Texas lawmaker: Chinese Americans should change names so "Americans" can handle them

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108 Responses to “Texas lawmaker: Chinese Americans should change names so "Americans" can handle them”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Overheard conversation in San Francisco Japanese restaurant about a week ago:

    Mom: Do you have any Japanese kids in your class?

    Girl: Yeah, There’s Yuko.

    Mom: What’s Yuko’s English name?

    Girl: What do you mean?

    Mom: You know how Judy is Chinese and Judy is her English name? If Yuko is her Chinese name, what’s her English name?

    Girl: *Stares at her mom like she’s from another planet.* Uh. We all just call her “Yuko”.

    How delightfully ignorant.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I live in NYC with a very very large Chinese, Japanese as well as a mix of many other populations and we don’t have the problems the Texas officials seem to have when people come to vote.

    So yes the Idiots need a mite more training to prevent such occurrences like maybe a basic understanding that other people have names that aren’t just English.

  3. Mike Harris says:

    On those few occasions when I come back to check in with Boing Boing, I wonder whether the website has changed, or whether my own perspective has.

    I remain an extremely stalwart liberal, but it’s not fair to take literally half of this woman’s statement and write up a biased headline and story based on the first part while virtually ignoring the second part of what she said, which very significantly affects the meaning.

    Outrage is lusty stuff. Outrage predicated on half-truths is lusty stuff that’s bad for the world as a whole, and such seems to flow in copious amounts through the bloodstream of Boing Boing these days. It’s a sad development.

  4. Takuan says:

    so you’re outraged, are you?

  5. Billy Blight says:

    I like how the media and everyone has jumped on this without noting that she was actually talking about standardization of English spellings, not changing their names to assimilate (something that your average John Wu is already willing to do).

    I mean, I’m ready to jump on my Texan reps whenever I can, but this is just a misunderstanding.

  6. Bergjylt says:

    Damn, that’s an almost European level of ignorance of the implications of citizenship you’ve got there. I wouldn’t have expected that in a country which draws so much of the coherence of its national identity from its constitution.

    Picking up a bit of Mandarin Chinese doesn’t seem so hard? Simpler than Icelandic or Finnish. There’s course that looks quite good at wikibooks.

  7. spazzm says:

    Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language

    All native English speakers think that English is a very simple language.

    Which means that everyone not perfectly fluent in English must be an idiot, and deserves to be treated as such.

    Funny how that works.

  8. Mike Harris says:

    #63: No, I don’t have much emotion invested in this, certainly not to the point of outrage.

    I’m merely saying that it would have behooved Cory to accurately summarize the woman’s entire argument, instead of simply taking half of what she says. When someone appends a caveat to something they’ve said, to write something up as if the caveat doesn’t exist and never was uttered is very much not a menschy thing to do.

    It’s a bit ironic, because a brief perusal of Boing Boing’s headlines will indicate it doesn’t hesitate to call out FOX News when they’ve done something journalistically underhanded — and this precise tactic (extract part of what someone said and react with outrage to it while not reproducing the entirety of the remark, that entirety being something that places the extracted phrase into a more understandable context) is something that is one of their mainstays.

  9. ProfBlah says:

    I think we might be being a little hard on the lawmaker. It’s true the she didn’t express herself very well, but her basic line of reasoning is pretty sound.

    He’s saying that the transliterations are inconsistent because some letters might be mangled when government workers are dealing with the names and (more importantly) some people have decided to change them without notifying the government. Based on the fact that our country is full of immigrants who spell their names in all sorts of varied ways (talk to a Scandinavian or a Polish person!) I would say that transcription problems aren’t the real issue, it’s the fact that people are changing their names without telling the government.

    So, why not stick with a single official name when dealing with the government to make things easier? And no that doesn’t mean you have to change “Jaebo Xi” to “Bob Smith”. It could simply mean don’t change “Jaebo Xi” to “Jaybeau Zee” without telling anyone!

    As for the suggestion about people in his community coming up with a solution goes, my question would be what’s a better alternative? Would you prefer that the government mandate the transliterations that are used? And, if there isn’t any effective organization in the community then why is he there representing them?

    I think he had it right when he asked them to come up with some “give and take”. Obvious flaws should be ignored (like lack of hyphen) and the community should spread the word that it’s best to stick with a single spelling when dealing with the government. They could also educate them on how to officially change the spelling whenever they desire.

    Being able to change the spelling of your name whenever you feel like it is a kind of freedom, but I’m guessing it’s not the one most immigrants come here for :)

    I like to stick it to the man just as much as the next guy, but doing it when it’s not absolutely deserved just serves to diminish the impact of legitimate outrage.

  10. Takuan says:

    re: voter’s list; is there some good reason why they don’t just use social insurance numbers and common sense for checking matches?

  11. cbuchner1 says:

    When I visited mainland China recently, a lot of English speaking Chinese people introduced themselves to me with an English first name.

    Apparently they choose a name so that foreigners can more easily remember how to address them.

  12. AirPillo says:

    I need to go to bed earlier. How in the hell did I totally fail to identify the gender of the representative in question.

  13. error404 says:

    Your name is Toby.

    No my name is KUNTA KINTE.

    No your name is Toby.

    This Betty Brown character is insane.

  14. KeithIrwin says:

    I can’t help but feel like the listening comprehension of many of the commenters is fairly low. It is pretty obvious to me that the lawmaker is not interested in making changes to the law to accommodate the problems that the Chinese Americans are having and isn’t really listening to the fellow at the podium at all.

    Further, her suggestion that they wouldn’t have to change their names, but just come up with something easier for poll-workers to deal with is nonsensical because you’re only allowed to register to vote with your official name.

    What he points out to her, very politely, I might add, is that it’s precisely their attempts to make their names more suitable for native English speakers which have caused the problems. After he finishes saying this, she again tries to say something along the lines of “well, maybe you people can sort it out”. She’s clearly not interested in making any changes to the law to accommodate the very real problems that real citizens are having exercising their constitutional rights. That’s why she’s an idiot, and that’s why this is outrageous.

    Despite what the commenters are saying, the problem isn’t as simple as have tried to vote under an “unofficial” name: it is that there is no clear process by which an official english-language name is established for people named in foreign languages.

    Let’s consider a made-up person named Xi-Dong Qang. She comes to the United States first on a student visa as a high-school exchange student with name “Xi-Dong Qang”. The person doing data entry at the high school accidentally enters “Xi-Dong Quang” because they’re an American who is used to Q’s always being followed by U’s. She goes to college, and uses the name “Xi-Dong Quang” on her paperwork because that’s what matches her high school transcript. While in college, she realize that Americans don’t know that the X is supposed to be the sh sound, so her first name is often pronounced “zidong”. So she starts spelling it “Shi-Dong Qang” now. Once she graduates, she gets a job and applies for a work visa, which they receive. On the paperwork prepared by the lawyers of the company they’re working for, their name is spelled “Shidong Qang”. Next she gets a green card under the name “Shi-Dong Qang” and also obtains citizenship. When she signs up for her utilities, the person on the other end of the phone spells the name as it sounds to her: “Shidong Chang”.

