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Seventy-six Saul Cohns in the country club, seventy-six Saul Cohns playing gin
But they're hard to identify
'Cause as time goes passing by
One by one they all change their name to Quinn
Allan Sherman, Seventy-six Saul Cohns (to the tune of Seventy-six Trombones)

In the past, when a person moved to another country, it was common for that person to change their name to one that country would find "normal" (or have it changed for them). The reasons for doing this were numerous; they could want to "blend in" better, they may want to avoid discrimination, or they may want to symbolize a complete break from their past (especially if they're on the run for something they did back in the old country). At other times, the name change can be forced on them by an overworked immigration official (although in reality this is something of a Dead Unicorn Trope, or at least the immigration officials who did this have been Misblamed; when this did happen, it was usually the result of officials copying misspelled names from the shipping companies' passenger manifests). While less common today (although on occasion even today someone may change their first name) , this was once very much Truth in Television. Still common in fiction that takes place in these time periods.

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The 6 most common types of name changes were:

  1. Approximation: The name is changed to something similar, so "Horwitz" becomes "Howard".
  2. Changed Spelling: The name is respelled, so "Schneider" becomes "Snyder" or "Svensson" becomes "Swenson" or "Swanson".
  3. Translation: If the name has a specific meaning, it might be translated, so "Schneider" becomes "Tailor" or "Schmidt" becomes "Smith".
  4. Truncated: The name is shortened, so "Stephanopolous" becomes "Stevens" or "O'Riordan" becomes "Reardon".
  5. A mash-up of things said to the official. For example, a guy is named Han, but tells that he has no last name because he has no family, he is alone... and the official registers him as "Han Solo". In most cases it is Played for Laughs.
  6. Random Name Change: A new name is more-or-less picked at random, with little or no resemblance to the original name.
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The name change doesn't necessarily have to happen the moment someone arrives in a country; the name change might happen even if a family's been in a country for generations if circumstances occur such as a wave of Patriotic Fervor is sweeping the nation, or if country they live in is at war with the country their last name sounds like it's from (such as having a German-sounding last name in America during WWI).

Sometimes, the name will be changed more than once, so the name "Rothstein" might get changed to "Roth", and then "Roth" might then get changed to "Ross".

When a character translates their name to use as an alias, it's This Is My Name on Foreign.


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Examples:

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    Anime And Manga 
  • Digimon Adventure: In a move that blurs the line between this and Dub Name Change, the heroes still officially have their Japanese names in the English dub, but use shortened western sounding nicknames In-Universe. Shown in the character title screens in the first episode with examples like Yamato "Matt" Ishida or Koushiro "Izzy" Izumi, who takes his nickname from his last name.
  • In the English dub of Shaman King, the Ainu character Horohoro introduces himself as "Trey Racer". At first this appears to be a straight case of Dub Name Change, but then his sister shows up looking for him... Turns out that dub!Horohoro just finds his name embarassing and asks people to call him Trey because it sounds cooler.
  • In Gunsmith Cats Ken sometimes gets called Kentucky, as his real name is Ken Takizawa.

