Pompey, nickname for Portsmouth

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Dec 12 01:48:22 UTC 2006

At 12/11/2006 04:24 PM, you wrote:
>In NY, at least, it seems to have been a fashion to give one's slaves
>a name from classical literature or history.  Presumably these names
>also might become family tradition, and given to children of free
>parents, on occasion.

A little more from my sources:

The names borne by the runaway Negroes counted by Greene "fell into
at least four categories: classical, Hebrew, Christian (English), and
African. ... English names ... predominated." "Upon baptism slaves
occasionally had their classical or heathen names changed for Hebraic
or Christian ones."[i] Among the exotic (non-English) names,
Pompey/Pomp and especially Caesar are frequent; in Greene's The Negro
in Colonial New England only Cuff/Cuffee (derived from an African
day-name)[ii] competes in frequency.[iii]

[i] Greene, "Advertisements for Runaway Slaves", 129, 280.
[ii] Hart, Blacks in Rebellion, 11.
[iii] Greene, Negro in Colonial New England: Caesar/Seasar (12 or
more); Pomp/Pompey (8); Cuff/Cuffe/Cuffee (8).

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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