This might be my favorite photo on the entire internet.
The shot, which depicts a playful little Texas boy pretending to ride a dead catfish on someone’s front porch, was taken by photographer Neal Douglass in April of 1941.
The Portal to Texas History calls it “Mrs. Bill Wright; Boy Riding Catfish.” So I’m guessing that “Mrs. Bill Wright” was the boy’s mother. But there’s no other identifying information, so I don’t know the boy’s name, nor do I have any way of tracking it down.
So let’s turn this into a name game!
First, let’s suppose our little catfish-rider was not named “Bill” (or “William,” or “Willie,” etc.) after his father. With that rule in place, here are the questions:
What do you think Mrs. Bill Wright named her son?
What would you have named him?
Just for reference, popular names for Texas newborns in the late ’30s included:
For extra credit, what do you think the boy named his catfish? And, what would you have named his catfish? ;)
“I’m Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.”
From a 1936 newspaper article about movie actress Veda Ann Borg:
Miss Borg was given a new tag almost the minute she stepped into the studio. It was “Ann Noble.” […] Miss Borg contended that her own name is more descriptive of her personality than Ann Noble. The former model’s argument was convincing. She will be billed as Veda Ann Borg.
(Keavy, Hubbard. “Screen Life In Hollywood.” Wilkes-Barre Record 23 Apr. 1936: 19.)
How in the world did we get from “Jeremy” to “Jezza”?
There is a rule for how this works. Names which have the letter R in them–Jeremy, Catherine, Sharon, Barry, Murray–are trouble for speakers of non-rhotic variations of English to abbreviate. Rhoticity is a linguistic term for describing when the letter is pronounced; in non-rhotic dialects of English, the sound will be discarded unless followed immediately by a vowel. The dialects of England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and, well, New England are all non-rhotic, which is why the word “car” sounds like “cah.”
This isn’t a problem in any of those names if they’re pronounced fully; there’s always a vowel after the R. But to truncate them would be difficult. Typically hypocoristic nicknames are formed by cutting everything but the first syllable and then either leaving that as-is or adding a vowel. That’s how “Daniel” becomes “Danno”: clip to the first syllable (“Dan”) and add a vowel. (The -o ending is most common for male names; -ie is more common for female names.)
The team, led by North Carolina State University’s Terry Gates, named the shark Galagadon nordquistae, a nod to its teeth, which have a stepped triangle shape like the spaceships in the 1980s video game Galaga, and to Karen Nordquist, the Field Museum volunteer who discovered the fossils.
Lorin now often finds himself babysitting while Cali campaigns against atomic power. Symbolically, not long ago she shed the name she’d “hated for 30 years” for one that sounded right. Margo became Cali. “I look at myself differently now,” she says firmly, “except people all across the country think Lorin has remarried.”
The Wayback Machine was named to reference Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine from the popular cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle. In the show, the machine was pronounced as “way back,” which is where the index got its name.
However, Howard did go out of his way to confirm one long-held belief about Willow: that two of the villains were named after famous film critics. The evil General Kael was named after the notoriously ruthless Pauline Kael and the two-headed monster Eborsisk was named after the iconic At the Movies duo of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.
And, finally, a pair of snippets from a Colorado Public Radio article about Denver street names. First:
William McGaa [one of Denver’s founding officials] had a debaucherous reputation of his own, drinking and adulterating his way out of favor with the city’s elite. McGaa even named Wazee and Wewatta streets after two of his many wives, both Native American woman from local tribes.
(The settlement of Denver was named in late 1858. McGaa’s son, William Denver McGaa, was born in the settlement in March of 1859 and named after it. His mother was neither Wazee nor Wewatta, but a half-Native American woman named Jennie.)
Second, regarding Denver’s “double alphabetical” streets, which were renamed in 1904:
The pattern is a proper noun name, ideally British, followed by the name of a tree or plant. Albion and Ash, Bellaire and Birch, Clermont and Cherry.
The switch wasn’t without resistance from those wealthy neighborhoods. When Eudora Avenue became Fir Street, residents decried the name as “too plebeian.”
Some recent and not-so-recent baby names from the news…
Alie: A baby girl born in New York in December of 2018 was named Alie in honor of the Long Island Expressway (called the “L-I-E”), where she was born in a minivan on the side of the road. (Queens Daily Eagle)
Bale: A baby boy born in Wales in November of 2016 was named Bale in honor of Welsh soccer player Gareth Bale. Another boy born in Wales a month later was also named Bale for the same reason. (Wales Online; Wales Online)
Griezmann Mbappe: A baby boy born in France in November of 2018 was named Griezmann Mbappe in honor of French soccer players Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe. (Deadspin)
Italo: The first baby born in Rome in 2019 was named Italo, in honor of Italy. (His parents are Sri Lankan.) (Daily Mirror)
James Daniel: A baby boy born in Essex, England, in December of 2018 was named James Daniel after police officers James Ireland and Dan Bellingham, who’d helped the parents reach the hospital in time for the birth. (ITV)
Kongolose: A baby boy born in South Africa on January 8, 2018 (the 107th anniversary of the founding of the African National Congress political party) was named Siko Luka Khongolose — the second middle name being a “colloquial Zulu term for the African National Congress.” (TimesLIVE)
Liberty: A baby girl born in Texas in October of 2018 was named Liberty in honor of Texas Congressman Ron Paul. (The Gazette)
Mickey: A baby girl born in California in December of 2018 was named Zoele Mickey — middle name in honor of paramedic Mickey Huber, who’d helped her mother escape a wildfire and reach a medical center to give birth. (KRCR)
Mikkael: A baby boy born in Ohio in November of 2018 was named Henry Mikkael — middle name in honor of Dr. Mikkael Sekeres, who’d helped his mother overcome leukemia in 2012. (Fox)
Sierra: A baby girl born in Tennessee in November of 2018 was named Isabella Sierra-Marie — middle name in honor of Sierra Reprogal, the police officer who’d helped deliver her in a car on the side of the road. (Yahoo! News)
Skrot (rejected): A baby boy born in Sweden in September of 2018 was almost named Bjørn Skrot, but the Swedish government rejected the middle name (which means “scrap”) because it might “cause discomfort for the bearer.” (The Local)
Snow: The first baby born in Baltimore in 2019 was named Snow Violet Taylor. (WBAL)