Pompey, nickname for Portsmouth

Margaret Lee mlee303 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Dec 18 17:13:08 UTC 2006

I know an African American male, 50-ish, whose first name is Pompey.  Cuffee/Cuffy/Kofi is a West African male day name for Friday.


Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
  FWIW, I read somewhere or other about 45 years ago, that, once the
external slave trade was ended and no new slaves with their own names
were coming in, it became the fashion to give slaves names extracted
from the classics as a joke. Before then, according to this source, a
slave whose name was unknown to the speaker would be addressed or
referred to as "Cuffie," "Coffee," "Cuffey," "a cuffey," etc., it
being the case that the first shiploads of slaves came from someplace
where "Kofi" (somehow, that name rings a bell) was a very common
masculine name, to the extent that it became the default name and
noun, used in reference to any random slave, especially one just off
the boat.

Further FWIW, I went to grade school with the twins, Richard and
Raymond Cuffey, and their sister, Jacqueline.

Way OT: I've read that white educationists consider it a bad thing to
allow twins of any kind to share a classroom. That's not true, is it?
Can it really be the case that there's a theory that makes that claim?


On 12/11/06, George Thompson wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: George Thompson
> Subject: Re: Pompey, nickname for Portsmouth
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > Pompey may have been a common slave name in the US.
> >
> 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.
> *** The busy note of preparation had been heard for a week. The suds
> began drizzling from here and there a window -- the face of the buxom
> housewife began to grow long and sour -- the sweeps croaked their
> inharmonious and deafening notes with unusual gusto -- and unless one
> kept a good look-out ahead, the Pompeys and Phillises at the turn of
> every corner would give him an opportunity to sweep his kerseymeres
> against the ponderous brush, or stumble over a bucket of white-wash!
> ***
> Commercial Advertiser, May 3, 1825, p. 2, col. 3
> THE MISERIES OF MAY DAY. [a long dialog between a sensible
> and long suffering husband and a fashion driven wife, who has insisted
> on moving; Philis, Chloe, Sambo, Caesar, Mark Antony are named as
> temporary help and whitewashers]
> Commercial Advertiser, May 2, 1827, p. 2, cols. 1 2
> [a card signed Pompey, Caesar, Cato, & Co., in mock AAVE,
> rejecting bobilition]
> Evening Star, August 27, 1835, p. 2, col. 4
> George A. Thompson
> Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
> Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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