Padma Lakshmi slams 'deeply racist and problematic' column by 'Dear Abby' advising against giving kids 'foreign names'

People have been turning to the “Dear Abby” advice column for wisdom and guidance for more than 60 years. But a new column written by Jeanne Phillips — who took over her late mother Pauline’s “Abigail Van Buren” pen name in 2002 — has missed the mark.

Activist and writer Simran Jeet Singh was first to draw attention to the recent column, in which “Abby” responded to a man who worries that his Indian wife will give their child an “unusual” name from her culture that will make life in the U.S. “difficult.”

“Abby” agreed, noting that while Indian names are “lovely,” they can “cause problems” within Western culture.

“Not only can foreign names be difficult to pronounce and spell, but they can also cause a child to be teased unmercifully,” Phillips wrote. “Sometimes the name can be a problematic word in the English language. And one that sounds beautiful in a foreign language can be grating in English.”

She concluded her response by writing that she hopes the wife “rethinks” her decision to “saddle” her future child with an Indian name.


Singh called the advice “wrong and racist,” citing it as an example of “whitewashing.” He added that his own daughters were given Sikh names “because we are so proud of our heritage.”

Padma Lakshmi was among those calling out the “Dear Abby” advice. (Photo: Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Padma Lakshmi, whose career as the host of Top Chef certainly hasn’t been limited by her Indian name, also called out the controversial column for being “deeply racist and problematic.”



Others chimed in to criticize the advice, with some arguing that creative spellings of Western names can cause just as much confusion as so-called “foreign names.”





One critic even offered Phillips a little personal history lesson.


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