Japanese with common last name Yoda denied Facebook account

Japanese author/translator Hiroko Yoda was having trouble signing up for a Facebook account. Every time she tried registering with her real full name, she got an error message. She suspected that it might be because of her last name was Yoda, so she tried spelling it slightly differently–Youda, Yohda, Yooda. No problem at all. When she e-mailed FB explaining her situation, she got this reply:

Facebook blocks the registration of a number of names that are frequently abused on the site. The name "Yoda," also being the name of a popular Star Wars character, is on this list of blocked names. I apologize again for the inconvenience. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.
Hiroko explains her constant struggle with her last name in a blog post titled Life as Yoda:
I'm a Japanese woman, and my last name really is Yoda. It's a common family name in Japan. "Yoda" the Jedi Master is actually pronounced with a long "o" in Japanese, which makes it different-sounding enough that the connection only becomes apparent when you write out my name in English letters instead of kanji characters... People think I changed my name because I'm a crazy Star Wars fan, or that I'm just kidding around. Even people who know I'm not making it up are always giving me Yoda trinkets and keychains and figures, so I had this little shrine to him going on for a while.
Rumor has it that George Lucas named the Jedi Master after a Japanese film director he met in Tokyo. Still, Hiroko Yoda always triggers a good laugh when she comes stateside and introduces herself to people. Then again, people never forget her name. "I guess it's a double-edged...lightsaber? Ha ha," she says. Image by barron via Flickr (Thanks, Baker!)

( Lisa Katayama is a guest blogger.)


  1. Oddly enough, I don’t think I would blink an eye at her name. Maybe I’m just getting used to hearing Japanese surnames. Yoda by itself is funny. Hiroko Yoda is actually rather nice.

  2. Explaining that it really is her name should have been enough common sense to prevail over Facebook policies against ‘abuse.’ Although it is likely that whoever she contacted at Facebook is on the bottom rung of user support and doesn’t have the power to make decisions beyond quoting FB policies.

    I’m sure if the ‘popular character’ name in question was more Anglo like Wayne, Kent, Parker, or Savage there wouldn’t be an issue. And yes I listed a bunch of comic book character names, it was all I could think of.

  3. I’m confused as to how the name Yoda could have been “abused” to the point where people are no longer allowed to enter it as their name. What harm is there in people using it, even if it is a Star Wars reference? Is there any practical reason for this policy?

  4. It’s a reasonable practice on the part of Facebook, but they should figure something out so that people who do have this type of name- and I know two people named Jesus- can get accounts if they want.

    Thank goodness they haven’t banned ‘Luke’ yet.

  5. @9: Agreed! who needs a secret service when millions of individuals are quite happy to compile dossiers on *themselves*!

    There was a U.S radio station that offered a “Toyota” as a prize for a call-in competition. To cut a long story short a woman won and was duly given her prize of a “Toy Yoda”. She sued and got the car :)

  6. This has happened to people I know who happen to have unusual names like “Twilight.” If Facebook thinks you’re making it up, they ban you.

  7. Slightly OT, but is there a more maddening phrase than “Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.” ??

  8. “it’s a reasonable practice on the part of Facebook”
    Yes, it’s perfectly reasonable for a multi-million dollar movie franchise to be given preference over some mere human being with a silly name.
    What the hell is wrong with people that they would even think this way?

  9. Seriously, what’s the deal with social network sites being all uptight about fake names? What happened to anonymity and avatars? How’d they trick everyone into posting their vital stats, spending habits, geographic location, political preferences, pics of themselves doing drugs etc. ?
    Bring back the mystery!!

  10. I don’t think “Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance” is maddening at all. Unless, of course, it follows ‘help’ like this example which is remarkable only for being absolutely no assistance at all. Then it’s just adding insult to injury.

  11. I’m a little confused. She said Yoda in Japanese was spelled with a long o. Like ようだ. or Youda, and yet she is spelling it Yoda, which would be よだ in Japanese. So, is it pronounced exactly like Yoda or is it Youda?

