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Nomenclature Double Standards

[ 461 ] September 20, 2013 |

Jamelle Bouie is making sense:

But black children aren’t the only ones with unusual names. It’s not hard to find white kids with names like Braelyn and Declyn. And while it’s tempting to chalk this up to poverty—in the Reddit thread, there was wide agreement that this was a phenomenon of poor blacks and poor whites—the wealthy are no strangers to unique names. The popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black, written by a Jenji Kohan (a white woman), was based on the experiences of a Piper Kerman (also a white woman). And in last year’s presidential election, nearly 61 million people voted for a Willard Mitt Romney, at the same time that the current head of the Republican National Committee was (and is) a Reince Priebus.

On Twitter, riffing off of the Reddit thread, I mused on this double standard with a comment and a joke. “Seriously, I will take your ‘questions’ about ‘weird’ black names seriously when you make fun of Reince Priebus and Rand Paul,” followed by “White people giving their kids names like Saxby Chambliss and Tagg Romney is a clear sign of cultural pathology.” If names like “DeShawn” and “Shanice” are fair targets for ridicule, then the same should be true for “Saxby” and “Tagg.”

Most of my Twitter followers got what I was going for. But after it was retweeted by a widely followed conservative, I was deluged with angry complaints from a host of people—mostly white men—who didn’t get the punch line. “So, names like Jamelle, Mo’nique, [and] Trayvon are normal?” asked one self-proclaimed conservative. Likewise, another asked if “Jamelle, LaShonda, Trayvon, etc. are signs of advanced, successful, economically stable and crime free culture?”, which was followed by someone wondering if “names like LaShaniqua, Jamal, Porsche, Mercedes” would be our “future leaders.” Each illustrating my point that unusual black names are treated as evidence of cultural inferiority in a way that isn’t true of unusual white names.

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  • which was followed by someone wondering if “names like LaShaniqua, Jamal, Porsche, Mercedes” would be our “future leaders.”

    Allow me to introduce President Barack Hussein Obama, motherfuckers.

    • Jamal has only been a common name for African-Americans for what, 50 years?

      • And Mercedes is just a normal fucking Spanish name, but you know, it’s also a car, therefore hurr durr.

        • LeeEsq

          See my comment bellow, the car was named after the daughter of banker who invested in the company as a condition of the investment.

        • Manta

          Mercedes:
          the brand name eventually would be applied to an automobile model built to specifications by Emil Jellinek… Emil Jellinek had been racing DMG automobiles under the pseudonym Mercedes, after his daughter, Mercedes Jellinek… Jellinek seems to have become obsessed with the name and even had his name changed to Jellinek-Mercedes.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes_(car)

          A bit like the city in Europe named after the Hilton’s granddaughter.

          • the city in Europe named after the Hilton’s granddaughter.

            Atholl?

        • DrDick

          The car was named after the daughter of the German head of Daimler Benz.

          • Vance Maverick

            And it’s explicitly Christian: “Mercies”, as Dolores means “Sufferings”.

            • JoyfulA

              Mercedes McCambridge

        • ruviana

          This reminded me of Soledad O’Brien’s run in with Roger Ailes.

        • Edward Furey

          The only Mercedes I can think of is Mercedes McCambridge, who fought it out with Joan Crawford for the favor of Sterling Hayden in “Johnny Guitar.” She also played Rock Hudson’s sister and James Dean’s benefactor in “Giant.”

          Sterling is also white, by the way.

      • I’ve never personally known a Jamal and I couldn’t tell you when that or any other name first made its appearance in the U.S. or even whether it is a “black” name. Tyrone is stereotypical AA name (kind of like Bubba) even though it is Irish.

        I do know that when I was a kid there was a vogue for giving children Swahili names, so many names that apparently cause conservatives to shit six beds are in fact “real” names or variations thereof.

        • LeeEsq

          I grew up next to Jewish immigrants from South Africa. The parents named their sons Anthony and Darryl because they thought those were respectable British names. They were disappointed to learn that they have different connotations in the United States.

          • Vance Maverick

            What’s the connotation of Anthony in the US?

            • apocalipstick

              Well, now it connotes that you tweet pics of your dick.

            • joe from Lowell

              Italian?

              • LeeEsq

                Yes.

                • Vance Maverick

                  Comstock? Edwards?

                • rea

                  Anthony Wayne?

        • Per wikipedia:

          Jamal (Arabic: جمال‎ Jamāl / Ǧamāl ) is an Arabic masculine given name, meaning beauty.[2] The use of this name is widespread across the Muslim world and among African-American communities.

          In Egypt the name is pronounced [ɡæˈmæːl] and so is normally spelled Gamal . Tunisians may spell it Jamel. In Turkish, the name is transliterated as Cemal, Albanian as Xhemal and in Bosnian as Džemal.

          • Muslim??!! [Republican ShitFit]

            Thanks. Like I said, it is just a name to me and fortunately I was born and raised somewhere that names from all over were the norm. Also, I have name that is perfectly WASPY but was out of fashion when I was growing up. I didn’t meet another until I was 13 or so and I got teased a lot. My instinct is to not fuck with people about their names.

            The thought of experiencing shit loss of any level over a given name strikes me as a sign someone needs to seek help or develop a hobby or take meds or something that will restore sense of balance.

          • JS

            I was going to point this out. (In a lot less detail — cheers.) As some here may recall, “Jamal” is the lead character’s name in Slumdog Millionaire. It’s an utterly common name in Muslim communities all over the world I think (or some variant of it, anyway).

        • WeWantPie

          And yet the only really famous Tyrone of the pre-’60s era was a very white movie star, Tyrone Power.

          • Ronan

            I used to know a Tyrone power at under 11 football. Nice kad

            • Ghoul

              nice kad

              This phrase holds some internal tension.

          • RobNYNY1957

            Tyrone Guthrie, another actor, for whom the Guthrie Theater in MPLS is named.

      • Hogan

        And Mercedes the car was named after . . . the daughter of a Daimler executive. It’s also the name of a character in The Count of Monte Cristo. Mercedes McCambridge. MERCEDES RUEHL, YOU DUMBASSES. Don’t even know your own gotdamn heritage.

        • Ann Outhouse

          The Count of Monte Cristo was written by a Frenchman. That’s almost as bad as being black.

          • Murc

            Written by, in fact… a black Frenchman.

            • LeftWingFox

              …well I’ll be dipped. You’re right.

              I’m rather upset at my french teachers for glossing over that fact.

              • WeWantPie

                I’m just saying, this was a quite wonderful little subthread that just happened here.

              • Yup. I just read the book about his father “The Black Count.” Fantastic.

              • LeeEsq

                I thought this was a rather well-known fact. One of those random bits of historical information that people throw out to look smart.

                • Ann Outhouse

                  In retrospect, I think I knew that but forgot it.

                  Or maybe it was just deja vu all over again.

              • “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a negro, and my great-grandfather was a monkey. You see, sir, my family tree starts where yours ends.” –Alexandre Dumas

              • tomato_freak

                holy cow, wow, mark this up to things I’m shocked I didn’t know.

  • Thanks god we’ve disproved the notion that anyone could succeed going through life with a name like Benedict Cumberbatch. The notion is absurd.

    • *sigh* fuck you, non-existent edit button

      • Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq.

        Hear us, Powers that Be? We really need such a button. And preview.

      • WeWantPie

        Me too, Sharculese!

    • K&P

      Well it helped that not only was he a great football player but he also had a degree from Oxford to fall back on.

    • MAJeff

      WHAT is the Cumberbatch obsession people have? I see nothing.

      • I don’t know any gay guys who are all hot for Cumberbatch, just women. I’ll concede that he has a good voice but his head looks like it was carved from a turnip.

        I’m just a bitter anglophobe, though.

      • Warren Terra

        I like the things he appears in (I’m a bit obsessed with John Finnemore’s Cabin Pressure), but I’m not convinced his contribution to them has been spectacular, that he wasn’t replaceable in the roles. Still, he’s got good taste, or a good agent, or good friends, or the devil’s own luck.

  • jackrabbitslim

    I work with a (white, middle-class) woman who named her first child Beckley. A girl. My standard response in that situation is to smile and say, “I’ve never heard that before!”

    • Is she naming all her children after towns in West Virginia?

      • LeeEsq

        Yes, yes she is.

      • jackrabbitslim

        The runner-up was Adley. Which I was fully prepared to mock internally, until I googled it and discovered it’s (apparently) a legit Hebrew name.
        Im pretty sure SHE didn’t know that though.

        • Scott P.

          As in Adlai Stevenson?

      • My wife and I stopped at a gas station in Beckley, WV. We walked inside to get a sandwich at Subway and some drinks in the gas station. My wife walked to the counter and the guy working it said “you’re not from around here, are you?”

        The guy was from Ghana or Nigeria, I can’t remember which, and he spent 10 minutes ranting at my wife about how ticked off he was at his friend who told him to move there because there were jobs. He couldn’t wait to get out of there.

    • Warren Terra

      So close to Bexley

      • Dave Haasl

        And more unusual than Bexley’s brother, Jim.

        • bexley

          I decided my second nym should be Bexley.

          • Jason

            Shouldn’t there be a Speed in there.

    • Ed

      I work with a (white, middle-class) woman who named her first child Beckley. A girl. My standard response in that situation is to smile and say, “I’ve never heard that before!”

      I have a co-worker who called her daughter Brooklyn, which seems to be fairly popular, presumably as a euphonious combination of Brooke and Lynn. Thus, Brooklyn Decker, a lovely person whose name sounds like Today’s Sandwich Special at the local deli.

      • delurking

        They’re all Brooklyns, Bostons, Dallases, Austins, and Cheyennes here in Arkansas lately.

