All posts by Rachel Wilhoit

Beyond “Boy” and “Girl” Names

We assume that most names are gendered, but these multicultural names will turn that assumption upside down. In today’s world of one-to-one marketing, you don’t want to leave these people out:

We’ve all heard the name JEAN. Celebrity bearers include renowned tennis player, Billie Jean King, and Old Hollywood stars, Jean Harlow, Jean Seberg, and Norma Jean Baker (famously Marilyn Monroe). Continue reading Beyond “Boy” and “Girl” Names

Ethnic Technologies Talks Names at American Name Society Conference

Ethnic Technologies makes yet another appearance at the American Name Society Conference – the ninth one in a row!

This year, on behalf of Ethnic Technologies, Director of Research & Product Development, Lisa Spira, and Product Design Analyst, Amy Franz, attended the conference in order to promote the E-Tech product as well as network with other professional and academic linguists.

The American Name Society is held in conjunction with the Linguistics Society of America each year in a different US city. This year, it took place in early January in Salt Lake City, Utah.

As self-proclaimed name nerds, Lisa and Amy were happy to present their respective topics in onomastics among fellow onomasticians.

It was Amy’s first time speaking at the conference. She promoted Ethnic Technologies’ predictive gender product, G-Tech. Gender might seem straightforward, but Amy elaborated on how multicultural names can complicate the system.

She addressed multiple different (made-up) examples of names and how their gender differs for individuals of different ethnicities. Amy ended her talk by explaining how G-Tech is a culturally sensitive way to better understand and engage with your marketing audience in a way that completely avoids dependency on personally identifiable information.

Lisa spoke about multicultural names as data, drawing on Ethnic Technologies’ expertise as the leading multicultural marketing data provider. Precisely capturing names yields actionable, inclusive data, and the ability to better connect with multicultural consumers. Together with David Spira, President of Admelora, Lisa explored how his efforts to build a form that captured the names of a multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-age audience led him to explore the importance of name data to a large organization.

Lisa and Amy listened to presentations about Swedish names in Kansas, names of the Albanian highlands, and indigenous Mexican name usage in California. This sharing of onomastic insights continues to enhance the E-Tech product suite.

Next year, onomasticians and linguists alike will congregate again at the American Name Society Conference which will be held in New York, New York!

The Ancestry Answer I Wouldn’t Have Expected: American

Written by Damon Amador

If you’re an American traveling in another country, and someone asks you what nationality you are, you’d probably say you’re an American. If someone asks you that in the US, however, you’d probably fall back onto your ancestry, talking about the nationalities of the two sides of your family. That’s not true for everyone; according to the American Community Survey (ACS), there are communities of Americans that are much more likely to answer “American” both times.

Many people in the US say that they have American ancestry (not Native American, just, American). Several counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and Florida report as high as 40-50% American when answering the ACS question, “What is [your] ancestry or ethnic origin?” Why is this? Did some people forget their ancestors? Or did they simply lose their heritage culture in favor of an American one?

There’s an interesting parallel story in Mexico. Mestizo was a term originally used to identify mixed race Mexicans during colonial times. This took a turn in the early 1900s, when the Mexican government promoted a “Mestizo identity” to unify the country and its people. The word became more of a cultural identity than a biological one, with the majority of present day Mexican citizens identifying themselves as such.

Will the US one day also have majority reporting American Ancestry? The numbers have been slowly rising each year, going from 20 million in 2011 to nearly 23 million in 2015. Still, unless there are big changes to the country, the chances are slim. One thing that makes the United States unique is that it has been a destination for immigrants throughout most of its history. Migrants have come in waves from different parts of the world, preventing the heritage of the country from becoming static. Even as of 2015, the US population is nearly 15% immigrants, compared to about 1% in Mexico. With such strong migrant populations in the country, a lot of importance ends up being put in our ancestry and heritage. I know I’m American, but my ancestry is Irish and Cuban. With only 7% of the country reporting as American, I think it’s safe to say that most people here think in a similar way.

A Peak Inside Hindu Name Origins: Caste-based Surnames

Written by Amy Franz

In the United States, we don’t have castes, but these historical cultural divisions can still denote our identities. Asian Indians are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States and Canada. They bring with them diverse surnames indicating differences in religion, language, and culture, and frequently stemming from an inherited social system from across the globe.

The caste system is a form of social stratification where, historically, Hindu Indians were grouped by their occupation within society. When these people adopted surnames, they turned to the caste system as a means to obtain a family name, thereby adopting names related to a distant ancestor’s occupation.
In the Indian caste system, there are four different varnas, or the major social classes, that caste-based surnames generally fall under.

The Brahmins form the top of this social hierarchy. This class consists of the intellectuals, teachers, and priests. A couple examples of Brahmin surnames are BHAT, ‘scholar’ in Sanskirt, and MUKHERJEE.
Next are Kshatriyas¸ the warriors at times of war and governors at times of peace. Names such as PUSAPATI and KOTHAPALLI are both Kshatriya surnames. SINGH, primarily a Punjabi Sikh surname meaning ‘lion’ in Sanskrit, was also adopted by the Hindu Kshatriya varna since the name alludes to the characteristics of a warrior.

