Cleve Evans cleveland.evans at BELLEVUE.EDU
Sun Apr 28 21:27:12 UTC 2013

"Reasonableness" is of course a matter of degree.

But I think such speculation is a good deal LESS "reasonable" than seems to be implied here.

Once a name becomes regularly used in a culture, it seems unlikely to me that most name-givers are thinking much about the original famous bearer of the name when they choose it.

For instance, I was named after my maternal grandfather, Grover Cleveland Lively. He was born in 1892 and named after the President. From the little I know about my great-grandparents, I think the only "ideal" of Grover Cleveland's they were endorsing by giving the name to their son was being a Democrat instead of a Republican.

My own parents were certainly not trying to perpetuate that ideal in naming me after my grandfather, because my own father had become a Republican several years before I was born. (And my parents were also not baseball fans, so Grover Cleveland Alexander also had nothing to do with it.)

I think the great majority of men in the world today named Mohammed, Moses, or Cleveland have NOT been named with the "ideals" of the original name bearers in mind, but after more immediate family members or popular culture figures, like I was.

I am happy to get the information that in Russia the name "Timur" has recently often been inspired by a character in a recent children's book.

Without knowing whether or not Tamerlan was a name in this young man's family, and without knowing how common Tamerlan is as a name in general Chechen culture, (or even knowing anything about what the general customs associated with choosing names are in Chechen culture) it is way premature to say that his parents were trying to support the original Tamerlane's "ideals" when choosing the name. It is even less supportable to say that the young man himself "no doubt yearned to live up to his namesake." There is a huge amount of doubt about that speculation.

Such speculation on this listserve is probably pretty harmless. But as both a psychologist and an onomastician, it would really perturb me if I heard it offered up by some pundit on national television.

Cleve Evans

On Apr 25, 2013, at 4:22 PM, W Brewer wrote:

> It would not be unreasonable to speculate that some parents want their
> sons to live up to the ideals of Mohammed, Moses, or Grover Cleveland.
Or at least Mohammad Ali, Moses Maimonides, or Grover Cleveland Alexander (especially in that Game 7 vs. the Yankees).

> On Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 3:56 AM, Cleve Evans
> <cleveland.evans at bellevue.edu>wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Cleve Evans <cleveland.evans at BELLEVUE.EDU>
>> Subject:      Re: "Joker"
>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
>> ----------
>> I'd just like to point out that in the absence of either direct
>> information from the person himself or his parents, and without
>> knowing anything about how common the name Tamerlan has been
>> historically in Chechnya and Dagestan, the idea that Tamerlan was some sort of "burden"
>> this guy had to "live up to" may be just as silly as speculating that
>> the actions of an American named William, George, or Al have
>> something to do with trying to "live up to" the memory of William the
>> Conqueror, George Washington, or Al Capone.
>> On 4/25/13 12:02 AM, Automatic digest processor wrote:
>>>>>>>>> Russified <Tsarnaev> [tsahr-NA-yeff] variously anglified:
>>>>>>>>> [zar-NA-yev], even heard an early [Sarnoff]. The patronymic
>>>>>>>>> <Anzorovich> identifies the alleged father, <Anzor>. Black hat
>>>>>>>>> Tamerlan [tammer-LANN] (no doubt yearned to live up to his
>>>>>>>>> namesake, Tamerlane 1336-1405, <When I rise from the dead, the
>>>>>>>>> world shall tremble!>)
>>> I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who was thinking that. I have
>>> not heard a peep re: this on the one medieval list I read. (And my
>>> youngest played soccer with a Timur. . . ) I downloaded Marlowe's
>> "Tamburlaine"
>>> to read, but I can't recall what the medieval source would have been
>>> that Marlowe used. . .
>> And then later on in the day I remembered the connection between
>> Boston and the name "Tamerlane" that had been nagging at the back of my mind:
>> Poe's first collection of poems was published in Boston in 1829?. The
>> title? _Tamerlane and Other Poems_. While Poe was born in Boston, he
>> didn't grow up here, and he left Boston in a huff after the publication.
>> ---Amy West

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