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Shed the Family Name

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Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father, and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
Juliet Capulet to Romeo Montague, Romeo and Juliet

As names are for people in real life, they are an integral part of the identities of fictional characters. They will usually be made up of at least a given name and a last name linking them to one part of their family. Therefore, you can count on any person who wants to disassociate themselves from any family member sharing it by doffing the name that links them. In most cases, this family member is the father, due to long-standing traditions involving the woman's adoption of her husband's surname and the bestowal of the father's surname to all of his children. Unlike your standard Meaningful Rename, which is usually part of the story's narrative and its significance derived from the meaning of the new name, this practice is marked by what is renounced: the part of the name linking the person to his or her despised family member.


This can be done in a variety of forms. In cases where this issue comes up in The Maiden Name Debate, a much bigger deal will be made over a man deciding to change his name as part of the marriage than it would if a woman were to do the same due to the fact that a woman is usually expected to change her name in any case. And speaking of maiden names, a common practice among characters who do this is to take their mother's maiden name (or other equivalent) after renouncing the surname they got from their father. If they were adopted, but had bad birth parents, they may take the name of the adoptive family. Others still will take an entirely different name or give themselves an Awesome McCoolname. In rare cases, the person renaming themselves will decide to go around with Only One Name.

Subtrope of Meaningful Rename. Often overlaps with Nom de Mom or Took the Wife's Name.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass: In his official character profile, it's stated that Rivalz goes by his mother's family name (Cardemond) rather than his father's, implying that he and his father aren't on the best of terms. But since Rivalz is merely one of Those Two Guys in a series that already has a ton of characters, it never gets explored in depth.
  • Subverted in Lyrical Nanoha. Fate opts for a compound name when she's adopted into the Harlaown family rather than fully shed the Testarossa name out of respect for her biological mother Preica (despite the fact that Precia had never done anything to be worthy of that respect). Similarly, her wards Erio Mondial and Caro Ru Lushe, don't give up their family names despite having been abandoned by their families.
  • Oishinbo: The male lead holds his Insufferable Genius father responsible for the death of his mother, so uses her family name instead of his father's.
  • One Piece:
    • Ace uses his mother's family name Portgas rather than his father's Gol. His reasons for doing so are complicated and sad.
    • Sanji family history and surname, Vinsmoke, is revealed about 800 chapters in. Before that, he never mentioned his family name, not even to his friends.
  • In the Queen's Blade franchise, the main heroine Leina Vance is never referred as such by herself, since she doesn't want to be associated with nobility and her family anymore, not to mention in the sequel, she becomes a masked fugitive, so she doesn't want to be related with her sister Claudette, the new queen.
  • Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee: Largo takes his mother's maiden name of Lloyd after leaving Kagerou.

    Comic Books 
  • Diabolik: Inspector Ginko; everyone calls him Ginko because he shed both his family and his personal name to distance himself from his father upon discovering he was a corrupt judge. Nobody knows neither his original name nor the origins of the new one.
  • In the Silver Age, Lex Luthor's father disowned him and changed the family name to Thorul. This came to light when Lex's long-lost baby sister turned up.
  • Parody detective Nick Knatterton really is Nikolaus Freiherr (baron) von der Knatter. His aristocratic family insisted that he used a pseudonym lest the fact that he works in an occupation as unsavoury as criminal investigation besmirch the family name.
  • In Nikolai Dante:
    • When most of the Romanovs are dead, Nikolai suggests Viktor take the name Dante, as they are half-brothers. Viktor does consider it, but then flies away forever.
    • Nikolai himself inverts it after his duel with Jena during the "Tsar Wars" arc by taking on the Romanov name. At the end of the war, he reverts to Dante.
  • Richard Dragon started working on switching out his abusive father's last name for Dragon back when he was a child and has completely abandoned it as an adult.
  • Spider-Man villain Sandman was born William Baker, but uses the name Flint Marko so his mom won't find out he's a criminal.
  • In some versions of Batman, The Riddler's real name was not originally Edward Nygma, he legally changed it from Nashton to distance himself from his emotionally and physically abusive father,and to further sell his gimmick.
  • In Y: The Last Man, Dr. Mann took her name from Mann's Chinese Theatre to spite her father, who was a jerk and accidentally caused the gendercide in the process of sabotaging her work.

