Slave names

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Dec 11 18:52:20 UTC 2007

At 12:50 PM -0500 12/11/07, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On Dec 11, 2007 12:14 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
>>  There are books that discuss African names, specifically
>>  day-names.  The only one I recall now is Hart, Blacks in Rebellion,
>>  page 11.  Kofi, of course, sometimes became Coffee.  But I'm
>>  skeptical that names such as "Caesar" or "Pompey" were mis-hearings
>>  of African names; rather, as I think I've read somewhere, they were
>>  deliberately chosen, sometimes in irony (or perhaps because Romans
>>  were pagans).
>In his 1937 article "Names of American Negro Slaves" [*], Newbell
>Niles Puckett says: "Classical names, although less numerous than
>certain writers on plantation life would have us think, also probably
>reveal the hand of the master class." He also points out that
>classical names such as Cato, Hector, and Pompey were also given to
>mules and cows (as shown in probate records), so irony no doubt played
>a role.

Weren't some of these (at least Hector and Caesar) also popular as dog names?

>[*] reprinted in _Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel_, Alan Dundes, ed.
>--Ben Zimmer
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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