I was in the middle of an article about Lauren Bush Lauren —  the niece and granddaughter of two of our presidents, as well as the daughter-in-law of Ralph Lauren — when I stopped reading and wondered if she ever had second thoughts about taking her husband’s surname. Lauren Lauren? There must have been a conversation or two, don’t you think?

It reminded me of that scene in The Wedding Singer, where Adam Sandler’s character giggles about what Drew Barrymore’s new name would be after her wedding: Julia Gulia! I got lucky in the surname department with Ben Blair (all of the letters in Blair are found in Gabrielle, and I think they sound nice together), but I confess, I identified so strongly as a “Stanley” that I really went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to change my name at all.

How about you? Did you change your name? If yes, did you hesitate at all, whether it was an odd one or because you simply loved your own? Or had you been doodling your new moniker from the minute you met your mate? I know you have amazing stories — and the funniest new married name you’ve ever heard — to share!

P.S. — Courthouse wedding via Wedding Lovers Anonymous.

228 thoughts on “Surnames”

  1. Although I wasn’t old (26) when I got married I still had a lot of professional connections that knew me by my maiden name. As a solution I just made my maiden name my middle name and took my husbands as my last. I also waited 2 years after we had been married to determine that it was what I wanted….

  2. I got married when I was 30 and had a few scientific articles in my name, so I considered keeping my maiden name for about a half a second. But when your first name is Winter and you’re marrying into a name like Redd, well, I just couldn’t pass it up. I tease my husband that one of the reasons I married him was so my name would be even awesome!

    My husband’s name is Lee and he joked that he would gladly take my maiden name (Chan) when we got married. I told him he couldn’t because it would make him more “Asian” than I was!

    1. I have a daughter named Winter! We have actually discussed what her last name and our other daughter’s last names might be one day. We talked about if she married someone with the last name of Snow, Green, or Brown. Redd wasn’t one that we thought about, though!

      Our ther girls could be in for some interesting names as well!

  3. My parents divorced when I was a baby, and my mom remarried twice while I was growing up. We always had different names in our house, so I was torn when it came time for me to decide. On one hand, I remembered how much I wanted to be the “same” when I was growing up and how I’d love to be with my Fisher family because we were all Fishers. On the other hand, not having the same name never changed the amount of love I received from my parents. As an interviewee on A Practical Wedding put it: “Having the same name does not make you a family. Being a family makes you a family.”
    I have a son from a previous relationship, so my family would never have the same name. I didn’t want to hyphenate because it was a terrible combination. In the end, I changed my name. After having lost my job, it was like being able to hit “restart” on my life.

    1. I think you’re right about a name change being a way to hit “restart”. I know it doesn’t feel like that for everyone, but I can see how it could feel that way for a lot of people that are seeking a new life.

  4. Love this! I kept my surname because I felt bad for my dad–I’m not sure if my younger brother will ever get married and have kids, so at first the idea of carrying on his family name through my kids appealed to me. Though now it kind of looks like my husband and I will not be having any kids, it doesn’t really matter now, anyway. My surname is really uncommon and chances are pretty good I’m related to every Allarey I meet, so I’m sticking with it!

    My husband’s a Donaghe, which is also a pretty uncommon name (and not the same as Donaghy or Donahue!) I think it’s pretty funny that we can Google his name and find people who look just like him even if we can’t trace his family back to them at all. They must have really dominant genes! :)

  5. My birth name is my professional name, so I had to maintain it at least professionally, but I did debate whether to change it in “everyday life”. I ended up keeping my birth name mostly because my mother-in-law and I have the same first name, so we would inevitably have ended up with each others’ mail…

  6. Mariah Wickham

    I am fascinated by these comments and experiences! I love hearing different perspectives on what I formerly viewed as a seemingly simple ritual of life. I, for one, was thrilled to take on a new name. I daydreamed all my life of a more romantic/unique/exotic name than Johnson (yawn!). I think the surname (and the man it came with) fit the bill perfectly. I love, love, love being a Wickham! You wouldn’t believe the number of times people ask, “like Pride & Prejudice?” “Yes, just like it!” And although I found more of a Mr. Darcy, it doesn’t stop me from from being secretly glad our surname is associated with the rebel. ;)

    P.S. I had not even read Pride & Prejudice before getting married. I heard it referenced so much when people heard my last name that I figured I better read it. It quickly became a favorite.

