Briefly, a list of laments: the immigrant kids who alter their names to make them more palatable to American tongues, picking monikers like Tiffany or Grace. The kids who get teased for names like Phuc or Dung or Hung. The kids who squirm under the gaze of the teacher who mispronounces their names during roll call. Names express. Names are the first glimpse, they shine a light on the rest of an identity—however complicated.

A Brief History of Name Fuckery, Larissa Pham

Growing up, I was secretly relieved that I didn’t have an obviously Filipino last name. My last name was Lucas. I knew a famous person with the same last name: a director who made awesome movies.

This helped me when I was reporting stories for a magazine and working at Skywalker Ranch in my twenties. Interviewees would always call me back, and oftentimes, at the end of the call, would ask me if I was related to him.


My former middle name, Anongos, was my mother’s maiden name.

My middle name is Ann, I said one day to my elementary school friends Beth and Jenn, short for Elizabeth and Jennifer. It’s sort of short for another name.

I said this to friends in high school as well, but at that age lessened the lie and was confident enough to say what Ann was short for: Anongos. It’s my mom’s maiden name.


When I filled out the form when I got married, I changed my name — Cherilynn Anongos Lucas — to Cherilynn Lucas Rowlands, following the custom of our family to move our last name over, snugly between our first and married name.

And I love my name right now: it sounds nice, it makes sense. Each time I see it in print, it reminds me of me, but also me and my husband.

But I grew to love that middle name after all those years of detaching myself from it. Dropping Anongos three years ago was not easy. It’s now kept in a folder, deep inside of me. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as it’ll always be a part of me and my family history. But still, it’s sad how quickly a name vanishes from all that’s tangible.

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

I am an editor at Longreads. For over a decade, I've worked on curation, editing, and storytelling projects across Automattic, including

One thought on “Names

  1. I’m hesitant to write a comment since this is your free write place… but… this piece reminds me of when I was a kid and I had first met Amma (hugging saint) I got a name from her, and I went to the court to get my name changed legally and all of the people ahead of me were getting their names changed from hard for americans to pronounce to easy christian names. And the Judge would just ask them, “do you swear not to use this name for fraudulent business?” or some such thing and they all said yes. And then he got to me, saw my paper work (with an easy christian name being changed to an unusual Indian one) and just looked at me and was like, “what is your story?” It was pretty funny, as funny as court-no-air-in-the-room time can be. Thanks for sharing this new space with us (I hope you don’t regret it later)

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