suggested between five million to 10 million people viewed each new episode of Mother in 2011.   The enduring popularity of Friends, labeled by McClellan (2006) as a classic television program on par with M*A*S*H and The Mary Tyler Moore show and the ratings success of Mother illustrate the potential impact these shows have on a large number of people living in the United States. In-depth analysis of three couples portrayed on two shows is acceptable because this case study is the first study analyzing sitcoms for marital surname dialogue. The two shows provide suitable texts for cultural analysis.

            To gather the specific texts from which I would do my analysis, I located major scenes wherein couples discussed names or naming in the context of the marriage ceremony.  Through a line-by-line analysis of each conversation, I explored the naming practice discussions, portrayed couple norms, and related topics of discussion. Detailed textual analysis is justified, as Dines and Humez (2011) suggested close textual analysis leads to “ Analyzing the dialogues each couple shared regarding naming practices requires understanding both the couple’s relationship and the specific contexts in which the dialogues took place, so contextual explanations will be included in the analysis.  Additionally, I sought to articulate the reasons why dialogues were funny to identify which cultural norms were being manipulated. As Senzani (2010) argued “humor can either be used to strategically contain oppositional discourses that find their way into television shows, or to reinforce them, by unveiling the constructedness of social norms and role” (p. 246). 

            To analyze each case study, I used a combination of thematic analysis and narrative analysis. Braun and Clarke (2006) defined thematic analysis as “a method for identifying, analysing [sic] and reporting patterns (themes) within data” (p. 79). Specifically, I inductively coded the data (basing my coding and thematic analysis on emergent themes). To add nuance to my coding, I additionally analyzed narrative components surrounding the specific marital surname choice data.    Oikkonen (2013) described narrative as the “textual engine that keeps the story going” (p. 298). Narrative analysis explores the ways the narrative impacts the themes.  Therefore, by coding the data to recognize patterns and exploring the context of the narrative within which it was situated, I was able to describe in a nuanced fashion the cultural portrayals of surname choice dialogues within these sitcom episodes.

            Each case study required a slightly different analysis and reporting style.  Case Study one involved name and identity negotiations.  Case Study one includes more of the episode’s storyline to explain the name and connected identity negotiations.  Case Study two involved a more straightforward thematic analysis, so it is reported in a more topical than narrative manner.  Case Study three combined both name/relationship negotiations and more thematic analysis, so it uses both the narrative storyline as well as a more broadly topical thematic analysis.

Case Study 1: Lily and Marshall in Mother-Name/Identity Negotiation

            Lily Aldrin (played by Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall Ericksen (played by Jason Segel) were a couple portrayed in the Mother series.  At the point in the series where their marital surname discussions took place, Lily and Marshall were engaged and had been together for over seven years.  Marshall, a lawyer, and Lily, a kindergarten teacher, both had quirky identity characteristics. Several discussions regarding names and naming practices were held by both the couple and related characters. 

            Two episodes included dialogue regarding their surname choices: “Belly Full of Turkey” (Miller and Fryman, 2006) and “Something Blue” (Bays, Thomas, and Fryman, 2007). “Belly Full of Turkey” (Miller and Fryman, 2006, shortened to “Turkey” from here forward) began with Marshall and Lily travelling from New York City (where they lived) to St. Cloud, Minnesota (Marshall’s childhood home), for Thanksgiving.   Shortly after their arrival, Marshall and the men in the family went outside to play a made-up family game, and Lily and the women went to the kitchen to make the meal.  Several times throughout the episode members of the Ericksen family made comments suggesting they assumed Lily would take Marshall’s surname when the couple got married.  Eventually Lily revealed her intention to keep her name, which led to questions about other relationship intentions.  When Lily and Marshall finally discussed name options and other long-term commitment concerns, they realized the details mattered less than the happiness they found in one another.  “Something Blue” (Bays, Thomas, and Fryman, 2007, shortened to “Blue” from here forward) occurred just after Lily and Marshall got married.  Lily and Marshall discussed whether or not they were happy with each other keeping their own names.  Jokingly, they toyed with the notion of creating a new last name, and even extended the name to their future children.  They concluded they loved one another, and the name didn’t matter.

            Each name discussion eventually shifted to other issues of long-term commitment and concluded with the realization that a name didn’t impact the couple’s commitment to one another.  Shifts in conversations indicate discussions about names and naming often were a segue to other long-term relationship considerations for the identity of the couple and thereby each individual in the couple.  Conversational conclusions indicate the apparent lack of concern couples felt regarding name outcomes.  The following paragraphs describe specific events or discussions and the ways they connected to Marshall and Lily’s individual and relational identities. 