  7. I was sentimental about my name and identity, so I kept my maiden name. 13 years, 3 kids, and 3 states later I changed my name. My identity had changed, the TSA hassled me that my name was different than the children I was traveling with, and the PTA was confused. haha!
    PS Briem rhymes with cream

    1. I would love to hear all the little tricks we use to explain our names to others. My maiden name invariable gets a funny questioning look, to which my mom would reply, “Just like the room!”

      1. We have one! In France, Blair is not a typical surname, so we say “Blair, like Tony Blair” (the former Prime Minister of England), and then they know how to spell it without further instruction.

        We actually started doing this when we lived in a very Italian neighborhood in New York — for someone reason, the name Blair seemed to confuse people, but if we said, “like Tony Blair”, they got it instantly.

  8. I loved my maiden name but always knew I’d change my name one day. After our wedding I tried to replace my middle name with my maiden name but ohio is one of a few states who will not let that happen automatically! Honestly, after the wedding and moving festivities were over, I just wanted to get the paper work done. So while my maiden name has disappeared, and I do miss it sometimes, I love my new name and the new adventures it will bring. It seems very fitting.

  9. I could write a long post about this! I decided not to change my name. My maiden name is funny sounding to most people, but Borup is the city in Denmark where my Dad’s family lived before they immigrated to America, so I felt a strong attachment to it. Also, as a photographer it was on all my portfolios/books so it would have cost a fortune to change. I felt good about the choice but at the time it did bother my husband.
    So later when my first article was picked up by a magazine I decided to give them the name Candice Stringham. I thought it would make my husband happy to see it printed at least once and I thought that it would be the only time that I wrote an article so it was no big deal. Little did I know that they would offer me editorial position and that my career would really blossom from that one article and I quickly became Candice Stringham to everyone in my field. Now its on everything and everyone knows me that way. But officially my name is still my maiden name.

    Words of warning to everyone who decides not change their name. It comes with a lot of frustrations. 1. Even though I didn’t change my name the church I belong to changed it in their records anyway and no matter how many times I corrected people I was still referred to by my husbands name. 2. It is a pain once you start having children. I have to explain everytime that I go to the office that, yes, I am their Mother even though I have a different last name then them. You would think that wouldn’t be a big deal but it is. 3. Because I was known by a different name at work then by my official name they would always forget and buy my plane tickets for speaking events with the wrong name. Not so fun trying to explain that one to security.

    1. I kept my surname for 10 years before changing it to my husbands. Having the same name does make life a little easier sometimes. I had similar experiences with travel.

    2. As a precaution against anticipated problems, my husband and I each put a copy of our marriage license in our wallet in case we were questioned. I’m happy to report that not once in almost 20 years has either of us had to pull it out. It’s still in there, though! :)

  10. I still haven’t officially changed my name after 17 years. I just can’t bear it. Even though, I have gone by my husband’s hard-to-spell-name all this time. It just makes for annoyance at the DMV and on taxes, but it’s a little rebellious streak in me that refuses to actually go to the social security office to officially change it. I don’t have a middle name and neither do my girls (old family tradition), so that does make it easier. My maiden name is on everything next to my married name. Which, in the end, officially isn’t mine anyway. LOL!

  11. My husband and I were in college when we married so I decided to keep my last name for consistant school records. 10 years later I changed it to his since we were planning on having a child. I wanted us all to have the same last name — sometimes it makes life easier. :)

    My neice is named Taylor and is dating a man named Taylor. Should they marry and she take his surname, they will have the same name! Funny!

  12. My husband kept his name and I kept mine. Neither of us wanted to give up on it, but he probably will when our first baby arrives . (I sense some negotiations coming.)
    In Germany spouses are allowed to:
    – keep their maiden names (and decide which one of them will be the family name that the kids will receive)
    – take their spouse´s name (which is then automatically the family name and will be given to the kids)
    – decide on a family name which the spouse who doesn´t already have that name is allowed to hyphenate with his or her maiden name
    In short that means: no hyphenated names for kids, a hyphenated name for only one spouse, and no middle names without a hyphen.

    Pretty interesting to hear all these stories!

