From an interview with Beyoncé’s mother Tina Knowles-Lawson — the youngest of seven siblings — on the podcast In My Head:
A lot of people don’t know that Beyoncé is my last name. It’s my maiden name. My name was Celestine Beyoncé, which, at that time, was not a cool thing, to have that weird name.
But, all of us have a different spelling. I think me and my brother, Skip, were the only two that had B-E-Y-O-N-C-E.
And, it’s interesting — and it shows you the times — because we asked my mother when I was grown, I was like, ‘Why is my brother’s name spelled B-E-Y-I-N-C-E?’
[M]y mom’s reply to me was like, ‘That’s what they put on your birth certificate.’
So I said, ‘Well, why didn’t you argue and make them correct it?’
She said, ‘I did one time, the first time, and I was told: ‘Be happy that you’re getting a birth certificate.” Because, at one time, Black people didn’t get birth certificates. They didn’t even have a birth certificate. Because it meant that you really didn’t exist, you know, you weren’t important. It was that subliminal message.
And so I understood that that must have been horrible for her, not to even be able to have her children’s names spelled correctly.
So it was an odd name, it was a weird name, and they were like, ‘How dare you have a French name.’ Like, ‘We’re gonna screw this up real good for you.’ And that’s what they did. So we all have different spellings.
From an Express article that reveals the Queen’s preference for the name Beatrice over the name Annabel:
The names of royal babies are traditionally approved by the Queen. But the monarch is said to have rejected the Duke and Duchess of York’s choice of Annabel for their first child.
The Queen found Annabel too “yuppie”, The Sun reported, and instead suggested Beatrice.
The name Beatrice was royal enough for the head of state but unusual enough to please Sarah, according to the newspaper.
Two quotes from an article in which the author argues that distinctively black names in America emerged long before the civil rights movement:
[I]n the 1920 census, 99% of all men with the first name of Booker were black, as were 80% of all men named Perlie or its variations. We found that the fraction of blacks holding a distinctively black name in the early 1900s is comparable to the fraction holding a distinctively black name at the end of the 20th century, around 3%.
[W]e found that names like Alonzo, Israel, Presley and Titus were popular both before and after emancipation among blacks. We also learned found that roughly 3% of black Americans had black names in the antebellum period – about the same percentage as did in the period after the Civil War.
But what was most striking is the trend over time during enslavement. We found that the share of black Americans with black names increased over the antebellum era while the share of white Americans with these same names declined, from more than 3% at the time of the American Revolution to less than 1% by 1860.
From an article in Time about middle names:
Middle names provide an opportunity for people to shift identities throughout their life: the author George Sand wrote that her mother, who had “three baptismal names,” used each of them at various points throughout her life. Pablo Picasso was baptized with a string of more than a dozen names and though, like many people with multiple names, he wasn’t known by all of them, he did test out different combinations: initially signing paintings as P. Ruiz, then trying P. Ruiz Picasso before sticking with Picasso.
From the 2004 book Uqalurait: An Oral History of Nunavut:
Three essential parts made a human in the Inuit view: body, soul, and name. A nameless child was not fully human; giving it a name, whether before or after birth, made it whole. Inuit did not have family surnames. Instead, each person’s name linked him or her to a deceased relative or family friend.
Is this reincarnation? Elders point out that it is not, for it is not the soul, but rather the spiritual element that is the name — the name-soul — that joins the child, remaining with him and protecting him throughout his life.
(The word in the book’s title, uqalurait, refers to a type of snowdrift with a tip that resembles a tongue (uqaq). It’s a pun because the word for “tongue” in inuttitut (the Canadian dialect of inuktitut) is also the word for “language” — very fitting for a book of oral history.)
From a Bon Appetit article about a particular dijon mustard product:
I mostly love Rich Country because…it’s called Rich Country, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a pretty unnecessarily epic name for a condiment. It sounds like the next great Rick Ross album. Or a Keith Urban-themed Southern waterpark. Or a new bourbon endorsed by a retired pro-wrestler. But it’s not! It’s mustard. And it’s helped to clarify for me that I want my condiments to do more than simply enhance the taste of food I’m preparing—I want them to enhance my life, to spark joy every time I pull them out of the fridge. Indeed, every time I reach for my new favorite mustard, I can’t help but whisper the name aloud as if I were starring in a commercial for it—R-r-r-r-iiiiiiich Coooooountry—and laugh out loud while I’m making lunch. (This could be the quarantine brain talking, but still. It’s the little things, people.)
(Speaking of dijon mustard…)
For more name-related quotes, check out the name quotes category.