    Fan Works 
  • In Karma in Retrograde, Touya went by his mother's maiden name, Saeki, instead of his father's name, Todoroki, while he attended U.A. This was both a choice and something forced upon him. Endeavor didn't want a "failure" like Touya using the Todoroki name and Touya didn't want anything to do with his father. This had the unfortunate side effect of letting Touya slip through the cracks, letting him fall down the path of becoming the villain Dabi.
  • The Raven's Plan: After learning that he really is a bastard born of incest, Tommen refuses the opportunity to be legitimized as a Lannister, rejecting his corrupt family's identity, preferring to take the bastard name of Waters. Tyrion is understanding of his feelings and lets him do this, hoping that he'll change his mind later on.
  • In Skyhold Academy Yearbook, sharing the backstory of their relationship reveals that Fenris did this when he married Hawke, taking his wife's surname rather than the other way around. Of course, in the actual game he doesn't have a surname, but in the fic universe it's this trope; he becomes a Hawke as a sign that he has put his Dark and Troubled Past behind him.
  • The Naruto fic Wingless explain Tenten's apparent lack of a surname as being due to this. She denounced her last name after her parents died.
  • A Man of Iron: When Theon rejects the Ironborn as his people in response to his Heel Realization about their culture, he also abandons the name Greyjoy, instead just calling himself "Theon of Winterfell". He's later given the opportunity to take the name Bracken (in honor of his close bond with his late mentor Jonos Bracken), which he does.
  • In Lessons Learned, Katsuki sheds his last name as part of separating from his Abusive Parents, deciding that he is no longer a Bakugou. He's adopted by Best Jeanist and takes his foster father's last name, Hakamata.
  • Forging a Better Future:
    • Because her relationship with Oliver is so much worse than it was in Arrow: Rebirth, Thea opts to shed the Queen name in favor of the Merlyn one. She later sheds that one too after learning Malcolm nearly caused her to become a sex slave, and becomes Thea Dearden instead, taking on her mother's maiden name. Subverted in Perils/House, where she retakes the Queen name after her stint in rehab sets her straight.
    • At the end of the story, all of Malcolm's actions (including and especially nearly causing Thea to be indentured into the League as a sex slave) convince Tommy to not just renounce his last name in favor of his mother's maiden name Swann, but to get rid of anything and everything connected to the Merlyn name completely. He even goes as far as to change the last name on Rebecca's headstone so it reads Swann, just so her legacy won't be tarnished by Malcolm's actions.

  • In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren is revealed to have once been named Ben Solo. That's right, he's Han and Leia's son, along with Luke's nephew and Anakin/Vader's grandson. Unlike his grandfather, he does not take a Darth name but he is the apparent leader of the 'Knights of Ren' so the concept still stands.
    • Later on, in The Rise of Skywalker, Rey turns out to be the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine. Understandably, by the end, she chooses to abandon that infamous name and adopts Skywalker as her last name, with the approval of Luke and Leia's Force Ghosts.
  • Los Tarantos: In this take on Romeo and Juliet, Juana's father forces her on a guy named Curro because Rafael, the man Juana loves, is in the other Feuding Family. After Curro gives her a beating, Juana confronts her father and says "I renounce my name!"
  • In Warrior, Tommy fights under his mother's name, Riordan, rather than his father's name of Conlan. Partly, this is because he's a deserter from the army and doesn't want to be discovered, but his relationship with his father is sufficiently bad that this trope can still apply.

