Hawaii tells Janice Keihanaikukauakah- ihuliheekahaunaele to change her name

Janice Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele has a really long last name. She got it from her late husband, and the state of Hawaii wants her to change it since it won’t fit on her driver’s license.

(I had to put a hyphen in the title because her name wouldn’t fit on the blog!)

Or more precisely, they’re able to fit her 35-character last name on her license, but then they can’t fit her first – which has gotten her into trouble when law enforcement has asked for her license, seen no first name, and then questioned whether the license is legit.

The state has told her to change her last name, she says no way.

hawaii-long-name--big

The local Hawaii TV news has gotten involved, and now it looks like the state that finally figured out that it’s not very polite to tell someone to change their family name because it’s inconvenient to rewrite your computer code.

I think my favorite part of the video below is how the TV reporter doesn’t blink at pronouncing the woman’s name perfectly.  Watch it below, it’s pretty cool.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • RaymondHng

    Give that reporter an Emmy for saying “Janice Lokelani Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele” in just 3.875 seconds!

    She should have no problem with stories from Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

  • Hitchmeister

    “…law enforcement has asked for her license, seen no first name, and then questioned whether the license is legit.”

    One name was enough for McLovin.

  • Elizabeth Joseph

    Gotta love ‘Murica. “We DGAF what your REAL name is.. We’re gonna make yew change it to something WE like… that WE can PRONOUNCE… .BTW, ‘Murica”. SMDH

  • Zorba

    I can believe it. My family’s name has been mis-spelled and mis-pronounced countless times over the years.
    Heck, my high school principal mis-pronounced my name at my graduation!

  • slavdude

    My surname is an ancient Hebrew word whose current spelling in Latin letters dates from medieval Germany. It ends with an “m”, and all my life or my family have had to deal with people trying to “correct” it by making it into something that sounds more natural to the English-speaking ear, almost always by substituting “n” for the final “m”. In fact, some distant branches of my family (everyone in the world with this same name is related) have adopted the incorrect spelling just because it is easier than correcting others all the time.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Thanks – neat!

  • PeteWa

    the reporter was referring to her by a shortened form of her middle name Lokelani, shortened to Loke.
    the lokelani is the island flower of Maui, it is a pink Damask rose brought to the islands in the early 1800s.
    http://www.magicofmaui.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Maui-Rose.jpg

  • unrepentant_expat

    I’ve had some precious memories though.

  • ChrisM70

    Her name isn’t that bad…

  • Zorba

    Ha! I bet that type of thing happened more than once, when immigrant children entered the public schools.

  • ComradeRutherford

    “We don’t have nearly enough ukelele in our lives.”

    Hilarious! And I agree.

  • ComradeRutherford

    My family name didn’t change at Ellis Island, it was changed by a public school teacher who put a ‘t’ on the end of my ancestor’s name in the school records.

  • ComradeRutherford

    I don’t see how that is a problem. You are siding with corporate profits over human beings.

  • ComradeRutherford

    So programmer’s incompetence and laziness is more important than people’s lives. Got it.

  • goulo

    Not all programmers would agree with you that programming convenience should override correct handling of people’s names. :)

    E.g.:
    http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-names/
    and
    http://blog.jgc.org/2010/06/your-last-name-contains-invalid.html

  • terry larkin

    very COOL it was said!!!!

  • goulo

    Ha, I have heard that joke said about Polish family names…

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Memory is cheap these days.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Aye, it was beautiful hearing the name pronounced correctly. Like a stream of sound.

    I noticed though that after that, the reporter seemed to use a shortened version. Is that a usual/typical practice in Hawaii for the super-long names?

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    It was cited among the reasons for child protective services removing those kids from that home. One of the daughters was named “Aryan Nation” and the other two had names of Nazi leaders, although they’re not as obvious as being named ‘Adolf Hitler’.

  • JosephP

    If you make the name field 1000 characters long, you take up a kilobyte just for the name. That’s pretty unworkable.

