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Beyond “Boy” and “Girl” Names
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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

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Ethnic Technologies Talks Names at American Name Society Conference
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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!

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The Ancestry Answer I Wouldn’t Have Expected: American
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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.

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A Peak Inside Hindu Name Origins: Caste-based Surnames
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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.

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

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Matronymic Surnames of Past and Present
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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.

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How are brands winning customers over this Cinco de Mayo?
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Tracy Fey, May 3, 2017

With May comes the first big celebration of the season – Cinco de Mayo. How might marketers creatively engage with customers this Mexican Independence Day, beyond the standard beer commercial?

Some might look toward streaming services. Last year on Cinco de Mayo, Jose Cuervo held a 45-minute live streamed concert, which attracted more than 73,000 live viewers. We won’t be surprised if they host something similar in 2017, and it will be interesting to see if any other brands try to compete with live streamed events on the same day.

Others may focus on generating buzz through popular apps to create excitement about their brand. Taco Bell, who last year created a Snapchat lens that turned your head into a taco, is now turning to OpenTable for “the hardest reservation to get on Cinco de Mayo”. Just 32 seats will be available in the #tacobelltestkitchen, giving an exclusive touch to the regular experience of eating at a fast food chain.

Finally, it is worth noting that Cinco de Mayo is not widely celebrated in Mexico, but it is a holiday that represents Mexican American culture and unity within the United States. So we have to wonder, in terms of ad content, if any brands will be thinking politically this year.

We mentioned back in February how much buzz was centered around Budweiser’s Super Bowl spot focused on immigration, as well as 84 Lumber’s ad featuring immigrants specifically from Mexico. Representing what companies currently capitalize on as a “party” holiday with a heavier cultural statement might be a difficult balance, but we are curious to see if any companies go this route based on recent advertising trends.

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Wait in Shorter Lines: Names, Letters, and Ethnicity
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Lisa Spira, April 25, 2017

I always wait in shorter lines. What’s my secret? My surname starts with the letter S.

We tend to organize by surname. When in line at a conference registration table or polling location, for example, there will be two lines: A-M and N-Z. The English alphabet has 26 letters, so we arbitrarily split into groups between letters 13 and 14. Not every letter, however, is created equal.

If you consider the entire US population distributed by last initial, you’ll see a different “middle.” Almost all of the most popular letters (B, C, H, M) are in the first 13 letters. Only one (S) is in the latter half. To move people through lines more quickly, split the lines after the 11th letter: A-K and L-Z.

The more you understand who is waiting in line, however, the more efficiently you can distribute the lines.

In Hispanic neighborhoods, where the popular Rodriguez and Ramirez change the letter balance, split A-L and M-Z.

If primarily Indians are in attendance, move your split back to the alphabet’s 13th letter: A-M and N-Z. The post popular Indian names – Patel, Singh, and Shah – are in the latter half of the alphabet.
For a Chinese audience, it’s challenging to create even lines. With popular names like Lee, Long, Li, Liu, and Lin, the population is heavily concentrated right in the middle of the alphabet. Whether you put L with the first half or the second half, it’s an uneven split.

At the moment, I have a pretty good deal; I can walk right up to any counter, check in, and move along. Next time you put together an event, consider who will be in attendance, and consider their names. They’ll thank you, especially the Johnsons, Browns, and Garcias.

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Making “Sense” of the “Census”: Who is reporting as “Two or More Races”?
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Amalia Tsiongas, March 7, 2017

According to the U.S. Census, Americans fit neatly into the following categories: White, Black Asian / Pacific Islander, American Indian / Alaska Native, Hispanic, or Two or More Races.

The U.S. Census recently released an updated list of the most common surnames in the United States, accompanied by information about how Americans reported their ethnicities, within the framework above. It’s a veritable treasure trove of data for researchers – like those at Ethnic Technologies – who concern themselves with the role names play in ethnic identity.