  13. I changed my last name b/c I liked hub’s better at the time (I married very young). Now I wish I had kept mine or at least used it as a middle. Funny thing about my husband’s surname is that his grandfather changed the family name (from Miller), we’re not completely sure why, and now it is something very unusual (but beautiful).

  14. I love names! Even better, I LOVE my name. Growing up I thought I would never be able to give up my maiden name because I have a strong and proud family identity. I always thought I would hyphenate.
    HOWEVER, when I got married my husband’s name went so MAGICALLY with my given name that I smile almost every time I say it out loud. People always tell me they love my name, also. In fact, a lot of my friends call me by my given and surname when they call me.
    So, I have never missed my maiden name.

  15. I never wanted to change my name, I really like it and it connects me to amazing people. I love when people hear the name Zenger and ask if I am related to so-and-so. I allows me to hear great stories of people I miss very much. When I was engaged, my future husband did not like that I was not taking his name and we still have an argument every now and then after 15 years and 2 kids. I have offered my name to him but that has not seemed to appeal to him which I quickly state, “they why should it appeal to me?”

  16. I have thought a lot about my name lately and even today wrote on my to do list to go down to the local registry and talk about changing my name to a hyphenated one. It’s funny that this should be your blog topic. I took my husband’s name when we got married 7 years ago. Though we dated for over 3 years, our engagement was just 6 weeks and I didn’t have a lot of pondering time on the name change once it was officially happening. So I went with the flow and changed my name because we wanted our kids to share a family name with both parents and because I didn’t want to be seen as a militant. But I have missed my maiden name everyday since then. I still want to share a name with my kids and my husband, but I often toss around the idea of going back to hyphenate my name.

  17. My parents were engaged when pregnant with me but not married. They were involved I a serious car accident when four months pregnant and my father died. When I was born you were not legally allowed to put a dead mans name down as father (unless you were married) without their authority (which they could not give obviously) so I ended up with my mums maiden name.
    Soon after she met my step father and married him and changed her name and I got an amendment put on my birth certificate under his name. I grew up with my step dads name and was so used to it. Now I wonder what it would be like to have either my mums maiden name or my biological dads name. So many what if’s that when I got married it also seemed easy to have his name. ( my bio dads last name would make a great first name for a boy I did consider using it but alas I have had all girls!)

  18. I LOVE this post and all of the comments! How delicious! (I have always loved names – in fact, I chose names as my public speaking topic in grade 8!)

    My story is kind of funny. I had always thought I would change my name, largely out of convention, but then when I met someone with a very plain surname (-son at the end, second most popular surname in the US) I vacillated. I loved my unique name and his was so boring and blechy. Plus, there was already a Mrs -son before me and that kind of made me feel awkward.

    Furthermore, my maiden name is terrific: ending in ski, very recognisable, and sounded awesome with the “Mlle” I use as a French Immersion teacher. (Also, our background is Ukrainian, and the names usually terminate in “sky”, but the story goes that when a great-grandfather came to this country, they shortened it to make it easier and hence the “ski” was born. It’s a fun little conversation to have when people assume we’re Polish!) I really wanted to keep my name or hyphenate it, at the very least, but my husband had some very strong words to say about it.

    It’s funny because I am stubborn, a feminist, and a tough cookie, but I guess you don’t know until you’re in that position – and I finally relented and changed it professionally. It was what seemed right for me, so suddenly I was known as Mme -son. (Don’t even get me started on the switch to Madame from my beloved Mademoiselle!)

    Then, the kicker … our marriage did not last, unfortunately. So I got to go back to “my” lovely name! The one lucky thing was that I had never legally changed it anywhere yet, so I just slid back into it! Some people have said that aspect could have been an omen . . . but to me, it just shows that my gut was right all along!

    Looking forward to reading more stories . . .

    – sarah (who will not change her surname if she were ever to marry again!)