    So which of these names is her “official name”? When she goes to register to vote, which of these can she register with? Which of them can she get ID with? Is this the same set? If she happens to register to vote with a name which she can’t get ID for, what is she supposed to do now that the law requires ID to vote in Texas?

    Most of the laws are written with the assumption that you have one english language name on your birth-certificate and that there is no variation unless you get married or change it. For people with no english-language names on their birth-certificate, problems are going to arise unless the laws are changed in some way.

  15. Anonymous says:

    This is madness. Spelling and pronouncing Chinese names is just as easy as spelling and pronouncing Chris or Jill.

    When I visited mainland China recently, a lot of English speaking Chinese people introduced themselves to me with an English first name.

    And often they choose names like Alfie, Alvin, Angus etc.

  16. J France says:

    dross1260: I LOL’d.

    And yeah – watch the video. This woman isn’t that ignorant or awful, just poorly expressing herself. And having that isolated and propgated by Mr Doctorow.

    That never happens, normally, for page views or the likes. Never.

  17. Architexas says:

    @#24 – Schlitterbahn is located in a German-settled part of Texas where most of the residents still speak German in addition to English.

    I grew up in Texas, and I still live here. I have a hunch that the vast majority of people who are posting here didn’t watch the video, and it is frustrating that my state is maligned so much for its rampant stupidity.

    It was confusing for me going to school with the Asian students I did (my middle school was about 1/4 Asian, 1/4 Hispanic, 1/4 “white, non-Hispanic”, and 1/4 African American) because they had multiple names, and they varied which name they used depending on whether they were socializing with a Chinese-American, a Japanese-American, or a “white, non-Hispanic.” Their Asian name was on the roll, but they used an English name in class. And their test scores sometimes got messed up (good old ITBS) because they tried to use their English name on their tests instead of their Asian name. So I understand Ms. Brown’s (poorly worded) argument that people who have non-English names should use that name solely on official documents, and stick to one spelling.

  18. ill lich says:

    Bahh. I’m an idiot. I should have watched the video before commenting. I had been hearing snippets about this yesterday, thought I understood the problem. (Damn YOU, “librul media!”)

    Yes, she words it very poorly, more a faux pas than anything else.

  19. Anonymous says:

    And here I was thinking all along that Americans (especially elected ones) tended to be good speakers! I must have been misinformed. Don’t you guys take presentation skills classes?

    Being Swedish living in Japan I can attest to the problems with spelling of names though. PROFBLAH suggests that you stick with one name when dealing with government. Well, it is not that easy! Cause you see, there are several of them, and they tend to draw from different sources. I have on name on my passport in Swedish, one name in English, one name in Greek. I also have one name variation from my city office here in Japan (that they decided). The ministry of justice and the immigration bureau used a second variation (that they also decided by themselves). For work my boss picked one variation he thought was correct (which phonetically, is the best one so far), but there are two other variations floating around (on in HR and one in official releases/information).

    Now, my landlord uses the one I gave him (the easiest one for most people to use). The bank picked on by themselves that is completely mistaken and they give me hell every day for it.

    So, no, it isn’t so easy. And mistakes happen. That’s why most civilized countries use social security numbers. Figures are harder to mess up.

  20. senorglory says:

    For what it’s worth, I like Texas.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Remember the movie Alien Nation?

    We should establish a bureau to hand out names.

    Norman Conquest, Polly Wanacracker, Sam Francisco.

    Brillant!! (sic)

  22. David Carroll says:

    SenorGlory @102:

    If I may suggest a small change to your post:

    Fort what it’s worth, I like Texas.

    You’re welcome…

  23. minamisan says:

    it’s not as stupid as it sounds on the surface. I live in Japan and my English surname is virtually unpronounceable by the locals. I also prefer to use a shortened version of my first name. Add middle names into the mix and it all equals a lot of fun whenever I sign up for a bank account, change my phone plan, etc etc. If I had the option to change it easily to something more understandable, I probably would.

  24. senorglory says:

    ^ Awesome. HaHa. Yes:

    Fort what it’s Worth, I like Texas.

  25. Hans says:

    I think everyone should change their name to something easy to understand. Like Betty Brown. If we all were called Betty Brown, there would be no problems. In fact, it would really speed things up because you would not even have to check the id’s–they all would say Betty Brown.

    Or Bruce:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f_p0CgPeyA

  26. thequickbrownfox says:

    Texas Legislature multivote dynamics.

    They loves democracy so much they just gotta vote like its goin’ outta fashion. Yeeeeeehah!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfhO38CPlAI

  27. HatOfEdshu says:

    Learning someone’s name is a basic common courtesy. You don’t have to learn Chinese in order to put together a string of syllables. Welcome to a larger world, Betsy.

  28. BastardNamban says:

    This IS a big deal, but not for the reason you think.

    Before people flame her- WATCH THE VIDEO. I want to jump on the “point out Texan stupidity” bandwagon, but I hate to dissapoint you- her arguement and his are BOTH valid, and good.

    She specifically said they don’t need to change their name, just agree on a standard/consistent way of transcribing it to English for identity conformation. For someone with a non-linugistic background, that’s actually a reasonable thing to say- she doesn’t know deeply about transcription systems.

    So Mr.Doctorow, it seems your title is a bit inflammatory. Not intentional, perhaps, but it doesn’t look good to an observer. Still, I may have worded it the same way for brevity too- transliteration is a complex subject.

    The speaker is correct- there are roughly 3 major transliteration styles for Japanese, more if you mix them like I do (custom personal use for ease of understanding when needed). I had to deal with this very issue throughout college learning Japanese, and I have problems DAILY here in Japan getting things properly billed to me, because of my name- some places have me leave out my middle name, some have me change my name’s order to Japanese style, and all interact with each other.

    I had the gas company billing me with only knowing half of my last name because it didn’t fit in a Japanese form- so they were suprised when I corrected them. Technically, I could have refused to pay, since that wasn’t my name.

    This kind of stuff happens all the time- in large part because academics can’t seem to agree with themselves or with governments to use a single, official system of foreign name/character transliteration.

    Japan, for example- most signs/tourist use romanized Japanese seen in society use simple Hepburn style, but Japanese school kids/Japanese learning how to romanize their language IN JAPAN are forced to learn one of/a combination of the other 2 major styles, Kunrei shiki or Nihon Shiki, which transcribe to the Japanese symbols better, but look much less pronouncable to normal westerners with no linguistic background. This happens to some westerners in college, too, who don’t learn the difference- I’ve seen it in major universities go uncorrected!