Under the Kshatriyas are the Vaishyas, the farmers, traders, and merchants. Families with the names AGRAWAL, KHANDELWAL, and MAHAWARS all fall under this varna.

The last major social class of the caste system is the Shudras. The Shudras are the community’s laborers, performing numerous different service jobs. PATEL, YADAV, and KURMI are a few of surnames historically associated with the Shudra working class.

The Indian caste system is a complex part of Hindu culture and this only touches the surface of its intricacies. There are many subcategories that fall under the umbrella of the four major varnas, many more names, and even more spelling variations.

While there is rich cultural significance in these Hindu surnames, it is important to highlight the fact that once these families immigrate to the United States or Canada, they are not defined by these social classes. That said, their surnames come from a rich historical context which directly influences how Asian Indians interact with and respond to marketing.

Ethnic Technologies Thought Leaders to Speak at International Conference

Ethnic Technologies Director of Research & Product Development, Lisa Spira and Account Executive, Tracy Fey have been invited to speak at the XXVI International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (ICOS) in Debrecen, Hungary in late August 2017.

The organizers of the upcoming XXVI International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (ICOS) invited Ms. Spira to participate in a symposium titled “Applied Onomastics in Practice,” which is a new initiative for this traditionally academic conference. As part of the symposium, Ms. Spira will discuss how name data can provide value in marketing and other areas beyond academia.

Ethnic Technologies Account Executive Tracy Fey will also be speaking at ICOS, addressing multicultural name research from another perspective. Ms. Fey is enrolled in a Master’s program in Applied Linguistics at Montclair State University where her research focuses particularly on Hispanic consumers, who account for more than 15% of the US population. Ms. Fey has conducted extensive research into the naming patterns among Hispanics in New York City, particularly as compared to other Hispanic population centers such as Los Angeles and Chicago.

“Ms. Spira and Ms. Fey are two of Ethnic Technologies foremost research pioneers and thought leaders”, Zack Wilhoit, Ethnic Technologies’ CEO noted. “We are very proud of their accomplishments and are excited that a premier international organization like ICOS looks to Ethnic Technologies’ associates for their keen insight into name data, multicultural population research and overall leadership in our space.”

For more information, contact:

Rachel Tague
Director of Marketing
Ethnic Technologies
Phone (866)333-8324 ext. 121

Do all Indian Americans speak Hindi? Their names tell a different story.

July 25, 2017
Lisa Spira

What do the following 10 surnames have in common?
• Dave
• Deshpande
• Dsouza
• Gill
• Gowda
• Kapoor
• Mathew
• Mukherjee
• Subramanian
• Varghese

They are both long and short. They use different letters, in different combinations. One looks English, another Portuguese. Two are popular American given names. These names are as diverse as the people who use them.

They are all Indian.

They practice Hinduism, Sikhism, and Christianity.

They eat different diets, wear different clothes, listen to different music, and follow different sports.

Some speak Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, and Urdu. Others speak Dravidian languages such as Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam.

Like any culture, their names tell their stories.

This winter, Ethnic Technologies will release Access India, the multicultural marketing software that knows all about Indian names and uses that information to accurately predict Indian cultural affiliations and language preferences. Contact Ethnic Technologies to see how Access India can help you connect with your Daves, Gowdas, and Subramanians.

Naming Traditions From Around the World

Kathy Moore, June 27, 2017

We expect names to follow predictable structures, but that’s not always the case. In the United States, we understand names according to the following paradigm:

The first name, also known as a given name or personal name, identifies an individual. It is normally given to a person at birth by his or her parents.

The surname, also known as a family name, last name, or gentile name, is inherited and shared with other members of the individual’s immediate family.

This categorization of names, however, while common in western societies, is not globally uniform. Depending on certain cultures and/or customs, naming conventions can and will vary.

The family name or surname, known as xing, comes first. The order of family name followed by given name is commonly referred to as the Eastern order. In China, approximately 100 of the most common Chinese surnames make up 85% of the population.

The given name, called ming, is almost always one or two syllables. There is more diversity in Chinese given names than in Chinese surnames.

Traditionally, babies are named 100 days after birth. Since it is considered unlucky to name a baby before birth, parents use what is called a ‘milk name’ before a formal given name is chosen. This name is known only by the parents or close family members. One superstitious custom is to select a disgusting ‘milk name’ to ward off evil spirits altogether.

