How to Get Rid of Old Nicknames

If you have an old nickname, how do you get coworkers to stop using it? Reader B wonders about just this problem…

I am interested in advice regarding nicknames in the office. I started working in my office straight out of college at around 22. I was a very young looking 22 year old with a positive and eager personality. I became a quick favorite in the office since the next youngest was late 30’s and they gave me a pet nick name as a term of endearment. At the time I was really flattered since VP’s and Sr. level C-suite management referred me to this and I felt on the same level as Madonna since just my initials stood for me, I didn’t even need a first or last name, everyone knew it was me.

Time has gone by and now I am in my mid-30’s and I find it cringing to hear, being introduced as, etc. I’m not sure if I’m being over sensitive, but I just don’t care for it and would like to be addressed as my first name. I sign all my emails with my first name and introduce myself to people with my first name, but when someone comes around and calls me my nick name, the new people grab on to it. Any advice on how to turn something like this around?

Ah, nicknames. This can be a tricky situation, as people who knew you under one name have a problem thinking of you in any other way. Some ideas (beyond listening to The Ting Tings):

– Talk to people about it. This will be easiest with the people you’re closest to — let them know that it seriously bothers you. Ask them to help you lead the charge in changing your nickname around the company. They can stop introducing you to people as the nickname, and hopefully even start using your given name. I have one friend who did this (she wanted to stop using the “ee” ending on her nickname and go by her full name instead) — it’s a struggle, but I hope I’ve managed to make the switch!

– When you are being introduced in a group setting, don’t let them use your nickname. If someone uses it, gently correct them: “Actually, I go by ___ professionally now.” That way you stop it from being passed on, and inform your older coworker that your nickname is no longer the name you’d like to be called.

– Finally, it sounds like you’ve already done this, but I’ll say it anyway: stop using the nickname yourself. Remove it from your email signature, your voicemail, your business cards, and so forth. Furthermore, refer to yourself in the third person as often as possible, particularly when telling stories. “And then my husband said ____, let’s DO this,” or “I said to myself, ____, you cannot forget the beef!”

Readers, what are your tips for getting rid of an old nickname?


  1. Formerly Preggo Angie :

    Threadjack… does anyone recommend a good calendar/schedule sync program for my family? I have a work BB, hubs has an iPhone, we have a mac… any program that can help us so I don’t have to always text him that I have a late meeting and he needs to pick up the kids? Thanks.

    • Google calendars.

    • Geneticist :

      Sync your iPhone (iCal) with the Mac through iCloud!

    • Second google calendars. You can set up separate work/social/kids calendars and sync them all to each device. And they’ll all update wirelessly.

    • Cozi calendar. It’s online. It has an app (for iPhone and probably for BB, but either way it’s online). Let’s everyone add things to calendar, shopping list, etc. Doesn’t sync with outlook calendars, which is a bit of a bummer.

      • Try PingChat. Great messenger program that works for BB and iPhone. Even group messages.

  2. Struggling to find the good today.

    So due to a couple of unforeseen rulings by various judges in my cases today, and ridiculous filings by plaintiffs’ counsel, it looks like I will have two at least 300+ hour months in a row going forward into the holidays, estimated.

    Now, every day I write a new note on my iPhone of “10 wonderful things”, the 10 things that make me happy every day. I was at 6 on the train into work (including, but not limited to, wearing my pink shoes), now I can’t think of anything. Any suggestions of wonderful things?

    • Is the sun shining? Do you have brisk fall weather to enjoy? Did you sneak in 20 minutes to read the chapter from that fun book? Did you see an adorable dog/baby/toddler/bag/coat/billboard today? Did you have a fabulous salad/burger/pasta for lunch? Have to taken 10 minutes to talk to a good friend that you haven’t spoken to/seen in a while?

      Hope your day/week/month work out. I love your idea of finding 10 wonderful things every day.

      • Also, did you find out (like I did last night) that the Keebler Elves have hi-jacked the Girl Scouts and come out with their own version of the Samoa/Caramel Delight? It’s called Coconut Dream. I was beyond excited at that discovery…

      • That’s the sort of thing that I’ve grown to appreciate, as I am pretty much homebound outside of trips to work and the physical therapist for the next 2 months. With only one working leg, I am grateful for days without rain, and later, snow.