            Bask-ice-ballShortly after Lily and Marshall arrived at Marshall’s parents’ house in “Turkey” (Miller and Fryman, 2006), his father commanded the men to play a tradition family game called baskiceball [sic], a combination of basketball and hockey.  The name baskiceball was intended to be humorous to the audience (as depicted by Lily’s chuckling response to the name), though the Ericksen family embraced it. Discussions surrounding the game’s name were analogous to the discussions had throughout the episode regarding Lily’s name choice. Lily questioned the name of the game and suggested iceketball [sic] would be more appropriate.  The Ericksen family responded with comments such as “that just sounds weird” and “it’s baskiceball, okay?” (Miller and Fryman, 2006).  Throughout the episode, Lily accepted without comment several differences between the Aldrin and the Ericksen families.  However, when Lily suggested a different name choice for this game, the Ericksens responded with distain, negativity, and by questioning her intelligence.  When Lily revealed she was not changing her name while the family was eating dinner, she received this same negativity and resistance from the Ericksen family (which will be discussed in an upcoming section). 

            Baskiceball was described by Marshall as “the most dangerous and awesome sport in the world…[but] not really a sport for a girl” (Miller and Fryman, 2006).  Thus baskiceball was a metaphor Lily’s name negotiations and also suggested specific gender identities in the Ericksen family.  While initially described as dangerous in a positive light, Marshall later described it negatively as “really dangerous” and a game where the men “just wail on each other” (Miller and Fryman).  The men playing the game postured to one another regarding superiority and violence against one another; the humor came from the disconnect between Marshall’s actions during baskiceball and his usual gender identity characteristics. Women’s roles were further established by the insinuation that they shouldn’t (or couldn’t) play baskiceball because being dangerous, tough, and strong were not activities at which they should (or would) be good. Instead of baskiceball, the women cooked the Thanksgiving dinner, which was the role they were apparently more suited to fill. 

            Though the discussion of baskiceball’s name and the connected discussion illustrating Ericksen family gender roles did not explicitly negotiate Lily’s name, they were clearly a metaphor for the conversation Lily and the Ericksens had later in the episode.  Additionally, though the gender roles demonstrated did not directly relate to the naming practices chosen by Lily and Marshall, the presence of these discussions in conjunction with name negotiations suggest the concepts are related, at least tangentially.  With the ascribed roles associated with the Ericksen name, and their apparent distance from the Aldrin family ascribed roles, Lily’s reaction was not surprising.

            Preparing the meal. While Marshall and the Ericksen men played baskiceball, Lily and the Ericksen women prepared the Thanksgiving meal.  During meal preparations, Mrs. Ericksen gave Lily a blue apron and said “I know it’s early, but you are a future Mrs. Ericksen!” (Miller and Fryman, 2006).  Lily clearly did not like the apron, which featured a large cross stitched “Mrs. Ericksen” across the front, because it did not match her chic, younger clothing style (which made the scene funny).  Despite her dislike, she tried to appear to appreciate the gesture of inclusion.  The apron was a material representation of the different fashion styles she needed to adopt to become a Mrs. Ericksen.  Again during the kitchen scene, she was confronted with a difference in opinion for acceptable behavior, but she refrained from making negative comments regarding Ericksen traditions. 

            While wearing the Mrs. Ericksen apron, Lily was taught how an Ericksen woman cooked, effectively suggesting Lily’s cooking was wrong or inadequate.  When Lily suggested a “frisee and endive salad with a coriander lime vinaigrette” (Miller and Fryman, 2006), her dish (and further her cooking style) was mocked as un-American.  Lily was told the salad she must make was a secret family recipe: a seven layer salad that included 16 cups of mayonnaise, Funyuns, and potato chips.  Marshall later in the episode stated “I’m Funyuns and mayonnaise and gummy bears and baskiceball” (Miller and Fryman, emphasis added), pleading with Lily to understand she needed to accept the Ericksen food as part of being in the Ericksen family. 

            After learning how to cook as an Ericksen woman, Lily received pressure to get pregnant.  Lily attempted to avoid the conversation, but the Ericksen women persisted. Mrs. Ericksen relayed her son’s birth weight, a whopping 15 pounds, was slightly smaller than the Thanksgiving turkey.  As Lily was played by a petite actress, a turkey-sized baby was preposterous (and therefore funny).  The pregnancy conversation suggested the gender roles necessary by a woman (in this case literally) putting on the Ericksen family name.

            Though the Ericksen name was not directly tied to notions of pregnancy, food, the apron, or fashion, they all became implicated by the dialogues surrounding naming practice negotiations and assumptions.  Gender roles within a relationship impact the person playing those roles and the roles of the person’s partner.  If Lily was to adopt the Ericksen woman role it would shift her identity, resulting in the relationship and ultimately Marshall’s identities shifting.  Thus, discussions about names can lead to dialogue regarding big relationship decisions and identities.

