"Caleb? Caleb what?"
"Caleb ... Cheeschahteaumauk."
"Outlandish name. I suppose you insist upon it? You will not like to take another? What was your father's name?"
"No better. Sounds like a donkey's bray. The other will have to serve. Caleb Chis-car." President Chauncy's pen scraped across the parchment: "-ruimac. So be it."
Geraldine Brooks, Caleb's Crossing
Geraldine Brooks, in her 2011 novel Caleb's Crossing, is writing a fictional account of the first American Indian to be educated at Harvard, but the changing of Caleb's name would ring true to many American immigrants who left Ellis Island with different surnames than they arrived with.
The same kind of thing happens with foreign-language words when they are converted into English. They often lose their spellings, their pronunciations and, in many cases, even their meanings.
To return to American Indians, Henry Hitchings tells in The Secret Life of Words how many words from various Indian languages became English words. In most cases, it seems, these words lost something in the translation. Here are some examples:
English word Indian word
hickory pawcohiccoraskunk segongw (meaning "one who squirts")
squash askutasquash (Narragansett)
woodchuck wuchak (Cree)