    • Ugh, I’m sorry. There is nothing worse than hearing that your holidays might be ruined. Sometimes being a lawyer really sucks.

      As for happy things, it is pumpkin beer season!

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Ugh, that sucks. I start getting homicidal and/or suicidal once I cross the 300 mark. When my world is exploding, I try to pamper other senses, like touch, smell, and taste, even if my sight and sound are drowning in work. Maybe you could buy very nice coffee beans or tea, so that you have something tasty to sip while you’re stuck at work? Or splurge on a sweet monitor… you may be stuck looking at a screen all day, but at least it’s a really nice one. Other wonderful things – get a plant for your office, and be excited that you haven’t killed it yet (this excites me)? Your assistant is great? You’re wearing your favorite necklace? You can wrap yourself in your favorite cashmere pashmina?

      • Anonymous :

        Loved your comment! I just realized I passed the 300+ hour mark by quite a bit this month which explains a LOT about by my crappy mood recently.

    • Anonymous :

      Here’s one good thing – work has not yet blocked access to Corporette!

      Although I think it’s in their best interest not to – imagine how fun the workplace would be if none of us have an outlet to vent our frustrations quietly…

    • I’m sorry. I’ve been there, and it sucks.

      Wonderful things: The smell of coffee brewing, crisp fall air, Halloween candy, Sharpie pens (thanks, Corporette), an office with natural light, how AMAZING your bed is going to feel when you fall into it tonight.

    • If your office allows it, Radio Paradise (internet radio station) plays a wonderful and odd mix of music. At least, it’s all new to me. I’ve been listening at home while I cook and it’s amazing what a good mood it puts me in.

    • Psychologist here, with some positive psych training :) If you’re struggling to find the 10 things, you’re better off committing to writing 3 things each day instead. When we struggle to come up with a longer list, it can actually be counterproductive, because we feel like that level of difficulty means life isn’t good at all. You want the good things to come to mind easily, regardless of the number of them you set.

    • No wonderful thing suggestions, but I’ll tell you something I did during those types of months that really helped me. I had a meal delivery service specifically geared toward providing healthy, tasty, low-cal food deliver lunches/dinners to my office. One of those a la carte deals where they delivered my meals once a week in a cooler bag. I’d put what I needed for the next few days in my break room freezer, then take the rest home and bring the lunches/dinners with me as needed.

      Although it was compared to making my own food, getting nutritious, tasty food that was convenient and wouldn’t make my butt bigger was a life saver. Otherwise, at the end of a few months like that, I would have been at least 10 pounds heavier from all the take-out and a lot more miserable as a result.

      • *”Although it was expensive …” Got so excited, I left out a word there.

      • Could you share the name of the meal service?

        • It’s now called Tru Meals – they serve Dallas, Houston, and maybe Austin? Good food, very healthy. I actually LOST about 10 lbs while I was doing it.

    • Not a lawyer :

      I’m curious….does 300+ month mean what I think it means? 300 billable hours in a month (so possibly more actual work time)? If so, WOW! Two months in a row of that is a lot. I wish you all the best of luck! When I have to work long hours I make sure to get enough sleep and to spend at least a little time with my kids and on myself every day, even if it is just ten minutes each. Even if I feel like the rest of my life is put on bold and replaced with endless work, I keep those sacred. I have to be honest, though, that it has been several years since I have worked super long hours for more than a few weeks in a row.

    • “Things to Be Happy About” is one of my fave books/website spin offs. The woman who writes it is incredible. You can sign up for a weekly email that just lists wonderful things in life. It always makes me smile.

  3. spacegeek :

    People tell me that google calendar is good bc it can be used anywhere. I use Entourage/Outlook at work and HATE it bc there are problems with the iPhone synching and keeping things current. At work we have all taken to not trusting the calendaring system and send separate emails in addition to the calendar to verify meetings. There are ghosts and also remnants that show up on various calendars. I use iCal to track home stuff, and that has its issues too–we can’t seem to get the husband’s calendar to “import” properly into my master calendar (which has the kid’s schedule, my travel sched, etc.) So I haven’t come up with anything, but that’s my experience. :-)

  4. Someone in my office tried that. From what I can tell, younger people will start calling you by the new name once you start using it. Older people who have known you for a long time will never, ever start calling you by it (except a few particularly perceptive souls), so you’ll just have to outlast it.

