A note on black naming practices

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jan 2 17:23:26 UTC 2009

At 6:45 AM -0500 1/2/09, Amy West wrote:
>>Date:    Wed, 31 Dec 2008 14:54:12 -0500
>>From:    Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>>Subject: A note on black naming practices
>>For all that I know, this may still be a custom. But, IAC, my mother -
>>97 on 9 January - has informed me that *way* back in the day, it was
>>often customary for black children to be named after *foreign*
>>dignitaries. E.g., Cudn Pope Harrold was actually "Pope Leo [XIII]
>>Harrold" and Cudn Hallie Prothrow. was actually "Hail Victoria
>The inclusion of title and salutation as well as the foreign aspect
>is *very* interesting.
>>Probably everyone here of any level of maturity is aware of the
>>once-extreme popularity of "Roosevelt," still alive in the name of
>>Rosevelt[sic] Colvin of the New England Patriots. However, the most
>>extreme instance that I know of was my Saint Louis buddy, Frank
>>Willis, actually "Franklin Delano Roosevelt Willis."
>This was an older tradition, was it not? I know that my husband's
>German-American family had a Grover Cleveland Jaekel and George
>Washington Jaekel a couple generations back. (I think they were great
>or great-great uncles.)

and lest we forget, there was the Hall of Fame baseball pitcher
Grover Cleveland Alexander (1887-1950). I have no idea of his
ethnicity, beyond Caucasian, but he was one of 13 kids, so maybe they
just ran out of names.


>I have to wonder if with these two cases, and the Martin Luther
>Kings, we have not only honoring memories, but also assimilation to a
>dominant culture going on? If so, is the foreign dignitary
>tradition/variant doing the same thing, or is it still marking the
>named as "different"?
>---Amy West
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list