A few months ago I sat in front of an older woman on a flight who was cheerfully explaining to her seatmate that she was on her way to visit her new grandson. When the lady asked what the sweet little dear’s name was, the grandma clammed up and replied reservedly, “Slate”. To some degree, his name diminished her joy. (It came out later that Slate was the younger sibling of Crimson, Indigo, and Sage.)
In fact, one of the major sources of [Roman] slaves was probably these thrown-away babies. You can tell that from the names people gave them. One common name was Copreus — it translates as ‘found on the dung-heap’. This probably happened more to baby girls than to baby boys.
Because my wife is less concerned about a boy being taken “seriously”, most of our girl choices so far are conservative, while the boy names are a little more adventurous.
Interesting; the opposite of what parents typically do.
Less than 2 percent of Social Security’s budget is spent on administration, most of which goes toward producing the list of most popular baby names.
But my favourite example is a story told by the American linguist Charles Hockett, who reports that at least one Filipino father, during the American occupation of the Philippines, named his son Ababís — after the patron saint of the United States. But no such saint exists. So what happened?
Well, before the Americans arrived, the Philippines were a Spanish colony, and Spanish was widely spoken. In Spanish, the word for ‘saint’, when it occurs in a male saint’s name, is San — hence all those California place names like San Francisco, San José and San Diego. The Filipino father had noticed that American soldiers, in moments of stress, tended to call upon their saint by exclaiming San Ababís! — or something like that.
– Robert Lawrence Trask, Language: The Basics, 1999
Another from Greg Ross of Futility Closet:
“I once had a student named Usmail, which I at first thought was some Hispanic version of Ishmael,” writes CUNY linguist Leonard R.N. Ashley. “It transpired that he had been named for the only contact his family in a remote Puerto Rican village enjoyed with the outside world, the red-white-and-blue truck that came frequently and had painted on its side US Mail.”
Here are more names like Usmail.
And here’s the first Name Quotes for the Weekend post, from a few weeks ago.