  5. My sugestion is NOT to let them use your nicname any more. And, you can DO that by NOT aknoleging the name when they use it.

    When I was in COLLEGE, all the boys called me “SPARKY” b/c I was always very personible, and friendly.

    I still know some of these guys, and they want to call me SPARKY, but b/c I am now a PROFESSIONAL with a JD and a member of the NY bar in good standing, I will NOT respond to that anymore.

    I tell them my Name is ELLEN. Period. That is how the manageing partner referrs to me so that is GOOD enough for me.

    • I totally agree, Sparky!

    • AnonInfinity :

      Those COLLEGE boys told me it was SPANKY rather than SPARKY.

      Are you POSITIEV you want to go by a NAME taht the manageing partner speaks with SUCH BAD BREATHE?

  6. I have this problem, but with my in-laws instead of my office. I have known my now-husband since we were 15, when I sometimes went by a nickname with close friends. Now, over a decade later, all of my friends and family have, at my request, stopped using the nickname except for his family. It drives me batty. I have spoken to them, my husband has spoken to them, but nothing seems to make a difference. Ugh.

    On the flip side, I share a close relationship and a professional circle with the father of an ex-boyfriend from the same period who has had no trouble making the transition! (If only we could choose our spouse and our in-laws separately…..)

    • Related question: how do people in this situation deal with their separate worlds/names colliding? I went by a nickname through highschool, and part way through college. As a result, my siblings, parents, cousins, and high school friends (and the people they’ve introduced me to) call me by this nickname, i.e. “Lizzie”. Since sophomore year of college I’ve gone by my full name, i.e. “Elizabeth.” Every professional job I’ve ever had has called me Elizabeth. My brother was visiting recently and went out to a bar with my work friends and afterwards, I inevitably got the questions about “why does your brother call you LIzzy? That’s so cute! I’m going to call you that!”

      I never know how to deal with this situation. I’ve had houseparties where half the people are calling me one thing, the other half another thing. Also, my nickname is not as obviously related to my full name as the “Lizzy”/”Elizabether” example. Think someone who goes by a full name but used to go by a middle name- not an obvious connection.

      Iti’s been over 10 years and I thought this problem would just go away on its own, but it hasn’t- it’s only become more complicated. For example, a family friend, who knows me as my nickname, helped me get a job at one point. He then introduced me to his supervisor using nickname, when everyone else at the company called me by full name. Supervisor was confused. Awkward explanations ensued. It’s not a huge deal, but I really wish I had an elegant way to fix it.

      • Anonymous :

        I think the most elegant solution is the simplest. “Midge is a family nickname; please just call me Josephine.” Don’t act embarrassed or flustered by it; be direct but pleasant. It’s straightforward enough.

        As for the “that’s so cute! I’m going to call you that!” –> “Please don’t, Josephine works fine.” (smile)

        • “Midge is a holdover from childhood – I go by Josephine now”. And correct every single time. “Midge, I have a question” – “Actually, its Josephine. What can I help you with?” Not snarky, just matter of fact correction. Good luck.

      • a passion for fashion :

        I could have written this. Its much less a problem now, as i switched names (from middle to first) over 15 years ago, and my family is far away, but when it does come up, i basically just say please call me [first name].

        • Thanks all. I am always dread the awkwardness, but I feel weird asking my sibs, HS friends, etc. to call me anything else (also, I know they wouldn’t!). But I like these suggestions.

          • Don’t feel awkward! As someone on the receiving end of the correction from a friend from HS that went from going by FirstName to MiddleName, I don’t mind if she corrects me. I do my best to refer to her as MiddleName, but sometimes I fail. It’s your name, and you have a right to be called what you want!

        • Name changer :

          I changed my name from first to middle about 8 years ago and everyone has pretty much made the switch, including one friend who was a real hold out. For me the issue comes uP when people check my ID, like getting signed in as a visitor. For a while I had managed to get my first initial and middle name on my driver’s license, but then it got changed back to my full first name when I renewed it, and the DMV won’t change it back for me! So frustrating!

      • Growing up my family used my nickname, but I’ve been using the longer name since college; all of my internships used my full name. Think of Peggy vs. Margaret. My family lives far away, visits rarely and only call my cell, so I haven’t had much of an issue. I usually say that I prefer the longer form but do respond to the short form, though I think the full name sounds MUCH more professional.
        I don’t have much advice except that moving to a new city and starting over helps!