            Conversation at the dinner table.  Two male gender roles were established during dinner table conversation just before Lily revealed her intention to keep her birth surname.  Before beginning the meal, Mr. Ericksen led the family in prayer, which indicated religious leadership was a male Ericksen gender role.  Then, amid other dinner conversation, Mr. Ericksen suggested pregnancy was a common occurrence for Ericksen women because “those Ericksen boys’ boys can swim. They've got two tails and a drill bit for a head” (Miller and Fryman, 2006).  Mr. Ericksen’s suggestion regarding Ericksen men’s superior sperm implied Ericksen manhood depended upon the ability to impregnate their spouses.  Implicitly, the line disclosed a subtle homophobic message; if a man can’t impregnate his partner, he is not an Ericksen man.  The sperm lines came directly before Lily relayed her intention to keep her name, which again connected pregnancy (and gender roles) to name negotiations.

            When Lily finally asserted her intention to keep her birth surname, the Ericksens responded with three main arguments: “but the apron,” “Ericksen is a great last name,” and “people know the Ericksens” (Miller and Fryman, 2006).  Lily responded with the arguments “I’ve decided, I’m keeping my own name” and “sure, [people know the name] in St. Cloud but our kids aren't gonna be growing up in St. Cloud,” (Miller and Fryman).  Implicated in the arguments were many notions about a name being more than a label.

            Lily’s comment “I’ve decided, I’m keeping my name” (Miller and Fryman, 2006) suggested a person has agency over her or his name.  While others may not agree with the choice, the control belongs with the individual being referred to by the name.   The Ericksens quickly offered reasons why Lily should change her name, indicating they didn’t acknowledge her name choice agency.  While some reasons were most likely reactionary (such as the aesthetic quality of the name Ericksen), their suggestion about how “people know the Ericksens,” (Miller and Fryman) implied the name Ericksen was prestigious in St. Cloud and the assumption Lily and Marshall would eventually live in St. Cloud.  The name “Ericksen” proudly conveyed a family connection (discussed more in later sections of this essay) and a specific group identity in St. Cloud (a specific geographic location).  Thus the name and the community of which it was a part offered specific benefits; the Ericksen family did not want Lily to lose the benefits.

            Living in St. Cloud was another material identity aspect of being an Ericksen. During the episode, the Ericksens suggested geographical location was an important part of being an Ericksen.  When Marshall entered his parents’ home, he shouted “we’re home” (Miller and Fryman, 2006, emphasis added), suggesting his excitement in returning to his identity formation location as well as the assumption Lily felt at home there too.  He asked Lily “can't you see why everybody from my high school stays in this town?” (Miller and Fryman).   What Marshall failed to recognize was how out of place Lily felt.

            Finally, Mrs. Ericksen was already cross-stitched onto an apron for Lily before anyone even discussed Lily’s name choice with her.  The work and finality of Lily’s assumed decision indicated an unyielding family tradition.  Every woman married to an Ericksen man wore an apron bearing the Ericksen family name and seemed to carry the Ericksen name happily.  When Lily relayed she would keep her name, she threatened an Ericksen family tradition.  When a practice/name was foreign (as in, not Ericksen), the Ericksens rejected it.  Explicitly discussed naming practices between Lily and members of the Ericksen family (including Marshall) were always in conjunction with other long-term commitment and family identity conversations.   Indicated, then, are the connections between the name an individual chooses, the impacts it has on others involved in the process, the long term relationship considerations, and the identities of the individuals, the relationship, and the groups involved.

            “Blue.”  After Lily and Marshall got married, there was a short scene included where their name choices were explicitly made public.  Lily and Marshall had a brief conversation where they were both expressed regret over not “sharing a last name” (Miller and Fryman, 2006).  Three major themes emerged from their conversation: the name indicates a family unit; the changing institution of marriage; and the functional aspect of a name.  Discussion in the “Turkey” episode already addressed issues of the name as an indication of a family unit and/or a group identity.  In “Blue,” Lily acknowledged Marshall and her regret over not having the same name to demonstrate family unity.  Sharing a last name indicates to others which individuals belong to the same group.  If an individual or group share a name with others in a community, it further connects people to the social and biological roots of the group, as well as the roots to those individuals.  Individuals seeking family name connections often want to keep their family lines going through passing the surname on to their children.  Implied, then, is the notion that some individuals make their surname choices based on the importance placed on family unity, family ties, and group identity.