    IE: し (pronounced close to “she” in Japanese, written as “shi” in Hepburn, but written as “si” in Nihon&Kunrei shiki systems.) This works better for computers, but for Westerners trying to read the romanized Japanese in English, it comes out sounding like the Spanish word for Yes.

    These little differences confuse the Japanese when I explain it to kids here, when to use each, and Westerners like this Texas lawmaker are just as confused.

    Chinese though? A language with multiple tones/intonations, and the same base sound? Pinyon romanization must be a NIGHTMARE for Americanized Chinese.

    So, I don’t know how hard it would be for Chinese here, but I speak with years and years of experience, and several thousand students and colleges under my belt when I say it’s not easy for Japanese. Not the system differences themselves so much as IMPLEMENTING a single one, with everyone, non-academics alike.

    So laugh at this if you want, but it’s a serious issue- especially for languages just now being transcribed to western romanization for the first time.

    This is an ongoing problem, and we need solutions to it as a society, and an agreement with academics to inform governments when to use which.

  29. ProfBlah says:

    Sorry that I’m obsessing about this, but I have one more thought…

    It seems to me that the thing people are most likely to object to is the exaggeration about the government having to learn Chinese. However, if you listen to the whole conversation it could have been the lawmaker’s understanding that he was requesting that the government train it’s employees to be able to recognize the same name spelled using several different transliteration systems.

    This is obviously impractical give the number of different employees that would have to be trained on these systems including simple volunteers at things like polling stations and that’s just for Chinese… what about other languages?

    Although learning to spot transliteration variations isn’t the same thing as learning Chinese, someone who is unfamiliar with the complexities of transliteration (which she seemed to be) might mistake it for learning a substantial portion of a foreign language.

    Also, to be clear, she outright says “I’m not talking about changing your name” at 0:51 and she mentions the term “transliteration” before he describes it on camera, so he must have introduced something about it earlier.

  30. BastardNamban says:

    Above:

    I forgot to mention- my legal name in Japan IS transcribed into Japanese from English- and I still have problems due to it being long- so #12, I feel your pain.

    And #15- in a perfect world, we could all learn to pronounce each other’s dialect perfectly. In this world, that’s unrealistic. It’s a reasonable expectation to learn a single person’s name properly upon meeting them, but for 99.9% of the world, people will make mistakes trying to properly do so until they get the real pronunciation right. Language is complex, and pronunciation is difficult for non-native speakers of any language. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t try, we should, but to expect government workers everywhere to properly understand all foreign name pronunciation properly is absurd. We can ask them to try, and most will.

    It’s only the people who, like at Ellis Island, FORCE people from other places to change their natural name to a local name unrelated to heritage, so people don’t have to learn that language’s pronunciation with the name, that are wrong! Those people are still around, and disgust me.

    You know the ones. “Hey, “Xeni”! What kinda name is that? Zhe-heni? Zehni? Whos-a-what, hur hur hur? I can’t say that, so you’z need to stop spellin’ yur name so funny. Yer name’s “JENNY”, you need to learn how to spell yer name right, girl!”

    Apologies to the lovely and talented Xeni- but I’m sure she’s run into that problem before. People calling her “Zeni” or something. That doesn’t mean her name is wrong or it should be changed- people just need to ask her how it’s pronounced, and remember how to address her, because that’s her name! I wondered for a while how to say it, until I heard her introduce herself on BB video.

    Greetings usually settle this kind of stuff.

  31. Cowtown2 says:

    @ #38

    It’s a time-honored tradition on boingboing that since W claims Texas, every time somebody does something dumb here, our fellow mutants forget we exist, making up part of the 40-49% of flyover folks who vote exactly the same as 50-59% of the people from the more “enlightened” parts of the world.

    Thing is, W was so awful that I halfway understand it. I still love Texas though.

  32. bardfinn says:

    And Rick Perry recently acclaimed a need to return to “State’s rights” as they existed at the implementation of the Tenth Amendment. One presumes this to mean that he’s tired of the Federal Government enforcing the Fourteenth Amendment.

    This isn’t a faux pas. It’s not a slip-up. Texas State Republicans are racists, their platform is racist, their policies are racist, and their constituency is racist. It’s nearing election time and there are no term limits for Texas Governor. This is all a co-ordinated cryptoracist cryptofascist signal to white social conservatives: Vote Republican, or Johnny Klatchian will get political power.

  33. Anonymous says:

    From now on, we call Toyota, “Dodge”. We call Samsung, “GE” and heck, just call the country China, “Alaska”. A lot easier for them Texans …

  34. Snig says:

    “You are… John Ya Ya. And you… John Smallberries.”

    Forcing people to change names would also lead to issues, and people might question if Xiao Won and John Wayne were actually the same person voting twice.

  35. newe1344 says:

    OMFG, I’d like to apologize to the world for America. At first I thought we were just joking, but I have since come to realize that we as Americans are in fact…retarded.

  36. AsteriskCGY says:

    I only recognize this article because SNL got it first.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Some Americans can be such idiots – Betty Brown being a great example.

  38. FoetusNail says:

    In the 80′s, Japanese electrical and mechanical engineers working in the US often changed their first names. The most common choice was Mike.

  39. The Lizardman says:

    Wanna have some fun? Re-read this comment thread and replace ‘texan’ and the variant forms of it that appear with ‘black’ or ‘mexican’ or ‘gay’. It is an old point but one that not just bears but sadly and desperately needs repeating – wow, just wow, but a lot of you ‘right and open minded people’ are incredible bigots prone to stereotyping with no real knowledge of your subjects and a serious disconnect from reality. At best, your comments might be somewhat accurate (barring the spin present and already discussed by others here) about one Texan.

    I saw more racism and bigotry on a liberal college campus in NY on a daily basis than I have seen in 8 years living in Texas.

  40. Baldhead says:

    Well, she does mention that there needs to be a more uniform transliteration system- which to me means that the government needs to do it. There are established systems, and how hard would it be for them to employ someone to show said immigrants hwo to do it? once written in roman characters chinese names are pretty straighforward. It’s not like there’s syllable stress issues like with japanese or odd letter combinations like found in vietnamese (I seem incapable of pronouncing “ng” properly) or even in russian.

    still that quote will be taken out of context for some time to come I think.

  41. Anonymous says:

    I know that people in USA are paranoid about being watched by their own government, but other countries solve these and a lot of other problems by giving each citizen a unique code. I’ve also heard that US have something similar called Social Security Numbers, why not use those when you vote.

    #7 I’m not a native English speaker. English is a comparatively (to other languages I know) easy language. It’s very complex compared to other simplistic languages (like Esperanto) and there are more expressive languages that are easier to learn (like German). But most languages are more expressive then English and not as regular as German, hence they are more difficult to learn. English is also easy to speak because it has very few phonemes and a very simple prosody (or lack of). It’s easy to read because it’s spelling reflects pronunciation (most other European languages that use the Latin alphabet has a spelling that rarely reflects the modern pronunciation of words, i.e. the spelling reflects how the word was pronounced decades ago). It is however hard to spell, because of all alternative spelling forms. As a native speaker of another Germanic language, my biggest problem with English is false friends and, as I’m used to more succinct languages, what to omit.