        • efgoldman

          They’re all Brooklyns, Bostons, Dallases, Austins, and Cheyennes here in Arkansas lately.

          Anybody know a kid named “Bronx?”
          How about “Staten island?”

          • DocAmazing

            I’m holding out for “Flushing”.

            • LeeEsq

              And his or her twin. Toilet.

        • firefall

          Signifying the desire of everyone in Arkansas to be somewhere else …. anywhere else

      • Warren Terra

        A co-worker named their kid Austin (no idea why). There were a fair number of joke about calling the kid Houston, Dallas, Waco, Amarillo, Fort Worth …

        • Karen

          Austin is actually a version of the name Augustine, but I seriously doubt that’s the source for your coworker. I will hope that she has family with the surname Austin.

          Austin is in Travis County. I know two families with two sons each, “Austin” and “Travis.”

          • Warren Terra

            I don’t want to name her or her husband’s ethnicity (odds are staggeringly low, but you never no), but they lack either family named Austin or ties to Texas. They could have a good friend with the name.

        • JL

          Really? Austin got jokes? I don’t think of Austin as an unusual name at all.

          • windshr

            My name is Austin. I only usually hear of people a little younger than me with it, so maybe it’s becoming more popular, idk. It was a family name in my case at least.

            • windshr

              I see that it has been pretty consistently in the top hundred most popular male names for the last decade or more. So I guess there will be a flood of Austins soon.

          • delurking

            True story: a set of twins born to one of my students names Austin and Boston.

      • nonononoNO

        haha yum :p

  • At least parents who give their kids ‘black sounding’ names aren’t using their child’s identity to pay tribute to a murderous traitor, like white parents who name their sons Jackson.

    • Or Civil War battles, like those who name their daughters Shiloh.

      • Hogan
      • TheWilderness Bullrun

        Hey – I resent that remark.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        I remember in grad school when I figured out who Jackson Lears (Full name: T.J. Jackson Lears) had been named after (the giveaway was a mention in the acknowledgements in NO PLACE OF GRACE of his brother R.E. Lee Lears!).

      • Kennesaw Mountain Landis

    • Frank Somatra

      If it weren’t for Erik’s comment, I would have thought you were going for the 7th President. Do folks in the South really do that in Stonewall Jackson’s honor?

      • Absolutely. And they all claim to have an ancestor who served under him.

        • Manta

          Are yous sure it’s not to honor Michael Jackson?

          • Uncle Ebeneezer

            Or Reggie.

          • Joey Maloney

            …and they all claim to have an ancestor who served under him.

        • Uncle Ebeneezer

          And on the flip side there’s only one Sherman (Helmsley) and not too many Ulysses’s, I can think of.

      • Warren Terra

        The great thing about deriding people named “Jackson” is that although it’s a common name, undoubtedly held by innumerable sterling examples of humanity, both of the prominent American leaders to bear the name were despicable bigots.

      • cpinva

        “Do folks in the South really do that in Stonewall Jackson’s honor?”

        absofuckinglutely! if I had just a nickel for every “T.J.” I’ve met in the south, since 1959, I could retire to my own private island. i’m still waiting for all the “Benedict Arnolds” though.

    • Uncle Ebeneezer

      I’m surprised “McVeigh” hasn’t become a popular choice among Teahadists.

    • LeeEsq

      What I don’t understand is how Madison became a girl’s name. Its only slightly better than calling a girlf Roosevelt.

      • I plan on naming my daughter Eisenhower.

        • LeeEsq

          I hope you don’t need a caretaken in your old age.

      • Bambi is a girl’s name despite the fact it isn’t.

        • RobNYNY1957

          I went to law school with a woman named Bambi. She is a union negotiator and tough as nails. Professionally, she uses “Barbara.”

      • RobNYNY1957

        It started with the movie “Splash.” The mermaid has to pick a human name, and she is on Madison Avenue.

        • LeeEsq

          Really? I’m growing more sympathetic to the concept of their being an official list of names for your kids like they have in Denmark.

          • Richard Hershberger

            Absolutely. Years ago I looked into this via a database of California birth registrations. “Madison” was a rare name, usually male, for many years. Then it suddenly burst forth as a female name, with the timing corresponding to the movie.

            • UserGoogol

              Yeah, according to the Social Security Administration 1985 is the first year it ranked in the top 1000 names, starting at the fairly modest 628th place and then gradually shooting upwards. So it’s not like Splash immediately rocketed it up into the top ten, but it seems eminently plausible that it introduced the name to popular consciousness.

            • Bloix

              Splash popularized it, but it made sense as a joke in the movie only because using WASP last names for girls was already slightly trendy.

          • JMP

            Yep, and it was a joke that she picked such an obviously fake name. But the joke doesn’t really work anymore now that, thanks to the movie, it’s become a perfectly cromulent and common girls’ name.

      • advocatethis

        My guess is that it’s after the avenue or the character in Splash (which was named after the avenue).

      • bspencer

        OMFG OMFG OMFG!!!!! DO NOT GET ME STARTED ON THE ABOMINATION THAT IS “MADISON.” This may be the booze talking, but people who name their girls Madison should be beaten with tire irons.

        • Marek

          Sometimes the booze is right.

          • WeWantPie

            So true. Don’t fight it.

        • Fighting Words

          Especially when they spell it “Madyson.” Ugh…

          • Origami Isopod

            Or “Madycen.” Which I’ve seen.

        • apocalipstick

          What about “Mattison?” I know a couple of local Teahadis who hung that one on their daughter.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            I know of a Matt whose daughter is named Mattison. It seems… confusing, in a way

            • John Bennett Ramsey named his daughter JonBenet. Long before they because famous, he was an ass.

              • “became” too.

            • JoyfulA

              Should be Mattidottir?

              • Needs more umlauts.

          • witless chum

            Goddamn Wolverine fans.

        • Karen

          I’ll help. I hate that name. Also MacKenzie, especially when spelled “creatively.”

          • Awful awful awful. The name “MacKenzie” that is.

            • efgoldman

              Awful awful awful. The name “MacKenzie” that is.

              ‘Tis a fine broth of a Scots surname. Och.

      • WeWantPie

        I gather the Madison thing started when a B-movie involving a mermaid falling in love with a human dude became popular in the ’80s. Never saw it, but I think Jessica Lange was the star.

        Best I can recall, one of the big jokes in the movie was, the mermaid came onshore in Manhattan (yeah, like THAT is gonna happen!) and, because mermaids all read just enough English to seem funny and foreign to the human dudes who fall in love with them, she read the street sign for Madison Avenue and, when Human Dude asked her name, said “Madison.”

        The very best part is: the tasteless fucking morons who have been naming their hapless daughters “Madison” for the damn-near 30 years since this movie was made are almost exclusively rich white people.

        • Egmont Scurley

          Well, the mermaid was played by Daryl Hannah, and there is no definition of “B movie” that fits “Splash,” but I suppose you get some credit…

          • WeWantPie

            Not to mention, the actress’ name was Daryl – not Julie or Mary Ann or Jaynie. There you go.

      • prufrock

        It was the name of Daryl Hannah’s character in Splash. Go to and watch the name take off in popularity after the movie came out in 1983.

  • dl

    Obvious Anagram Reince Priebus

    • Manny Kant

      Never a better time to bring out this again.

      • Walt

        Sadly, or fortunately, it doesn’t work on Alex Trebek.

    • apocalipstick

      For “rinsed penis.”

    • Icarus Wright

      As far as I’m willing to explore this, ‘Reince’ could mean something like ‘to deserve;’ assuming merely a shortened form of ‘Reinhold’ (his actual first name), it connotes something like ‘ruler.’

      ‘Priebus’ is more difficult to assess. Sounds like ‘primus,’ which loosely means ‘first.’

      See also Prince and/or prick…

    • Gabriel Ratchet

      As others have already noted, it makes more sense when you delete the vowels: RNC PR BS

  • bspencer

    This is weird. I’ve been thinking about writing an entry about surnames as first names–a trend I LOATHE–a mostly white phenomenon.

    • Anonymous

      What about geograpic names? That seemed to be a ’90’s thing. I knew twins named Sierra and Shasta.

      • bspencer

        Awful.

        • LeeEsq

          Isn’t your son named Israel? Its not strictly a geographic name but Eretz Israel was always a geographic idea.

          • bspencer

            His name is “Dudeskull.” Duh. “Lord Chubbington” to people who don’t know him.

          • Ronan

            What about the name zion

        • bspencer

          Shorter me: I pretty much hate all weird/cutesy/pretentious names. So I’m an equal opportunity hater.

          • Uncle Ebeneezer

            Why does that bother you so much? I get the offensiveness of a name paying tribute to a despicable person or event, or something that is just gonna cause misery for the kid because of teasing. But beyond that, it seems to me that there’s people who want to follow tradition/culture and people who want something more unique or want to break free of tradition.

            • bspencer

              It’s a quirk. I just find it irritating in the extreme. Can’t explain it.

            • Fighting Words

              I completely agree with bspencer regarding weird/cutsey/pretentious names. This is a pet peeve of mine that really bothers me. Now, I don’t say anything about it. But it does irritate me.

              In my case, I grew up with an uncommon name. Growing up, I was teased about it all the time. To this day, people still mispronounce it and misspell it. So when I hear someone say that they are giving their child an unusual name to “be different,” it just infuriates me. I know that some kids can work their unusual name, and more power to them. But for kids who get teased, having an unusual name is just another burden they are saddled with.

              I tend to be liberal on about 95% of issues. But on baby names, I really wish that we had Denmark’s naming laws.

              • Karen

                I think anyone who wants to give their kids a creative name should get a pet. Name the dog after Star Trek or Dr. Who characters and give your child a name that fits on both a construction paper animal in kindergarten and a business card for Secretary of State.