Spain and Latin America
According to Spanish customs, a person’s name can be quite long. When a child is born, they receive two surnames: the first from the first surname of the father and the second from the first surname of the mother. This naming tradition makes it possible for the mother to never lose her maiden surname and therefore her name is carried on to the next generation.

e.g. Teodoro Lopez Corazones + Maria Andujo Melandez = Pedro Lopez Andujo

After marriage, Spanish surnames do not change. Both the bride and groom keep their birth names. It is socially acceptable, however, to refer to the wife as ‘Senora de’ (meaning ‘wife of’) and the husband’s last name.

e.g. Maria Andujo Melandez de Lopez

Zulu of South Africa
Zulu names, like most indigenous names in Southern Africa, are often given regarding the situation of the family when a child is born. This is also referred to as the ‘home name.’ For example, names can denote expectations and encouragement for a baby, reflect how the family relates to others in the community, or describe the weather or setting in which the baby was born.

Zulu children are named even before they are born but after birth, an imbeleko ceremony is performed. Zulus regard it as a must to perform the imbeleko ceremony for every child in the family for the following reasons: to introduce them to their ancestors who live in the spirit world of unkulunkulu, to protect the child from misfortunes, and to provide an opportunity for naming the child. Zulus carry more than one name and each of these can be given by members of the extended family.

People with the same surname once belonged to the same localized clan. The clan name, or isibongo, functions now, in modern society, as the surname.

There are many naming traditions from all around the world. The naming structures in different cultures can vary dramatically. No matter where you come from, however, naming traditions unite families and cultural groups.

Ethnic Technologies to Exhibit at the 2017 Marketing Analytics Conference

Ethnic Technologies will be exhibiting at the 2017 Marketing Analytics Conference (MAC) in Austin, TX on June 5-6, 2017. During the conference, the Ethnic Technologies multicultural marketing suite of products will be presented with a focus on digital and social media applications for our digital data and analytics partners.

“The 2017 Marketing Analytics Conference is an extremely relevant opportunity this year given all the innovative and multicultural changes that are controlling essentially every company’s sales and marketing landscape. We are honored to be included with such an elite group of thought leaders,” noted Zack Wilhoit, Ethnic Technologies’ CEO.

The Marketing Analytics Conference brings together the most brilliant minds at the frontlines of marketing and data science to share strategies for building out, managing and drawing the most value from your marketing analytics practice. Navigating today’s multitude of channels, touch points and data sources requires that marketing executives and data scientists collaborate to turn insights into tangible customer interactions/results.

Ethnic Technologies works extensively and tirelessly to help their data and digital clients in multicultural marketing via digital, social media, mobile and other media. Please join us in Austin, TX to learn more about working and partnering with Ethnic Technologies.

For more information, contact:

Karen Sinisi
Director of Sales
Ethnic Technologies
Phone (866)333-8324 ext. 117

Matronymic Surnames of Past and Present

Amy Franz, May 11, 2017

Being that the month of May celebrates mothers, I thought it would be interesting to look at how mothers are represented in family names.

When thinking about surnames that reference lineage, they are almost always patronymic in nature, meaning they refer back to a male family member or ancestor. FERNANDEZ (Spanish, “son of Fernando”), JONSDOTTIR (Icelandic, “daughter of Jon”), and BIN YOUSEF (Arabic, “son of Yousef”) are all examples of patronyms.

But what about the mothers in these families? Have mothers had an influence on surnames throughout the times, and, if there are any cultures that pass down surnames through the mother’s lineage, which are they?

Historically, Chinese surnames were inherited through the mother’s lineage. As time progressed, this tradition changed, and by 1046 BCE family names had become patrilineal. However, a piece of history is preserved in the Chinese character for “surname” (姓), since the radical (女) means “female”. This is thought to refer to its matrilineal roots.

In the Indian state of Kerala, there are a few different ways to construct a full name. One noteworthy convention is the following format: the first initial of the mother’s given name + child’s given name + father’s given name as the surname (e.g. A. LAKSHMI CHANDU). If the mother’s first name is Amma, then the first initial of the full name pays homage to her.

Back in the day when wealth and land played a considerable role in identity, it was common practice for a child to receive a family name that referred to their mother if the mother was thought to be more influential or wealthier than the father. A great example of this usage is King Henry II of England. One of his bynames was FITZEMPRESS, or “son of an Empress”, referring to his mother, Matilda, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. Additionally with English surnames, there are a few that are in fact matronyms. Two examples are MADISON and TIFFANY. While MADISON means “son of Matthew”, its alternate meaning is “son of Maude”. TIFFANY stems from the Middle English female personal name, Tiffania.

In the case that a child was born to an unwed or widowed woman, it was expected, both in the past and present, that a child would take the mother’s last name. Nowadays, if a child uses their mother’s surname, it’s possible the reason is quite different. With a new wave of feminism, trends in naming equality are gaining momentum. Similar to the practice of a wife keeping her surname instead of adopting her partner’s, it’s not necessarily expected for a child to have their father’s last name; in some cases, albeit fairly uncommon still, some children receive their mother’s family name instead.

While patronymic surnames are the standard across many cultures, it’s interesting to reflect on how societies have incorporated the mother’s presence into the naming conventions, whether it’s a newer idea or a thing of the past.