    #6 Finnish is a very regular language, with the easiest spelling rules I’ve seen and few phonemes. It is very different from Germanic languages, but it’s not a difficult language to learn. That said, I must admit my Finnish sucks. As a native Swede, growing up with nearby dialects with a grammar that resemble Icelandic and as Icelandic share a lot of vocabulary with my own dialect, I don’t actually speak Icelandic, but understand it to some extent, and it seem to me that it is more regular then most Germanic languages, both in grammar and spelling. I guesstimate Icelandic would at least be easier to learn, for someone that don’t speak a Germanic language, then English.

  42. messmor says:

    I wonder if she calls every Asian person she meets Ping Pong.

  43. Anonymous says:

    BastardNamban:

    Regarding Xeni: that’s different though, it’s a name she chose herself, fully knowing that Americans can’t pronounce it. And since she doesn’t pronounce her chosen last name (Jardin) as it would be in either French or Spanish, nobody can really be expected to know how to pronounce or spell it.

    (BTW: The profile creation script doesn’t send out confirmation emails.)

  44. wylkyn says:

    Yeah, can we get a correction on this story? The title seems very inflammatory. When you watch the clip it is obvious that these are two people calmly discussing a solution to a real problem, not some redneck politician suggesting that Chinese people change their names to Joe or Sue. The wording of her suggestion is unfortunate, but it has been blown way out of proportion by people who seem to have an ax to grind.

  45. Kyle Armbruster says:

    I live in Japan as well, and I totally understand the intentions of the lawmaker here. But as BastardNanban points out, it isn’t like people are TRYING to confuse the government.

    When I first came to Japan, my Japanese teacher told me to preserve the order of my name, since everyone knows that Western names have given name first, family name second.

    Well, that didn’t work out so well, because I finally got a little irked that, for example, when at the doctor’s office, everyone else got called by their family name, and I was addressed by my first. Of course it doesn’t make a bit of difference, and the nurse THOUGHT she was addressing me by my family name, but it kinda just seemed off.

    So then a few years ago I started flipping my name so people could get it right.

    But then you run into the people who know better, and now assume my first is my last, while the ignorant ones are getting it right.

    And good lord, you should see the mess a middle name makes. Since your passport only has a middle initial, that’s what your alien registration card has and what your driver’s license has. However, sometimes a form will ask for your middle name, and if you actually put your middle name, some stern looking desk jockey who thinks he’s king of town because he’s made it to age 50 without his diet of cigarettes and One Cup sake killing him calls you over and demands you explain why your legal forms say your middle name is “O,” when it’s actually “Oscar.” What are you trying to pull???

    So you end up having a little “teachable moment” where, if you don’t teach the lesson correctly, you could be deported or something.

    Now, it isn’t my intention to confuse people, but it would help if they weren’t already confused. I’ll use any system someone gives me; I don’t care. I just want to get my paycheck and not get deported!

  46. ValuedRug says:

    ::Sigh::

    1- Texas is a lot more complicated than one f$#%’in youtube video makes it out to be.

    2- Austinites feel like remote flag-bearers for the sane, amidst a sea of ignoramuses. I find this humorous.

    3- Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and the REST OF THE STATE, have millions of educated, hard working people that may not agree with the actions of the woman in the video. Or they may, and that’s OK.

    4- Get some perspective. Not everything can be summed up in one statement.

  47. AlexG55 says:

    So, Ramey Ko, according to Rep. Brown, is harder to spell and pronounce than Zbigniew Brzezinski?

  48. TheCrawNotTheCraw says:

    “behoove”

    Now *there’s* a common English word. Hahahahahaha

    How many non-immigrant high school graduates nowadays knows what *that* type of archaic English means?

  49. automaton_be says:

    I didn’t see anything offensive about Betty Brown’s arguments, except perhaps her choice of words. She uses ‘American’ and ‘Americanize’ a lot, while it should probably be ‘Romanized’ or ‘Easily legible to an English-speaking person’. She should have known better, though.
    Everybody seems to be missing the point that Ramey Ko is making about government officials making errors in transcribing names that are unfamiliar to them. This seems to be the real problem, especially coupled with voting officials using very strict rules. A system to either minimize the amount of manual transcription or a thorough program to teach government officials the importance of this seems more in order. If people want to change their name for convenience, by all means let them, but they shouldn’t be forced to because government employees are incompetent and/or sloppy without having to bear the consequences.

  50. jccalhoun says:

    The problem isn’t people with “unusual” names but rather people putting names into the computer either making a mistake or assuming that people don’t know their own name and “fixing” it for them.

    My first name is Bryan-Mitchell. No middle name. I can’t tell you how many different “aliases” I have because people who put my name in the computer change it for some reason (or the system can’t handle a hyphen in a name or isn’t set up for first names that have that many letters).

    People love to think I’m a moron and don’t know my own name. “Mitchell is your middle name” or that my last name is hyphenated instead. Or that my parents chose to spell Bryan with an I instead of a Y or, one that I’ve never figured out, Bryon. I’ve never ran across a person with Bryon for a name but for as often as I get things with that name on it there must be people with that name.

    So it isn’t just Asians who get stuck with a ton of different spellings of their name in the USA. (funnily enough because hyphenated names are common in some Asian cultures and my last name could conceivably be some transliteration of an Asian name, every couple of years or so I get some junk mail that is entirely written in Chinese or Korean characters.)

  51. BastardNamban says:

    @20, Kyle,

    Yes- I have a middle name, and it makes my life here hell sometimes, ESPECIALLY on legal forms. I have to explain to Japanese why I go by a different first name than my legal real name, as we have shortening conventions in the West, but many Japanese don’t know this. For those wondering, Japanese do not have middle names. Gods & people with official titles of nobility have extra things added to their names, but that’s rare.

    And the whole name order thing? I never get anyone calling me by my proper name anyway- very few people get the order thing right here.

    And I’ve noticed most don’t care- when they call you by your first name as a foreigner, it’s either to make it easier to recognize when they call out for you (most likely), or they are trying to show they are friendly (also likely), or just mistake. Most of the time, they are trying to single you out for convenience, or to show friendliness- it’s not to be rude.

    More official places like doctors and gov. officials tend to use your last name. As a customer- they often use your last name. You get used to feeling out their intention for choice after a while.

    My advice- don’t listen to your teacher- don’t expect anyone here to call you by conventional dictates- you mesh with their reality differently than simple formalities when you are a foreigner here, and they either recognize this in being overly too friendly, or officially ask your last name. Those most polite will ask YOU how you wish to be addressed. Only correct people to use your last name if you want to distance them purposely.