      • Accountress :

        I’ve got this situation too- sort of. I hated my first name when I was in high school, so I went by a diminutive of my middle name. In college, I switched to my first name. It was weird when a friend from high school came to visit me and a summer roommate from college, but we somehow struggled along with me answering to two different names.

        I do work with someone I graduated high school with, and after we gave a training together, he confessed that he kept fearing he would call me by my high school name.

        • I switched from a nickname to my full name for law school. I don’t work in my hometown, so it rarely collides. When it does, like in law school when my parents would come visit, people were intrigued and some even asked if they could call me by my nickname. I just told them that it’s from my childhood and is what my family calls me, and I think people picked up on the fact that it would be weird to use an old, familial name.

  7. AtlantaAttorney :

    It sounded from the post that the nickname is the use of the reader’s initials? Is that right? If so, frankly, I’d let go of changing it. It’s your identity within the company, and sounds like a positive one. If it is image you are concerned about, I think making a fuss over a harmless-and-affectionate-but-work-appropriate nickname would do far more damage to your image than continuing to let people use it.

    Can the reader explain further why it makes her cringe when she hears it?

    • I was thinking it was something like her name is Irene Quintana and the nickname was IQT. Even being called IQ would wear off eventually.

    • Anonymous :

      Maybe her name is Genevieve Goodman, and she’s tired of being called Gigi. I could understand that. (Or, Cece, Bebe, JJ, or other variants) …

  8. Some people I have worked with forever call me by the diminuitive of my name (e.g. Susie instead of Susan, Rosie instead of Rose) and I don’t mind it, but I find that when they introduce me to new people, they use the diminuitive. I just correct them in the moment and say, actually, it’s Rose.

    It’s kind of funnier when they refer someone to me and I get a voicemail saying, “Hi, is this Rosie? Ellen said I should call you.”

  9. This is tough and OP may never fully rid herself of her nickname.
    But, some small suggestions:
    – smile and be good-natured when you correct people. “actually i go by Karen now, it’s nice to meet you!”
    – when people email you as XX nickname, reply back to the email as you normally would and at the end, put a “Also, I’m going by Karen now, would be great if you can use that name going forward.” (obviously use judgment with senior colleagues)
    – for colleagues at your level or below, i’ve seen people send out friendly mass-emails just explaining that “KG -> Karen” and kindly asking people to follow suit, thank you.
    – finally, when people slip up and call you KG, don’t assume they’re ignoring your wishes or whatever. Old habits are hard to break. Just smile, correct them and move on.

    The way that you, yourself handle these situations will go a long way in determining how your message is received and how effective it is.

    • Anon for This :

      I think all of this advice is spot-on. I had sort of a similar situation, but the switch was more abrupt. When I started at my current job, one of the receptionists asked if people call me Nickname (an obvious diminutive of my first name) and if she could call me that too. She was friendly, and for most of my life I strongly preferred Nickname to Firstname anyway, so I said yes. She turned out to be one of those people who says your name every single time she speaks to you, and she always called me Nickname no matter who else was around, which I hadn’t anticipated. Within a couple of weeks I had to ask her to start calling me Firstname around clients, because I didn’t want them to think it was okay to call me Nickname. She never called me Nickname again, so she did respect my request, but I’m still not sure if I hurt her feelings by asking her to stop or if it was simply easier for her to use one consistently instead of switching.

  10. The security guard at my building regularly calls me by a diminutive version of my name that I hate, and literally the only person who is allowed to call me this is my father. It’s his little pet name for me and so I don’t mind it from him.

    She also used to tell me to smile, and I bit her head off one morning when she told me to smile for the eight millionth time, because seriously, wtf? So I’m hesitant to tell her not to call me that, but it drives. me. nuts.

    • Always a NYer :

      It drives me crazy when strangers tell me to smile!!! Why do I need to be smiling all the time? I find it so annoying that people feel the need to do that so I totally feel your frustration =/

      • Anonymous :

        Dude! Lighten up. She has a boring low paying job and you don’t! Smile at her and call her “Sugar!”

      • It’s rude, and it’s sexist and condescending. It makes me so mad.