  • neroden

    Adults should have the right to take whatever name they like. Giving your *kid* the name Adolph Hitler is a sign that you might be an unfit parent.

  • neroden

    So the name changes were done by private steamship companies. Why am I not surprised.

  • neroden

    It’s the government’s problem if it can’t handle a simple native Hawaiian name.

    Look, I’m a computer programmer too, and I’ve faced stupid databases which only had *eight* characters for the first name. It’s just incompetence. Nobody is really going to have a 1000-character name (it would be unpronounceable), so make the field that long.

    Frankly, with Unicode, even non-English letters can be represented easily enough.

  • bandanajack

    i’m a resident of hawaii, we can handle this situation. hawaiian names are simple enough to pronounce, but it does require some extra effort to study the name for the appropriate syllable breaks.

  • Zorba

    Yes. My paternal grandfather didn’t change his name (a very long and hard to pronounce, in English, Greek name) until after he, and a little while later, his younger brother, had emigrated here. They both changed to the same, shortened, last name.
    My father, when he was old enough, changed his name back to the original name from Greece. His uncle’s two children never did.
    It did make assembling the family history from immigration records a bit challenging for me, I must say. But the original name had a meaning and long history in Greece, and the assumed name did not, so I’m glad that my dad changed it back.

  • JosephP

    I see people slammed my comment below that I agreed with the DMV that the woman should shorten her name. I’m sympathetic towards her desire to honor her dead husband. But what is the limit? If the computer programmers increase their name fields to 40 characters, what happens when there is a person with a 41 letter name? What if someone has a 100 letter name? Perhaps because I am a computer programmer I have an appreciation for how much work it will be to update the system and keep it backwardly-compatible with the existing name database.

  • JosephP

    Good one!

  • emjayay

    Joke told to me by a Navajo guy:

    Q: What does a Hopi man give his wife on their wedding day that’s long and hard?

    A: His last name.

  • emjayay

    In those European Socialist countries like Germany there are various rules about first names given to babies. It does keep parents from giving their kids names that will label them as ghetto or whatever all their lives.

  • arcadesproject

    we’d better stop singing that stuff about land of the free and home of the brave if some gummint actually forces this lady to charge her name on account-a some drivers license. It’s real simple, dontcha know. The license could just display as many syllables of her name as fit. And then stop. For god’s sake. How hard is that?

  • emjayay

    Actually Naja is right. The Muskie story is almost certainly incorrect. If there was confusion, it happened in Bremen or Hamburg or wherever the person signed up for the ship. If they were from an inland country they were talking to a clerk who did not necessarily speak their language, and until 1917 they may have been illiterate besides. And the immigrant may have chosen a simpler or less Jewish or whatever name at that point. The ship register followed the passengers to Ellis Island. They did not change names at Ellis Island. They were already written down.

  • PeteWa

    I very much appreciated hearing the effortless pronunciation from the reporter.
    I grew up in Hawaii and when I first saw this story I had a bit of trouble saying the name out loud, very beautiful when spoken.

  • Thom Allen

    Thanks for the link. Now I’ll have to listen to it another dozen times. I often don’t like covers of songs, but his voice and the uke are just haunting.

  • Thom Allen

    I wonder if the judge also forces Latinos and Hispanics to change their children’s names if they’ve named them “Jesus”?

  • Thom Allen

    It probably will be reversed on appeal. But, that’s just one more nuisance case that helps to clog up the legal system. The judge in the “messiah” case (Ballew) on a caprice, changed the child’s first name. The mother was there for a paternity hearing. It had nothing to do with the child’s first name. Now there’s an appeal. And the appeal decision may be appealed. Just like the phony lawsuits that get filed in some injury cases where the plaintiff is trying to make a quick buck.