  12. @14 yeah I see what you mean, especially as the peron really didn’t help at all. Having worked C/S for a rather large logistics company once before, I always felt like a douche saying that phrase when there was never any resolution…but the “rules” said we had to, and seeing as I was only getting 8.50/Hr for working FT 1300-2200 I wasn’t about to argue.

    @17 as far as people putting up pictures of themselves being idiots (i.e. students dressing up as slain VT students) think it’s just more and more people are turing into idiots…how? well I have no idea…

  13. Yoda is a common Amish last name. There are lots of Yoda’s in Indiana Amish country, including a state senator. I guess not many of them are on FB though.

  14. “Yohda” is a perfectly valid romanization of her name. You can also use Yooda, Youda, or Yòda depending on which romanization you pick.

    The problem is the “extended-o” sound which uses a “silent-u” to extend the vocalization.

    I have a friend named Yoko. It has the double o-u romanization too. It can be Yoko, Yohko, Youko, or Yòko.

    She has four names to pick from, it’s not that bad :)

  15. @17: Wasn’t the refreshing aspect of Facebook the fact that it did rely on some iota of honesty? There are a million places on the net to hide … like BB.

  16. My last name is Kisser and facebook wouldn’t let me register. They liked my wife though, whose last name is hyphenated-Kisser.

  17. This is strange, considering my brother-in-law’s account name on Facebook is “Ozzy OzDragon”.

    (Which defeats the purpose of Facebook, don’t you think?)

  18. For that matter, I’ve got an account for my cat under “Smushy the Cat”(*).

    The lesson here is that they don’t want you using names that might be trademarked, not that they give much of a damn about real names. Money, people, *money*.

    (*)So I can send cute messages to my little nieces, of course.

  19. “Slightly OT, but is there a more maddening phrase than “Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.” ??”

    …Ranks right up there with trolls and schmucks who make flaming posts while making totally asses of themselves, and then have a .sig that says “Cheers!” as if that makes it all otay again.

  20. I wonder what the full list of abused names looks like. There’s been some other odd communication gaps at Facebook, like how they can’t prove I’m a real person to verify my account, even tho I engaged in a personal email correspondence with an employee. http://torley.com/facebook-cant-verify-that-im-a-real-person

    @garyb50: “Thank you for your patience” when it’s not done in earnest comes close.

  21. Odd that she’s having trouble with Yoda, when I am one of many with the last name Bond. There’s even a group on there for Bonds. Maybe I got grandfathered in by signing up back when it was colleges only; back then there were a Your Conscience and a Strong Bad at my college alone.

  22. I think Lucas was really into Hopi history and philosophy through Joseph Campbell’s interpretations of hero myths, so when I saw these photos in a class


    I thought he may have gotten the name Yoda from one of these Hopi men who resisted sending their children to gov. schools who were sent to Alcatraz. Has anyone ever read anything about where the name came from?

  23. I’m confused as to how the name Yoda could have been “abused” to the point where people are no longer allowed to enter it as their name. What harm is there in people using it, even if it is a Star Wars reference? Is there any practical reason for this policy?

    Seriously. This is a perfect example of the cost of intellectual property laws. When words and ideas are taken out of the public domain and transferred into private hands, we all suffer a loss. It’s a tax on our minds. Things we used to be able to do automatically we now have to stop and think about.

  24. i can sympathize a little: every so often my real surname won’t compute on a Japanese system, even in katakana. i end up having to either manipulate the spelling or answer to just the first half of the surname.

  25. The same thing happened to me when I tried to sign up for a nintendo account. Apparently “Fukawa” is a bad word to them.

  26. Same thing happened to me when I tried to get a Facebook account. My real first name is actually “My”, which wasn’t accepted. But I don’t feel that it’s much of a loss…

  27. She should be happy that she can not get a Facebook account in her real name. Less to be embarrassed about in the years to come.

  28. Who needs face book anyways. Yoda is not only a jedi master, it’s you!!!! Enjoy your last name Hiroko. Before Mr. Lucas takes it away by copyright.

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