Identity and Being

What’s in a name? In a racialized society it could mean access to financial loans, job interviews, favorable response in academia and greater earnings. One’s name can often be used as a proxy for race, and race is a problem that will continue to exist as long as white rage exists.

Americans and Immigrants to the United States are at times faced with forsaking their identities to fit into a society where whiteness is the dominant power structure. The need to accomodate whiteness may involve changing one’s speech/accent, dress, food and name. Those with foreign sounding names, often ‘non-white’, are expected to provide nicknames or shortened versions of their names as an attempt to integrate into society.

Americanize my name

Research has been done on job applicants who have been denied job interviews due to non-white sounding names. White males are more likely to get response from university faculty than non-white applicants. The discrepancies are many but the effects are the same – margnilization of non-white communities, especially black. The reasons for changing one’s name vary and can be complex. However it is often a dehumanizing and demeaning process that some people experience in one shape or another.


This app uses the Double Metaphone algorithm (an English phonetic algorithm) and the Levenshtein Distance string comparison algorithm to transform a name into its nearest sounding English counterpart (as much as is possible). I’m using the U.S. Census’ publicly available dataset of the top popular ~2000 names from 2008 out of a list of ~35,000 names. The cutoff popularity score for inclusion in this app was 200. (18,809 was the highest score for “Emma”, the most popular name).

I’ve published the code (javascript and c version) for this project here;