              • Shakezula

                I used to believe this, until I realized kids are vicious little fiends who will always find some reason to tease their peers.

                • Hogan

                  There is that. But we shouldn’t make it easy.

                • sophronia

                  I work with kids and it seems to me that between the vogue for creative names and heritage names, and the large number of immigrants in many public schools, kids are not really as concerned about enforcing normal sounding names as they were when I was young. When you spend your formative years sitting next to Rosario, Evangelica, Trinity and Xuo, the norms change. It’s adults who are the name police these days.

              • JL

                My name has to be one of the most common in the country, and people come up with all kinds of creative misspellings of it, and kids used to rhyme things with it to tease me.

                I say screw Denmark’s naming laws. I’d rather have a country that’s accepting of names from all sorts of linguistic and cultural traditions, even if it means that occasionally parents will name their kids something dumb.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          you know how Ron Howard and his wife named their kids?

          • kg

            Rebel Alley!

      • Cheyenne. Dakota. Other places I don’t want to live.

        • Ann Outhouse

          Brittany?

          • efgoldman

            Paris.
            Normandie.
            Burgundy.

            • LeeEsq

              The last one might be named after the wine variety.

              • Keaaukane

                i sort of like that you can name girls after drugs. Crystal. Brandy.

                • Jason

                  Mary Jane

                • marijane

                  Cokie

            • But, we find Constance and Nancy perfectly acceptable.

              • LeeEsq

                Nancy is just a derivative of the name Hannah.

                • I have to believe that the given name comes from the city…if someone wanted to name their daughter Hannah, they would, right? Or am I missing your point?

                • Richard Hershberger

                  LeeEsq’s statement is true, but it skips some steps. Hannah is a Biblical Hebrew name. In Latin it became Anna, which in French turned into Anne (just as Julia became Julie, Maria > Marie, etc.). It was this form which was introduced into English, becoming popular around the 14th century or so.

                  Why so late? Because as a general rule of thumb, Old Testament names were not popular in the Medieval West (with a handful of exceptions such as David). Anne was a popular name among the Byzantines, and it moved west.

                  Old Testament names suddenly became popular after the Reformation. If you see some guy in the 17th century named something like Jeremiah, it is a good bet that his father was both Protestant and serious about it. So this is when we start to see Hannah reintroduced. It probably was regarded as a distinct name from Anne.

                  How does this tie in with Nancy? There is an old pattern of rhyming nicknames, often combined with shortening: Robert>Rob>Bob, William>Will>Bill, and so on. You also can add suffixes: Richard>Rick>Rickey. So with Anne, we get Anne>Nan>Nanny, and eventually that extraneous /s/ sound worked its way to to arrive at Nancy, in around the eighteenth century.

                  So putting this all together, Nancy comes from Anne comes from Hannah, with Hannah and Anne introduced into English as separate times.

                • Origami Isopod

                  As I understand it, it derives from Agnes, in which the g used to be silent. The “N” in certain English nicknames comes from the endearment phrase “Mine ____” in front of a name beginning with a vowel, so Edward became Ned, Ann became Nan, and Agnes became Nancy.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Jesus, I wrote that badly. The endearment phrase “Mine ____,” in which Mine precedes a name beginning with a vowel. The final n came to be apprehended as the initial consonant of the name. And “Nan” is a separate name from “Nancy.”

      • Adolphus

        I have seen a weird naming tradition among some poorer white families that names a child after something that reminds the parents of some aspect of the conception. I have middle name that used to be quite common among German immigrants to the US, but became almost unused after WWII for really good reasons. The only other men I have ever met with this name were so named because they were conceived at a specific luxury hotel in Dallas. (For me it is the name of a favored uncle. My parents have never been to Dallas) I have noticed other people my age with geographic names with similar stories.

        I have no idea how widespread it is but I find it odd. I also find it odd you would tell your child that story.

        • N__B

          See: Palins.

        • Karen

          This explains why the children of some of my classmates are named Dakota. After the truck, not the states.

          • Adolphus

            I’ve met a couple of Dakota Rae’s named after the heroine in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

        • jafd

          There’s a Lake Rudyard in NW England, where the senior Kiplings spent their honeymoon.

      • What about geograpic names? That seemed to be a ’90′s thing.

        1890s, too. It was common for the clerks at the NY immigration station (Castle Clinton, later Ellis Island) to use town names as the last names of illiterate immigrants.

        • Don Vito Corleone.

          • My business partner, whose five-generations-ago ancestors were Irish peasants.

            • Hogan

              In Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, a former slave gets the name Macon Dead because a drunk clerk at the Freedmen’s Bureau misrecorded the information that he was from Macon, Georgia and his father was dead.

              • My family name derives, at a distance, from my serf ancestors.

                • Charles Manson

                  Polar bears don’t surf.

                • firefall

                  Charlie, thats just because of global warming

    • Vance Maverick

      It’s a “trend” of long standing. To pick an example entirely at random, I’m descended from one Mary Vance Maverick.

      • bspencer

        Actually, no. It’s a long-standing tradition, but it is a trend that has been embraced more of late. And usually these people are not giving their children family names, though I find it pretty gross either way.

        • Djur

          Sure, but that comes and goes as well over history. In the 1800s you had weird biblical and Latin names, especially in America. There’s a reason that a name like “Aloysius Augustus” summons to mind some kind of bewhiskered railway owner and “Jebediah” is some kind of grizzled old prospector or a Civil War soldier.

          And let’s not get started on Praise-God Barebone.

        • Vance Maverick

          I’m unconvinced. I’m sure we can all think of silly ones. Does anyone know who Winston Churchill was named after?

          • etv13

            If you mean the 20th-century Englishman, he was named for his 17th-century ancestor, Winston Churchill, whose mother’s name was Sarah Winston.

            • Vance Maverick

              That’s what I was asking, thanks. And I didn’t mean it was silly, just that this last-name-first thing has been going on for a while.

              • Of course last names are used as first names all the time. Fuck–Roman names were all “last names” used as first names, in a sense. Gaius Julius of the Julians had daughters named–Julia.

                In the case of an important family last names and multiple first names are used to remind people of important alliances in the past. This is so very not surprising.

          • Uncle Ebeneezer

            I would be curious to know if the rate of new names coming into common use really varies that much over time. Without the creation of new names, there wouldn’t be any at all.

            • Vance Maverick

              Within living memory, Italy had a state list of permitted first names. It’s been a few decades, but even when I was there ten years ago, I remember a couple going to court for the right to give their kid a double last name (the mother was Spanish).

              So names must always be aborning, but the impulse to control them is strong as well.

              • Jon C.

                France also used to limit baby’s names, but it appears they largely ended that practice a couple of decades ago ago around the time of the Maastricht Treaty.

                Only in 1993 were French parents given the freedom to name their child without any constraint whatsoever. However, if the birth registrar thinks that the chosen names (alone or in association with the last name) may be detrimental to the child’s interests, or to the right of other families to protect their own family name, the registrar may refer the matter to the local prosecutor, who may choose to refer the matter to the local court. The court may then refuse the chosen names. Such refusals are rare and mostly concern given names that may expose the child to mockery.
                To change a given name, a request can be made before a court (juge des affaires familiales), but except in a few specific cases (such as the Gallicization of a foreign name), it is necessary to prove a legitimate interest for the change (usually that the current name is a cause of mockery).

                • Anonymous

                  Se Finns have a sort of middle way: there is no list of approved names. Instead, we have certain rules. The name must be in Finnish or in Swedish and it cannot be a surname. It may be a new name but it must remain within the phonology of the domestic languages. In addition, the name must conform to the sex of the child.

                  Immigrants and other persona with family ties abroad may use their domestic naming conventions.

                  Surnames are even more closely regulated. No one may take a surname that is used by another Finnish person, unless the person is marrying or being adopted to the family. In addition, the new surname must be in Finnish or in Swedish. Essentially, it means that immigrants wishing to fennicize their names cannot choose a common surname but must either retain their old name or make up a Finnish-sounding name.

                  The registrar decides whether a name is acceptable. If the registrar declines, the parents may appeal to the courts.

    • My SIL named her son “Harrisson” because they are descended from President Harrisson. I mean that’s got just about everything. Waspy pride and a completely uninteresting and unimportant apical ancestor transformed into a first name.

      • Paywalled, but the author of this (I think) mentions his pride at being descended from Charlemagne, and then is crestfallen at finding out that a sizeable chunk of white folks can make that claim.

        Every class should be full of Charlemagnes.

        • Djur

          I had an aunt named Charmaine, but when I was a kid I thought her name was Charlemagne. To this day, I’ve thought Charlemagne would be a good middle name at the very least.

          I don’t ever intend to have a kid, which is good, because if I had a son it’d be hard for me not to name him Napoleon.

        • Origami Isopod

          Or Karldergrosse, if you want to honor your Germanic heritage. If you’re really hardcore, Karldergroße.

      • Harrison is not a terribly unusual first name. The Baby Name Wizard shows that it was about as popular in the 1880’s as it today. It dropped off markedly in the intervening 125 years, but it never went away completely.

    • MikeJ

      My middle name is my Mom’s maiden name, but happily it’s a perfectly cromulent forename too.

    • Richard Hershberger

      Loath it all you like, but the trend is going on five hundred years old, so you should probably reconcile yourself to it. Recall that Lady Jane Grey’s husband’s name was Guildford Dudley. There also is a substantial batch of names which you probably don’t realize started out as surnames, unless you study onomastics as a hobby. “Douglas” is a classic example. The first person on record with that as a given name was a woman. The use of surnames as given names really hit its stride in the eighteenth century, often via middle names. Middle names can take either given names or surnames as their source, and so tend to confuse the issue.