            When asked if he was sad about not sharing a name, Marshall responded “in a totally evolved 21st-century kind of way yeah, a little” (Miller and Fryman, 2006), which suggested although Marshall was sad, he accepted the changing nature of marriage and relationships. Lily and Marshall considered creating a new name together, such as Skywalker, Hasselhoff, or Awesome.  While Lily’s enthusiasm indicated she believed she might be the first person to consider creating a new name together, but Mr. and Mrs. New Name has become a slightly more acceptable option for couples getting married.  Having multiple options available allows choice rather than a strict formula.  Men and women still have much to accomplish before each have equal rights, but women especially and men to an extent have generally achieved more agency over the ways they wish to perform their genders at any given time.  Shifting gender roles in individual identities influence the gender roles played in a relational identity.  Perhaps the naming options available now relate to the emerging gender role flexibility. 

            At the end of Lily and Marshall’s new name banter, they referred to one another as Mr. Awesome and Mrs. Awesome.  Though not their actual names, the words became labels by which they could refer to one another.  Mr. Awesome is not similar to the label Marshall Ericksen, but when used in context with the proper explanation behind it, Mr. Awesome functioned as an effective label.  Essentially, a name functions to refer to a specific individual.

            Conclusion.  A final name choice must be made by one person, but the choice may impact others in that individual’s life.  Dialogue regarding naming choices often spark or come about during conversations regarding other commitment and long-term relationship related considerations such as children, long-term couple location, relationship gender roles, and individual and relational identities.  Couples can expect suggestions from family and friends while engaged in naming negotiations.  But as Marshall so eloquently stated in “Turkey,” “look, I don't wanna be exactly like my family, and don't take this the wrong way, but I don't wanna be exactly like your family either. We'll be our own family, and we'll find our own way” (Miller and Fryman, 2006).  Each name choice is a personal decision, but recognizing the potential identity impacts a choice might have on the individual, couple, and family groups can help couples embrace whatever choices they make.

Case Study 2: Monica and Chandler in Friends-Name as Commitment Symbol

            Monica Gellar (played by Courtney Cox Arquette1) and Chandler Bing (played by Matthew Perry) became a couple at the end of season four of the Friends  Monica and Chandler were friends and next-door neighbors for several years before they became a couple.  Before dating Chandler, Monica concluded a serious relationship because her boyfriend did not want to have children.  Chandler’s commitment issues, coupled with Monica’s previous relationship, led them to keep their relationship a secret from most of their friends for nearly an entire season of the show.  Eventually they proposed to one another.  The episodes where Monica and Chandler’s relationship was impacted by naming practices are “The One with the Holiday Armadillo” (Crane, Kaufman, and Malins, 2000, shortened to “Armadillo” from here forward), “The One with Chandler and Monica’s Wedding: Part 1” (Malins and Bright, 2001, shortened to “Part 1” from here forward) and “The One with Chandler and Monica’s Wedding: Part 2” (Crane, Kaufman, and Wright, 2001, shortened to “Part 2” from here forward). 

            “Armadillo” (Crane, Kaufman, and Malins, 2000) was the first conversation regarding the marital names Monica and Chandler would take. The short scene took place in the coffeehouse. Chandler asked Monica if she would take his name when they got married. She said no, citing the weirdness of Bing as a last name. They then have a brief, unrelated conversation with a more neurotic than usual Phoebe (described in the next case study). After Phoebe left, Chandler remarked “Bing doesn’t seem so weird now, does it?” (Crane, Kaufman, and Malins). As this scene is the first mention of their choices it is important to include. “Part 1” (Malins and Bright, 2001) began at the coffeehouse a few hours before Monica and Chandler’s rehearsal dinner on the day before their wedding.  Chandler was controlling his commitment concerns well until the phrase “The Bings” (referring to he, Monica, and their proposed last name) reminded him of the magnitude of the marriage commitment.  Chandler ran away to avoid getting married.  His friends found him and convinced him to get married.  While getting ready for the ceremony, Chandler overheard someone say Monica was pregnant, which again frightened him.  However, instead of running away, he purchased a baby outfit to convey his commitment to Monica and their new family.  Monica had no idea any events transpired until near the end of their ceremony, and she was not actually pregnant.  “Part 2” Crane, Kaufman, and Wright, 2001) ended with the ceremony concluding.

            Within the two part marriage episodes of Friends, Chandler had strong reactions to the concepts of names and the commitments they implicated; Monica was not present for the dialogues.  The major conversation where Chandler explained his commitment fears began with the name being symbolic for commitment, but then expanded to concepts regarding marriage as an institution.  Other dialogue regarding the surname discussed how it indicated a family unit including children.  As the qualitative analysis of Chandler’s name resulted in a more traditionally thematic analysis than Case Study one, it is reported focusing more on those themes rather than following the narrative style used in the Case Study one section. Monica’s assessment of Bing as a weird name was an important discussion, however the evaluation of specific name choices and the functions of a name played a larger role in Phoebe’s name negotiations, so the analysis of that scene will be discussed in Case Study three.

