Slave names

Tue Dec 11 17:09:50 UTC 2007

        Even though "Caesar" and "Pompey" may not have been as common
as, say, "Jim," the point remains that these names were rarely or never
given to Whites in this period (though Caesar was sometimes used as a
surname).  The same is true for "Sambo" and "Cuffey."  And there are
enough examples to show that people who lived in slave areas probably
would have encountered "Caesar" and "Pompey" as names for slaves.

        It would be interesting to know how the practice started.  There
must have been some prominent example, perhaps now lost, that gave the
idea to others.  It couldn't have been any later than the 18th century.

        I was personally unaware that slaves were often given classical
names, until I read about it on ADS-L.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Jonathan Lighter
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2007 9:59 AM
Subject: Re: Slave names

Since none of us are quite old enough to remember the period in
question, the perception that slaves were often given Classical names
("Caesar" and "Pompey" in particular) must come from books or films.
Perhaps "assumption" would be a better word.

  Despite the proof that some slaves were indeed given these names, the
few numbers I've seen  don't indicate that they were actually
"prevalent" at any time. There could have been a thousand more
prosaically named slaves for every "Caesar."


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