Category: Historic Names
By Elisabeth Waugaman
African American naming traditions were dramatically influenced by slavery.
From the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries between nine and twelve million Africans were shipped to the New World as slaves. Existing slave ship manifests for the Atlantic slave trade record numbers, gender, approximate age of slaves, and occasionally “nation” (tribal identity). Given names are only registered on slave ships after the beginning of the international abolitionist movement circa 1820.
When I was at University, I was lucky enough to study Ancient History as an undergraduate degree. l found the whole subject absolutely fascinating, but I must admit that I could often get sidetracked from my studies whenever a research paper or book contained a map or list of ancient cities. You see, the name-nerd in me couldn’t help revelling in the names of ancient places — I’d frequently roll the lyrical syllables around my tongue and scribbled them down on the corner of my research notes.
A whole heap of ancient place names are not only mellifluous but also aesthetically pleasing. Sadly, many are lost to us today or have long-since been renamed. Wouldn’t it be nice to reclaim a few of them back into nomenclature?
By Andrew Osterdahl
While modern celebrity couples like Jay-Z and Beyoncé and Kanye and Kim have given us unusually named offspring (North West, anyone?), strangely named public figure are nothing new, as my site, The Strangest Names in American Political History illustrates. For the past fourteen years I’ve been collecting and categorizing instances of curiously named American political figures, and I established this blog in July of 2011.
You may be wondering “Can there really be that many instances of strangely named politicians?” As I’ve stumbled upon upwards of 3,500 names in the past decade (as well as the 400+ profiles on the site that I’ve written in the past three years), the answer is an unequivocal yes!
Looking at names that were popular in the early days of the U.S. gives us a chance to reflect on how much we have changed and evolved over the last two centuries. We are clearly more multicultural as a society in terms of how many different countries, languages, ethnicities and cultural traditions we draw from in choosing names for our children.
Most of the common names in the early nineteenth century in this country came from the British tradition, and in fact, the lists of popular names would be almost identical for England and America. And yet names were chosen from some of the same sources as today: family histories, celebrities, religious traditions and popular entertainment. The lack of variety or originality of the name lists from this period belies the fact that names were chosen to denote respectability rather than the individuality valued today.