    Comic Books 
  • Sally Jupiter, the first Silk Spectre, from Watchmen changed her name from "Juspeczyk" so people wouldn't know she was Polish. Ironically, her daughter Laurie went the opposite route, taking the last name Juspeczyk so that people wouldn't know that she was Sally Jupiter's daughter.
  • Martians in the DC Universe tend to have names that are pretty much English sounding names with apostrophes, and translate them on earth. Martian Manhunter is "J'onn J'onzz" which becomes "John Jones" in his human persona. Miss Martian is named "M'gann M'orzz", which becomes "Megan Morse" when living as a human girl.
  • The original name of Starfire of the Teen Titans is Kori'andr. When she got to Earth, she adopted the name Kory Anders. "Starfire" is also a literal translation of her name.
  • In The Punisher, it was established very early that Frank Castle's original surname was "Castiglione" — his parents changed it when he was a child for whatever reason. By happy coincidence, "castigare" is a latin word for "punishment", though in a disciplinary sense. You won't get much moral improvement out of Frank's victims.
  • Werewolf by Night: Jack's stepfather changed his last name from Russoff to Russell after moving from Romania to the United States. This caused Jack's own name to be Americanized as well: his original last name was also Russoff, because his stepfather is his late father's brother (a.k.a. his uncle).
  • Both Superman and Supergirl are Kryptonians. Superman's birth name is "Kal-El" but he was raised as "Clark" by his human family. Pre-Crisis Supergirl used "Linda Danvers" as her Secret Identity but more modern depictions typically avert this trope and have her use her name, Kara, instead.
  • Runaways:
    • Karolina's parents are aliens from Majesdane. When they arrived on Earth, they adopted the names Frank and Leslie Dean. It's never been revealed what their real names are.
    • There's a longstanding theory among fans that Nico's family used to have a different surname, since "Minoru" is usually a male given name.
    • A similar theory holds that Victor Mancha's mother had a much more conventionally Mexican surname, but adopted the last name "Mancha" to conceal her criminal past.
    • And yet another theory postulates that Klara Prast's husband had a more conventionally German surname that was Americanized as "Prast".
  • Jeffrey Mace, the third Captain America, is of Russian Jewish descent. His family used to have the surname Masalsky, but changed it when they arrived in America.
  • In some continuities, Catwoman's family changed their names from Kelowski to Kyle.
  • In The Tomb of Dracula, Dracula is revealed to have descendants who left for the United States. They changed their surname to "Drake" in order to hide their heritage.
  • In Just Imagine: Superman, the alien Salden adopts the name Clark Kent after becoming stranded on Earth.
  • In Unstoppable Wasp, Nadia Pym changes her name to Nadia Van Dyne after becoming a naturalized American citizen, as a way of getting out of her famous father's shadow.
  • In The Order, Magdalena Marie was born Magdalena Marie Neuntauben. She dropped her surname because nobody could pronounce it properly.
  • In Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart, Alan Mangel was born Alan Mangelowski. He changed his name in order to cut ties with his father.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Kim Possible fanfic Reunion Ron Stoppable mentions his great-grandfather Nicholai, who was so determined to emigrate to America that, when he arrived at Ellis Island, he shouted, "I am Nicholai! I am unstoppable!" The clerk wrote his name down as "N. Stoppable".
    Ron: He thought that's how America worked; come to America, you get a new life and a new name. He was actually very proud of it. So we've been Stoppables ever since.
  • Hugo Strange, The Man Behind the Man in Batman: Anarchy for All, reveals his proper name is the German "Streng" in a recording of a conversation with Anarky. There was no official name change, but he lets people assume the alternate spelling because it amuses him.
  • In Desert Gold, Trisha Elric is an Ishavalan named Hadiya and her family line is Elrikh. Her sons are named Zahir and Imad, better known as Edward and Alphonse.
  • In Destiny, Lily can't remember her birth name from before she was forced into an American boarding school. She knows it wasn't in English but likes to think it was something exotic like "Tiger Lily".