However, deciphering the data is a lot less straightforward than it seems. What, if anything, can a name researcher understand from the category of “two or more races”?

Sometimes “two or more races” represents individuals from a mixed marriage, or whose family members originated from different parts of the world, speak different languages, and follow different cultural traditions – for example, someone who identifies as BOTH White AND Black.

Other times, however, “two or more races” actually represents specific ethnic groups, entire communities who feel they don’t fit neatly into any of the other options. Who are they?

• Mixed-Race Ethnicities – Distinct cultural identities created when separate populations mixed over the course of generations.
o Black African and Arab populations in the Eastern African country of Ethiopia
o European and Asian populations in Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan
• Minority Groups – Distinct cultural identities shaped by both the dominant culture of a country and the status of ethnic minority
o Assyrian Christians from Iraq
o Circassians from Turkey
• Colonized Peoples – Peoples who experienced pressure to identify with the former ruling class following a history of colonialism:
o Haitians, Caribbean islanders colonized by France
o Filipinos, Pacific islanders ruled at different times by Spain and the U.S.

There has never been more demographic data available to the public than there is now. However, it often requires the careful analysis of experts – like the team at Ethnic Technologies – to interpret this raw data into actionable insights for multicultural marketers and others looking to more deeply understand how Americans see themselves.

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Names from Black History: A Lasting Legacy
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Written by: Tracy Fey

This February, we have reflected on the individuals who have left a lasting legacy on Black history in the United States. Let’s take a look at some iconic names of Black history, the meanings behind those names, and their enduring namesakes.

Sojourner Truth

The name Sojourner comes from the English word sojourn, meaning “a temporary stay”. The word sojourn itself derives roughly from the Latin subdiurnare “to spend the day”.

She was born Isabella Baumfree in New York in 1797, and spoke only Dutch until she was 9 years old. When she was emancipated as an adult, she left the city to travel the countryside and preach her message of abolition; it was at this point that she decided to change her name to Sojourner Truth.
Since her death in 1883, her legacy has been represented in numerous American namesakes, including Sojourner Truth Library at New Paltz State University; The House of Sojourner Truth at King’s College, located inside the Empire State Building; and perhaps the most true to meaning, the NASA Mars Pathfinder mission’s robotic rover named Sojourner.

Booker T. Washington

The name Booker comes from an English occupational surname meaning “maker of books”.

He was born into slavery in 1856, but from his earliest years, he was known only as “Booker”; for many slaves, it was customary of the times to not have any middle name or surname. His mother later informed him that upon his birth, she had initially named him Booker Taliaferro (a prominent family name in eastern Virginia and Maryland), but the second name never caught on. When Booker and his family were emancipated in 1865, he needed a surname to enroll in school, so he took his stepfather’s first name, Washington. Around this same time, he decided to readopt his middle name Taliaferro, and became Booker T. Washington.

As a leader in higher education and social progress, Washington has several prominent namesakes, including Booker T. Washington State Park in Tennessee; the SS Booker T. Washington, a liberty ship used in WWII; the Booker T. Washington Institutes at Tuskegee University and West Virginia University ; and fourteen Booker T. Washington High Schools around the country.

Thurgood Marshall

The name Thurgood is a contraction of the historically Puritan name Thoroughgood, literally meaning “thoroughly good”. It may also be descended from Thurgod, after the Norse god of thunder. Thurgood Marshall was indeed born Thoroughgood Marshall in 1908, but because he did not like the long spelling, he decided to shorten his name in the second grade.

As the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, Marshall has many namesakes relating to American law, education, and civil rights. In 1980, The University of Maryland School of Law named their library the Thurgood Marshall Law Library. The Twelfth Street YMCA Building located in Washington D.C. , which was the first African American chapter of the YMCA, was renamed The Thurgood Marshall Center in 2000. Finally, since 1993, Puerto Rico has given the annual Thurgood Marshall Award, which is given to the top student in civil rights at each of Puerto Rico’s four law schools.

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