Cover image for Fellow Developers, What Should Our Last Name Be?

Fellow Developers, What Should Our Last Name Be?

audreyfeldroy profile image Audrey Feldroy ใƒป3 min read

When @DanielRoyGreenfeld and I got married, I took the "Greenfeld" part of his name, and he took the "Roy" part of my name.

We thought it was a nice gesture showing the world that he belongs to me and I belong to him. It seemed like a kind, modern thing to do for each other as a 21st-century couple willing to start new traditions. It also allowed us to carry on both of our last names to the next generation. Our daughter's last name is the same as ours, "Roy Greenfeld".

Our original choice of Roy Greenfeld as the spelling has led to confusion:

  • We get emails saying "Hi Roy" or "Hi Audrey and Roy" on a daily basis.
  • Our mail sometimes gets filed under G for Greenfeld, and other times under R for Roy.

As developers, we know that if we don't fix this bug now, it'll be a lot worse later. Technical debt accumulates. In this case it's even getting passed on to our cute little one ๐Ÿผ

The power to save us from system errors is in your hands

Our Current Iteration

Our quest for a more system-friendly name has led to a fork in the road. Here are the two options we're waffling on:

Option A: Roy-Greenfeld (Traditional but Buggy)

Hyphenating seemed like the most common solution, so we tried it. The next day we waited at the hardware store for half an hour while they couldn't find our name in their system, just 10 minutes after they had entered it into their system.

Hyphens get turned into spaces in some systems, and removed from names in other systems.

Running into a name bug within a day of the change from "Roy Greenfeld" to "Roy-Greenfeld" meant we still had work to do.

Option B: RoyGreenfeld (The PascalCase Version)

With this option, we remove the hyphen and smash the names together, PascalCase-style.

It feels funny, but it seems like the natural next step.

You never know the results until they're deployed to production, so I've been changing my online profiles everywhere to "RoyGreenfeld" to see what happens.

Uma Thinks

Future Possibilities

We'll probably run into bugs and have to iterate further. Here are possible resolutions:

royGreenfeld (The camelCase Version)

This may reduce the chance of people mistakenly addressing Daniel as "Roy" in emails. The lowercase "roy" means it's less likely to be interpreted as a first name.

A lot of software insists on capitalizing the first letter of the surname, though.

Roygreenfeld (Like a Standard Surname)

Most last names in the United States have a capital letter followed by lowercase letters, so systems are good at handling that.

It doesn't solve the "feld" part getting mistyped as "field" though.

Roygreenfield (Easier to Spell but Longer)

Sure, it may be easier to spell, but it's now longer and likely to get truncated. 13 characters is a lot. Systems often truncate last names at 12 characters. Paper forms with those little lines between each character only have so much space.

Roygreen (Simpler but Still Confusing)

This version probably minimizes system errors. But it's prone to human error because it's not a common last name. It sounds like some guy named "Roy Green" rather than a surname.

Groynfeld (More Surnamey but Awkward)

To the American ear, this version sounds more like a surname, reducing human error. But it's embarrassing to say, so it's not a realistic option. And it's hard to spell. Let's just say it would probably be misspelled "Groinfeld" and be awkward.

Key Takeaways

  1. Systems are prone to programmer and human error.
  2. When you discover technical debt, iterate early and fast.
  3. Naming is hard.
  4. Naming yourself, your spouse, and your baby is even harder.

Your Challenge

Help us decide what to adopt as our surname, in a way that minimizes errors while preserving our family names as much as possible.

Seriously, @DanielRoyGreenfeld and I'll be grateful for any anecdotes you share in the comments below.

I'm particularly interested in hearing from anyone who decided on a combined name with their spouse.

Posted on Mar 7 by:

audreyfeldroy profile

Audrey Feldroy


Engineer, artist, and writer. Co-author of Two Scoops of Django and Django Crash Course. Core committer to @danielfeldroy ๐Ÿ’˜and Uma ๐Ÿผ Formerly a RoyGreenfeld.


The little creative company behind Two Scoops Press, Impossible Hero Books, Fuzzy Rainbow, and an upcoming SaaS product.


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My thought is Royfeld. Itโ€™s one word and the .com is available (obviously the most important reason to choose a name).