    These are the realities I deal with daily. I can’t imagine what a friend of mine who is Latin does when he comes here- his name is a full 8 names or so long!

  52. mortis says:

    #44: “This is all a co-ordinated cryptoracist cryptofascist signal to white social conservatives..”

    wow. i think your Che Guevara shirt might be too tight and blocking the flow of blood to your brain. assuming you’re serious… this being the internet, there’s no telling.

    ^m^

  53. Church says:

    Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

    1) Cory, go about spelling your name “Corie,” “Kory,” “Coree,” etc.
    2) Make outraged post about your oppression
    3) Profit!

  54. agoodsandwich says:

    It is painfully obvious which commenters actually watched the video.

  55. tjvm says:

    I was going to criticize the article’s headline for being misleading, but after thinking about it, it’s flat-out false. Not only does the lawmaker not demand that asians change their names, but she makes it clear that she does not expect that. Rather, she seems to be suggesting that, whatever Romanized name people use, they use consistently, in order to avoid identification problems. Now, I’m open to the possibility that there could be obstacles to doing that, but it’s hardly a ridiculous suggestion.

    Though I’m generally sympathetic to Cory’s views, I think this article illustrates a serious problem with modern political debate: You can try to have a reasonable conversation about a difficult issue, but someone will take a snippet of your words out of context to make you look ridiculous. This, of course, encourages public officials to speak in nothing but PR pablum.

  56. Anonymous says:

    This isn’t new to Asians. Lots of Europeans in the 19th and 20th centuries had their names changed by immigration officials at Elli Island who couldn’t pronounce or spell the European names correctly.

    And yes, if you actually watch the video, the representative is being clumsy, perhaps, in her choice of words, but both parties are addressing a serious issue and are being reasonable about it.

    And what, exactly, is an “English” name, anyway?

  57. Anonymous says:

    I have worked with a population that included a lot of Chinese people and finding their name in the computer can sometimes be difficult because of word order and spelling but no worse than hyphenated “American” names. You just have to laugh at people like Betty Brown who expose their ignorance for the world to ridicule. Seems like she could find something important to worry about these days.

  58. Anonymous says:

    She actually (disappointingly) makes sense. Poor wording sometimes, but she’s not properly ignorant. She had me thinking, yes, people should settle on one name and make it legal.

    Then I read the comment thread. I also live in Japan. My 3 main pieces of ID: Drivers license, alien registration card, and Passport all show my name differently. And my name is very simple and has never been changed or shortened.

  59. Anonymous says:

    We should all change our names to our mobile numbers and then *POOF* we solve all kinds of problems. :p

  60. Mike Gebert says:

    This from a state that named its water park Schlitterbahn. Look, the giant slide schlitted me into the pool!

  61. takeshi says:

    I read about this on Crooks and Liars a couple of days ago, and my initial reaction was shock and dismay. I am a Texan by birth, but haven’t lived there since just after George Bush was elected governor. This news assures me that I made the right decision. Not that I ever doubted it.

    But what strikes me as potentially damaging here is the number of Asian-Americans who have a working understanding of English, but who are unable to distinguish between criticism of Betty Brown’s ignorance and straight reporting. In other words, many people may read this story and, due to a shaky understanding of English, may actually believe that this is a serious recommendation by a serious lawmaker.

    After all, this is nothing new. Immigrants of previous centuries have been coaxed, and in some cases even forced, to change their names upon arrival here. One of my Asian friends has reinforced my belief that reporting on this nonsense is a bad idea, as his grandmother believed (until he set her straight) that these name changes were about to be made mandatory in the state of Texas. Add to that the number of people who think that Betty Brown is just trying to help them fit in, and you have a serious problem. I’d like to see what number of Americans actually do change their names as the result of this.

  62. xaxa says:

    @9: Many of the Chinese students at my university in the UK chose an English first name. They used their real name on anything official.

    Sometimes it was confusing. I might look through the class list to email “John Chen”, and eventually find “Guowen Chen”.

    I felt sorry for a couple of people I met that chose unfashionable (by English standards) names, like Betty and Doris. I guess they liked the sound though.

    In any case, I always did my best to pronounce things correctly, and with the practice I’m now not too bad.

  63. Bloodboiler says:

    It’s not like this sort of thing has never happened before in Texas, is it?

    -Your new name is Richard.
    -My name is Kim Kinte.
    *whiplash
    -Your new name is Richard.
    -My name is Kim Kinte.
    *whiplash
    -Your new name is Richard.
    -My name is Kim Kinte.
    *whiplash
    -Fine. Whatever. My name is Lickhald.
    *whiplash
    -Your new name is Richard.
    -Lickhald. LICKHARD.
    *whiplash *whiplash *whiplash
    -Richard?
    -NEXT!

  64. God45 says:

    Texas represents not just what is wrong with America, but everything that is wrong with anything anywhere.

  65. Anonymous says:

    Those jumping to her defense stating that her basic premise is sound, that’s all well and good, but it is her attitude that Chinese Americans are not Americans. “do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?”
    She might as well have said “you people”

  66. Anonymous says:

    This woman is not TRYING to be a racist idiot, but she’s succeeding quite well. The choice of words shows such a patent lack of familiarity with the immigrant communities in her own district that you can’t really chalk it up as a minor slip.

    Texas is an unusual place in that it has two of the ten largest urbanizations in the country (plus several other fair sized ones) and a huge and diverse economy, making it hugely attractive to immigrants, but it also has a rural and (especially in the eastern part where Terrell more-or-less is) Southern outlook that is incompatible with the immigration trends that are so patently obvious to anyone who bothers to take a look. This woman is a dinosaur, and the sooner her ilk are voted out of office to retire to their famrs and/or McMansions, the sooner the New Texans can take over strip off some of the stupid (while hopefully retaining some of the independent spirit that makes Texas such a delightfully bizarre place).

    @ #5, My wife thinks she went to school with Ramey Ko as well. Plano Senior High?

  67. Anonymous says:

    I’ll play devil’s advocate here:

    So you mean the values of the Alamo, great beef, and suspicious lack of characiture tall green cactuses is everything wrong with the world?

    Don’t think too far, do ya.

    I think your ire is only really drawn at what most here are- stupid and large population of fundies, said fundies having too much influence in education system there (and by proxy, the rest of the US), and the shame brought on real cowboys from one moronic president that made an otherwise manly ideal look like a national charater shaming.

    Perhaps that’s what you mean?

  68. dhuff says:

    Geez…just when I think I’m safe in pointing to a neighboring state (Louisiana) as the home of the most bizarre politics in America, this sh*t pops up.

    I’m with my fellow Texan Molly Ivins on this, “I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”

  69. agoodsandwich says:

    I have to agree with a couple of previous commenters, that this has been blown out of proportion and out of context.