      • Hogan

        onomastics

        Hey! Let’s keep it clean.

      • Please read upthread.

        • Richard Hershberger

          If you are referring to the claim that this complaint about {kids nowadays differs from earlier complaints about kids nowadays} surnames used as given names, because it is done more than formerly, this is a bare assertion. It might be true, but you haven’t provided any evidence.

    • Steph

      Yeah, agreed. In general, I have a bizarre set of rules that I think should apply to naming, although I fully appreciate this is my problem and I shouldn’t share it outside of a close circle of friends or, you know, this website.

      These include creative or cutsey spellings, pretentious sounding place names, especially when the place itself has questionable associations, and, yes, the last name as first name, especially when it’s not remotely a family name and double that when the “it’s such a pretty name” seems to ignore the literal meaning. Like Tanner.

      Madison’s close friend Addison seems to be popular around here among Cubs fans in particular. Being the name of a street doesn’t make the last name thing better, IMO.

      My mother’s mother was named Illinois because her family had a naming convention started generations ago of naming the first daughter Illinois after some pioneer ancestor’s first daughter who was born right after they settled in the state. My mother (and subsequently me) was delighted that her mother hated her name so much that she refused to continue the tradition.

      • Lee Rudolph

        I always viewed with alarm the Wall Street Journal editorial page writer, who also regularly appeared Reader’s Digest, by name of Vermont Royster.

        • Anonymous

          I will note that this is an area where white and black both are offenders, at least based on Florida from Good Times, my own story, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

          • Jay C

            Except that the hero of “Raiders”, was actually “Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr.”

            “Indiana” was the dog. (and a perfectly good dog-name!)

    • (the other) Davis

      While there are some annoyances with being subject to that phenomenon, I’ve mostly appreciated my particular surname-as-first name–it’s unusual without being too weird.

    • WeWantPie

      It’s a very Southern thing, especially among daughters of the wealthy – they’ll give their daughter the mother’s family surname as a first name. I vividly remember dumping an old boyfriend because he fooled around with a toxic Southern belle whose first name was Prendergast. I am not kidding.

      • GUH.

        • WeWantPie

          She went by “Prennie,”, and I agree.

      • Origami Isopod

        a toxic Southern belle whose first name was Prendergast

        Sounds like toxicity ran in the family.

  • LeeEsq

    Mercedes is an actual name if not used that much. Mercedes the car is named after Mercedes Jellinek, the daughter of banker Emil Jellinek, who required that the cars be named after his daughter as a condition of his investment.

    • Warren Terra

      And we have a third delivery of this story in a thread with thirty comments! A Winnah!

      • Hogan

        His (? I’m assuming; could be wrong) was the first chronologically.

        • Warren Terra

          Your facts threaten to undermine my snark.

        • LeeEsq

          Yes, I’m a he. Yes, this was the first post to mention the fact.

          • Named “Lee”? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

            • firefall

              After the town of Leigh, obviously

  • ploeg

    Let me know when they find somebody named “ploeg”. I’ll be waiting.

  • LeeEsq

    All you gentiles give your kids weird names. ;). Jews tend to have a limited range, I swear that three out of every four boys I knew in school was either David, Daniel, or Michael, and two out of every four girls was either Sarah or Rachel, but at least they aren’t unusual for the most part. ;).

    • ploeg

      “Michael” is bound to cause a bit of confusion. Do you mind if we call you “Bruce,” just to keep it clear?

      • Warren Terra

        Excellent.

    • Peter

      Let me introduce you to my cousin Paulie and my other cousin Paulie and my nephew Paulie and then we can talk.

      • Stan Gable

        and his wife, Marie…

        • slavdude

          And her sons, Larry, Darryl, and Darryl.

    • Warren Terra

      Isn’t there some Irish Catholic tradition of naming all the sons John and all the daughters Mary, and then usually referring to them by their middle names?

      • Djur

        Spanish naming for girls also does something like that with “Maria”.

        • Origami Isopod

          And then there’s the Catholic tradition of giving men the middle name of the Virgin: Erich Maria Remarque, Jean Marie Le Pen, etc. Not very common among Anglophones AFAIK, though there was John Mary Lynch.

      • kateislate

        Also a Quebecer tradition (but with Jean and Marie)

      • Ann Outhouse

        My maternal grandmother was the youngest of seven Irish Catholic girls and not a one of them was named Mary. Could be an outlier, I suppose.

        • DrS

          My mother is Mary Margaret
          Her mother was Margaret Mary.

          She was the second daughter too, 3rd overall. The first they named a variation of the fathers name. I guess in case they didn’t have any more kids?

          They had 14

      • Karate Bearfighter

        I knew a Colombian family growing up that hung “Myriam” on all nine of their children, boys and girls alike.

      • efgoldman

        Isn’t there some Irish Catholic tradition of naming all the sons John and all the daughters Mary, and then usually referring to them by their middle names?

        The Italian side of mrs efgoldman’s family had (has) alternating generations of sons named Thomas Joseph / Joseph Thomas / Thomas Joseph…

        • How very Icelandic.

          • Yes, and Swedish too.

            • efgoldman

              How very Icelandic.
              Yes, and Swedish too.

              Nope. Rome..

      • PBF

        Mary and variants is more Italian.
        Joe is pretty common for the Irish.
        John was more of a mid-60s thing.

        • Origami Isopod

          No, I grew up with a lot of Irish-American kids and there were plenty of Marys, as well as Maureens, Maries, and one or two Mauras.

      • WeWantPie

        It’s an old French tradition, not so much Irish. Think of how many 19th-century French notables have hyphenated first names, either Jean-Something for the dudes, or Marie-Something for the gals.

      • Gabriel Ratchet

        My (Scottish) mother’s family tree is something to behold – almost every male member is named “James”, “William”, or “George” going back to the 1600s. My grandfather Donald seems positively exotic by comparison.

    • Nunya

      The only Yahuda I’ve ever met was Jewish, so I dunno about that. Moshi, Baruch and Binyomin too.

      • Warren Terra

        You do have to watch out for some really messed up Christians using distinctively Jewish names.

        • Thlayli

          Especially in the West. The LDSers like aming kids “Elijah” and such.

          • JoyfulA

            I have an ancestor named Solomon and an elderly friend at church named Israel (“Izzy”). Lots of such names floating around.

            • Israel is/was a last name for Russian Jews that was given specifically to first born sons who would otherwise be taken by the Tsar’s army. You’d pretend he died, rename him “Israel” as a last name and then they wouldn’t take your remaining son because he was now an only. I read about this in Born to Kvetch.

        • Origami Isopod

          A lot of old-fashioned Jewish names (either biblical or cultural) seem to have made a comeback even among young secular parents. Growing up, I didn’t know any kids named Ben, Max, Jacob, or Isaac. Now those are common names for boys of all backgrounds.

          I don’t see as many biblical names for little girls these days, but a lot of them are names I also associate with old people, like Ruby and Sadie and Hattie and Millie. I haven’t seen any little Gertrudes running around yet.

      • efgoldman

        Moshi, Baruch and Binyomin too.

        mrs efgoldman went to school with a boy named Moishe Murphy.
        Only in America! :::drinks:::

        • Mama Steele went to school with a boy named Isidore Isidore.

          • Origami Isopod

            Was his middle name Carlos?

        • Karen

          Jorge Vogel and I graduated together from UT. My son Aaron has a classmate named Campbell Rodriguez.

          • DocAmazing

            I have patients with names like Yuko Ramirez and Xochitl Hasegawa. That Latino-Japanese thing is strong.

        • JL

          I know a guy whose name is Noah McKenna.

      • RobNYNY1957

        Jude Law, Judith Light (she might be Jewish), Judy Garland.

  • Two-part first names is also weird, but that’s not going to stop me from naming my son John Connor.

    • Anonymous

      Bad idea. The Terminators will target him first.

      • Marek

        Not until the sequel.

        • Warren Terra

          Plus, he gets one of his very own, to do his bidding.

  • divadab

    I think the “Black names/white names” level of analysis is far too simplistic. In my (immigrant) observation, there are several American subcultures which are creative in their children’s given names. One is the Mormon subculture, where created baby names are frequent (at least as frequent as in black subcultures, IMHO): Trigg (Mormon Romney’s son), Suprena, Victrina, DeVon, ( a few names of personal acquaintances), all Mormon. Similarly, the hippy subculture is full of Aspens, Sky’s, etc.

    Honestly, how is “Mitt” or “Trigg” any less silly sounding than Laquisha?

    CHeers! With much love from

    Groovyhead Apollo Newton, III

    • Manny Kant

      Romney’s son is Tag. Trigg is Palin’s son, I believe.

      • divadab

        What if they produced a son together? Tigger? Trag? Traggy? Mutt? Muff?

    • Jordan

      Is it really true that this happens more often for mormons than you would expect? My whole family is mormon and I grew up in a fairly mormon area. Other than a slightly higher proportion of christian-virtue-related names, I didn’t notice this (My own, obviously very large, extended family is pretty universally “unexceptional/boring first name, family middle name, father’s last name).

      • divadab

        Maybe it’s a California Mormon thing – here’s a sampling of real names:

        LaVerne (a man)
        Shauline
        Londen
        POrter
        Emerson
        Cambria
        Chanell
        Call
        Tanelle
        Tarl
        Cilicia
        Dallin

        I am probably exaggerating, but I feel that there is strong evidence for a creative name culture among Mormons. Not all lines, but enough to be notable. My theory? A) large families require more names; and b) for a pretty conservative group, Mormons are in my experience quite creative and open-minded culturally. Americans, in other words!

        • Jordan

          Ha, ok. My experience was Boise Idaho Mormons, so maybe that explains it?

          • divadab

            see below link to Utah Mormon naming site.