I like this because it's the first part of my surname and the last part of his, and it keeps the interesting "feldiness" quality. I bought royfeld.com.


the .com is available

greenroy.com too!


Definitely the option I would have gone for! ๐Ÿค˜๐Ÿป


This is the wholesome content I came to dev.to to see ๐Ÿ˜ƒ Why not mix it up with Feldroy? Seems cool and science-fiction-y.


There is something futuristic and 22nd-century about Feldroy. I could see our grandkids learning to walk on their smart walkers and having that last name. I bought feldroy.com.


Wait, did you actually change your name to Feldroy? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ This is wicked....after all the problems and questions posed to me that I've somehow manged to solve, this is by far the coolest and most unique that I will tell people about. Congrats on the new name!

Yep, we're in the process of changing it! It's a bit complicated with COVID-19 closures shutting down much of Los Angeles government, but we're starting with the things we can change, like online profiles and our website. Your suggestion was a huge help to us, and your little explanation was what tipped the scales toward us making the move to Feldroy, so thank you so much for that. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿงก


+1 for Feldroy. Feels like the name of a hypothetical protagonist of a book by Aldous Huxley



Similar convention to the name "Elroy" or "Conroy"

At least nobody in this mix will end up being named Brogan BamBrogan


I like it a lot...it came up in brainstorming but we hadn't considered it seriously until now. I bought greenroy.com.


I'll switch to greenroy if the next book we write together lists you first as the author. โ™ฅ๏ธโ™ฅ๏ธโ™ฅ๏ธ


If you decide to change tack completely and cause the most system errors possible, you could always change your surname to โ€™;DROP DATABASE


First of all, congrats with the Feldroy company name, I think it sounds... different, but in a good way! ๐Ÿ‘

The Problem

This isn't some new corner case, but something that has been a problem for many years and sadly continues to be a problem, even in applications created today.
A massive update to information systems all over the world, and especially in the US is needed.
Most of it boils down to improper normalization rules and limited support for using multiple character-sets.

As a software engineer, it's extremely narrow-minded to assume that:

  • People have exactly N names, for any value of N
  • Peopleโ€™s names fit within a certain defined amount of space
  • Peopleโ€™s names are always written in ASCII
  • Peopleโ€™s names are written in any single character set
  • Peopleโ€™s names are all mapped in Unicode code points
  • We'll never have to deal with names from China
  • Or Japan
  • Or Korea
  • Or Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Russia, Sweden, Botswana, South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti or France (all of which use "weird" non-US like naming schemes)
  • Two different systems containing data about the same person will always use the same name for that person
  • Peopleโ€™s names always have an order to them So, picking any ordering scheme will automatically result in consistent ordering among all systems, as long as both use the same ordering scheme for the same name, right?
  • Peopleโ€™s names sometimes have prefixes or suffixes, but you can safely ignore those

Still, this happens more often than one would like to believe, so maybe extreme measures are required, like in this XKCD strip:


Great points here, The Furious Ape. I totally agree on systems badly needing an update. It's complex enough of a problem that we need a common spec telling developers how to implement such an update.


Yes. This would require massive effort. One thing is to fix a schema here and there, but considering that lots of back-end systems for the entire financial / banking system and some of the most critical government software are still systems written using COBOL, that has to be able to map and sort this up in the end, the task is rather monumental...


Yup. That was a reference I used for picking the points I thought was most relevant in my comment. Some of it may be a little over the top, but lots of truth there.

I would also advice anyone to read John Graham-Cumming's article
about the frustrating state of affairs.
Considering the publication date (10 years ago) not much have changed...

Doesn't bring a lot of hope...

I have a strong feeling that in John's particular case it was not only the hyphen that was the issue... :D


I lost it at the "this is your chance to save our family from system errors" picture.


I like RoyGreenfeld.


Thanks for the feedback, that's helpful as RoyGreenfeld looks a bit weird to my eye still when I see it in the Dev.to sidebar as I type. But we're trying it out to see if it grows on us.

I'm happy you liked the picture ๐Ÿ˜Š


Growfield combination of both names, does add that i and w in exchange for dropping the een. It could just be Growfeld as well since feld is german for field anyways but may be more likely to get misspelled. Symbolizes a new tomorrow of combined families.