  • Derek Harris from the Aunt Dimity series so despised his father that he changed his name; he was born Anthony Evelyn Armstrong Seton, Viscount Hailesham. The change is also meaningful since he took the name of the estate's carpenter and he prefers to work with his hands, which is is considered unsuitable for a peer's son.
  • Becoming Anna by Anna J. Michener is a memoir detailing the years of abuse at the hands of her family members that led to her decision to shed her original forename and surname.
  • In The Bloody Red Baron, the undead Edgar Allan Poe dubs himself simply "Edgar Poe", because the middle name is tied to his hated foster father.
  • Blunted Lance by Max Hennessy. Coby Goff's eldest son Robert marries into a wealthy family and adds their name to his own (as well as spelling his own Gough, causing Coby to snark that if their name had been Ball he'd call himself Testicle). He makes a point of bringing up the name change during his "The Reason You Suck" Speech when disinheriting Robert (who wants his father's ancestral manor).
  • The Count of Monte Cristo:
    • Villefort, a Royalist, changed his name to disassociate himself from his Bonapartist father, Noirtier.
    • Albert de Morcerf does this after he finds out what a bastard his father was and his mother even suggests to him that he take her maiden name instead.
  • Creature of Havoc: After the Big Bad's falling out with the Daughters of Dree who raised him, he came to hate the Dree surname so much that he magically wiped every living memory and record of his original name from the world and renamed himself Zharradan Marr.
  • In the Dear America book I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly, Patsy is a newly-freed slave, now a supposedly "free" servant. At breakfast shortly after the war, the former house slaves are discussing what last names they'll take, now that they're no longer slaves. The Cook says she'll use her father's name, George, as her last name, while Patsy's friend Ruth says she and her son Luke will take Johnson, as Luke's father's name is John. Another girl says she can't decide until she gets a chance to speak with her mother, who lives on a different plantation. Patsy herself has a stutter and tends to answer questions slowly, so the Cook assumes she'll take the name Davis, as it's the name of their former owners (and most of the slaves on the plantation do indeed do that), and tells the others as much. Patsy herself is indignant at this, because that's not her name, that's their name, but decides to take her time choosing a name for herself. It takes her two years and it's after she receives mail addressed to "Patsy Davis," but she ultimately decides to rename herself completely, giving herself the name Phillis Frederick after the poet Phillis Wheatley and the abolitionist Frederick Douglas.
  • In Theodor Fontane's Der Stechlin Count von Barby's elder daughter Melusine stops using the surname of her first husband, Count Ghiberti, after their divorce, but interestingly she also does not revert to her maiden name. To those who know her, she is simply Countess Melusine.
  • Eccentric Neighborhoods: Downplayed example. Clotilde Rosales, Roque Vernet's wife, wants her husband to strike out on his own instead of remaining in the family business. He refuses, so she declares that from now on their sons will use both her husband's and her last name together, Vernet Rosales. This way, she sets them apart from the rest of the Vernets.
  • Family Skeleton Mysteries: Nelson Paul McQuaid the Third fell out with his father and legally changed his name to Nelson Paul Mannix, taking his mother's surname. His son goes by the same surname.
  • Firestar Series: A weird variant; Liz Dubois is the daughter of the famous Ned Dubois. Ned pronounces his name the regular way (Dew-Bwah) while Liz, after entering the military academy, pronounces her name as Duh-Boyz so noone will know she's Ned's daughter. The reason for this, as she explains when two of her underclassmen find out, is because she wants to build her own military career, rather than piggyback on her father's accomplishments. When asked why she didn't take a different name entirely, she says it 's because she didn't want to abandon him entirely.
  • In Flowers in the Attic, Chris Sr. and Corrine changed the family surname from Foxworth to Dollanganger after being disowned for their incestuous marriage. When Corrine's children escape from her after she poisons them, killing Cory, Chris Jr. disassociates himself from her by taking the name Sheffield, the man who subsequently adopted them.
  • Throughout the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort, né Tom Marvolo Riddle, repeatedly disparages the given and last names that he got from his filthy Muggle father. Both Dumbledore and Harry refer to him by his real name just to make a point.