            I love this one – Bobette. I actually know a Bobette.

      • marijane

        The Utah Baby Namer has been a thing on the internet since the late 90s.

        • Jordan

          lulz, thanks for that link.

        • Origami Isopod

          Ah, yes. VulvaMae, the best Mormon name ever.

  • Rob in Buffalo

    “Track”, “Trig”, “Piper”, “Willow”, “Bristol”.

    • Calming Influence

      Thank You! I was wondering how the topic of weird kid’s names hadn’t immediately elicited a Pavlovian “The Palin family for $1000, Alex!”

    • sweet

      I can actually top that:
      Candy, Caramel, Cookie and Cake

      • JoXn

        Kittens from the Humane Society?

        • sweet

          actual sisters-in-law from a white bread mid-western family
          “Cake” is actually Cate but her family all use the nickname.
          For the older three, those are their actual names.

          • Well–that’s pretty shakespearean, actually. “Sweet Cate, the sweetest Cate in all of christendom” was a pun on the name and the sweet meat called a “cate.”

      • Karen

        The director of the a Spy Kids movies named his kids Rebel and Ranger. Presumably he has dogs named Brian and Deborah.

      • Karen

        Also, when you say all four names aloud it sounds like the first line of a nursery rhyme.

      • hamletta

        Oy. I knew a pair of twins whose names were Mona and Lisa.

        • Jon C.

          They were Vitos?

      • Bas-O-Matic

        Wendy, Sandy, and Rocky….. Beach.

    • Trollhattan

      Don’t forget Duffle!

      • efgoldman

        He was conceived when his parents were in the bag!
        :::ducks and runs away:::

    • Sharon

      I miss the Palin Name Generator. sigh…

  • RobNYNY1957

    Jewish names seem to go through phases. My grandparents’ generation were Melvin, Sidney, Marvin, Harvey, Leonard, etc. My generation was Eric, Brian, Marc, Steven. I think what links them is that they sound WASPy (or at least not Jewish), but are not closely identified with Christian saints. But there are outliers. The actor Christian Campbell is Jewish. I also know one postwar Jew with the first name “Adolph.”

    • Manta

      “Marc” is not closely identified with a Christian saint?

      • Amanda in the South Bay

        The Apostle Mark, and St. Stephen, the Protomartyr? Markos and Stephanos seem to be popular Greek names.

        • RobNYNY1957

          Stephen is a saint of medium prominence, true. But there are lots of historical figures name Marc, Mark, Marcus, etc. who are not saints. Patrick or Christopher I would say are names that are highly identified with the saints.

          • Steph

            Christopher seems to raise a bigger issue than being associated with a saint.

            • WeWantPie

              Well, it means “Christ-Carrier,” so that’s understandable. (The story of St. Christopher has to do with the guy physically carrying the Christ Child across a river, or something like that.)

          • JoyfulA

            Stephen is a big-deal saint, at least among Protestants, who don’t have many. He was the first martyr.

            • Steph

              He’s a big thing in general–Boxing Day=Wren’s Day=St Stephen’s Day. Of course, being a Stephanie I’m perhaps more inclined to be aware of that.

      • Manta
    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      I’ve always been fascinated by names like Melvin, Sidney, Marvin, Harvey, Leo, Julius, etc. (and for a slightly younger generation Eliot). They were no doubt adopted by my people because they sounded white and even WASPy. But as soon as we MOTs started using them, there went the neighborhood and they became Jewish names.

      • LeeEsq

        I have a cousin whose name is Leonard but he is also Sephardic, so Leonardo is a legitimate Spanish name. I’m probably one of the few Jews with a Jewish immigrant great-grandfather named Roberto.

        Fun family fact, basketball player, gambler, and gangster Jack Molinas was the cousin of my grandfather Jack. My grandfather’s mother Clara Bernardo nee Molinas was the sister of Jack Molinas’ father.

      • WeWantPie

        Me too, IB. Our grandparents all had names like Irving and Myrtle, Nathan and Selma, Hymie and Zelda; then our parents had names like Eric and Barbara and Frank and Joyce. Seems to me that Jewish children nowadays are much more likely to be given explicitly Jewish names like Yael, Yisroel, Rivkah, Rochel and Shlomo.

        • Irving and Nathan are about as different as two names can be. Irving is an old Scottish surname, originating as a place name (think Washington Irving, John Irving). Nathan is the name of an ancient Hebrew prophet, best known for condemning King David’s adultery with Baathsheba. (Nathan means “he (ie God) gave”). The names seem similar to you only because they were commonly given to Jewish boys a hundred years ago.

      • Steph

        I’m fascinated by the fact that early 20th century names tend to be horrible to our ears in the way most others are not. I inherited a bunch of research about family history and with some exceptions most, back to the 1600s, were classic and unobjectionable to my ears. But between, I dunno, 1880 and 1930, you get all sorts of atrocities like Elmer and Wilma and Alfred and Bernice, that I suspect were considered cutting edge and cool.

    • My spouse, like Andrew Patner, was one of the “last of the Scottish Jews.” There was a mid century vogue for names like Eric and Andrew which were scottish and possibly came from reading Sir Walter Scott.

      • Vance Maverick

        The topic is inexhaustible. Why, for a generation or two, did Jews in the German-speaking world (and elsewhere) take names like Siegfried and Sigmund? Today those names read like “No Jews Allowed”, but obviously it must not have seemed so at the time.

        • efgoldman

          Why, for a generation or two, did Jews in the German-speaking world (and elsewhere) take names like Siegfried and Sigmund

          Because Wagner hadn’t appropriated them yet, and the Nazis hadn’t appropriated Wagner yet.

          • Vance Maverick

            It’s clearly not that simple. Sigfried Giedion, for example, was born in 1888, more than a decade after the premiere of Siegfried the opera. And Wagner himself published On Jewry in Music in 1869 (not counting the earlier anonymous version).

            • Vance Maverick

              I think it must have been that assimilation was a powerful cultural force, and that these groups felt (rightly!) that they were part of German culture writ large. The disillusionment seems inevitable, but only in retrospect.

              • divadab

                Consider the sad story of Nobel laureate Fritz Haber, German-Jewish patriot who invented Phosgene gas to use in WWI against the allies. Later he developed Zyklon B which was used to assassinate many of his relatives in concentration camps.

                Can you imagine a Jewish child named Fritz today?

                • heckblazer

                  Phosgene was actually first used by the French, and was (and still is) a common industrial chemical first discovered in the 19th century. Zyklon B (“Cyclone B”) was the trade name of a pesticide; the very first gas chambers at Auschwitz were used to fumigate clothing for lice.

                • Vance Maverick

                  According to Wikipedia, his father was named…Siegfried.

                  I grew up in a family of chemists and chemical engineers, and the name Fritz Haber was still one to conjure with in 1980.

                • divadab

                  I stand corrected – Haber merely figured out the science of using poison gas (phosgene, mustard gas, chlorine gas) on the battlefield.

                  And yes, he did develop Zyklon A as an “insecticide” – because under the Versailles treaty, Germans were forbidden to work on developing any offensive weapons, including poison gases. It was represented as an insecticide to get around the treaty terms – but it was quite clear the his scientists were working on chemical weapons. Zyklon B also had the desirable side effect of killing the fleas on the corpses of the concentration camp victims it also killed. I suppose that you are right that this represents delousing – quite a radical delousing that also kills the hosts.

        • German Jews were the most assimilated Jews in the world. They spoke German, sent their chidren to German schools, and thought of themselves as completely German. (Jews served in the First World War at a rate considerably higher than that of non-Jewish Germans.)

    • Many Jews a hundred years ago gave their sons WASP last names. These were aspirational names and as Rob says they avoided problems with the use of Christian saints’ names: so, Sidney, Morris, Irving, Bennett, Stanley, Seymour, Howard, Morton, Martin, Harvey.

      Some of these names are so closely identified in the US as old-guy Jewish names that it’s hard to think of them as aristocratic English family names. But that’s what they are.

  • Hogan

    There was an episode of Murphy Brown where she was considering baby names, and had settled on Winston Mahatma Brown. To which Miles replied, “Why don’t you just go ahead and name him Throw a Dodge Ball at My Head at Recess?”

    • Murphy not being a standard first name for either gender.

  • And maybe it goes without saying, but this outpouring of bile from the Right Twits is particularly nasty, even for a group of people that seems to delight in consistently being beyond the pale.

    “Them damn n!ggers giving their kids names like [stereotypical names from racist jokes they like to tell] are destroying society!”

    • Djur

      Unfortunately, I’ve heard a decent amount of “dumb black name” jokes from liberals, although they at least try to mix in “dumb poor person names” and “dumb hick names” too.

      I don’t really see anything wrong with snickering about ridiculous names as long as it’s done generally. There are sites that simply aggregate posts from people on baby naming forums. The most hilarious post I read on one of those sites was from a woman whose kids were named something like “Hunter Ruger” and “Colt Ryder”.

      To be honest, most of the “weird” names people cite as stereotypically black seem pretty reasonable to me. “DeShawn” and “Shaniqua” may be a little bit fanciful, but they sound like names and they’re not needless respellings of other names (I’m looking at you, “Jaycen”). There were girls at my middle school named “Precious” and “Unique”, which doesn’t seem much different from “Charity” and “Faith”, etc.

      All the “this lady thought the hospital named her daughter Female” stuff comes from a pretty foul place, though.

      • As I said above, I have a WASPY but uncommon name. I grew up with kids who had names like LaMoy (actual name). Not to mention all of the kids from Haiti, Cambodia, &c.

        Even if I didn’t have an unusual name, snickering at unusual names would have been a good way to get your ass kicked up between your shoulder blades in my neighborhood.