            Name as a symbol of marriage.  Near the beginning of “Part 1” (Malins and Bright, 2001), Chandler was not concerned about the marriage commitment.  He even stated “y’know I keep thinking that something stupid is gonna come up and I’ll go all…Chandler.  [laugh track plays] But nothing has” (Malins and Bright).  Moments later Chandler heard Monica’s new answering machine greeting: “Hi! If you’re calling before Saturday, you’ve reached Monica and Chandler. But if you’re calling after Saturday, you’ve reached Mr. and Mrs. Bing! Please leave a message for [pauses for a moment] the Bings!” (Malins and Bright).  The scene is funny because the phrase the Bings was the “something stupid” which served as the catalyst for the drama throughout the rest of the episode. A name, on its face, is simply a label to identify an individual.  As demonstrated by Chandler’s anxiety about the marriage and the thought of becoming “the Bings,” in practice a name means something more.  Within the answering machine message was the symbolic nature a shared name has for those who hear/bear it.  When said together, Mr. and Mrs. Bing convey a couple status. 

            Chandler’s friends found him after he ran away and the three things Chandler panicked about the most were: “the Bings have horrible marriages;” no one can make marriage work; and “I love her so much, but I’m afr…[marriage is] too huge” (Malins and Bright, 2001).  His first concern stemmed from the terrible relationship his mother and father had, due in part to Mr. Bing revealing his non-heterosexuality and propensity for cross-dressing during Chandler’s youth.  Chandler and Monica were nothing like Chandler’s parents, but the fear of becoming his parents simply because of marriage (symbolized by sharing the name) reminded him of why he feared commitment. 

            Chandler also shared concerns about marriage as an institution being flawed and how love was not enough to make marriage work.  His generic marriage concern comments immediately followed Chandler’s concerns with the shared name, which supports the notion name conversations connect to or are catalysts for other long-term relationship dialogue.  When Chandler began questioning marriage in general, he did so on the basis of flawed marriages he’d experienced (in a somewhat general sense) and how it took a specific type of man, such as Paul Newman, to “make marriage work” (Malins and Bright, 2001).  Interestingly, Chandler looked to the media’s portrayal of marriage for role models, but when he compared himself to Paul Newman he did not see any resemblance, which made him question his ability to successfully be married.  Despite his professed love for Monica, Chandler appeared to fear what their relationship would become after getting married, suggesting he did not want their relational or his personal identity to change.  Chandler’s anxiety was initiated by being referred to as the Bings, which for him suggested negative personal and relational identity implications. 

Name as a symbol of the family unit.  In addition to the name representing daunting relational obligations, being referred to as The Bings elicited concerns about how soon he would be starting a family.  At the rehearsal dinner his mom declared “soon there’ll be lots of little Bings” (Malins and Bright, 2001), implying the family unit described by the label the Bings would (and should) soon also include additional members.  Amplified by the revelation of Monica’s supposed pregnancy, Chandler felt getting married meant immediate changes to his relationship, thus impacting his relational and personal identities. 

            Eventually Chandler realized his love for Monica superseded his commitment and fatherhood fears and he embraced the Bing name as a symbol of a family unit.  He said during his vows

Monica I thought this was going to be the most difficult thing I ever gonna had to do. But when I saw you walking down that aisle I realized how simple it was. I love you. Any surprises that come our way it’s okay, because I will always love you. You are the person I was meant to spend the rest of my life with. (Malins and Bright, 2001)

Just as Marshall and Lily in Case Study one decided their love for one another mattered more than other details, Chandler realized that with Monica they could manage their relationship. 

            Conclusions.  Chandler and Monica’s story depicted two major themes regarding naming: the name as symbolic of marriage and the name as symbolic of the family unit.  When Chandler ran away from the wedding, it was after he heard the name, which he connected to both specific marriages he’d seen and the concept of marriage in general.  He also connected the name to the magnitude of commitment required to be married to someone, which he had not recognized before the answering machine message.  Additionally, the name symbolized the children Monica and he would eventually raise together, or the family unit he and they would become. 