  19. I thought I had convinced myself to change my name, but as I drove to the DMV to change my license, I turned the car around and came home. I asked my new husband if he would like change his name. He said “No.” So I didn’t either. We love each other lots 16 years later. :)

  20. By the time I was 22 I had legally changed my name 3 times and vowed never ever again. At age 29 I met the love of my life and long before we got engaged I made very clear that I was never changing my name, regardless of whether or not we got married. He shrugged and said that he couldn’t imagine the hassle of legally changing his name after having worked in his professional field for a decade, he said he didn’t care. I fell more in love. See, not only did I get married and divorced in my early twenties (with a name change because I wasn’t brave enough to say my real feelings on the subject), but my maiden name was not the name on my birth certificate/my Dad’s last name. My maiden name was my Mom’s maiden name and I had legally changed it as a teenager after a decade of nasty divorce/court proceedings between my parents. Well, last year I married that wonderfully understanding man and wrote a whole post about the in’s and out’s and up’s and down’s of why I wasn’t changing my name, you can read it here.

    I have had a very long, rocky, road to get to Heidi LastName and then get BACK to Heidi LastName and, in many ways, that road has MADE me Heidi LastName. I’m not ever changing that because that is me.

    Great post, loving all the comments.


  21. My parents didn’t give middle names to the girls of our family for the specific purpose of keeping our maiden names. My mom was the same, and I plan on doing it the same for my girls. So, I only had a first name and a last name growing up.

    I agree, I identify so much with being a Tate, it would have been hard to give up. I love that I am still a Tate and also a Barnette now… also, by happy coincidence, Tate isn’t so unreasonable as a normal middle name.

  22. Julia Gulia! Oh, you’re the greatest Mrs. Blair. I love that reference and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately considering I’m getting married to my BFF in a few years. However, his last name is Guido. And my first name is Grace. Grace Guido?! I immediately thought of The Wedding Singer. My current last name I love. It’s also a G name, but goes much better with my first name. I even thought of just hyphenating the name. And, don’t get me wrong, I love alliteration as much as the next person…but three G’s in a name? Ay, hopefully I can make up my mind eventually.

  23. This is my second marriage. Our family was mixed…there was Bill’s last name, my last name and my daughter from the first marriage had HER last name. When we had a baby and decided to get married I wanted to keep my maiden seemed fair. Otherwise the new baby would have the same last name and my first daughter would have a different name than the rest of us. Does that make sense? :) So we have three last names for four of us. :D I think we blend better and our oldest never felt different or left out….she had enough adjustments to make.

  24. I kept my name. First because I was 30 when I married and am in theatre and my name was my professional name as well (weird actor thing), and I didn’t want to start over with a new name. Second, I have never even met his father ( my husband is estranged from his awful father) and my dad is a wonder: why should I take this terrible man’s name?

  25. It’s funny to me that women give a lot of thought to whether they’ll be keeping their father’s name, or taking their husband’s, but it seems to go without saying that all the children will have the husband’s surname.

    I changed my last name (ditched my original middle name and use my maiden name in the middle) because I didn’t want to be the only one in our family with a different name.

    If I had felt strongly about keeping my original last name, I think I would have insisted that the children have my last name, not my husband’s. I mean, yes, he’s their father, I love him, and we’ve been married for almost 25 years, but those kids are MINE.

  26. I changed my name 6 years after we were married! I just couldn’t bring myself to do it although my married name sounds much more fluid than my maiden name. It was a major commitment on my part so I gave my husband my new social security card for Valentine’s Day this year! He was very surprised and happy!

  27. I took my husband’s name and dropped my last name. I couldn’t wait to take on someone else’s name – not that my maiden name is embarrassing, I just wasn’t that attached to it. I also loved how taking his name made me feel like I was a part of a whole new family. I’m from the South where it’s typical to keep your maiden name and drop your middle, but I liked my middle name better. Some people I knew thought it was strange, but I’ve never regretted my decision.

  28. We lived in the UK when we got married, so for 2 years, I kept my maiden name, Moore. All my legal documents, passport, etc, was in my maiden name, so I was not about to go through the hassle of changing it abroad. It was such an easy name. My initials were HAM, as well, which I loved. I was a skinny kid and I found it funny that my initials were a part of a pig! Family still calls me “Hambone” or “HAM”. I’m now a “Frink”. Like drink, but with an F. That’s how I explain it to everyone, especially my students, who I make swear to me on the first day of school that they will never call me Mrs. Freak.