    The lady is not suggesting that all people named Chen must now be named Johnson. She is just saying that maybe people like this guy’s cousin would have less trouble if they didn’t have different names on different official documents.

    She’s not being a bigot. She’s not showing herself to be an idiot. She just got caught in an unfortunate sound bite.

  70. Cowtown2 says:

    That was my anonymous comment about Texas being a magnet for immigrants while also a home for out-of-touch dinosaurs. The new commenting system must be too much for my Texan brain, what with Texas being all that is wrong with anything anywhere.

  71. Blaine says:

    I’m sorry but some of the commenters here are fucked in the head.

    Plain and simple. Cory may have spun it and the wolves descended.

    She’s suggesting just picking a name for the polls. When I go to the deli and grab a ticket, they’re not changing my name to “Number 32″. It’s just they don’t know me, I don’t know them, it’s a way we can easily identify me. They say “32″ and I present my slip of paper that says “32″ and I get my ham.

    She even says immediately that she’s not suggesting they change their name!

    Here, should you not listen to the actual clip, is basically how the conversation boils down in tl;dw format. I hope you enjoy.

    ***

    Lawmaker: Do you have suggestions on how to solve this problem?

    Citizen: The problem is in converting asian writing characters into english writing characters, there is no one official way of doing it.

    Lawmaker: Would it be reasonable to just pick one name and call it official? You don’t have to actually change your name, but this will be how you can be identified at polls.

    Citizen: The problem with that is some people have chosen common names such as “Lucy” to replace their given names which may be difficult to pronounce. Additionally when emigrating some people do not understand proper transliteration and will just guess at how to romanize their names.

    Lawmaker: I think we need intelligent young people like yourself to help come up with a solution that you think will work for the public and we can see if we can work with it.

    ***

    A dialog with two people, one presenting a problem, one offering a solution that doesn’t work and then the one in authority deferring to someone better versed in solution finding.

    I hope to Jake that most problems are solved this way.

  72. Anonymous says:

    Here’s part of an email I sent to Betty Brown’s office:

    I am of Korean descent, not Chinese, but I know most people don’t understand or care about the difference, least of all Texans–so I’ll proceed. Not only is your comment exclusionary and jingoistic, but simply racist. You live in Texas; should it be suggested that Latin Americans change their names from Margarita or Esteban to “Mary” or “Steve”?

    While I am Asian, my last name–my maiden and permanent name–is Polish. It is almost always mispronouced and misspelled. Should I change it for expediency and to make your life easier?

    It would make life a trifle easier for me were I to change my surname to my mother’s maiden name, Kim. But that is not my name. And I will not change, shorten, or “dumb down” my name because some ignorant persons are trying to refuse certain U.S. citizens the opportunity to vote. Or because some redneck, racist legislator named Betty Brown thinks “valid Americans” only includes those with European names.

  73. weatherman says:

    BASTARDNAMBAN has this totally right. The article is completely inflamatory, and if you actually watch the video clip, the legistlator specifically says that she is not asking people to change their names, just agree on a standard of transliteration. And it’s the Chinese-American witness who actually seems to suggest the problem comes from the fact that many Chinese-Americans DO adopt Western names (like his cousin “Kathy”) and that may be the source of confusion.

  74. diverdown says:

    I think everyone is looking at this wrong… well, a lot of people anyway.

    He has an extremely important , and valid, point……. but he completely used the wrong wording. So yea, he looks like an idiot and didnt explain his point clearly – and yes, its a real problem that needs to be dealt with.

    It is painfully true that people use inaccurate (thus illegal) names on various paperwork.

    If a persons ID says Gweoun, then his name is Gweoun — not freaking John! If he wants to be called something else, then thats between him and the homies. NOT government paperwork. NOT education records. NOT bank/financial docs.

    Try the Philippines where peoples nicknames have absolutely nothing to do with them. Marylin Rosa becomes Ivy or Jennifer or Angelina… I mean, absolutely no sense at all. And yes, they also get those names put on ID cards, but still get upset when someone tells them they’re screwed.

    Want a different name? fine, get a legal name change. Dont feel up to it? also fine…. just dont complain about losing your rights as US Citizens…. because US Citizens are required to follow those laws.

    ( you see, thats what he should have been saying instead of his fumbling blather. Agreed, he sounded like a fool.

  75. Anonymous says:

    She clearly realized what she said immediately after she said it and was probably about to correct it if the young man hadn’t cut in.

  76. knyghtryda says:

    being someone who kept their chinese name, I don’t see this as much of a problem. When get your visa, and subsiquently your green card, citizenship, SS card… etc, you have to SPELL your name in english. That right there becomes the name you will go by. Who cares how its spelled. I’ve seen polish and russian names far worse than any chinese name (being that most chinese names are no longer than three characters and each character has less than 6 roman characters total). The whole “name change without notification” problem is the real issue. I know plenty of people who still keep their official chinese/asian name on file but for all intents and purposes go by their western name. This I could see getting very confusing in official legal circumstances. I think its just a matter of spending the time to sort things out before immediately denying someone something because their name didn’t match.

  77. Nick15 says:

    This is obscene.

    Half of my family comes from South Korea, and many of them have made the move over to the States. Likewise I interact with a lot of people working on earning their Citizenship at my Mom’s Korean church. Every so often the topic comes up where they, in order to “fit in”, want to change their Korean names to something a bit more “American”. But every time it comes up I tell them this:

    “I know more people named ‘Jeanette or ‘Helen’ than I do ‘Jang-won’ or ‘Hae-won’; nothing is more American than names that remind everyone that we still live in the Great Melting Pot.”

    It’s usually enough to make them want to keep their names.

  78. Brainspore says:

    @ Gadgets123 #56:

    They actually forced you to change how you spelled and pronounced your own name? Wow, those countries sound like xenophobic cultures that do not share my values.

  79. Kramer says:

    I’m also disappointed in how this article was framed. I have come to expect more from this site. I’ve been following boing boing for a couple years and think of it as an example of positive critical thinking.

    As far as the topic goes. Every relevant argument seems to already have been made. I moved to Korea a couple months ago. Although I’ve been here a very short time, I have had similar experiences to the other posters who live in Asia. At least some people actually watched the clip.

  80. ProfBlah says:

    This discussion is getting long!

    I can see how someone might be offended by the suggestion that a group should make changes to how they handle their names so that “Americans” can handle them better, since it seems to imply that members of the group are not American too.

    But clearly they’re included in the list of Americans who are having trouble dealing with these types of transliteration complexities. So it makes sense to come up with some changes that make their names easier for all Americans to manage, including them.

    We’re all in this together!

  81. Takuan says:

    this will hardly matter when the ship bearing our Queen lands. Best all you workers sharpen your sense of smell.