Case Study 3: Phoebe and Mike in Friends-The Name Chosen Matters

            Phoebe Buffay (played by Lisa Kudrow) and Mike Hannigan (played by Paul Rudd) became a couple during season nine of the Friends series.  The on-again, off-again couple eventually got engaged and married.  Throughout the series, Phoebe revealed her involvement in several marriages, though none of the marriages were permanent due to sexual preference, location, or other factors in the men she’d married.  Her unique worldview created many opportunities for humor in the way she manipulated situations with her quirky behavior.  The episode featuring Phoebe and Mike’s name choices dialogue was called “The One with Princess Consuela” (Carlock, Reilly, and Halvorson, 2004, shortened to “Consuela” from here forward).  Shortly after Phoebe and Mike got married, Phoebe considered changing her name to reflect her marriage.  She consulted Monica and Chandler, Mike, and the man at the name change office before she made her decision to change her name from Phoebe Buffay to Princess Consuela Banana Hammock.  Her friends responded with disbelief, and Mike responded by changing his name from Mike Hannigan to Crap Bag.  They eventually changed their names again: Mike to Mike Hannigan and Phoebe to Phoebe Buffay-Hannigan2.

            When qualitatively analyzing this text, I found both specific themes and more narrative based analysis was needed.  Thus, the reporting done for Case Study three combines both narrative and theme-based description.  Negotiations took place concerning partner support, and power negotiations. Specific themes included the functions and properties of a name, name choice freedom and its limits, the impact a name choice has on others, and the apparent need to change a name when getting married.  Some dialogue between Monica and Chandler regarding their name choices took place during “Consuela” (Carlock, Reilly, and Halvorson, 2004), but the dialogue in “Consuela” impacted Phoebe and Mike’s decision making process more than it impacted the thematic analysis of Monica and Chandler; thus, it is included in Case Study three.

            Name functions and properties.  Discussions between the characters suggested names fulfill certain functions and have certain properties.  The functions a name fulfills included: label; acknowledgment of a relationship; official family membership; and conveyance of social and biological heritage.  Properties possessed by a name included: an entity over which the owner held agency and a living entity capable of continued life or death.

            Rachel, Phoebe’s friend, when moving out of her office after getting fired during the “Consuela” episode, addressed how names in general serve as labels and recognition of personhood.  When one of Rachel’s former colleagues offered condolences, Rachel could not remember his name.  The man asked her “you still don't know my name, do you?” and after recovering from her embarrassment, she replied “well, now I don't have to” (Carlock, Reilly, and Halvorson, 2004).  Implicitly, Rachel was telling the man he was not important enough to remember.  In New York City, home to over eight million people (U.S. Census, 2010), knowing the name of every person encountered would be impossible.  Perhaps learning a person’s name, her or his personal identifier, is a step to granting personhood rather than considering them merely another body.  I don’t think most individuals purposely deny personhood to people we don’t know, however I argue remembering an individual’s name indicates acknowledgement of the individual as more than just one body amid a mass of bodies. The inclusion of this humor in the context of the “Consuela” episode adds a layer of complexity to the way names were portrayed in the episode.

            Once a label has been affixed, the name can then serve several functions, such as to acknowledge relationships between the individual and others.  For instance, when asked by Phoebe about changing her name, Monica relayed “it felt nice to acknowledge this” (Carlock, Reilly, and Halvorson, 2004), referring to her relationship with Chandler.  A shared surname indicates to others that a relationship (be it blood relative, marriage, via adoption, or other) is shared between individuals.  A non-shared surname does not affect the relationship itself, but it does mean other people looking at their names in text cannot assume the relationship’s status unless explicitly communicated.

            Monica then revealed she never changed her name.  She said “it's just the idea of being an official Bing” (Carlock, Reilly, and Halvorson, 2004, emphasis mine) causing her to not hyphenate as she led Chandler and their friends to believe she had.  Part of her desire to not be a Bing stemmed from her evaluation of Bing as a weird surname, as discussed in “Armadillo” (Crane, Kaufman, and Bright, 2001). She did not want to be associated with the odd name, nor did she want to share an explicitly direct connection with the extended Bing family. As discussed in Case Study two, being a Bing also implied being potentially passed social and biological issues associated with the name (rather than with the individual carrying the name).  When Chandler responded “Hey! I will have you know that... aah, who am I kidding? Let's call the kid Geller and let Bing die with me” (Carlock, Reilly, and Halvorson, 2004), he brought humor to the discussion and acknowledged his negative association with the name Bing.  The apparent problems passed with the family name were significant enough for Chandler to not wish the problems onto potential children.

            When Phoebe asked Mike “honey, would you want me to take your name?” he responded “oh, it's just... It's up to you. It's your name. You've got to live with it” (Carlock, Reilly, and Halvorson, 2004).  By referring to Phoebe’s name as a possession over which she had agency, Mike acknowledged how any name decision must be made by Phoebe (the name’s bearer).  In many ways, a name is a possession given to an individual at birth and over which an individual does have agency (excluding social and legal barriers). 