        • Exactly. How many men get told by strangers to change their facial expression?

        • Roly Poly Bat-Faced Girl :

          I agree. What’s a good reaction to this? What did you say to the security guard to get her to stop?

          • I didn’t handle it in the greatest way possible – after six months of giving her a tight lipped smile whenever she said that, one day I had had enough and I said “No, I don’t need to smile,” to which she replied with “what’s wrong? bad day?” etc, and I snapped, “what’s wrong is that you’re being very rude.” I don’t really know what would have been a better way to handle it, but I regret snapping at her, because she’s a nice person generally. I’m just introverted, and it takes a lot out of me to say hi when I walk by, let alone to have a conversation, but she tries to have a conversation with every single person who comes through the door.

          • If it was someone like this that I saw every day, I would assume they are just trying to be nice and think of something ‘small talky’ to say, and so I’d try to very pleasantly say: “I really don’t like it when people tell me to smile, it makes me uncomfortable. But have a great day.” and then try to think of some other small talk thing to start the conversation next time I see them.

            If it’s just a rando stranger walking down the street, I finally got up the nerve to say, with a completely neutral tone: “It’s my face, and I will do whatever I want with it, thank you.” and just keep walking. It feels so GOOD to not just go along with the bullsh** anymore!!

        • I LOATHE this. When I was a sullen, petulant teenage, I would flash by best pissed off, fake smile, but I don’t think I could get away with that anymore

      • Anonymous :

        I effin’ HATE being told by strangers to smile. I’m not sure I have a bigger pet peeve.

      • My natural, neutral facial expression evidently is not BRIGHT and HAPPY enough for many strangers and even my vaguely happy face does not meet some people’s wishes. Dude, your need to have aestheticly pleasing faces around you is not more important than my personal introspections.

    • Ugh, the TSA agents checking IDs always tell me to smile and I feel like I have to oblige or be flagged for the extra special pat down assault.

      • This happened to me, too! Finally I said something about it and they told me that my picture was kind of outdated and they were looking for my dimples for extra identification… oops.

  11. Two sides to my coin…

    Growing up I was Jenny (all through college). Then DH started calling me Jen, and I went by that – personally and professionally – in my current area (family in a different location). When I started at my current job they never asked how I’d like to go by – I would have said Jen. They put everything under Jennifer – so I am Jennifer to everyone in “this” professional life. Truly, I don’t care what people call me. I’ve gone by all three iterations of my name for large parts of my life due to the popularity of my name.

    However, college friends began calling me by my last name. Which was fine at the time. But once I got married it started to wear on me. Not right away – but over time I really didn’t want to go by my maiden name. It continued for several years until I finally said “You know I’m married, right? That’s not my name anymore.” Nice but firm. It’s very rare that I get called by my maiden name.

    • I’m a Jennifer as well. I’ve always gone by Jenny, but after law school, I tried to go by my full name, only to have it repeatedly shortened to “Jen” (which just doesn’t gel with me). I’m very petite and I guess people think a three-syllable name is just too long for me. Oh well. At least it’s not what some family members call me Jenny-MiddleName.

      As for how to try to change it – if the nickname really is a term of endearment, let the creator’s continue to use it, if the insist (otherwise, it smacks of an insult if you disregard after years of use). As for new contacts, introduce yourself with your preferred name — Doesn’t etiquette dictate you call a person the name they introduce themselves as?

  12. I go by many names in my personal life and sometimes come across a close American version of my name professionally (like Maria instead of Marya). I’m used to it, doesn’t bother me, shrug.

    Also…..this post is perfect for me to announce that I will be retiring “Ru”. In a few days, I’ll be leaving to perform Hajj and I won’t be around a computer for a couple of weeks. When I get back, I don’t know what my alias will be but I will continue to visit Corporette. Seriously, this community has meant a lot to me and I will miss you all very, very much.

    And with that, I’ll leave with a color pronouncement, for old time’s sake – look for green. Olive green, bottle green, emerald, whatever green suits your coloring. Green is a super stealth color that goes great with black, brown, navy and purple.

    • Thanks. I just bought the Nordstrom Rack super deal ($24.97) of “the skirt” in green.

      Regarding the nickname topic, I have a nickname that my parents coined when I was born. It’s a diminutive of my middle name. Bunkster is another version of it, actually.