        But snickering isn’t what’s happening in that Twitter response. These people are angered by “different” and supposedly “black” names. And they’re blaming social ills on those names.

        • Jordan

          “I have a WASPY but uncommon name”

          Hmm, “Master” IS pretty uncommon, and I can see how it is pretty WASPy.

      • That urban legend was retold on a 70’s cop show Cagney and Lacey. They meet a black female prostitute (of course!) who says her name is Female (pronounced femmalley).

        • Djur

          Over at that Daily Beast article, there’s no fewer than three people who claim to have encountered someone named “Shithead”.

          I haven’t kept track, but I fairly regularly read people claim that they’ve encountered a kid named Shithead or Female, in the ob/gyn ward or in their class. I’d have to say I’ve read at least 30 people claim to have direct knowledge of such a child in the last 10 years, and the story has been told countless times over the last few decades about a friend or a friend-of-a-friend, etc.

          And yet, as far as I can tell, none of these Shitheads or Females have ever done anything notable enough to be named in a newspaper or any public record. Not even in the crime blotter.

          • Cheap Wino

            My ex’es racist parents (her mom was a 3rd grade teacher of all things) used to delight in telling the shithead story as if it happened at her school complete with the what could you expect from ‘those’ people etc. implications. I was repulsed.

            Ironically their daughter turned out to be a real shithead, but I digress.

            • Djur

              On the Daily Beast article and the Deadspin article someone else linked I’ve already counted eight sightings of the Lemonjello/Oranjello twins — all people claiming to have personally witnessed these children, of course.

              I am willing to believe some of these stories as personal sightings — someone mentions a kid named “Ampersand”, and I’m fine believing that. There are absolutely much weirder names out there.

              The problem with “Female”, “Shithead”, the Jello twins, etc. is twofold. First, they’re frequently told as personal stories, and it’s simply not credible that so many Jello twins are out there without any of them being credibly documented. Second, they assume a level of ignorance or not-giving-a-shit far beyond the level required for “Ampersand”.

          • Lee Rudolph

            And yet, as far as I can tell, none of these Shitheads or Females have ever done anything notable enough to be named in a newspaper or any public record. Not even in the crime blotter.

            I did once (c. 1982), while transcribing the night-court rulings (not quite the crime blotter but close) into copy for the local paper while employed as an assistant copy-editor, find a woman charged with street-walking who had supplied the court with the name “Genita L.” some-family-name-or-other.

            • RobNYNY1957

              Yes, there was a Genita Lynn in my high school in Wisconsin. I asked if anyone ever made fun of her name, and she had no idea what I was talking about.

          • Karen

            I found this guy: Shitavious Cook

            • Origami Isopod

              Then there’s Latrina.

              Generally I concur with Djur.

              • Steph

                Generally I concur with Djur also, but I went to law school with a LaTrina. She was even on law review and graduated near the top of the class.

      • Coastsider

        Well those jokes can go both ways – Key & Peele: Substitute Teacher Jay-qwellen would be a great name.

        Of course you could always name your kid L’Carpetron Dookmarriot…

      • JSC_ltd

        I have a cousin named Winchester Remington Sharps [last name]. He’s only sort of rednecky, somehow.

  • Djur

    Mercedes is, as mentioned above, an old and respectable name. Porsche is frequently confused with Portia, also an old name. I grew up knowing a Mercedes and a Portia, both from white, well-off families.

    Jamal is a perfectly respectable Arabic name, too. It seems that the objectionable thing is not the name, but the color of the named person.

    • Manta
    • Djur

      Also, apparently the idea of a leader named Jamal is funny. Someone shoulda told this loser.

    • Yes. I kind of get the feeling that if blacks parents only named their kids Martha and George from here on out that would be seen as sinister.

      And they wonder why we call them racist doucheholes.

      • Djur

        I think there’s sort of three different things going on.

        There are some names which are just somewhat more common among African-Americans, even if the name was originally “white”. Tyrone, Anthony, Marcus, etc. It’s common for the popularity of names to vary between ethnic communities, like someone above mentioned for common Jewish names. Thirty years ago, the example names would have been different.

        You have “black” names, of the sort mentioned in the original article, where Arabic, Swahili, and other types of names were being consciously embraced as an expression of solidarity and culture. There are also some mildly fanciful variations on these names, combinations of them with more traditional names, etc. None of these names should be that outrageous, and yet they’re frequently cited in such lists. I think that’s telling.

        And then you have genuinely wackadoo names, which occur all over the spectrum, but do tend to be slightly more frequent among very poor or very rich people. I note that the original Reddit poster cited names like that: “D’brickishaw, Barkevious D’quell”. There’s also the “Colt Hunter Ruger” types I mentioned above, “Makynzy”, “Apple”, “Bronx Mowgli”, etc. etc.

        And I think all three of these end up being blended together into “black people have weird names”, where “Tyrone” and “Jamal” and whatever Scrabble name you choose are seen as points in a spectrum of black otherness, rather than three completely distinct phenomena.

        • mpowell

          This is a good point. Mixing up Tyrone and Jamal in the 3rd group (or even 2nd) is just blatantly racist.

        • JoyfulA

          Hunter is one thing, but Gunner is something else. I saw the label on a baby picture in a medical office lab with lots of other kid pictures on a bulletin board.

          I lacked the nerve to ask whether the boy was intended to become an assassin or whether the parents misspelled Gunter.

          • Shakezula

            Or Gunnar.

          • JL

            I know a Gunner. He’s a trans guy, so presumably he picked that name himself. He’s also a bleeding-heart liberal, so I don’t think it’s meant to have any militaristic connotations. Not sure what the origin is.

        • divadab

          In scotland and Northern Ireland, if your name is Desmond you are Catholic. N o Protestant would name his kid Desmond (or his daughter Brigid).

          This stuff runs through the generations.

      • MikeJ

        blacks parents only named their kids Martha and George from here on out that would be seen as sinister.

        Watch a movie from the 30s or 40s. It’s a bit of a cliché that the bootblack will be named for a president.

        • sparks

          or have a degrading nickname

        • efgoldman

          Watch a movie from the 30s or 40s. It’s a bit of a cliché that the bootblack will be named for a president.

          There was a black kid in my basic training company (fall 1968) named Roosevelt Washington. Pretty common for the time.

          • EMRVentures

            Remember Roosevelt Franklin, the black kid puppet on Sesame Street?

            • LeftWingFox

              Yes I Do!

              Franklin was also the name of Charlie Brown’s black friend.

  • Calming Influence

    It’s not just white kids and black kids either. The Jolly Green Giant named his kid “Sprout”.

    • Adolphus

      That was a nickname. His real name is Aloysius. The Green Giant’s real name was John Thomas.

  • DrDick

    I have to say that a lot of my white, mostly Montanan student have unusual names as well. Sharelle, Mackenzie, Berkeley, Quinn, Kaylee, just to name a few random folks in my classes.

    • No Hailees?

      • Thlayli

        Just about every girl born in this country in 1985 was named “Hailey”, or some veriant thereof.

        • Keaaukane

          I think Caitlen, or some variant, was more ubiquitous.

          • RobNYNY1957

            Caitlin is just one of the many forms of Catharine. Compare Catalina in Spanish.

      • DrDick

        Hailey and Caitlin are quite common (they just did not show up in the first 40 people on my class roster – out of 140).

        • True story:

          Fifteen years ago I was on a committee that met every few months. One of the women in the group, Joan, became pregnant, disappeared for a while, and came back. Everyone asked about the new baby – a little girl, said Joan proudly, named Caitlin. What a lovely name, the women cooed – except for one, Frances, who was from Ireland. “Caitlin? I’ve never haird thet name. What sort of a name is it?” “Why, Frances,” says Joan, “it’s an Irish name.” “Noo,” says Frances, puzzled. “We doon’t have thet name.” This goes on for a while, and finally Frances says, “Will you spell it for me?” C-A-I-T-L-I-N,” says Joan. “Ah,” says Frances. “Cat-LEEN!”

  • I worked at a place with a bunch of Kabbalah devotees who all changed their names to make the numbers in them work out right. They all wound up with made-up names that nevertheless all seemed to evoke evil-yet-successful soap-opera characters.

    • bspencer

      THAT’S THE BEST KIND OF NAME.

    • N__B

      A real person I have researched* who lived in the mid and late nineteenth century: Balthasar Kreischer. Tell me he shouldn’t be wearing a black cloak and twirling a mustache.

      *He patented a terra cotta floor shortly after the Chicago fire, ran a huge terra cotta works in NYC.

      • njorl

        Then he built a terra cotta army, twirled his moustache, and tried to take over the world.

    • NonyNony

      Oh. My. Grod.

      It’s like your previous employer was something out of a Grant Morrison comic book.

      If there isn’t story involving a nefarious organization that requires all of the henchmen in its employ to change their names so that their Kabbalistic significance works out to the benefit of the group there damn well should be.

  • Gareth Wilson

    Subjective judgements about the sillyness of black names aside, there’s a real phenomenom here. Black names have been getting more distinctively black over the last few decades. Just pointing to some silly white names doesn’t contradict the overall pattern.

    • Djur

      Sure, but “why do black people tend to have different names than white people” is a different question than “why do black people name their kids things like D’brickishaw”, which was what the Reddit poster asked.

      It’s unremarkable that an American named “Tyrone” is likely to be black and someone named “Madison” is likely to be white, just as unremarkable that someone named “Nigel” is likely to be British.

      But what’s happening is people are regarding “Jamal, Shaniqua, D’brickishaw” as a single phenomenon of “weird black names” while “Sean, Hunter, Makynzy” would never be addressed as a common trend of “weird white names”.

