In most western countries, it used to be the case that children got their father’s surname. These days, things are more fluid (as seen for instance by the fact that my daughters’ surname is Buchanan-Widmann), but nobody seems to have come up with a really good solution, given that just concatenating surnames will lead to impossibly long ones in just a few generations’ time.
I made a rather silly suggestion two years ago, namely mixing the surnames.
Spain has come up with a different solution, namely to pick the one that comes first alphabetically. I’m not convinced that’s a wonderful idea in the long run, given that eventually everybody will have surnames beginning with ‘A’.
What other alternatives are there?
Perhaps one could go for frequency, so that the child would get the least common surname. Only issue with that is that one would need to decide what the basis for the frequency calculations should be – the country, the region, or perhaps just the local council area?
One could also pick the prettiest one, but then we’d need a quango that would rule on the beauty of surnames, and I’m not sure that would make anybody happy.