Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The growth of unique names

Very good piece on Salon which looks at the fashion among African-American parents for inventing unique names for their children, a practice that has brought us Beyoncé, Lashawn, Deontay, Taraje and millions of others. It finds that this is not all that new and increasingly it's not exclusively black either. It makes me wonder whether in the near future it'll be possible to pick out the middle class on the basis that they will be the only ones who will choose names that have been used before. There's a moral here about their investment in continuity that I'm too tired to explore.


  1. My poor man’s eureka moment came when I realised that, by rearranging the letters in my first and last name, I could create the new moniker - Sam Redlark.

    For years I would introduce myself to new people as Sam. In doing so I unwittingly revived a family tradition: My maternal Grandmother Babs's was born ‘Georgina Ruth’. Her mother was referred to as ‘Gummy’. I have no idea what her real name was. And it was only at my paternal Grandfather's funeral that I discovered the man I had known as Harry had in fact been christened 'Maurice'. Sadly I never once heard him speak of the pompitous of love.

  2. With the sudden prominence of a family with the names Bristol, Track, Trig, Piper and Willow, this is certainly not merely an African-American foible.

  3. America is and always has been the official home of the silly name.

    There have been Randys and Skips out there for years.

  4. The book Freakonomics had some interesting things to say about names in US society, claiming that baby names “migrate” through the population from a higher socioeconomic level to a lower one.

  5. I liked the piece on Radio5Live recently making a point about American newscasters' names. For many British (usually mens') names, reverse the order and you become a US tele-journalist - "...and over to the newsroom now from an update from Collins Andrew and Ellen Mark".
    Makes a change from the porn star names thing.