            When Chandler suggested allowing the Bing family name’s discontinuation, he referred to it through the concept of death.  He implied a name is an entity or possession capable of death (by discontinued use) or life (by continued use and carrying on the family name).  Individuals often note their desire to carry on the family name, which perhaps has imbued names with the living entity property.  

            Name freedom and limits.  One of the functions of a name identified in the literature review was as a label for a specific individual.  The individual bearing the name label holds agency over it, as the individual would over any owned possession.  Agency gives name bearers the freedom to choose whatever names they want.  At the name change administration desk, the clerk told Phoebe her “name can be anything you want,” which acknowledged Phoebe’s name agency.  Phoebe took the opportunity to change her name to Princess Consuela Banana Hammock because, as she described to her friends “all right, here's an opportunity to be creative” and “it's fun, it's different, no one else has a name like it” (Carlock, Reilly, and Halvorson, 2004).    As discussed in Case Study one, there is no formula to create the proper name for an individual when getting married (or at any other time for that matter). 

            However, while a name is a label and possession over which the name bearing individual has agency, a name may impact others besides the one who bears it.  When Mike heard Phoebe’s new name, he disliked it and tried to illustrate the limits to name creativity by changing his name to Crap Bag.  Later Phoebe introduced Mike to one of her work associates and realized she was embarrassed to be married to a man named Crap Bag.  Their name choices were humorous because very few people would actually change their names to Crap Bag and Princess Consuela.  The choices also illuminated how a personal identity may be evaluated based on a name choice, which may alter a relational identity.  Phoebe and Mike were still the same couple, but with different names, the ways others saw, judged, and ascribed identity characteristics to them changed, which would change the way they interacted with others, thus changing their performed identities.  Though a seemingly negative impact occurred with more unusual name choices, positive impacts were also possible.  When Phoebe revealed her intent to hyphenate her surname to include Mike’s surname, Mike appeared honored by her choice.  Individuals may choose to consider the impacts a name may have on others to make an informed decision when selecting a surname. 

            Name negotiations concerning partner support and power.  All conversations had by Phoebe and Mike regarding names occurred in a coffeehouse.  Phoebe’s initial uncertainty regarding her name led her to discuss with others their opinions and experiences.  She asked Mike his opinion and he supportively said “it's up to you. It's your name” (Carlock, Reilly, and Halvorson, 2004).   Name choices should be discussed with partners because, as has been discussed, the name an individual chooses will impact the person’s partner.  If a partner does not support a name choice, the partner should at least understand why the choice is being made. 

            Discussions of name non-support instigated a power struggle between Phoebe and Mike regarding whose reasons were better.  Mike’s name change to Crap Bag was based on the principle suggesting name labels, while having no set formula, must reside within certain acceptable frameworks or they will result in identity implications for an individual and the couple.  Phoebe also attempted to control the situation’s power by attempting to support Mike’s decision to change his name, even supporting him by saying “well, then, great. If you love it, I love it” (Carlock, Reilly, and Halvorson, 2004, emphasis added).  Couples should take care when negotiating name practices to be cognizant of when they are using name choice as a power play.

            Need to change the name.  Phoebe’s uncertainty about her name choice and her conversation with the name change administration clerk which began with “I need to change my name” (Carlock, Reilly, and Halvorson, 2004) indicated she felt she needed to change her name, but didn’t really know why.  When I got married, I felt that, as the female partner in a heterosexual relationship, I needed to change my name.  Why is there a need to name change when an individual gets married and from where does the pressure originate?  Do television, movie, and book portrayals suggest name changing is a necessary step?  Is it family or friend pressure?  Standard genealogical charting practice records only birth surnames when recording familial relationships, so from a long-term record-keeping standpoint name change is not necessary.  Perhaps, then, the desire to announce to anyone who sees their names the commitment to one another couples share “necessitates” the name change when getting married.

            Conclusions.  Phoebe and Mike’s story of considering various name options provided several intriguing themes and negotiations regarding naming during relationship formalization. Specific themes included the functions and properties of a name, name choice freedoms and limits, and the apparent need to change a name when getting married.  Negotiations took place concerning partner support and power negotiations. Each negotiation impacted the name decision as well as relationship dynamics and thus the relational identity.  The couple’s story challenged name decision notions for other couples having similar discussions.

