Choosing a Name: The Last Name
Now, the first part of this was a long time ago. It was about the First Name. Here comes the story of the Last Name, prompted by the fact that I got my daughter's German passport a few weeks ago.
You'd think that having chosen the first name, we'd be done. But no. Even the last name is a culturally tainted venture, which bears in itself much more trouble than one would think, and not only cultural trouble.
Most of our societies are rather patriarcal. You get the name of your father. Even the ones that sometimes think themselves much more open and allow women to keep their names really are patriarchal. Take Portugal, which collates both the father's and the mother's name in a unique new name. This ends up in children having different names from that of their parents. Which isn't understood by French authorities, at least a few years back, who had no idea how to take care of my French cousin marrying a Portuguese man and which name was really his (different from both of his parents).
In Germany, you're only allowed to give the name of the father or the name of the mother. Not both. Fortunately, Germany recognizes foreign laws when it comes to names. In France, the law changed with a text passed in 2002 (that came into force in 2005) which basically opens a whole new realm of possibilities for last name transmission. Following French law, you can now give to your children either your name, that of your partner, or both together (in both the order you--him or him--you). The catch is the double hyphen that comes into play. Yes, you read that well, a double hyphen.
Now, it seems that French law requires this double hyphen  if both parents' names are chosen. It will allow the kid to drop one or the other name when they marry or have kids (for more information, see here, in French).
When we declared our daughter, we asked for the double hyphen. No need to say that the German authorities were a little puzzled about this rather freaky way of writing a name (an accent on my last name was already quite a challenge). But the German Ministry of the Interior had issued a text about that French specificity, which allowed us to get that straightened out. Our daughter's birth certificate displays the double-hyphen. And so does her German passport, which is quite a victory, since when I went to fill out the papers for her to have a passport, the woman at the desk did make it very clear that although she would try and see what she could do concerning my accent (on which I was very set), there was no way she could enter a double-hyphen in the system. We have indeed signed a disclaimer when we registered our kid that said we were aware of the fact that this funky double-hyphen might not be reproduced on official papers so I was prepared. And amazed when I saw that the passport bore both hyphens.
I am kind of looking forward how this name pattern plays out in the future. I am happy to have been able to give my name to my daughter, I am not sure she'll find that so cool when it comes to filling out administrative papers... Time will tell.
 I have come across a quick note which seems to say that this is not the case anymore... go figure.  see here this relatively short ticker which confirms this, and this article pointed out by keriluamox in the comments