[Ads-l] "cent store" and "Scipio"

dave at WILTON.NET dave at WILTON.NET
Sat Nov 28 13:54:15 UTC 2020

This isn't my field, not even close. I'm only repeating what's in the article, which is from 1983.

According to the article, the majority of children born into slavery were given their names by their parents. The reasons why enslaved Black people gave their children names from European classical history are largely lost. Inscoe gives a few documented motivations, but these are highly individual and can't be generalized.

He does give the most common African names: 

"Throughout the colonial period, as many as 15 to 20 percent of the slaves in the two Carolinas had African names. A wide variety of names like Quamino, Musso, Cush, Footbea, Teebee, Banabar, Gimba, Ankque, and Simba appear occasionally on early slave lists, but none of these survived for long. The most prevalent sources of African nomenclature were 'day names' a set of fourteen names (seven male and seven female) used in the tribal custom of naming a child for the day of the week on which he or she was born. Their function has been compared to that of the astrological signs in our society, that is, as a means of classifying one's personality or endowing one with certain powers or characteristics. The most popular of these among male slaves were Quash, meaning Sunday, Cudjo, meaning Monday, Cuffee or Cuff for Friday, and Quaco for Wednesday. The female counterparts were used with somewhat less frequency, though Juba (Monday) appears regularly and Quasheba (Sunday), Cubena (Wednesday), and Abba (Thursday) also were used on occasion.

"Another African practice, that of naming a child according to the order of its birth in relation to its brothers and sisters, may account for other slave names. Sambo, for instance, meant second son, and next to Quash and Cudjo, appeared most often among Carolina male slaves. Other African names, such as Mingo and Mustapha for males and Sukey, Tillah, and Rinah for females, were fairly popular, though their African meanings are more obscure."

Given that some lists of slave names contain a high percentage of African-origin names and other lists none, Inscoe concludes that acceptability of African-origin names by slave owners varied. He also notes that advertisements for runaway slaves contain a higher percentage of African-origin names, indicating that those so named came from a tradition of resisting slavery or that such names were a status symbol among enslaved people. Such ads often give two names for the escaped slave, a name given by the slave owner and what the enslaved person called themselves. Such ads sometimes indicate that the slave owners attributed resistance to forced renaming as an indication of low mental capacity and inability to remember a new name.

As to the propriety of "acculturation," the article was written in 1983 and some of the language is not what we would use today, e.g., it labels West African societies "primitive." But as for "acculturation," Inscoe seems to be using it in the context of developing a unique African-American culture and not in the context of conforming to White norms.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of Wilson Gray
Sent: Friday, November 27, 2020 3:59 AM
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] "cent store" and "Scipio"

Did Inscoe, John C. "Carolina Slave Names: An Index to Acculturation." say anything about the motivation for giving slaves these names? Were there any examples provided of African names? Since the slaves weren't choosing these names for themselves, is "acculturation" really the proper descriptor for this process?

On Mon, Nov 23, 2020 at 8:10 AM <dave at wilton.net> wrote:

> "Scipio" is his name. This article says the most common source of 
> names were those names used by White people at the time, which make up 
> the majority, followed by names of African origin, biblical names 
> (those not used by Whites), and classical names:
> Inscoe, John C. "Carolina Slave Names: An Index to Acculturation."
> _Journal of Southern History_, 49.4, November 1983, 527–54 at 541. JSTOR:
> "The names themselves cover a wide range, from mythical gods and 
> heroes to historic Greek and Roman statesmen, generals, and 
> philosophers. The variety was greater in the colonial period, when 
> such names as Bacchus, Virgil, Hannibal, Jupiter, Titus, Cato, Cicero, 
> Hector, Cupid, Primus, Augustus, Scipio, Nero, Hercules, and Caesar appeared regularly among Carolina males.
> By the mid-nineteenth century only Cato, Cicero, Primus, Caesar, 
> Pompey, and Scipio remained in common use. The number of female slaves 
> with classical names was somewhat less than that of males, but more of 
> them continued to appear on a regular basis. Venus, Diana, Phoebe, 
> Juno, Daphne, Dido, and Flora were all common names throughout the 
> slave era, with only names like Thisbe, Sappho, Cleopatra, and Minerva fading out after 1800."
> The article is a bit old, but it's what popped up first in a quick search.
> Also, in the nineteenth century there was a fad for naming towns after 
> those in classical literature. A drive through upstate New York turns 
> up many, Utica, Syracuse, etc.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of 
> James Landau
> Sent: Sunday, November 22, 2020 7:58 PM
> Subject: [ADS-L] "cent store" and "Scipio"
> In Nathaniel Hawthorne's _The House of the Seven Gables_ (1851) 
> Hepzibah Pyncheon opens a "cent store", that is a store in which 
> everything is priced at one cent, in one gable of the House.
> This surprised me, for I had always assumed that the terms "dime 
> store", "five and dime", "ten-cent store", etc. were introduced by F. 
> W. Woolworth circa 1879.
> Also chapter XIII is a flashback to the early 18th Century.  A man 
> identified as "Mr. Pyncheon's black servant" delivers a message and a 
> little later admits the recipient to the House.  The servant's name is 
> never given.  He is described, and addressed, as "black servant", 
> "black", "darkey", and "Scipio"  (he also refers to himself by the N-word).
> "Scipio" is of course the Roman general Scipio Africanus and hence can 
> refer to someone from Africa, although unlike the servant addressed as 
> "Scipio", the original Scipio Africanus was a white man.
> Does anyone know if "Scipio" was widely used as a term to address or 
> describe a black man?
> James Landau
> jjjrlandau at netscape.com
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

- Wilson
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