    When my husband proposed to me, he had “Moore” engraved in the inside of my ring, which I love! I am an only child, so I really considered not changing my name, and sometimes I still miss being a Moore, but it was easier to have the same name as my kids. I did the whole, move the maiden name to the middle name thing, that others have mentioned. I do HATE when we get mail addressed to Mr. & Mrs. *husband’s name* Frink. They can put Mrs. Hayley Frink, but I am not identified by my husband’s first name! When we were naming our son, I was considering using my maiden name for his middle name, but we decided on Benjamin, so I thought giving him the name Benjamin Moore Frink was a little weird. If I can talk hubby into baby #3, then that child might get my maiden name.

    On another note, since we have moved back to my hometown (which I swore I was never, ever, ever do) my old friends’ parents still call me Hayley Moore. Maiden names never die in small hometowns!

  29. Kelsey T-Gregorio

    I didn’t really realize I was attached to my last name until I got engaged. I always thought I would take my husbands last name… But I realized that all the boys in the family didn’t carry our last name and all the girls did and I simply couldn’t let our name not be carried on. So, I hyphenated. Legally and professionally my last name is Thomas-Gregorio but I respond to both mrs Thomas and mrs Gregorio

  30. I didn’t have reservations about taking my husband’s last name when we got married (except for moving down in the alphabet!), although I was quite sad about it. As glad as I was to inherit my new name, I also “mourned” the loss of my maiden name for quite some time, and sometimes felt like I had metaphorically “left” my 30-year identity behind. Even though my identity is (hopefully not!) all in my name, to me it represented a very strong tie to my parents, whom I adore.

    My attitude turned around one day when I was reflecting on my middle name. When I took my husband’s surname, I opted NOT to make my maiden name my new middle name. I kept my original middle name – Lacey – and decided not to include my maiden name at all. I realized that Lacey was a name my parents specially chose for me when I was born. My last name was already in place obviously….but Lacey was a name they loved, talked about together, and decided to give to me. In the end, keeping that name makes me feel tied to my parents in deeper way than my maiden name does – and my current last name, of course, is tied to my husband! It works out, at least for me :)

  31. I kept my French surname, it’s part of my identity, especially after 36 years. The only time I wish I’d changed it is when referring to my family as a whole, I wish I could just say “the Murrays”. But in the end it is a good example to my daughter about being yourself, being an individual. So I’ll remain Lemieux aka the best ;)

  32. Oh, I love reading everyone’s responses. I kept my own last name. I think I decided when I was 4 or 5 that I would keep my name if I ever got married and I was just stubborn enough to pull it off! I truly never had any desire to change my last name.

    Our oldest son has my last name, and our youngest has my husband’s. I was the only child of my parents to have children, and my husband’s family already had lots of boy grandchildren, so our first-born shares my last name. To split the difference, our youngest shares my husband’s surname. It’s slightly complicated, but not a big deal.

  33. This is something I’m struggling a little bit with at the moment. I kept my own last name when I got married and didn’t add my husband’s name to mine. Now we are expecting our first child and it’s been agreed that she will have my husband’s last name as I didn’t think it was really sustainable/fair for her to have a first and middle name plus two last names. But I’m sad that I won’t have the same last name as my child. I’m now considering adding my husband’s last name to mine on all official documents to lessen the stress in the future (and odd looks) when we go overseas for example.

  34. I always intended to take my husband’s last name because I like that it makes a family a set. But I too, loved my maiden name. And on top of that, my husband had the name of his father, who was only on the scene for a very short period of time. His mother (the only parent of his I really know, returned to her former family name, as did my husband’s sister. He was never motivated to change, and so we have this left-over last name that belongs to a family heritage I don’t feel very connected to. HOWEVER, I think it is fast becoming what we make it. I hope!

    1. Yes! When I finally settled into the name Blair, it was because I could see that our little family was making an identify for ourselves, and that our definition of Blair was going to be different from any other families with the same name.

      I’m not sure I’m explaining that very well… Hopefully it makes sense.

  35. In Portugal, each member of the couple can adopt the other’s name.
    Traditionally, women add the husband’s name(s) to theirs. My mom did it and so she got 6 names in total.
    My maiden name has 5 names (2 christian names and 3 family names). I had a lot of work in university to write down all my names in each header page of the exams… :)
    I did not take my husband name (he has 3 family names…) neither did he took any of my family names. But I have a couple friend that did: he took her last name and she took his last name. It’s more fair!
    And in Portugal, the children receive family names from the mom and dad: my two girls have 3 names in total (few for portuguese traditions): the christian name and two family names – one from me and the other one from dad. And the order can be switched: last surname could be the mother’s name and not the father’s name.
    I think it’s nice the family name of the mother not being lost.