  • In Legends of Dune, after Xavier Harkonnen performs a Heroic Sacrifice to kill the evil Grand Patriarch Iblis Ginjo, Ginjo's wife labels him a traitor and elevates her late husband to martyrdom. The stigma on the Harkonnen name results in Xavier's children adopting their mother's name Butler. One of them, Wandra, marries Quentin Vigar, who then changes his name to Butler. Inverted by Quentin's son Abulurd, who finds out the truth about his grandfather and changes his name to Harkonnen despite his father's protests.
  • The events of The Ends of the Circle (second book in the Pelbar Cycle) are kicked off by the deliberate mistreatment of Stel by his wife's family. In the next book, Stel and Ahroe have renounced Ahroe's family name.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Maesters set aside their House names when they take their vows to serve as Honest Advisors, healers, and scholars without politicial bias. This leaves Jon Snow shocked when he learns that the kindly old Maester Aemon comes from legendary Royal Blood.
  • In the Spaceforce series, Jez doesn't use her 'House' name, Aznata (although she did give it when she was presented to the Taysan Empress in the second book). She implies that it's because she fears attack from the Scree, who massacred most of her people and targeted nobles in particular.
  • Jon Cade, the protagonist from the Stones of Power series by David Gemmell, changed his surname to Shannow to distance himself from his brother Daniel Cade, a notorious criminal.
  • In the Ellery Queen novel There Was an Old Woman, Sheila Potts sheds "Potts" because it's tied to her controlling mother and three mad siblings from her mother's first marriage. She takes her father's maiden name of "Brent". At the end of the novel, she further changes her name to "Nikki Porter", becoming Ellery's secretary.
  • In UnWholly, Lev Calder decides to change his surname to Garrity to honor the memory of his recently-killed Parental Substitute after being more or less abandoned by his entire family.
  • Jenna, one of the protagonists of When Dad Killed Mom, asks Karen at the end if she can be Melissa Pierce specifically because she doesn't want her dead half-sister's given name or her dad's surname.
  • A Memoir By Lady Trent: In the short story "The Long Fall", Aaron Mornett goes by his middle name, Geoffrey, and his mother's maiden name, Foss, to try and escape his past.
  • InCryptid: When Dominic and Verity get married, he takes her name, becoming Dominic Price. This is pretty significant as he was the last of his family line, meaning the De Luca name ends with him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Paul Stenbeck from As the World Turns changed his last name to Ryan (his mom's maiden name) to distance himself from his villainous father James.
  • A downplayed example occurs in Doctor Who as Kate Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart dropped the Lethbridge part of her name on entering U.N.I.T. because she wanted to progress solely on her own merit.
    Doctor: Don't despair, Kate; your dad never did. (Kate looks surprised) Kate Stewart, heading up UNIT, changing the way they work - how could you not be? (beat) Why did you drop Lethbridge?
    Kate: I didn't want any favours. Though he guided me, even to the end.
  • Game of Thrones: Inverted Trope. Cersei again takes up the Lannister name as Queen Regent instead of Baratheon.
  • General Hospital: After a car accident left Jason Quartermaine without any memories of his life before the accident, he distanced himself from the Quartermaines... except for his grandmother Lila Morgan Quartermaine, from whom he took his new last name, becoming Jason Morgan, mob enforcer for Sonny Corinthos.
  • Dana Brody on Homeland changes her last name to her mother's maiden name after her father is believed to be responsible for the Langley bombing.
  • Squid Game: In the fourth game, Ji-yeong tells Sae-byeok that her full name is just that, Ji-yeong. When Sae-byeok questions this, she says that she has none, implying that she shed that after killing her abusive father.
  • Star Trek: Discovery: Cleveland "Book" Booker no longer goes by his familial name, Tareckx. He's estranged from his family who worked for the Emerald Chain poaching animals, some nearly to extinction. Book believed that as Kwejians, a species that can telepathically communicate with flora and fauna, they should be helping conserve wildlife. So, he left home, changed his name, and uses his abilities to smuggle endangered species to wildlife preserves. It's also revealed that he took the name of his mentor, who took the name of his mentor, etc. This makes him an example of a Legacy Character via Master-Apprentice Chain.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The Thebaid: In his exile, Polynices hides his incestuous ancestry out of shame. It is only when the king of Argos takes him in that he is obliged to reveal his infamous origin, and even then he mentions his most ancient ancestor, the city he's from, and then his famously gross parents.

