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I have gone on and on about my name, my first name (always misspelled), my medical name (señora Barbara) and other nomenclature-related things, but I don’t think we’ve ever explored my last name.

Smith, or esmeet, as I should pronounce it, so that we’re all clear about what’s going on, tends not to be a problem. People can either spell it on their own, or respond quickly to my “EH-say, EM-ay, EE, TAY, AH-chay). What truly worries people is my lack of a second last name.

Segundo apellido, they say (second last name). No tengo, I say. And they look up at me, perhaps expecting to see just half of someone, or perhaps a person who looks like they might have hatched out of an egg, since the second last name I’m missing is my mother’s. It’s not that I don’t have one, of course (hey Mamaj!), but we don’t use that last name, and anyway, at this point my mother and I have the same last name anyway. And believe me, I don’t want my last name to be Smith-Smith, both because it sounds like I have a stutter and because mostly it’s illegitimate children who are not recognized by their fathers that get the repeated (in this case mother’s) last name.

Somewhere along the way I was told to put NN, for ningún nombre/ ninguno (no name/none, not sure here ) in the case where I was asked for a second last name. In general this works just fine, though people still give me the fish eye for not having two last names, and occasionally say “Allá no usan los dos nombres?” (They don’t use both names over there?)

But the best part of the story is that another friend, for whom I shall shortly invent a pseudonym, (though she may later choose to identify herself) was also faced with the lack of a second last name, and chose the US-based answer to something when you don’t have an answer, which is NA (not applicable).

And now, everywhere she goes in Chile, she’s known as Samantha Gilbert Na. (except her name isn’t Samantha Gilbert, of course, remember the pseudonym promise?). And then they look at her like she has two heads, because they’re expecting someone who’s at least partially Korean (which she’s not). Or they think it’s totally normal, and that her second last name is Na. Which is a fine last name, or the chorus of a song that’s now stuck in your head.

na na na na na na na na

So what’s your second last name? or alternatively, what’s the song that’s now stuck on repeat in your head-head?