    Film 
  • Slightly related - In the flashback sequences of The Godfather Part II, Vito Andolini from the town of Corleone is listed as Vito Corleone due to a mixup at a hectic Ellis Island.
  • Alien Nation. The Newcomers were given Earth names when they arrived. Some of the names were famous humans (Rudyard Kipling) and some were jokes (Sam Francisco).
  • In Back to the Future Part III, Doc Brown mentions that his family emigrated from Germany as the "Von Brauns". They changed it to "Brown" to dodge racist backlash when World War I started.
  • In Dr. Strangelove, the titular character is a German immigrant. When General Turgidson mentions that the name "Strangelove" doesn't really sound German, another character reveals that it was originally "Merkwürdigliebe" (literally means "strange love"), but he anglicized it after moving to the US.
  • The Untouchables: George Stone's birth name is Giuseppe Petri, almost a direct translation ("Petri" is close to pietre, Italian for "stones", but Giuseppe's English equivalent is traditionally Joseph, not George).
  • Parodied in Robots; Fender says his name was "Bumper" before moving into the country.
  • In Shanghai Noon Jackie Chan's character is named "Chong Wang", but every American just calls him by the closest they can manage: John Wayne.
  • According to Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy Velma's family name was originally "Von Dinklestein" until they changed it to "Dinkley" in America.
  • Some Like It Hot has the singer Sugar Kane. Her birth name is "Sugar Kowalczyk".
  • Esther Blodgett is given the Stage Name of "Vicki Lesther" in A Star Is Born because the executives don't think her real name sounds good for an actress.
  • An American Tail is about Jewish-Russian Funny Animal mice who move to America in the 1880s. Tanya was given an "American name" of "Tillie" and Fievel was given the name "Phillie" at the start of the film. Neither of them use the names. A human immigrant is renamed "Smith" by an immigration official on Ellis Island.
  • The Jazz Singer is about a man named Jakie Rabinowitz who becomes a jazz singer who goes by the stage name "Jack Robin".
  • A minor example in Underworld (2003), where Michael Corvin is a descendant of a Hungarian warlord named Alexander Corvinus. The novelization mentions that Corvin's grandfather dropped the "us" after moving to America.
  • In The Wrestler, Randy Robinson was born Robin Ramsinski, but changed it so that he could pursue a career as an All-American Face.
  • In Local Hero, the top CEO at an American oil company wants to send an employee named MacIntyre to Scotland to negotiate the purchase of a small Scottish village on the basis of his surname; he even tells MacIntyre that for him, going to Scotland must be like going home. MacIntyre later tells a coworker that he's not really Scottish; his parents were Hungarian, and they changed their names because they thought MacIntyre was a more American sounding name.

    Literature 
  • In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently was actually born "Svlad Cjelli".
  • Shows up a few times in James Clavell's Asian Saga:
    • In Shogun, ship's pilot Blackthorne is given the name "Anjin" (meaning "Pilot" in Japanese) because the Japanese have difficulty pronouncing "Blackthorne" (the Japanese specifically point out that it is not meant as an insult); meanwhile Japanese Christians are given Christian names when they covert.
    • In Gai-Jin a Frenchman living in Japan is called "Furansu-san" for the same reason as Blackthorne.
    • In Noble House American businesswoman K.C. Tcholok mentions that her last name was shortened from "Tcholokian" by her Armenian grandparents.
  • Salem’s Lot mentions that the Glicks changed their family from Gliccoucchi.
  • The Drifters by James Michener has a character named Frederick Cole. When the first-person protagonist mentions that Frederick is an unusual name for an Irishman to have, Frederick tells him that he's of German descent, not Irish; his grandfather changed the name from "Kohl" when he came over in the 19th century because he didn't want people in America to think he was Jewish.
  • Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon features the "clerical error" variant in the protagonist's family history. The protagonist's grandfather Jake, who was born into slavery, had to register as an American citizen with the Freedmen's Bureau after the end of the The American Civil War. Because the Freedmen's Bureau clerk was drunk at the time, he asked Jake his birthplace ("Macon, Virginia") and asked him his parents' current residence ("They're dead"), and accidentally wrote his answers down as his given name and surname — resulting in him being saddled with the Unfortunate Name "Macon Dead" for life.
  • Ender's Game: Ender's own father is a first-generation Polish immigrant to America. Their family name "Wiggin" is a naturalized form of "Wieczorek", a common Polish surname, although most Polish immigrants turn it into "Wiggins" instead.
  • In A Princess of Mars, after John Carter kills the Tharks Dotar and Sojat in combat, he is given their names as part of the spoils of combat, which he uses as his Barsoomian name. In a later book, Ulysses S. Paxton is christened "Vad Varo" after arriving on Barsoom.
  • Discworld
    • In Feet of Clay, it's briefly mentioned that Cheery Littlebottom's surname in Dwarfish is actually "Sh'rt'azs". Presumably, the same goes for other Morporkian dwarf names.
    • Billy Slick, a goblin working for Harry King in Snuff who reckons you can't get ahead in Ankh-Morpork with a goblin name like Of the Wind Regretfully Blown.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn is first introduced in Bree by the disreputable-sounding alias of "Strider." In Gondor, he decides to use Strider as a surname, after applying an appropriate translation: "In the high tongue it will not sound so ill, and Telcontar I will be and all the heirs of my body."
  • In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Sammy Klayman and Josef Kavalier adopt the names Sam Clay and Joe Kavalier when they enter the comic-book business. Sam's dad, born Alter Klayman, also operates under a naturalized name, Alphonse von Klay.
  • In The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror, there's a character named Gus Bowlingpin. His ancestors were the Baulongpinskis, who changed their name upon coming to America from Romania.

