- 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.Read More
- Do all Indian Americans speak Hindi? Their names tell a different story.
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July 25, 2017
What do the following 10 surnames have in common?
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.Read More
- 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.Read More
- 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.Read More
- 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.Read More
- 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.Read More
- 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.
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.
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.Read More
- Is it a Person or a Business?
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Damon Amador, February 22, 2017
Is it a Person or a Business?
If the name field says “Church” is the record a person or a religious institution?
No customer database is perfect; there will always be records that don’t belong, or were entered incorrectly. In order to identify a person’s ethnicity, we need to first identify that a record is, in fact, a person. A record with the name “Gonzales Auto Center” is not a Hispanic person and won’t respond to your offer in the same way as Juan Gonzales would.
E-Tech looks for words that are unique to businesses. Words and phrases like Automobile, Dental, Academy, and Incorporated are clear indicators that the record is not a person.
But what about when words by themselves won’t help? Church is a fairly common last name in the United States. We wouldn’t want to filter out people with this last name. John Church is a person. However, if the full name of this record is St John Evangelist Church, that’s not a person! We look for added phrasal clues such as “Evangelist Church” so as to not confuse the people named Church with religious institutions.
We use our extensive knowledge of names across many ethnicities to enhance this filtering, making sure people don’t get removed. Words like man, urban, shore, hawks, and gala can point towards business records. However, they are also actually names used by people of various ethnicities, some of them pronounced differently from the English words as you first read them. These intricate distinctions contribute to E-Tech’s market-leading accuracy in multicultural identification.Read More
- Ethnic Diversity in 2017 Inauguration Celebrations
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Written by Tracy Fey
No matter what side of the aisle you are on, Inaugural Balls and Galas are some of the biggest events in Washington D.C. These celebrations, which take place every four years at the beginning of a new Presidential term, are hosted by a wide variety of both partisan and nonpartisan American organizations. The 2017 Inauguration saw many diverse political and ethnically representative groups taking part in this 228-year-old tradition.
For example, The Indian American Presidential Inaugural Ball took place at the direction of several nonpartisan Indian American groups including the US-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) and the Indo-American Center. A record number of Indian Americans have been elected to Congressional offices this term, and a few Indian Americans have been appointed to positions in the new Presidential administration. The Chairman of the USINPAC described the event as “a reason to celebrate and recognize the contributions of these and other members of the Indian American community”.
Additionally, The Latino Coalition, which represents over one million Hispanic-owned small businesses, hosted an inaugural event. The event attracted elected officials and Hispanic business leaders from across the country, and met in hopes “to build on the considerable economic and cultural accomplishments of Hispanic Americans.”
The Asian Pacific American Presidential Inaugural Gala also took place to celebrate the Asian Pacific Americans who had been nominated to serve in the new administration. In addition to celebrating the Inauguration with “performances from communities proudly sharing their rich cultures”, the event served to provide networking opportunities with business and community leaders.
Finally, a few alternative balls took place, including the Peace Ball and the Refugee Ball. The Peace Ball, which took place at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, was a gathering to highlight “the work of peace and justice in the United States and other places in the world”. Meanwhile, the Refugee Ball, hosted by various non-profits, focused on the contributions to society of immigrants and refugees.
This is just a small sample of the hundreds of balls and galas that take please every four years in Washington. These celebrations are a testament to the diversity – both politically and ethnically – of the United States.
- Super Bold: The Politically Responsive Ads of Super Bowl 51
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Written by Tracy Fey
The commercials of Super Bowl 51 had one major theme: our cultural differences make us beautiful. To express this theme of diversity, some advertisers opted to tell a story. Others showcased the corporations’ beliefs directly – and perhaps more boldly.
Story-wise, Anheuser-Busch’s 60-second Budweiser spot had been making waves since last week. The commercial presents the story of the company’s young German founder immigrating to America in the 1850s, and has been praised by some yet criticized as too political by others. 84 Lumber’s 90-second spot about a Mexican mother and young daughter traveling to immigrate to the U.S. has received similar mixed feedback from the public.
By contrast to the buzzworthy stories told by Anheuser-Busch and 84 Lumber, Airbnb placed a fairly straightforward 30-second ad with the message and hashtag #weaccept. Over a series of facial images of ethnically diverse women and men read the words: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong.” While Airbnb didn’t tell one human story, their confident declaration could end up being the event’s most provocative – while also incidentally setting the overall tone of the evening’s advertisements as a whole.Read More
Recent Blog Posts
- A Peak Inside Hindu Name Origins: Caste-based Surnames September 12, 2017
- Ethnic Technologies Thought Leaders to Speak at International Conference August 23, 2017
- Do all Indian Americans speak Hindi? Their names tell a different story. July 25, 2017
- Naming Traditions From Around the World June 27, 2017
- Ethnic Technologies to Exhibit at the 2017 Marketing Analytics Conference May 31, 2017
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