    The judge who actually handed down the name-change ruling (Ballew) should be booted right off of the bench, along with Scalia, Thomas, Baugh (Montana), Steensland (Girouex) and the other idiots of their ilk. The judicial branch is getting just as demented and the legislative branch.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    It’s a long standing myth that names were changed at Ellis Island. If they were, it was generally by the choice of the person immigrating. US immigration officials only went off of what was written in the passenger lists, which were the only documents of record at the time, as no one carried any official form of identification. So you could claim to be anyone you wanted. Not to say there weren’t plenty of cases of people deciding to change their name, to either simply it for officials, or because they were not literate and didn’t know how to spell it (which often resulted in a phonetic spelling), or in many cases, there was simply no standardized spelling… but the big reason was to not sound like where they came from, to avoid persecution. Marciszewski is obviously Polish in origin, Muskie not so much. Italian, Greek, Irish, Polish, and later German and Russian names held heavy stigmas, and choosing a new name was often part of starting over in a new place.

  • Ninong

    Her last name is 36 characters, so they were not able to fit her entire last name. They left off the last letter.

  • ArthurH

    Could we change the judge’s name to “Mud”?

  • ArthurH

    It actually happened to the father of former Maine Senator Edmund Muskie. When he went through Ellis Island the clerk couldn’t figure out how to spell the long Polish family name so he wrote Muskie. Dad kept the name after somebody incorrectly told him he was in the U.S. legally under the Muskie name and might be considered an illegal immigrant if he reverted back to his original name. The change benefited Edmund as he won his first local election as a write-in candidate. Muskie was easier to remember to spell and 7 letters shorter to boot, making it quicker to vote!

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Aye, but that case is likely to be lost on appeal.

    On the other hand, there’s the guy in NJ who named his kid “Adolph Hitler Campbell”… he and his wife ended up losing custody of three of their kids.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/06/04/heath-campbell-nazi-father-child-named-adolf-hitler-custody-heinrich-hons_n_3382822.html

  • bbock

    As someone else mentioned, this is like Ellis Island where a lot of European immigrants were required to change their names because some jerk in the US Government decided their name was too hard to spell or pronounce. The State of Hawaii should be ashamed of itself for not erring on the side of preserving its heritage. They say they they will try to expand the name from 35 to 40. Great. Except she still won’t have her first name. And for those who say “Big deal. She should shorten her name.” it’s obviously not YOUR name they are messing with. Why should anyone surrender their name to the State?

  • TheOriginalLiz

    The government dictating citizen’s names seems like the newest “trend” – not that long ago that parents were told to change their baby’s name from “Messiah” to “Martin” because it offended the christian judge’s sensibilities.

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    One thing’s for sure. Cut and paste have never been used so often in a story that has made it around the web. I certainly would not be able to type her name from memory.

    Imagine the reporter getting the spelling right when she first talked to the woman. That alone must’ve been a 10 minute long conversation :)

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Hawaiian language is among the most beautiful in the world.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Let’s see… Honor one’s late husband by keeping his traditionally Hawaiian surname despite the societal inconvenience of doing so, or conform to a government’s bureaucratic demand because they arbitrarily decided to cut it off at 35 characters.

    I think the choice is clear here.

  • usagi

    Why would that make any difference? At the risk of sounding all libertarian suddenly, where does any government, especially in the US, get off telling someone what their name is? It’s not the 19th century on Ellis Island.

  • Hue-Man

    Aloha. Nostalgia struck! My four trips to three of the islands (Big Island next time) plus Oz-bound transit lounge several times. We don’t have nearly enough ukelele in our lives. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1bFr2SWP1I

  • Indigo

    It’s breath-taking to hear Hawai’ians pronounce those wonderful names!

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    But I think especially in Hawaii they would want to preserve the local heritage. It’s not like she’s some nut who decided to create a last name out of nowhere just to be a pain.

  • tamarz

    Hawaiian names are often very long. You would think Hawaii would get that. Meanwhile — think about all the voter id laws in Republican-controlled states. If this woman were in many of these states, she’d be stopped from voting (which already happens to lots Latinos who have complicated names).

  • AngelaChanning

    I watched this video 5 times just to hear that reporter pronounce her name.

  • JosephP

    John, the name doesn’t even fit on your webpage! I’m on the DMV side on this one. She should just shorten it—I’m sure her dead husband would understand.

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