      I don’t use it at work and try not to let anyone know it, but because of that, I get some people who automatically apply a nickname to my first name. One of the reasons my parents gave me a nickname based on my middle name is because the nicknames off my first name are so bad.

      It’s annoying, but I usually ignore it – mainly because the one person who does it all the time is the director of the department.

      • I just think it’s so rude to shorten someone’s name for them. Like, you’re not the person’s parent, you don’t get to pick out their name. It’s ridiculous. And if you’re not a close, personal (not professional) friend, you don’t get to have a pet name for them, either.

        • So my name’s Emilie, and you wouldn’t believe the people who call me Em. I just find it way too familiar for anyone beyond my family. It’s always the people I find most annoying in life who also insist on calling me Em. I mean, who does that?

          • Ouch. Definitely am guilty of this. I always shorten people’s names to the first syllable. I’ll have to be more cognizant of the fact that people probably like to be called by their full first name. :) Unless they’re my closest friends or family. Then I think they’re stuck.

      • Wear The Skirt fabulously =).

    • Ru, I love your posts and am sad I won’t see them anymore. May I ask why you ( and others) stop using your aliases? Is it just to help keep your anonymity?

      • For me, it is about anonymity. Through the course of the years (man, I’ve been reading this site for years), I’ve given up so much about myself…..and I’m easily searchable. Which is ok but people who know me in real life don’t know me like Corporettes do. So time to step back and I’ll come back as “Ru” as necessary =).

    • Oh congratulations on the hajj! I don’t know what the right greeting for that is… hajj mubarak? No clue. Anyway, best wishes to you and may God bless you abundantly.

      (I also think it would be really cool to go to Saudi Arabia. I’m a little jealous that they don’t let non-Muslims see Mecca.)

      • Yes, Hajj Mubarak is absolutely appropriate, thank you =). Ah Erin, the holy cities are like none other, I wish that everyone could see what it’s like there. Pictures don’t do justice.

    • I’m sad to hear you may no longer be as visible, because your input has meant a lot to me as a young, recent hijabi who’s just getting her feet wet in the corporate world–but much more importantly, congratulations sister! May you get the most out of Hajj, and may Allah SWT accept your duas and reward you for your efforts. Salam, Ru :)

      • Walaikum salam and jazakAllah khair for your duas =). I will still be around online but I feel a bit guilty for hijacking the threads as Corporette’s resident Muslimah, if I may be so vain. Google hijabeng, that’s me. Let’s keep in touch.

        • Ru,

          As another Asian-American young professional, I have also enjoyed your insights and hope you don’t mind an additional reader!

    • Have a great trip, Ru! i’ll miss your color advice!

    • anonymuslim :

      I wish you the best for hajj. I hope you keep posting because it’s seriously tough to find others in this same modest professional boat!

    • Anonymous :

      Bye Ru!

      Good luck with Hajj.

      I used to look out for your posts, and particularly liked your sense of style so a bit sad to see this alias go.

  13. Anon Cda. :

    I addressed a colleague by the name I had heard another colleague use when she said to me: “Only X calls me by that name and I HATE it but she has known me since kindergarten and I can’t get her to call me by my full name. Please call me Y.”
    That was pretty direct but I appreciated knowing how she felt. I have worked very hard not to slip since she told me this. Now her full name just comes naturally to me.
    Maybe it is a matter of being direct?

  14. There’s a local lawyer, middle-aged man, who goes by the nickname “Snake.” I even got an email from his secretary the other day that said “Here’s a letter that Snake wanted you to see.” So I’m like, “Dang, what’s a lawyer got to do to get a cool-ass nickname like ‘Snake’? ‘Cause I’ll totally do that.”

  15. Ha! I have a nickname for my younger sister that no one else in the world calls her. It sounds like a man’s name. First time her husband answered the phone and I asked for her, be thought I had a wrong number. that was 20 yrs ago

    I don’t get the OPs hatred for the initials/nickname either. I would think the “new” name could be worked in by using it in each new introduction, with a carefully worked out very simple comment about how old habits die hard or the like to explain why the oldsters call you something else.

    For a long while I could tell if a childhood friend, college friend, or professional acquaintance was speaking to me by the name they use, but now that has fallen apart & they are all mixed up. My life is not so overly simple as to allow me to spend thought/worry energy on this.

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