  36. I hyphenated and then we have our kids only his last name.
    My mom didn’t change her name when my parents got married and I’ve always had a tiny sadness about the fact we don’t share any part of a name (but I understand it, I didn’t want to change my name either and her last name is much longer than my husbands so a hyphenated name would have been a mouthful).
    I’m happy with the decision, for me it’s the best of both worlds, getting to keep my name and still share one with my husband and kids.
    I’m forgetful sometimes though even after almost 10 years I occasionally forget to put the second part on forms….

    1. My mother remarried a couple of years after my father died, and she took her new husband’s name. So I no longer share any names with her either. I remember feeling a tiny bit orphaned when it happened.

  37. I didn’t take my ex-husband’s name and now that I will be remarrying I don’t think I will be taking his either. My maiden name is very unusual with a very interesting history and I don’t want to give it up. I’m also in my late 30’s with a career and degrees all under my name.

    However, I live with my fiance, my 11 year old daughter and all of us have a last name. For Holiday cards I use both our last names as our oficcial family name. Traditionally in Colombia, women don’t take their husbands names and kids have both last names, for example your kids last name would be Blair Stanley.

  38. I grew up being teased about my last name. However, in my family’s culture, it has a strong and proud history. So, while on one hand I was proud of it, on the other I hoped to get rid of it some day. I remember specifically saying, “I hope someday to get married to a ‘Jones’ or a ‘Smith’. Well, I got my wish. I married a Smith.

    Now, I rather miss my unique name. I once stayed in a hotel and there were 3 other Karen Smiths. I also feel like my last name made me a little bit of a stronger person. I EARNED that last name.

    1. ” I also feel like my last name made me a little bit of a stronger person. I EARNED that last name.”

      I was never teased about name, but I swear I know exactly what you mean when you say this. I somehow completely relate.

  39. For me it was a fairly easy decision because my mother kept her name when she and Dad married back in the 70s. They’ve been happily married for over thirty years and honestly growing up I thought most people kept their own names. Most of their friends and our extended family did. I knew people changed but I had no idea it was so common!

  40. I changed my name b/c I liked my husband’s last name better and I was so tired of always spelling my name and people still not understanding it. My sister took her husband’s name, too. It so happens that her name is Claire. And she married someone with the last name Bair.

  41. Wow. These comments have been enlightening… It was important to my husband for me to take his name (I wonder why that is?), so since I loved my maiden name, I just hyphenated. Neither name is pronounce-able to the average English speaker. Add to that three German middle names, also apparently very difficult, and… Well, I did the same thing to my daughter, except the hyphenated name.

  42. I don’t have my husband’s name, but that was partly a decision and partly convenience. We were toying with lots of options, and ended up deciding that we’d BOTH hyphenate our names. However, we got married in Michigan and lived in California, and we couldn’t get the appropriate forms from where we were at! We had to actually go to the county courthouse in MI to do it all. Our families live in Michigan (and now we live in Indiana), so we’ve been back many times, but we never seem to get around to it. We’ve been married 5 years now, and for a while I went by my hyphenated name, but since it’s not my legal name, I’ve been switching stuff back to just my maiden name.

  43. I did strongly identify with my maiden name, but loved my middle name even more (it is the same as my maternal grandmother’s so some connection). Also, I happened to get married between undergrad and law school right before moving across the country so the transition was easy. I did want our whole family to have the same last name too. As a bonus, our last name is easy to spell and went well with my name.

  44. I had no problem changing my last name to my husbands. I think it was because I was so ready to start a life and new family with him it just made perfect sense to take his name. I think it also helped that although I was giving up my last name, I kept my middle name which is a family name, so it has just as strong a connection to my family as my maiden name.

  45. I love my last name, I think my name has a nice ring to it. My husband’s last name sounds like “cow” so I wasn’t excited about taking that name. It wasn’t that important to my husband that I took his last name so I didn’t change it but if it was I would probably have changed it.

  46. this topic and the responses are fascinating! I had no hesitation about changing my name when I got married. My married name is shorter, and easier to pronounce and spell (and I moved way up in the alphabet). Very practical reasons, but they worked for me!

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