      • Ann Outhouse

        There’s also the offensive cherry-picking to make it sound like every black kid is getting a wacky, made-up name, and the assertion-without-evidence that having a “black” name like is an impediment to success in life.

        It takes about two seconds of thought to come up with a very long list of successful black people with extremely white-sounding names, and a long list of successful black people with black-sounding names.

        • Djur

          Does anyone really think that the current President of the United States would have done better to be named William rather than an Arabic-derived name like Barack?

          • Jon C.

            William Jefferson (Bill) Obama would have won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for passing single-payer universal health care, and gotten cap-and-trade, to boot.

        • fyi

          There is actually some research on discrimination due to
          “black” sounding names. I believe researchers have used both resumes and loan applications with the same information but with either a “white” or “black” name attached and noted the different outcomes.

          • Yes, it has been empircally demonstrated time and time again that both female names and identifiably “black” names on a resume cause the person to get tossed without an interview.

            • Ann Outhouse

              Which proves the problem is white racism, not “black” names.

          • Bruce Baugh

            One study of discrimination based on ‘black-sounding’ names in employment. There’s comparable results in lending and such, too.

      • ruviana

        +1 for Makynzy which made me giggle. I’ll look for that one in my classes over the next year or two.

        • James E. Powell

          I teach in the ‘hood and I have come to enjoy the creativity of the children’s names, both African American and Latino.

          The variations in Spanish and English pronunciations and spellings produce some interesting stuff, like Daisy, Deisi, Deizy, Desie.

    • NonyNony

      Black names have been getting more distinctively black over the last few decades.

      WTF DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?

      Have white names also been getting more distinctively white? And if so, what scale are you using to measure blackness here?

      I suggest using the “Dolomite Blaxploitation Scale” to measure just how more black black names are now as an absolute value. This scales the blackness of black names to a normalized value based on how black black names were in the 1970s.

      • Gareth Wilson
      • E. Thaddeus Pantone

        I named my children: Ivory, Lily and Snow
        so white names do seem to be getting whiter.

        • Gareth Wilson

          I’ll concede that the fad for Celtic names may be making white names whiter.

          • GarethWilson

            I also concede I am a humorless dbag who fears black people especially the ones who are getting blacker.

            • Gareth Wilson

              Can’t you copy the username exactly?

      • Shakezula

        It means I am glad I don’t have to clean up all of this syrup.

    • Shakezula

      And unsubstantiated assertions have become assier.

    • Steph

      Names in general have been getting less classic, so that’s simply part of the trend.

  • Trollhattan

    A humble plea to expecting parents: consider whether an exotic name for your child is in their best interest, should they grow to be utterly average. It’s easy for the beautiful, athletic and successful to “live up to” a unique name, oftentimes less so for the B- student who can’t throw a mean slider, kill the SATs or compete for homecoming king. You’re gifting it to the child, not making your new little accessory seem kewhl.

    Now please excuse me, I have to pick up little Homelite from school.

  • Nick Z

    An ad popped up on my Facebook for an Etsy retailer selling jewelry that can be customized with your children’s name. The woman in the photo accompanying the ad is white, and the names on the necklace are Jaxon, Demi, and Brogan. Quite the names, those are.

    Deadspin’s Drew Magary was all over this a few months ago

    • bspencer

      Jaxon, Demi, and Brogan

      Ugh.

      • dimmsdale

        Jaxon, Demi and Brogan, meet Jayden, Brayden, Tayden, Kaylee and my own particular automatic finger-down-the-throat name, Kendrew. (Anyone who makes fun of “black” names is going to have to answer for Jayden, Brayden, and Tayden, IMO.)

    • Djur

      “Brogan” kinds of sounds like “grogan”, which is both a surname and a slang term for a lump of feces.

    • Fighting Words

      “Brogan” also sounds a lot like “bogan,” which is Australian (well, at least in Sydney) term that basically means “white trash.”

    • ruviana

      Jaxon is Makynzy’s brother. And isn’t a brogan a kind of shoe? Meet my kids, Brogan and Stiletto.

      • loafer

        Brogans and brogues are both types shoes derived from Gaelic.

      • sparks

        …and little Mule, who shod be walking soon!

        • Origami Isopod

          And their cousin Croc!

          • Jay C

            And cousin Mary Jane, who started the whole thing!

  • Everybody should run, not walk, to read The Mountain of Names. Alex Shoumatoff’s book about the nature and history of naming customs. the Mountain of Names refers to the Mormon mountain repository of geneaologies that they use to rebaptize the dead. The history of specifically AFrican American names is fascinating and is distinctive both because of Slavery and because of the African roots of some naming patterns including a very ancient custom of naming the child for the day of the week on which it was born.

    • JoyfulA

      Tuesday Weld?

      • hamletta

        Wednesday Addams?

        • Shakezula

          Thursday Next.

          • Lee Rudolph

            Friday Jo’sarjent.

    • Origami Isopod

      I second Aimai’s rec. It’s a great book.

  • Thlayli

    The thing that really annoys me is the backwards-spelling thing. “Nevaeh” was popular among the fundies for a while. There is a prominent case of a bullying death where the victim’s name was “Rehtaeh”.

  • John Revolta

    I useta know a black guy named Voy. (I think I heard of another such guy a few years back also too). Does anybody have any idea where that comes from?

    • Stan Gable

      He probably knew where he was headed!

    • DocAmazing

      Ask his sister, Jirl.

  • RobNYNY1957

    In the south, white people of a certain class give only nicknames to their kids. I know a Larry Bob, a Billy Joe, a Betty Lou.

    Where I grew up in the upper Midwest, Kim, Lynn, Lorie, Gayle, Laverne and Jan were popular names. Popular men’s names.

    • MikeJ

      Leslie also used to be a popular name for men.

      • Origami Isopod

        It used to be that Leslie was a man’s name and Lesley a woman’s, but the lines have blurred.

    • advocatethis

      My boss’s grandparent, Japanese immigrants, gave their kids names like Bobby, Joey, Rickie, because they sounded more American to them.

      • gg

        Pretty common with immigrants. Anyone named “Grace” these days is either an old white lady or a fairly young Korean woman.

        • I went to school with some Asian kids, all from the same family, with names like Ferric and Fern.

        • ruviana

          Or Shirley.

        • Lee Rudolph

          A good Congregational name.

          I have a second cousin, removed by about two centuries, who rejoiced in the name Experience Paine.

        • philadelphialawyer

          Grace Meng is my Congresswoman! She’s Chinese-American.

          • richmond

            There use to be a host of Chinese-American politicos in San Francisco with old timey names: Edwin, Fiona, Frances, Leland, Lillian, Mabel and Rose.

      • Calvin Trillin has explained that his Russian-Jewish immigrant parents wanted him to fit in, so they named him after a president.

      • RobNYNY1957

        I went to college with a Japanese man who wanted his children to have real American names, so he picked them off television. That is why his daughter was named “Wilma.”

  • Icarus Wright

    Welcome to Fun city.

    RAGNVALDR
    GENDER: Masculine
    USAGE: Ancient Scandinavian

    Meaning & History
    Old Norse name composed of the elements regin “advice, counsel” and valdr “ruler” (making it a cognate of REYNOLD).

    Related Names
    OTHER LANGUAGES: Raginald, Reinald, Reinhold (Ancient Germanic), Ragnvald (Danish), Reinout (Dutch), Reginald, Reynold, Ronald, Reg, Reggie, Ron, Ronnie, Ronny (English), Reino (Finnish), Renaud, Reynaud (French), Reinhold (German), Raghnall (Irish), Rinaldo (Italian), Ragnvald (Norwegian), Reinaldo, Reynaldo, Ronaldo (Portuguese), Raghnall, Ranald, Ronald (Scottish), Reinaldo, Reynaldo (Spanish), Ragnvald (Swedish), Rheinallt (Welsh)

    • Icarus Wright

      Scott = Scotch Gaelic speaker
      LeMeiux = literally, “the best” (French)

      The best scottish-gaelic speaking frenchman? (the best gaelic Gaul??)

  • guthrie

    Why am I getting the idea that some people are trying to fulfil the plot of Clarke’s short story “Nine billion names of God”, only by making sure that there’s at least one person on the planet with each name?

    • Icarus Wright

      Ah yes

      This short story tells of a Tibetan lamasery whose monks seek to list all of the Names of God, since they believe the Universe was created in order to note all the names of God and once this naming is completed, God will bring the Universe to an end. Three centuries ago, the monks created an alphabet in which they calculated they could encode all the possible names of God, numbering about 9,000,000,000 (“nine billion”) and each having no more than nine characters. Writing the names out by hand, as they had been doing, even after eliminating various nonsense combinations, would take another 15,000 years; the monks wish to use modern technology in order to finish this task more quickly.

      They rent a computer capable of printing all the possible permutations, and they hire two Westerners to install and program the machine. The computer operators are skeptical but play along. After three months, as the job nears completion, they fear that the monks will blame the computer, and by extension its operators, when nothing happens. The Westerners delay the operation of the computer so that it will complete its final print run just after their scheduled departure. After their successful departure on ponies, they pause on the mountain path on their way back to the airfield, where a plane is waiting to take them back to civilization. Under a clear night sky they estimate that it must be just about the time that the monks are pasting the final printed names into their holy books. Then they notice that “overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.”

      Always enjoyed that one.

      • I loved that story.

      • Hogan

        “Without any fuss.” That’s why he made the big money.

      • philadelphialawyer

        Always hated it. Smug and flashy. Oh, the stars went out, why, just like the lamas said they would. Shows what dumb Westerner scientists know about space, the universe, and so on. Har, har, har! Shut up Artie.

        • Dave

          Well, doesn’t that just make you a prick?

  • The Lovely Daughter won’t stop watching this nitwit:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/AnastasiaRuby/videos

    Feel free to watch every last goddamned video.