     Live Action TV 
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Election Day", a German-born resident gives his name as "John Smith". Government agent Terrence Myers speaks German to him, and when the man replies in the same language, Myers challenges him on his "real name". The man says his name was "Johannes Schmidt" and he changed it because other Canadians had trouble pronouncing it.
  • In the Friends episode "The One with the Fake Monica", Joey Tribbiani decides to change his name to something less ethnic. Chandler jokingly suggests "Joseph Stalin". Being The Ditz, Joey doesn't know how infamous this name is and tries to use it. Apparently he doesn't learn from this, as the episode's Stinger is of Joey going onstage and introducing himself as "Holden McGroin".
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Ensign Ro", Ro Laren explains that some Bajorans switch their name order to the Anglosphere's given name-then-surname when dealing with offworlders. She very pointedly prefers to be addressed in the Bajoran style, however.
  • One line in Another Period implies the Bellacourt family was once the "Bellawitcz" family.
  • In The Americans, everyone involved in the Illegals program adopted more American-sounding names when they arrived in the United States, and thus Nadezhda and Misha became Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings, Vitaly became William Crandall, and Semyon became Gabriel.
  • In Caprica, Joseph Adama changed his name to Joseph Adams to fit in better with Caprican society.
  • In 3rd Rock from the Sun, the Solomons' real names are never revealed. They chose the last name Solomon off of a passing truck; Harry remarks that they nearly became "the K-Marts".
  • A recurring skit in Goodness Gracious Me involves two The Whitest Black Guy families: the Coopers, who were originally the Kapoors, and their neighbors the Robinsons, originally Rabindranaths. They get very offended if anyone uses their original names.
  • In The Alienist, Lucius and Marcus Isaacson's Russian parents gave them more English-sounding forenames in order to downplay their foreign heritage.
  • Happy!:
    • Sonny Shine was born Louis J. Sheinberg, but changed his name because "Sonny Shine" was more marketable.
    • Happy's full name is Happilocus Imaginus. Since that's kind of a mouthful for the imaginary friend of a little girl, he shortened it to "Happy".
  • In Trust, Bullimore's name is actually Jahangir Khan, but J. Paul Getty started calling him "Bullimore", because that was the name of his original butler, and Khan never bothered to correct him.
  • In Timeless, Denise Christopher's real name is Dhriti Siristavana. When she became a cop, she adopted a more "American" name to cut ties with her disapproving traditional family.
  • Boardwalk Empire: Mickey Doyle's original name is Mieczyslaw Kuzik. He's actually Polish, but likes the Irish name because he thinks it sounds better.

    Video Games 
  • BioShock's Andrew Ryan from the Russian "Andrei Rianofski". This is a reference to his Real Life inspiration, Ayn Rand, who was born Alisa Rosenbaum.
  • Assassin's Creed III:
    • Norris (a French-speaking Canadian) reveals his real name is Maurice but that he changed it because no one in the American colonies could pronounce it properly.
    • The protagonist himself uses Connor instead of his birth name (Ratonhnhaké:ton) due to the racism people of that time had against natives.
  • The protagonist of the Commander Keen series is named Billy Blaze. The manual notes that this is a naturalized name, and that the family name used to be Blazkowicz.
  • In Elise The Devil, the demon Iblis adopts the name Elise after being Brought Down to Normal, the better to fit in with the humans that she now has to deal with.
  • In The Yukon Trail, one of the player's potential partners is a Native American woman who adopted the name Linda because many of the prospectors she deals with have difficulty pronouncing her real name.

     Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Played for Laughs in the episode "Bart-Mangled Banner". After relocating to France, the Simpsons become homesick and travel back to America. When Homer states their family name to an official, the man changes it to "Simps". To really drive the point home, they arrived in New York by boat and were dressed in nineteenth century European clothes while "Coming to America" plays in the background.
    • Also parodied in "In the Name of the Grandfather", where Americans who are sick of America go to Ireland's "MacEllis Island" and have their names changed to stereotypical Irish names.
  • M'gann from Young Justice is a Martian. She is constantly trying to get her friends to call her "Megan" but they still almost always use "M'gann" unless she's disguised as a human.