  • In an example that doesn't involve bad blood, Barbra Dixon and her mother from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues took Mr. Dixon's surname because her mother's surname reportedly has a long, drug-related rap sheet attached to it.

    Video Games 
  • Rinoa Heartilly in Final Fantasy VIII. Born "Rinoa Caraway", she and her father grew distant ever since Rinoa's mother died in a car accident when she was five. By the time she's 17, Rinoa has taken on her mother's maiden name Heartilly as her own to further distance herself from her father.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, after seeing what his stepbrothers are willing to do against commoners, namely order the death of his best friend's sister, who is a commoner, to kill her abductor, Ramza abandons the Beoulve name and the title it brings, using his commoner mother's last name for the rest of the story.
  • The quarian race in the Mass Effect series have both a clan name and a spaceship name, indicating which spaceship community a quarian belongs to. In Mass Effect 2, Tali'Zorah vas Neema (meaning "of ship Neema") is stripped of her quarian "surname" and renamed to "Tali'Zorah vas Normandy" (the name of the player's ship) when she is suspected of high treason and thus subject to exile. Even if she is cleared of charges, the renaming is not reversed, since her bond with Shepard and the Normandy is much greater than with any quarian ship at the time, anyway. In Mass Effect 3, she comments on the irony of "vas Normandy" being originally intended as a badge of shame but the Normandy later becoming the ship that gives the quarian race their homeworld back.
  • Renne from The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky uses her family name once in the entire series - when she's jerking the cast around by pretending to be a lost child looking for her missing parents, who aren't even in the same country as her at the time. Given that at the time, she had honestly believed that they had sold her as a Sex Slave when she was five, her refusal to be associated with them is understandable. While she does eventually learn that they had nothing to do with that, and thought that she had been dead for years, she never does retake the name of Hayworth, and instead takes up the adoptive surname of Bright after being taken in by Estelle and Joshua.
  • In Super Robot Wars X, Lelouch discards the vi Britannia name when he geasses Marianne in a fully voiced exchange between them.
    Marianne: "Get out of my way, Lelouch! Do you even realize what you're doing?!"
    Lelouch: "Certainly. This time I will obliterate you and Charles zi Britannia utterly."
    Marianne: "You would do that to your own parents?!"
    Lelouch: "A real parent wouldn't have forsaken me and Nunnally!
    Marianne: "Rgh..."
    Lelouch: "You and Charles ran roughshod over me and the rest of the world to get what you wanted. Now you will pay! Lelouch vi Britannia-Nay, a boy named merely Lelouch commands you! Marianne vi Britannia! Cast aside every single memory you have pertaining to Charles zi Britannia!"

  • Miranda in But I'm a Cat Person goes by her mother's surname, Lake. It's also the one she used when entering into the Contract with Poe, meaning that he's not able to say it, but is able to refer to her by her father's surname.
  • Dresden Codak: Kimiko Kusanagi took the name Kim Ross to disassociate herself from her father, who abandoned them in pursuit of his research.
  • Homestuck: In the rebooted kids' universe, Jade Crocker left her abusive adopted (grand)mother and took the name English.
  • In Shortpacked!, Leslie decides to take Robin's last name when they marry for a few reasons, but in part because she's finally given up trying to reconcile with her religious parents.
  • Something*Positive: Jason takes Aubrey's name when they get married because he hates his father.

    Western Animation 
  • DuckTales (2017): Lena changes her last name to Sabrewing at some point after her adoption, understandably wanting to distance herself from the De Spell family and Magica in particular.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lisa takes her mother's maiden name after Homer bets against her in a crossword puzzle competition.
    • A Played for Laughs version happens in "The Front". After Bart and Lisa express dismay over Krusty trying to downplay his Jewish family roots, Homer then comes in with a plunger stuck to his head and upon trying to pull it off pulls out the wooden stick instead. This leads to the following exchange:
      Bart: So what are you going to change your name to when you get older?
      Lisa: Lois Sanbourne.
      Bart: Steve Bennett.
  • Steven Universe: "Gem Harvest" reveals that Greg Universe was born Greg DeMayo; "Mr. Universe" started as a stage name, but Greg had it legally changed sometime after leaving home. In the Steven Universe: Future episode "Mr. Universe", we learn that Greg wanted to distance himself from his parents, who were strict to the point of being emotionally abusive.