  • Matt

    Two words for RW loons freaking out about ‘weird names’: “Dagny Taggart”.

    MIC DROP.

    • Uncle Ebeneezer

      Only the Makers should be able to invent names.

    • Manju

      I never understood “Howard”. Rhymes with “coward”. Roark sounds cool though. Galt too.

      I wish she went with Erik Roark.

      • Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq.

        Roark sounds cool though.

        You know doesn’t sound like it rhymes with “dork”? Or do I pronounce it wrongly?

      • Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq.

        Oh, and staircase wit, I wish she wrote a good book or not at all.

        • Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq.

          that she wrote

          An edit function is really sorely needed.

    • Doing a favour for Mitch& Murray

      Names are for closers. “Fuck You!” THATS MY NAME.

  • Lee Rudolph

    Cecil Ingram Connor III.

    Just sayin’.

  • Bitter Scribe

    I have an unusual first name and it has been an experience I would not wish on anyone. My father insisted on it and reportedly said, “Well, he’ll just have to learn to fight.” Thanks, Dad.

    • Hogan

      And if I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him . . .
      Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!

    • BigHank53

      Don’t worry; you’ll get to pick out his nursing home.

      • Bitter Scribe

        No I won’t, because he passed away a dozen years ago.

        Don’t get me wrong: He was a good man and a good father. He just had severe lapses of judgment, and choosing my name was one of them.

  • Alan in SF

    A baker’s dozen from the Awl’s list, culled from BBC credits. Probably shiftless blahs, every one of them…

    Eunice Montjoy
    Antonia Pemberton
    Cedric Kerr
    Fitz-Lloyd Smith
    Imogen Bickford-Smith
    Camilla Griffith-Jones
    Gillian Tullett
    Nuala Alen-Buckley
    Pip Torrens
    Cyril Swern
    Laurence Luckinbill
    Celestia Fox
    Royston Munt

    • Origami Isopod

      I can never help giggling at “Imogen Poots.”

    • Honeysuckle Weeks (from the BBC series Foyle’s War).

  • tt

    The premise seems false, at least if taken in its strongest sense. People do make fun of every single name mentioned in the quote. And at least in the case of the Palin kids, there is often implication of cultural inferiority. Obviously, its worse for black people, because more racism is directed against black people in general, but I suspect whites also pay some social cost for names which are seen as low class.

  • Manju

    I don’t know anyone named Strom. But I know plenty of Roberts. Explain that, Liberals!

  • My last name comes from one of Genghis Khan’s grandsons.

    I have no idea how that happened.

    • Sometimes, when a marauding invader loves a townie very much…

  • sparks

    This week we had a Pax Dickinson, which is either a huge passive-aggressive swipe at a newborn, or a preconfession of a crime. And people obsess over names like Shaniqua and Jamal?

  • John Protevi

    I’m thinking that a proud and / or clueless (but I repeat myself) teahadi is going to name his kid Peak Wingnut.

  • MAJeff

    Seriously, what the fuck is up with the name Siobhan?

    • It’s a fairly common Irish (female) name I believe.

    • Origami Isopod

      Irish cognate of Joan or Joanna. Strangely, anglicized as “Judith.”

    • Irish spelling has very little to do with English spelling. Both languages use the Latin alphabet, but many of the letters stand for different sounds and the conventions are different.

      For example, in English we use the combination Sh for the “sh” sound. In Irish, they use Si or Se. (Sort of like how in English ce- or ci- is the “s” sound.)

      And “bh” and “mh” in Irish can be either the “v” sound or the “w” sound, depending on the following vowel.

      So Sean is “shawn” and Siobhan is “shu-vawn,” and don’t forget Niamh – “neev.”

  • Eli’s Aunt Gelda was named Sadie.

  • My grandmother was named “Hazel”. There’s one you don’t seen any more.

    • John Revolta

      Better not let Mrs. Revolta hear ya say that, flyboy…………

    • LeftWingFox

      I love it, but then, it’s also the color of my eyes, and the boss bunny from Watership Down.

    • efgoldman

      My mom (born 1917) was Mildred. Don’t see that much, either. Her older sisters were Martha and Etta, her oldest brother was Meyer, but no one not of his or his parent’s generation ever called him anything but Mike.
      mrs efgoldman’s maternal grandmother, born in Wales, was Enid. Her daughter (mrs efgoldman’s aunt) “June” is actually Enid Junior. My mother in law is Dorothea Elaine, but goes by her middle name.

  • philadelphialawyer

    Rand Paul’s first name, in full, is Randal, which is usually shortened to Randy, and not particularly unusual (although the full version is more often spelled with two “l”s at the end). So I really don’t think that qualifies. Paul was not, contrary to popular legend, named after Ayn Rand.

  • sophronia

    To this day, the worst name I’ve ever heard came from a white Mormon family who named their daughter Nixin. Gender confusion? Check. Misspelling? Check. Honoring a thoroughly revolting historical personage? Check. It’s a trifecta.

    • DocAmazing

      Palindromic, too.

      • Icarus Wright

        LOL!

      • sparks

        There’s a checker at a nearby drugstore who I always call Miss Palindrome when I see her. Yes, her name is a palindrome.

    • ADHDJ

      Utah Mormons have a long tradition of wacky names:

      http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/829124/posts

      There’s basically no stereotypically weird black name you can’t turn into a weird Mormon name pretty easily. (In both cases, I wonder if it’s due to the small number of last names. A lot of white guys, yours truly included, have a totally normal first name, and a hideous freakshow of a last name. An ethnic white last name that some nosepicker at Ellis Island badly transliterated into English 100 years ago is a made up name, too.)

      “Ladainian Tomlinson” is a black guy, “Ladainian Christensen” or”LaDonSon Thompson” is a Mormon, and “Tomlinson LaDanaian” is a WASP.

      Of course, I can’t comment on a thread like this without bringing up the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars: http://www.yesbutnobutyes.com/archives/2007/04/the_reggie_clev_2.html

  • For me, the question really isn’t “Boy, don’t some people name their kids some crazy things”, it’s more “Ain’t picking out another human being’s name kind of weird from the get-go?” A person’s first real marker of identity, and some other person picks it out for you, sometimes before you were born and always based on some sort of logic that some other people are going to make fun of at some point or another. The wrong name can screw a kid up, and it’s a massive pain in the ass to get it changed. You can’t depend on nicknames, either. I was stuck being called a character from “The Addams Family” all through high school.

    We should let kids pick their own names. First, as soon as they can grasp the concept, then at say 8, then around 15, one more time at 18 and at 21, you’ve got to pick one and run with it. So, if someone has to go through life named after the Highlander – or, indeed, “The Highlander Smith” or something like that – it’s their choice.

    Other thoughts, since this is a long-ass thread anyway. I’ve never met anyone under the age of 48 with my first name (which isn’t Matthew, that’s my middle name). It’s one of those nicknamed names, like Ricky or Billy or Jimmy, that Southerners like so much. Luckily, I didn’t get a “Lee” as a second name, ’cause I know a whole mess of Ricky Lees. I was named after a character in a ’60s TV Western, though, so I won’t give my cousins who named their kids after “Dancing With The Stars” contestants, any sort of guff.

    Finally, I work with a kid named Herman. Named after his grandfather. He’s in his early 20s, and basically your typical New Orleans street kid who grew up in the Melph trying to make something of his life. Most of the guys in my kitchen fit that mold, and frankly, with one exception, have a fairly WASP-y sounding collection of names. All of ’em have nicknames, though, except Herman. The logic is, no one’s going to every ask “which Herman” in the hood. He says once he gets his life right and taken care of all his business (raising his kids, mainly), he’s getting his name changed. He don’t care if ain’t ’till he’s 65, he’s changing his goddamn name.

    • Origami Isopod

      Luckily, I didn’t get a “Lee” as a second name,

      Or Wayne.

  • James E. Powell

    Damn, but this a surprisingly long discussion. So long I wonder if it’s over, but I will chime in anyway.

    The multiple names that sound like surnames for white people is an attempt to make their children sound like old money.

    The real old money people give their children three or four names that sound a series of towns in England, but usually turn out to be the surnames of the ancestors who made the money.

    Also too, the really rich ones have names like Hayward Wheatley Farthingshire, but everyone in their family calls them something like “Pinkie” – after a favorite dead uncle.

    • efgoldman

      Damn, but this a surprisingly long discussion.

      Got a long way to go to catch Loomis’ ketchup thread.

    • Tyro

      Also too, the really rich ones have names like Hayward Wheatley Farthingshire, but everyone in their family calls them something like “Pinkie” – after a favorite dead uncle.

      The use of a nickname that has nothing to do with your actual name seems to happen both at the top of the class ladder and the bottom. Those of us in the middle can’t get away with something like that.

  • Tom Paine Caucus

    Key and Peele settled this debate last year.

    http://youtu.be/Dd7FixvoKBw

  • Pingback: Kaylee Caylee Kayleigh Cayley K-Lee - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • g

    My three brothers and I all have vaguely Scottish names, which, coupled with our Scotch-Irish surname gave us the quintuple syllabic verbal impression of dancing a jig. Two of our vaguely Scottish names are somewhat mainstream – Gordon and Stuart. But the other two names are constantly subject to spelling inquiries, or being confused with something else entirely.

    We grew up in a midwest small town where everyone else our age was either Scandinavian or Irish, so our classmates were all named Mary, Susie, Tommy or Johnny. There were at least four Marys in my class at school.

    I have no idea why my parents decided to name us this way. But maybe it was inevitable. My German-American mother’s siblings were named Bob, Raymond and Frank, but oddly enough, her name was Otillie. My father’s family had names like Snow, Hattie and Louie Boyd – she was a girl.