A woman in Hawaii whose surname is 36 characters long has finally been given a driving licence with her name printed in full – 22 years after she first adopted it as her own.
Janice Keihanaikukauakahihulihe'ekahaunaele , who also goes by the name “Lokelani”, fought Hawaii’s transport department over its ID card policy after she said her official documents were consistently believed to be fake and her name treated like “mumbo-jumbo”.
The agency was forced to update its whole computer system to accommodate her 19-syllable name, which contains 35 letters plus an okina, a mark used in the Hawaiian alphabet.
Officials said Ms Keihanaikukauakahihulihe'ekahaunaele, 54, would have her new driving licence by the end of 2013 and, true to their word, handed her the new documents on Monday.
“Now, in the state of Hawaii, we are no longer second class citizens because of the length of our name,” she said.
Under the department’s old systems, ID cards previously had enough room for full names of just 35 characters in total. That meant Ms Keihanaikukauakahihulihe'ekahaunaele’s licence only listed her last name, without the okina, and missed off the final letter.
Hawaii’s new policy can accommodate those with last names up to 40 characters, as well as a further 40-character space for first names and 35 for middle names.
Earlier this year, Ms Keihanaikukauakahihulihe'ekahaunaele said the length of her name had not been a problem for any piece of documentation except for her state ID and driving licence.
She first adopted the name when she married a Hawaiian man in 1992, and when he later died vowed to protect his memory by preventing anyone from “curtailing” his name.
Ms Keihanaikukauakahihulihe'ekahaunaele said it was the final straw when a police officer asked why she didn’t just use her maiden name – Worth.
“This hurt my heart,” she told the BBC. “Over the last 22 years I have seen... the culture of Hawaii being trampled upon and this policeman treated my name as if it was mumbo-jumbo.”
A name is of great cultural importance in Hawaii, and to someone with knowledge of their heritage it reveals both a person’s ancestral background and a poetic characteristic.
Ms Keihanaikukauakahihulihe'ekahaunaele said one of its meanings is “one who would stand up and get people to focus in one direction when there was chaos and confusion, and help them emerge from disorder” – though she added that there are few Hawaiian elders left now who would be able to appreciate its full significance.Reuse content