Ask Mr. Manners, with Buenos the Cat

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buenosheadshot01.jpgMy longtime boyfriend and I have just gotten engaged to be married!  I'm very excited about it and I know he is too.  Part of my excitement is that I have always wished I could change my last name, Venkataramana, to one that is easier for Westerners to pronounce.  I know it seems old-fashioned but I'm tired of people getting it wrong and then asking me how to pronounce it and then wanting to know where the name comes from and so on.  Unfortunately for me, my fiance is adamant that we hyphonate our last names together, which would make our last name Gunderson-Venkataramana!!!  I think it's great that my man is open-minded and doesn't assume that we keep a patralineal system of last names, but how can I convince him that I'd rather take his name instead?  -Chandra Without A Last Name

What's in a name?  In your case, there are an awful lot of letters!  But there is also a history in that name too.  My whole name is Buenos de la Vega Malinche Vargas Santiago Delgado Graves-Larson.  The Vegas and the Malinche's were mestizo cats that traveled to Spain and translated for the royal Castillian cats from Cat Náhual-Maya.  They were so good at speaking that they were able to marry up into the ranks of the Galician Vargas (from the hilly Northern Spanish) and Santiago (a contraction of Santo Jacabo or Saint James).  These Galician cats had the same stark-white nipples that I bear on my sagging belly today.  But then my great grandmother moved back to Argentina and married the Delgado (slim or plain, sometimes crippled) side of the family, which is where I get my jet black fur.  The Graves-Larson is indeed not Spanish or even Mestizo, but rather an honorary name for my hosts here in the United States.  They think of me as their own, and I take the name because, hey, they feed the Buenos wet catfood everyday!  I would not presume to know the history of Gunderson or Venkataramana, but I'm sure your parents or grandparents would be proud to tell you.  Don't shy away from your heratage, CWALN.  If you're really that concerned with pronouncable last names, maybe you could combine the two into something new, but that keeps it's hold on the past.  Maybe try "Gunderamana" or "Venkaterson" or my personal favorite "Gundvenkataraersonmana."  Say that last one sounds like the way I sound after trying to eat a whole bunch of human hair!  Speaking of which, the Buenos is getting hungry.  Good luck CWALN, and don't forget to invite me to your wedding!

Buenos can answer your questions too.  Email him a good one at and you may get your answer in his next column!

Tags: mr., manners, cat, buenos, ask

1 Comment

  • 1

    So fascinating to know Buenos' rich latin heritage and here I thought he was just a lazy, toilet guzzling mexican. I should've know those white nipples pointed to Old World ancestry.

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