            Having analyzed the dialogue in three sitcom case studies, it is clear surname choice and the discussions leading to choices have implications more critical than simply what gets signed on the bottom of a check. Sitcom dialogue is not authentic in that it was not spontaneously created. However, Stokoe (2008) and Tagliamonte and Roberts (2005) both suggested the screenwriters’ knowledge of everyday talk, the script rewrites by countless additional writers, and the actors’ actual dialogue performance lend credibility to the commonplace language used (from the very least a semantic standpoint). Coupled with sitcoms’ reliance on the audience’s ability to identify with characters means the treatment of culturally influenced topics such as marital surname choice provide a unique opportunity to closely examine the dialogue surrounding surname negotiations. I sought to analyze the dialogues as case studies to shed light on the actual experiences couples might face. While my analysis is a first step toward understanding media portrayals and evaluations of marital name choice, additional research is needed.

            Future research may take several directions. One of the main criticisms of Friends and Mother is the depiction of, as McCarroll (2004) described it, “the depiction of a lily-white New York” (para. 17). Chidester (2008) criticized the homogeneity in Friends considering New York City “is perhaps the most racially diverse community in the nation” (p. 162). Chidester’s analysis of the absence of non-white faces and Rockler’s (2006) exploration of Friends as an “apolitical and monocultural fantasy” (p. 453) illustrated a few of the problems the all-white sitcom casts produced by their lack of racial diversity and their use of privilege to ignore marginalized identities. Chidester admonished the disregard for privilege in media analysis, arguing we must consider “the extent to which consumption of racialized media products might speak to and reinforce white audiences’ perceptions of themselves as white people and of whiteness as a subject position of stubbornly enduring power and privilege in contemporary U.S. society” (p. 158). While I sought to begin the conversation regarding sitcoms’ treatment of marital name choice dialogues, future research should seek sitcom portrayals of where marginalized voices are heard. If marginalized voices are not heard having these conversations in sitcom dialogue, analysis should be conducted regarding cultural or group limitations preventing name change options. Additional analysis could explore where in the hierarchy of equality the name change options fall when compared to other more basic concerns such as safety or economic opportunity.

            Additional research could explore the polysemic characteristic of sitcom meaning. Empirical data (following the example set by Collins, Elliott, Berry, Kanouse, and Hunter, 2003) could be gathered regarding the conversations that arise following the viewing of marital name choice portrayals. We should also answer Rockler’s (2006) call to explore how “audience members from marginalized groups, or from normative groups, negotiate depoliticized representations of identity politics…[and] the individuals and groups who create this rhetoric as well as the social and political climate within which this discourse forms” (p. 468). Researchers could further explore the ways audiences view the genders of the characters prior to and following marital name choice dialogues, which would shed light on the gender role assumptions individuals associate with marital name choice. While marital name choice is only one facet of our complicated individual identities, the magnitude of a name as the everyday signifier of an individual that both differentiates from and associates with others demonstrates the usefulness of this line of study.

            Situational comedies such as How I Met Your Mother and Friends are useful ways to examine trends regarding social phenomena such as name choice during relationship formalization.  On its face, name change may seem to be a fairly straightforward decision to make without lasting implications and impacts for members of the couple and other significant individuals in their lives.  Though many times not implicated directly by the name conversations, individual and relational identities were discussed in conjunction with name choice conversations, suggesting the name discussion may segue into other long-term commitment, relationship, and identity conversations.  As the case studies illustrated, individual name choices impact more than just the individual.  



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Possible Naming Options for Men and Women


Action Taken with Male Surname

Action Taken with Female Surname

Mr. and Mrs. His Name

Stays the Same

Changes to Man’s

Mr. and Mrs. Her Name

Changes to Woman’s

Stays the Same

Mr. His and Mrs. Hers

Stays the Same

Stays the Same

Mr. and Mrs. New Name

Changes to New Name (as Chosen by Couple)

Changes to New Name (as Chosen by Couple)

Mrs. Hers His

Stays the Same

Adds Man’s Name as Her Surname and Shifts Her Surname to Her Middle Name

Mr. and Mrs. Hers His (or His Hers)

Adds Her Surname to His Surname (2 surnames separated by a space)

Adds His Surname to Her Surname (2 surnames separated by a space)

Mr. and Mrs. Hers-His (or His-Hers)

Adds Her Surname to His Surname (2 surnames separated by a hyphen)

Adds His Surname to Her Surname (2 surnames separated by a hyphen)





1 At the time of filming, the actress’s name was Courtney Cox Arquette. Currently she is separated from her former partner, so her name is now Courtney Cox. As a name is subject to change and, like matter, exists within a specific time and place, it is appropriate to refer to the actress by the name she carried when she played the role.

2 I cannot confirm the character’s last name was hyphenated. The popularity of hyphenated last names in the 1990s suggests this would be the case. It was not until hyphenated surnames received a negative connotation a few years later that the non-hyphenated dual last name (Mrs. Hers [space] His) gained popularity.