    Real Life 
  • Bobbi Kristina Brown announced her intention to change her name to Kristina Houston specifically to distance herself from her father, Bobby Brown. She died before that could happen.
  • Truth in Television for many victims of Abusive Parents.
  • Jon Stewart has cited, along with an emcee's mispronunciation of his original surname, "some leftover resentment at [his] family" for his changing his surname from Leibowitz to Stewart. Indeed, Jon Stewart and his father are estranged from each other to this day.
  • After Oscar Wilde was convicted for "gross indecency", his wife did this on their sons' behalf. She not only changed her and her sons' surname to Holland, a name from her own heritage, to disassociate them from Wilde, but she and her family did everything possible to ensure that Wilde never saw his sons again, even after he got out of prison.
  • William Patrick Stuart-Houston was born William Patrick Hitler. He was the son of Alois Hitler Jr. and a nephew of Adolf Hitler himself. Yeah, you can guess why he changed his name.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a lot about Puritans, and almost never portrayed that society as a whole sympathetically. He was the descendant of a judge involved in the Salem Witch Trials, and he hated that. So he changed his last name from "Hathorne" to "Hawthorne".
  • Inverted amongst sexual minorities or defectors of tightly-knit religious groups. Sometimes parents force the children to assume a different family name to make sure they no longer have to deal with children whom they consider to have brought shame upon them by being deviant and who have defamed the family name. A subtrope of Honor Before Reason, and may act as substitute for honor killing.
  • Also inverted in the case of the actor Jeremy Brett (best known for playing Sherlock Holmes in the Granada TV series). His father, who was of a very high social status (including being a Lord Lieutenant—a personal representative of the British monarch—and an heir to the Cadbury fortune). Brett's father insisted that Jeremy Brett change his name (from Peter Jeremy William Huggins) for the sake of the family honor. (He took the name Brett from "Brett & Co.," the label of his first suit.)
  • An entire country was forced into this in 1930s and 1940s, as the Mongolian communist party banned the use of surnames (or, technically, clan names) as a relic of the feudal past. In the 2000s, Mongolians started using surnames again, but as the original names were mostly lost, many used this as an opportunity for a Meaningful Rename. Many took up the name of Genghis Khan's clan, the Borjigiin.
  • Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm had to leave Germany when the Nazis took over in 1933 as he was a known leftist and newspaper contributor in Lübeck. He was also born out of wedlock, which was Serious Business back then. The name he chose? Willy Brandt. Two decades later he'd be mayor of Berlin. A decade after that he was foreign minister, then chancellor of Germany. Yet his political opponents kept calling him "Brandt alias Frahm" to insult him.
  • As Jews traditionally did not have surnames (Jewish people are known by patronymics), often the surnames that Jews wound up with - especially Ashkenazi Jews - were imposed upon them by non-Jewish government authorities. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Jews living in lands controlled by Prussia, Austria, and Russia were forced to take on surnames by order of the government, as a means of assimilation. Sometimes these surnames were of a mocking and thoroughly degrading character. Thus, with the growth of the modern Hebrew language, and the Zionist movement of Theodor Herzl, Jews who emigrated to the land of Israel often Hebraized their surnames. Hence Golda Myerson became Golda Meir, David Gryn became David Ben-Gurion, and countless other examples. Though the practice has slowed somewhat, many Jews today who make aliyah (according to the Jewish Agency, around 15%) still Hebraize their surnames.
  • In a one-off instance, early gay activist Jack Nichols used the name "Warren Adkins" when he was interviewed for an episode of Creator/CBS Reports called "The Homosexuals". His father, an FBI agent, had threatened to kill Nichols if his homosexuality became associated with the father's career as he could lose his security clearance.
  • Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe was born Frank Carlton Ferrara Jr. After his father who left the family when Nikki was very young and whom he never saw again. A strained relationship with his mother as well, he changed his name to start his new life as his music career was beginning. Though in recent years he's said he's dialed down on the resentment of his parents, and expresses remorse that he and his mother never made amends before she died.
  • The actor born Jeremy Boring is better known by his mother's maiden name, Davies. You can guess why.
  • Played with regarding Marvin Gaye: while his actual name was mostly unchanged from his Stage Name, he added the "e" at the end due to both his unpleasant relationship with his father, Marvin Gay, Sr., and being bullied throughout school with the insult "Is Marvin Gay?"