James A. Bill (1817-1900) of Lyme, Connecticut, served in the Connecticut state senate in 1852 and 1853 and in the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1849 and 1867. He also happened to be a rare pro-slavery Northerner in the years before and during the Civil War. This fact is reflected in the names of the last three children:
Kansas Nebraska (born in July, 1855)
Lecompton Constitution (b. October, 1857)
Jefferson Davis (b. February, 1862)
Kansas Nebraska Bill was named after the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), which created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, but also allowed the territories to decide for themselves whether or not they would permit slavery (the “popular sovereignty” principle).
Lecompton Constitution Bill was named after the Lecompton Constitution (1857), a proposed pro-slavery constitution for the state of Kansas that was defeated early the next year.
And Jefferson Davis Bill was, of course, named after Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy throughout the Civil War.
Their older brother, Lodowick, inherited his interesting first name from James’s father. The name Lodowick — like Louis, Ludwig, and Luigi — can be traced back to the Germanic name Chlodovech, which consists of the elements hlud, meaning “famous, loud” and wig, meaning “war, battle.”
I started posting on Instagram recently. Though I haven’t used the filters much, seeing them in the app reminded me of something: Babycenter.com claimed, back in late 2015, that Instagram filter names were influencing baby names. And the clickbaity claim was (of course) picked up by various media outlets: Time, People, Vanity Fair, US Weekly, TechCrunch, Mashable, etc.
But the BabyCenter.com folks (who still think Gollum is a baby name, amazingly) weren’t basing their claims on any sort of real-life baby name usage data. They were apparently just making assumptions based on their own website metrics.
In any case…it’s now 2019, and we do have access to usage data for 2015 (not to mention 2016, and 2017). So let’s use this data to determine whether or not their claim is true.
I analyzed the data for 44 names in total: 43 from filters — most current, several retired — plus the name “Lux,” which technically refers to a photo enhancement tool, not a filter. Zeroing in on usage from 2010 (the year Instagram was launched) to 2017, I noticed that…
28 filter names did not see higher usage as baby names:
20 had no SSA data to work with (1977, Crema, Charmes, Clarendon, Dogpatch, Early Bird, Gingham, Ginza, Hefe, Inkwell, Lo-Fi, Mayfair, Nashville, Poprocket, Skyline, Slumber, Stinson, Sutro, Toaster, X-Pro II)
So which, if any, of the 16 names above increased in usage because of Instagram?
Some of them, like trendy Hudson and Willow, were already on the rise by 2010. So it’s hard to know if these names were influenced at all by recent pop culture, let alone the app specifically. (Though that Juno-jump does seem significant.)
Others are associated with more than just a filter. Vesper was a Bond Girl, for instance, and Juno was a movie. So, even if Instagram was a factor, it was one of several. (BabyCenter.com’s original write-up from 2015 doesn’t even acknowledge this, e.g., “The Instagram-inspired name Lux…”)
In terms of filters actually influencing names, I think the strongest case can be made for Amaro. It wasn’t already on the rise in 2010, it did become more popular in the Instagram era, and the filter itself (as opposed to the Italian liqueur after which the filter was named) does seem to be the primary pop culture association these days.
On the other hand, Clarendon — despite being the first filter you see inside the app and, accordingly, the most-used filter overall — saw no corresponding uptick in usage on birth certificates, which is telling. (Though perhaps “Amaro” hits a stylistic sweet spot that “Clarendon” misses.)
My verdict? I’d say it’s possible that a handful of Instagram filters influenced real-life baby name usage…but I definitely wouldn’t declare that naming babies after filters was/is some sort of “hot trend,” as BabyCenter.com did.
What are your thoughts on all this? Have you ever met a baby named after an Instagram filter?
I searched historical records for personal names including the word “snow,” and here’s some of what I spotted…
I found dozens of people named Snowball, including Snowball Craddock (female), born in 1915 in North Carolina. Here she is on the 1930 U.S. Census:
I found several people named Snowdrift, including Arthur Snowdrift Thornton (male), born in 1883 in Virginia.
I found dozens people named Snowflake, including Snowflake Reinke (female), born in 1907 in North Dakota. Here she is on the 1910 U.S. Census:
Notice how her older siblings have traditional names like Maria and Ludwig (their parents were immigrants from Germany) whereas she and her younger brother, “Theo. Roosevelt,” have much more creative/American names.
(By the way, did you that there’s a town in Arizona with the unlikely name Snowflake? The founders were a pair of Mormon pioneers named Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake.)
I found dozens people named Snowman, including Snowman W. Doe (male), born in 1924 in Massachusetts. Here he is on the 1930 U.S. Census:
I found several people named Snowstorm, including Snow Storm Stokes (male), born in 1906 in Arkansas.
Chlorophyll, Rimsky and Whale are three English “names” currently being used in Hong Kong.
Linguistics experts say English names, including unusual ones that would not be found in Western English-speaking countries, are becoming more prevalent, though they cannot pinpoint when the trend began.
Other examples of odd English names in Hong Kong include Bambi, Bunny, Dada, Devil, Dodo, Ice, Ignatius, John Baptist, Ludwig, Magnum, Samuelson, Treacle and Violante.
And there’s a twist to this trend. Many Hong Kongers go beyond simply picking and English word to use as a name. Instead, they’ll deliberately alter an English word (by omitting, changing or inserting a letter or two) to create something entirely new to use as a name.
As for the unconventional names, [linguistics professor Stephen Matthews] said they initially arose in part due to an “incomplete knowledge” of the English language. Hong Kongers might have not appreciated the connotation of the name Kinky, for example. Februar might have been a misspelling or the result of someone over-generalizing the use of the names of the months like April, May or June, or both.
Over time, however, people have stopped questioning whether such variations are real names and accepted them. “It started as an inadequate knowledge of English, but if you see an unusual name today, it’s because [Hong Kongers] are taking charge of their own language, not because their language abilities are not good,” Matthews said. “People feel they can do what they want with English. If you tell Decemb or Februar that theirs are not English names, they’ll say, ‘I don’t care, it belongs to me.’ In a way, they’re asserting their Hong Kong identity… [The English language in Hong Kong] is no longer a symbol of British influence, but part of people’s identity.”
Isn’t it fascinating that variant names, at one time accidental, are now intentional? And that Hong Kongers have taken ownership over English to such a degree that they feel comfortable bending the rules like this?
Here’s how Amus Leung, a Hong Kong fashion designer, got her English name:
Leung reminded the teacher who named her of the biblical prophet Amos. The teacher cross-bred the name with amuse, which she thought matched Leung’s personality and sounded more feminine. “I love my name English name,” said Leung. “It is unique and easy to remember. So far I am the only Amus Leung in the world!”
Do you know anyone from Hong Kong with an English name? If so, what’s the name? Do you know the story behind it?