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Names are important, the first presentation to another of who we are. So important are they that at least one state has a law which prohibits giving children names which will be obviously derogatory, or will invite ridicule and abuse. Example: Lemonjello and Orangejello (twins).

I have a friend who has a "standard" first name--like Louise or Jennifer or Sarah--and then a middle name which would immediately be identified as a particular ethnicity and a fairly easily definable socioeconomic class, not one accorded much respect or trust.

Her mother gave her the first name to protect her from discrimination, the middle name because it was her grandmother's.

My friend find herself in a self-identity paradox. She is a third-generation American, yet proud of her ethnic heritage as well. However, practically, she knows that she will probably be (mis)treated as a member of a particular group of people if she uses her middle name (the name she was called by as she was growing up).

She has recently reverted to her childhood name at home, yet uses her first name at work. She confesses to feeling as though she is becoming two different people, even to the way she speaks English at home versus in the workplace.

My own grandfather changed his last name to something perceived at the time as generically "American" because he wanted to be American, not a hyphenated immigrant. Most women lose their last names when they marry and take the name of their lord and master. How much of their personal identity do they lose in the process?

Names are important.

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