This is beautiful and so clever. I love the symbolism! I found growfield.com was taken, but I bought growfeld.com.


Haha, thanks for taking the time to share that. Gallant-King is an amazingly fun name, I love that.


What if they named a son Arthur?

They could also change King to Queen and name a daughter Victoria!


I recommend against camelCase for family names.
A few years ago, on the first day of class, I'm calling roll.
...Davis, Edwards, Holdridge...
One student starts to look nervous.
...Vinton, Wendt, Wilson...
He's dancing in his seat.
...Zrust, and finally
He relaxes.
And that is the day I explained the ASCII table to freshmen on their first day of college.


Great story! Okay, royGreenfeld is ruled out.


I liked how you and your husband changed your last name to show each other your love! Guess I will try this I will get married! ๐Ÿ˜‚


You both keep your own names: this merge feature doesn't bring any value to the software.

As for your daughter name, unless you can rollback the migration, you can still decide her last name by playing shifumi, which is both modern and bold.


I came to suggest Greenroy (first choice) and Royfeld. I see those have already both been suggested, so just count this as my additional vote for either of those options!


Just to commiserate with you, my daughter is originally from another country which uses 2 last names as common practice. This is too confusing for most American systems (human and computer). It seems the first last name is usually assumed to be a 2nd middle name. And she is usually referred to by the last last name. Even though historically the first last name is considered the primary one.

Probably obvious to you already, but I think there is additional confusion in your particular case because Roy is a common American first name. So, Roy Greenfeld sounds like its own first/last name combo. And it looks like an accidental name nested in another name. I had a moment of confusion myself when I saw your post.

I like the other suggestions of "Greenroy" "Feldroy" "Royfeld". On cursory lookup, Roy means "king" and Greenfeld means "green field". So you could also go with something like Kingfield. :)


greenroy? please tell us when you decide the final name cause we all are into this now๐Ÿฅบ


I have heard of some couples tracing up both their family trees far enough till they find a common last name & use that. But that's rare.


This is a really interesting idea. @danielroygreenfeld this could be fun for us to do ๐Ÿ˜„


This is a great post. Now we just all have to remember that the bug is not the name being used, but the systems that cannot handle expected input in name fields.


Seinfeld. It still has the "feld" in it.


Really great, novel read!


I've never understood this practice of "taking the name" of your spouse.

In the most common tradition, the wife's last name just changes - it always seemed to me like she becomes "property" of the husband. Relic of a patriarchal society.

Your approach is far more advanced and respectful, but facing all those doubts and questions is a little silly IMO ๐Ÿ˜…

So my suggestion would be: just keep your original last names. It's your love that will show that you're married ๐Ÿ˜Š
Many countries do that and they don't feel incapacitated just because they don't get to say "the Roys" or "the Greenfelds" when referring to a family.

Of course that would be too late for you folks. But I honestly don't know what to suggest.

By the way, in Spain the children get two last names by default ๐Ÿ˜‰ It's still a little man-centric (the father's first surname comes first and that's the one that's inherited), but shows that there's plenty of traditions to get inspiration from.


I guess one famous example that comes to mind is Jennifer Mulhern Granholm and her husband Daniel Granholm Mulhern, the former governor and former first gentleman of Michigan, respectively.


GreenFieldOfJoy ? :-)

Or you make it sound like you are French aristocrats ? Audrey and Roy du Champs de La Joie Verte


If someone is changing their name, why would it ever be anything but Inigo Montoya.

Think of all the masterful introductions you'd have the rest of your life.


A quick update: @danielfeldroy and I have changed our last names to Feldroy on DEV. We also updated our company org name.

We're testing it here on DEV first to see how it feels before we deploy the change to our GitHub, Twitter, and other online profiles. Then after we see how that goes, we may gain the courage to move roygreenfeld.com to feldroy.com. So yeah, you heard it here first and were a part of making this change in our lives ๐Ÿ’—


My wife took my surname but kept her Chinese name. So she uses either.

Our daughter has my English name too and my wife's Chinese surname name so can do the same


I look forward to family photos with Placeholder Greeneryfold.