slave names [Was: "Jazz (etc.)]

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Dec 4 00:21:04 UTC 2007

In the index to Lorenzo Greene's The Negro in
Colonial New England, 1620–1776 (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1942; reprint 1969),
Cuffee (8 individuals) is second in frequency
only to Caesar (12) and equal to Pompey (8), in
all cases including variant spellings.  (Cato,
not surprisingly, is infrequent.)  I do not have
a record of other day names besides Cuffee, but they were less frequent.


At 12/3/2007 01:05 PM, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>In his 1944 _American Speech_ article "Designations for Colored Folk,"
>H.L. Mencken writes that "in my boyhood _Cuffy_ had disappeared and
>_Sambo_ was being supplanted by _Rastus_." He also notes the popular
>song, "Rastus on Parade" by Kerry Mills (1895), which is also the
>first cite given by the OED.
>A 1937 article by Newbell Niles Puckett, "Names of American Negro
>Slaves" (reprinted in _Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel_, Alan
>Dundes, ed.) states that "Rastus" was not to be found in any of the
>available lists of slave names, though the author did find one example
>among white school children in Mississippi. "Sambo" and "Cuffy" also
>occurred in very small numbers, despite the popularity of these names
>in stereotype-laden minstrel performances.
>--Ben Zimmer
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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