Photo Credit: Chris Stewart/AP
Janice Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele's holds her Hawaii driver's license

What's in This Name?

September 16, 2013

KAY'-ee-hah-nah-EE'-coo-COW'-ah-KAH'-hee-HOO'-lee-heh-eh-KAH'-how-NAH-eh-leh say that name ten times. There’s no need to say it fast to know it’s a mouthful.

A Hawaii woman, Janice "Lokelani" Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele, is battling the Big Island’s state and local officials to allow her full name to appear on her drivers license. She wrote the mayor and her city councilwoman to add the 36 letter, 19 syllables name to her ID license card, but the state of Hawaii computer system wouldn’t allow more than 35 characters on the card.

“I've had this name for over 20 years,” she said. “I had to grow into this name.”

Her name has 35 letters plus a mark used in the Hawaiian alphabet called an okina. Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele got the name when she married her husband in 1992, who only went by one name. 

Her husband had similar problems with trying to get a license when he was alive. When he died in 2008, the name had been in the family for decades. He was named by his grandfather who said that the name came to him in a dream.

She was convinced to fight the issue after she was stopped last month by a police officer who gave her a hard time because her full name was not on her license. “I said wait a minute, this is not my fault,” she told the Associated Press. “This is the county's fault that I don't have an ID that has my name correctly.”

She was even more upset after the officer told her to use her maiden name. She explained that it was disrespectful to the Hawaiian people because there was a lot of meaning behind the name and that it was a deep and spiritual path to grow into that name.

She told the AP that one of its meanings is "when there is chaos and confusion, you are one that will stand up and get people to focus in one direction and come out of the chaos.”

The state Department of Transportation is working on a way to extend the name space to 40 characters. There is no word if this decision was sparked by Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele’s petition, but by the end of the year, the cards will have space for 40 characters in the first and last name and 35 for the middle names.

"If you're going to require people to have picture IDs to identify them, they have to be correct," she said.