  82. Oren Beck says:

    To my non-combative take on the whole situation it’s all about respect. Respect for the social factors of all involved parties. Calling some of the technical factors non-trivial may be an understatement. The guideline to me is sincerity of respect. And that’s a pass/fail test often ignored.

  83. Filekutter says:

    Its time to just kick Texas off the map and into the gulf. Let it just float away kicking and screaming that only they understand the “meaning” of being American.
    Good old boys, just wrap yourselves in the flag and go jump in the ocean, please. Bye, see ya, nice to see you go.

  84. ill lich says:

    Russia is part of Asia, right? It must be, because I’ve spent my whole life having fellow Americans mispronounce my Slavic last name. Looks like I’ve been improperly checking off “Caucasian” on census forms for years when I should have been checking “Asian or Pacific Islander.”

    Wish I’d known that years ago, might’ve helped me get into a better college.

    Now, if what he really meant was that names on IDs should match names in voter roles, then why did he single out one particular minority? Are Chinese names written in Chinese characters on Texas IDs? If people register under to vote under a different name, why then isn’t he screaming about “voter fraud?”

  85. Anonymous says:

    What does uniform transliteration have to do with mistranscription? Having different transliteration systems only confuses people who are familiar with the system and/or the language.

  86. Blaine says:

    Bloodboiler:

    Yes. Because, in a nutshell, asking people to just spell their name one way and not change it because it’s confusing or gets mispronounced is the same as beating someone with a whip to accept their slave name.

    After reading a lot of people’s comments I’m slowly turning AGAINST the Asian Americans.

    Pick a name and stick with it. Don’t like how it works, then you need to officially change it.

    Not just sorta go, “People have problems with ‘Risa’ so I’ll just start spelling it ‘Lisa’ since it’ll sound more accurate to the original Japanese.” No… get the forms, do the paperwork, change it proper.

    If it’s a big enough deal to you after the fact (when you go to the voting booth and they don’t have any record of your new name) then it should be a big enough of a deal to take care of it in advance.

    Congratulations parade of morons, I now think not only was the Texas government being equitable, but are probably giving unfair special treatment.

    It’s amazing how one’s mind can change positions in a desperate attempt to disassociate oneself from those who think similarly.

  87. wizardofplum says:

    Said Betty,the Texan dubbed Brown,
    I resent being framed,as a clown.
    ‘Mongst Texans ’tis known,
    It’s Bred in the Bone!
    Jingoists, are running the town.
    George Bush and his ilk notwithstanding,lets cut Mss Brown some slack, its a question of semantics over substance.

  88. Blaine says:

    Sweet jesus, people are still commenting but not watching the video?

    Want another version of this discussion?

    I grew up with a kid named Sean. His parents, when he was born, spelled it Sjohn. He didn’t like it, so he used “Sean”. It grew on him when he got older and reverted to “Sjohn”.

    Now the dude’s name has always been pronounced “Shawn” but spelled two different ways at two points in his life.

    Betty Brown is, in a round-a-bout way, suggesting he just pick a spelling and stick with it for voting purposes.

    So even if one day he wants to spell it “Schawn”, because he wants to be different and is sick of people saying S-Jon, then he needs to make it consistent in all documentation OR be prepared to present something that identifies himself with the name they have on file.

    It’s highly, highly reasonable.

  89. Anonymous says:

    Many nations already require this. If I moved to Iceland I would be required to adopt an Icelandic surname as I understand it.

    In addition it was done to our forefathers as well. Müller became Miller or Mueler. Bäcker became baker or baecker. My own surname was mangled to make it marginally understandable for non-slavic people to understand.

    I have no problem at all with it, it’s only fair the standards should be consistant

  90. Anonymous says:

    Homer Simpson (to asian nursing home worker): Thank you Ping-Pong!

    Asian nursing home worker: My name is Craig.

  91. chris says:

    First, to all the Texas haters… the whole state isn’t ignorant. In fact there are many very educated and tolerant people living there… just go to Austin. : )

    This lady needs to learn that EVERYBODY at some point “immigrated” to this landmass. The Native Americans as far as we can tell did it first. Then the Europeans, along with the rest of the world. And that the word American doesn’t mean a white truck-drivin’ God-fearin’ xenophobic content ignoramus, it means a beautiful blend of cultures from all over the world melting together.

    Transliterating names is an issue. My grandparents changed their last name and used English equivalents for their first names. Those became their new names to everybody here, their ‘real’ names are used by relatives, friends and family that speak their language. So far its worked out for them, but in today’s society I think we can do better.

    Perhaps we need to add a line to the identification cards? Can’t we use UTF-8 and support wider character sets to get the real names down and then add a recording of how to say the name? Then an English transliteration, then maybe a preferred English name? I mean lets use our brains to solve the real problem.

  92. AirPillo says:

    Oh dear, poor silly man… he’s in for a shitstorm for that, now.

  93. chris7crows says:

    Look, Betty Brown is an idiot. It’s not like she’s the only idiot in government — or in Texas — but she is an idiot, and obviously one who hasn’t traveled widely or been exposed to other cultures.

    But what’s up with the knee-jerk Texas hatred? I live in Texas — okay, granted, Austin — and if you kick us into the Gulf, you’re also going to be losing a sizable chunk of the videogame industry, one of the biggest music festivals in the world, and the best chain of movie theaters (Alamo) in America (five minutes away from my house I can watch movies on a Sony Digital 4K screen while drinking Guinness). Also, where the hell are you going to get the best Tex-Mex food? Beat up on the idiots in our government all you want — I’ll even help out — but a lot of us don’t share their views, we just like living here.

  94. cherishhellfire says:

    Looks like she issued a retraction/apology, but the cats out of the bag: State Rep. Betty Brown is so out of touch she has to scratch her butt by airmail.

  95. Anonymous says:

    what an idiot- these are the people run our country- no wonder things are the way they are.

  96. Tenn says:

    I’m really disappointed by the Texas-haters here. One, she’s not saying what you think she’s saying, two, she’s one representative out of thousands of people. Texas is huge. We think different things, we say different things, we have liberals and conservatives in different places. We have a large Asian population and a large Hispanic population and a large Black population, depending on the area. There’s Germans and Swedes and Choctaw and Mexicans and Puerto Ricans and Cubans and Chinese and Vietnamese and Koreans here. In fact, surprisingly more percentage-wise than in many more northern, more ‘civilized’ states. There are areas here that are FAR more diversified than people expect. And- news flash- we don’t all ride horses and lynch Negroes in our best white Sunday outfits, either.

    My legal name is “TeNeal”. It gets almost as much trouble as “Quoc” or other names. I get told how I’m supposed to pronounce my name. Thankfully, the capital N hasn’t caused me any trouble yet and I don’t think it should. My parents just took a name they liked (Teneille) and spelled it how it sounded, so that they could call me “Neal” for short. Despite the fact that it’s spelled phonetically, people still insist on calling me tah-nell, tee-nell, tennul, toenail, and other permutations. It’s just “Tuh-Neil.” So I feel sympathy, but it’s hardly like this is a problem with people with non-romanized names only. It’s a problem with anyone with a unique name, period.