    Real Life 
  • When Arnold Schwarzenegger first started in Hollywood, the producers changed his name to Arnold Strong.
  • In World War I the British Royal Family changed its collective surname from Saxe-Coburg Gotha to Windsor. When H. G. Wells complained about Britain's "alien and uninspiring court," George V is said to have replied, "I may be uninspiring, but I'll be damned if I'm alien!" Other families followed suit; for example, the Battenbergs changed their names to Mountbatten.
  • Issur Danielovitch Demsky changed his name to Kirk Douglas.
  • Isaac Asimov was born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov. The name change didn't help much.
    • Interestingly, when his books were translated into Russian, his name was transliterated from English instead of using his birth name or translating it into the Russian equivalent.
  • Sam Raimi's family changed their name from the German "Reingewertz".
    • This wound up backfiring, according to Bruce Campbell's autobiography, as he sometimes got flack from people who thought his name sounded Middle-Eastern.
  • Charles Bronson's original name was Charles Dennis Buchinsky, as he was of Lithuanian Lipka Tatar ancestry. He had the name changed to Bronson on the advice of his agent, who was worried about him getting caught up in the 50s-era Red Scare and the McCarthy witch hunts.
  • There is a story from Alsace-Lorraine which changed hands between Germany and France several times during the 19th and 20th century. Apparently, whenever the Germans took it, they forced everyone to translate their French names, while the French would simply pronounce the German names in the French way. Which allegedly lead to this: one family originally named Lagarde (watch[man]) became "Wache" when the Germans came; then "Vache" (cow) when the French came back; then "Kuh" and finally "Cul" (ass). And if the Germans had returned once more, they'd have become "Arsch".
  • Helen Mirren was born Helen Lydia Mironoff. Her grandfather was a Russian diplomat who got stranded in the UK during the Russian Revolution. In the 50s, her father changed his name from Vasiliy Mironov to Basil Mirren.
  • Hollywood film director Lewis Milestone Americanized his name from Lieb Milstein.
  • As noted on This Is My Name on Foreign, it is possible for countries that use Chinese characters to transit a name in Chinese characters to different regional readings. For example, the inventor of instant noodles, Momofuku Andō (Japanese: 安藤 百福), was a Taiwanese man who emigrated to Japan and is born with a Chinese name, Go Pek-Hok (Chinese: 吳百福). When he became a naturalized Japanese, he changed his family name, Go, to that of his Japanese wife, Andō. His given name, however, kept the original Chinese characters, but their readings are now the native Kun'yomi readings (Pek-Hok -> Momofuku).
  • Spiro Agnew's father changed his name from Theophrastos Anagnostopoulos to Theodore Agnew after arriving in America.
  • The Shriver family is of German origin and was originally spelled Schreiber.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower's family name was originally spelled Eisenhauer.
  • 1920s New York and Chicago gangster Frankie Yale was originally born in Italy as Francesco Ioele, and Americanized his name when his family moved to America in his childhood.
  • Many of the Huguenots who moved to South Africa had their names changed, so (for example) Villion became Viljoen, Le Clercq became De Klerk, Pinard became Pienaar, and so on.
  • When he moved to Japan, Lafcadio Hearn took the name Koizumi Yakumo.
  • US Naturalization forms have an option for the applicant to change their name.
  • Japanese castaway Otokichi used the name "John Matthew Ottoson" later in life, the surname being an Anglicization of "Oto-san".
  • During WW2 categories of Japanese aircraft would be given more Western-sounding reporting names to avoid pronunciation problems in combat (though also to standardize aircraft designation). This practice continued with Soviet aircraft during the Cold War.
  • Upon making aliyah (moving to Israel), many Jews Hebraize their surnames. Thus David Ben-Gurion was born David Gryn, and Golda Meir was Golda Myerson, nee Mabovich.

Alternative Title(s): Naturalised Name

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