Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fewer immigrants are Anglicizing their names

Common practice in the 19th and 20th centuries was for immigrants arriving in America to Anglicize their names. The idea was that immigrants would change their original name to a more Anglicized version to facilitate assimilation into American culture. For example, the German "Schmidt" morphed into the Anglo "Smith". In other cases, changes occurred when immigration agents shortened or transliterated names from foreign alphabets, notably from Cyrillic and Greek.

This is no more the case. Fewer than one in six immigrants applied to change their names on naturalization forms according to the US government. There's even less Anglicizing of stage names in Hollywood. The Swiss surname of Renée Zellweger and the Armenian surname of the Kardashian sisters have served their careers well. Compare that to a generation ago when these actresses might have been encouraged to give up their family names for something more Anglo.

It shows an America that's increasingly tolerant. One that does not expect people to sever ties with their ethnicity in exchange for for success. You could even say that embracing one's heritage makes a person's narrative more compelling, compared to those who downplay their heritage in an attempt to fit in.

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