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Monday 22 January 2018

US woman with 35-letter name wins battle against government licence office

Janice Lokelani Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele and her husband Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele in Kamuela, Hawaii
Janice Lokelani Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele and her husband Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele in Kamuela, Hawaii

Adam Withnall

Official computer systems across the state of Hawaii are to be upgraded in order to accommodate Janice Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele

A woman in the US has finally achieved success in her battle to have her full name printed on official documentation.

Janice Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele – who sometimes also goes by the name “Lokelani” – said she had to fight every time a bank or government official tried to cut short or break up her name, which she adopted after marrying a Hawaiian man in 1992.

The vast majority of forms have some sort of character limitation, meaning her 35-letter, 19-syllable name often does not fit.

Ms Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele said she had been able to work through the problem for every piece of documentation except for her state ID and drivers’ licence, and 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 Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele says 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 says there are few Hawaiian elders left now who would be able to appreciate its full significance.

The Hawaii Department of Transport is currently only able to print names up to 34 characters long, meaning it cut off the final letter in Ms Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele’s name.

But after pressure from the Honolulu television station KHON2 – which first reported the woman’s grievance – the local Department of Transport has said it will be upgrading its computer systems to be able to accommodate names of up to 40 characters by the end of 2013.

Ms Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele celebrated the decision, and said she and her late husband had always fought against anyone who tried to curtail their name.

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