    Should we switch to a name list? No thanks. Just don’t change your name’s spelling like she’s suggesting, without getting an official change. Easy as cherry pie.

  97. Anonymous says:

    To answer my own question about why aren’t all polling places going by just your social security number, that would make too much sense and prevent white trash from turning away minorities at the polls.

  98. Takuan says:

    Champion… t’will do.

  99. Abner Cadaver II says:

    Bravo to that fellow for being able to remain composed and informative in the face of stalwart ignorance.

  100. Anonymous says:

    My ancestors changed their names when they immigrated to America. Granted it wasn’t necessarily their choice, but they did.

  101. VICTOR JIMENEZ says:

    As said in The Onion:
    “Wouldn’t it just be easier to teach Texans how to read?”

  102. senorglory says:

    … but seriously folks, #12 above makes several good points, and I’d like to add: Ms. Brown doesn’t really appear to be angry, ignorant, or racist, but instead makes a gaffe during a public discussion of how to fix voter registration to be more inclusive and less problematic for immigrants. These two in the video are engaged, to some extent, in a brain storming session. Ms. Brown refers to “you and your citizens,” but clearly, her frame of mind isn’t that Chinese are other than regular ole American citizens, so much as she’s focused on the specific group of constituents represented by the advocate before her. Unscripted public speaking is difficult.

  103. Anonymous says:

    I don’t mean to comment on Ms. Brown particularly. As someone said above, unscripted public discourse is what it is, and anyone who thinks that they’re able to express themselves perfectly on the fly at the drop of a hat is either incredibly talented or has never actually tried it. I’m willing to cut Betty some slack.

    However, I don’t believe the issue is so straightforward as “don’t change your name without informing the authorities.” From personal experience I can say that the authorities have a hard enough time as it is dealing with consistency when staring it in the face. Case in point: My wife’s name is Ya-hsuan Chang; that is, given name = Ya-hsuan and surname = Chang. This is the only name and spelling that she has ever used with state and federal authorities in the US, and yet that has not prevented all sorts of unexpected permutations. For instance, depending on the state or federal agency (and even among different federal entities or agencies within the same state), she is known variously as:

    First name = Ya-hsuan, last name = Chang (correct–woohoo!)
    First name = Ya Hsuan, last name = Chang (almost, but enough to cause snags)
    First name = Yahsuan, last name = Chang (same as above)
    First name = Ya, middle name = Hsuan, last name = Chang (Hyphenated first name and blank box for middle name must have made someone uncomfortable)
    First name = Ya, middle name = Shuan, last name = Chang (same as above, but in his case someone has “corrected” the spelling; thanks for nothing!)
    and even first name = Yaxuan, last name = Zhang (a one-off that assume to be the work of an activist partisan; unfortunately, entirely unhelpful!)

    Perhaps this is a misfortune shared by all who have names with unusual spellings and nontraditional formatting, and not just Asians. In any case, that’s not the problem. The problem is an inconsistent approach and when dealing with “weird” names. If government agencies are going to make a big fuss about one’s name matching exactly what’s in the records, then the government better start training people to copy exactly what my wife enters in the forms she fills out.

  104. Comatose51 says:

    The part that really pisses me off is this: “do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?”

    “You and your citizens” ???

    These Chinese Americans who can register to vote, thus making them American citizens, natural-born or naturalized. So why are they a separate class of citizens? That’s probably the more offensive part.

    BTW, if that’s the same Ramey Ko I went to school with, he is rumored to have a pet monkey. He has practice dealing with poop flinging.

  105. airshowfan says:

    I’m with #8, 16, 22, 28, 30, 48, and 54. This is being blown way out of proportion. I especially recommend everyone check out #30′s paraphrased transcript. Once you get beyond the fact that the lawmaker expressed herself poorly (and she’s only human), it’s not a big deal.

    #8, 40, and 51 get the real problem: People doing data entry who make mistakes, and people who change their names without updating their documents. So A) people who do data entry need to realize that their misspellings have very annoying consequences and to be careful, and B) people should always write their name in a consistent way.

    Not doing “A)” and/or “B)” causes different forms and databases to each have a different name for a person. That’s the only problem here. This can and should be fixed: Each person should contact each applicable company or government service, and do whatever it is he/she have to do to fix the name on file. They all have a process to do it. I have a long Italian name (which, as #23 said, is about 8 Chinese names long, LOL) that gets misspelled all the time. So I keep an eye out for documents that get it wrong, and I get them fixed. I think my car title was the most annoying one to fix.

    A lot of commenters have suggested that we need one official transliteration system (presumably one for each language that uses non-roman characters) in order to reduce mistakes. #47 even suggests that the government should impose it. But as #17 recognizes, this would be impractical. I think each person, when they first have to write their name in roman characters, should just make a choice and stick with it! It’s that simple. And if they want to change it later – be it from Xi Qang to Shi Quang or from Guowen to John – they should make sure it gets changed on all relevant documents and databases, because they are CHANGING THEIR NAME and that’s a serious thing to do.

    Interestingly, during my naturalization process, I was asked a few times if I wanted to change my name. To me, this emphasized the fact that the name the government has on file for you is something important, worth being mindful about.

    I’ve always been puzzled by people who adopt a totally different “American” first name (as #19, 25, and 32 note). My mother named me Bernardo and I would feel disrespectful towards her and to my other relatives if I changed my name to “Bernard”, let alone “John”. But hey, if people want to do that, I don’t care. They just have to be consistent: Either all documents have their “real” name, and their “American” name is just a nickname that people call them by, or all forms have their “American” name which then becomes their name for all effects and purposes (except to friends and relatives back in their native country). Sounds sensible to me.

    And a minor and slightly unrelated point: #37 says that “American” means “a beautiful blend of cultures from all over the world melting together”. I don’t know where you got this idea, but one thing that to me makes the US quite different from other New World countries is that here the cultures don’t melt or blend together. You get lots of micro-cultures mostly with hyphens in them (African-American, Chinese-American, Hispanic, etc) who feel the need to keep themselves distinct from the dominant culture. Personally I think this is a shame, although I do kinda see what people get out of it. Most people like to get a sense of identity from belonging to some group. I, however, hate to be pigeonholed, and prefer to get my sense of identity from what I’m like and from being pragmatic, rather than from what the other people who share my ancestry are like (especially since there are many values, in the culture I come from, that I strongly disagree with. But not all of them).

  106. Anonymous says:

    “Rather than everyone here having to learn your way of thinking — I understand it’s a rather difficult feat — do you think that it would behoove you to adopt a form of logic that we could deal with more readily here?”

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