Maz Jobrani


When Names are ‘Americanized’

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Last week, I wrote about my decision to drop my “Americanized” name in favor of my Persian birth name, and a number of you chimed in about the perils and pitfalls of having a foreign name in the U.S.

The choice to drop or legally change such a name can be complicated. For some, birth names don’t match the common name structure in the United States. Commenter Curtis Alia writes that U.S. officials documented the wrong last name for his Arab father when he immigrated to the U.S. due to misunderstanding the Arab naming structure:  “When I was born, I was given that same incorrect last name, and only until 1994 did we finally change our names to the actual family names from back home.”

Some immigrants make the decision to legally change their names rather than adopt an informal nickname, and marriage presents a convenient opportunity to do so. But that decision could mean losing a meaningful connection. Commenter island girl in a land w/o sea, who is an immigrant with a Spanish name, writes:

When I got married, I changed my name to my husband’s more “American” family name — a choice that i still struggle with. At the time, I was tired of people mangling my last name and making assumptions based on it. Yet now that my parents are gone, I sometimes wish that I had retained my father’s name, or at the very least, come up with some sort of compound-name compromise.

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