Media-savvy political activist Abbott “Abbie” Hoffman (1936-1989) and his second wife, Anita Kushner, welcomed a baby boy in mid-1971.
Abbie’s first two children (Andrew and Amy) didn’t have politicized names, but his third got the name america — deliberately spelled with a small a in order “to distinguish the child’s name from a jingoistic sentiment.”
[T]he birth of his and Anita’s son, “america,” was treated as a political statement, as an affirmation of their optimism about the future and their roots in American culture.
Anita added (years later) that they’d gone with a lower-case a “because [they] didn’t want to be pretentious.”
Another name they’d considered for their son? Tupac.
In the Hoffmans’ book To America with Love, one of the letters Anita wrote (in July of 1974) began:
I met Affeni [sic] Shakur today. What an up. She is vibrant, beautiful, wise with experience. We talked about our children a lot and the heavy history behind each. Did you know she named her son Tupac Amaru, after the last Inca prince who rebelled against the Spaniards? We had considered naming america that. Tupac’s the same age.
(Tupac’s mother’s name was actually spelled Afeni.)
Abbie Hoffman went underground in 1974 (in order to evade arrest). He remained in hiding, using the alias “Barry Freed,” for six years. During that period, Anita and america were under constant FBI surveillance. So Anita and Abbie began to call their son “Alan” as an added layer of protection.
Alan reverted back to his real name at the start of high school (in the mid-1980s), hoping that “america” would impress a “cute punk rock girl” in his class.
Moses Shattuck and Naomi Weatherbee of Brookline, New Hampshire, were married in 1802 and had a total of 6 children:
Roxanna, b. 1803
Asia, b. 1804
Africa, b. 1807
Europe, b. 1809
America, b. 1810
Mary, b. 1812
All the continent-children are boys.
In fact, I believe all four names — Asia, Africa, Europe and America — cover the known world of 1802. At that time Australia was considered part of Asia, America hadn’t yet been split into North and South, and Antarctica wouldn’t be discovered for another couple of decades.
These days continent names are considered girl names, not boy names. Asia and America see heavy yearly usage, Africa and Australia are uncommon but not unheard of, and Europe and Antarctica are nearly non-existent.
Source: Shattuck, Lemuel. Memorials of the Descendants of William Shattuck. Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, 1855.
Well, I was making a record, and I had to choose a name, because they said, you know, you can’t make a record under the name of Reg Dwight, because it’s never going to — you know, it’s not attractive enough. And I agreed with that, and I couldn’t wait to change my name anyway, because I’m not too fond of the name of Reginald. It’s a very kind of ’50s English name.
So I picked Elton because there wasn’t — nobody seemed to have the name Elton. And I picked John to go with it. And it was — it was done on a bus going from London Heathrow back into the city. And it was done very quickly. So I said, oh, Elton John. That’s fine.
From The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography by Lois Potte:
Though contemporary sonneteers populated their world with lovers called Astrophil, Parthenophil, Stella, Delia, and Idea, the only names that appear in Shakespeare’s sonnets are Adonis, Helen, Mars, Saturn, Philomel, Eve, Cupid, Diana, and Time — and the one non-mythological figure, the author, “Will.”
Black people commonly use the term “Becky” when referring to generic white women. It has a slight negative connotation (airheadedness), but white women don’t have to do anything to deserve the title.
Clearly, this is as problematic as sexual stereotypes against any demographic of people. Women fight on a daily basis not to be objectified, but this portrayal takes it further and assigns white women a role to which they may not ascribe.
Despite my dislike for using a proper name as a slur, it took an actual person to bring it home to me. After my tweet, a white colleague nicknamed Becky told me about how she’s been forced to use Rebecca instead. A group of black men were catcalling her down a sidewalk and she was doing her best to ignore them. One of them yelled out, “Hey Becky!” That’s her name: she automatically swung her head around. But this had the opposite effect of validating the men’s impression that she was a Becky, not a woman named Becky. They laughed. She laughed, too, because…it is kinda funny.
But I stopped laughing quickly. I had never thought about the implications of people using your name as a stereotype against you. Where can you run to escape that?
A memo to every parent who’s ever lived: Giving your kid a special name does not make him special. It never has. It never will.
You know what I mean. It’s one thing to give yourself a screwy moniker. Body-modification enthusiasts have changed their names to Swirly Wanx Sinatra, Grenade Bee of Death, and RooRaaah Mew Crumbs, among other things, and there’s a U.S. Army Ohio National Guard firefighter who named himself Optimus Prime. That’s fine, you’re the one who has to live with it.
It’s worse when you inflict a harebrained epithet on a newborn, who will have to drag it through life like a neon hairshirt.
Originally named Arabella, this cheese underwent a slight name change recently; as Leslie told me, it’s always been named after Matthew’s great grandmother, whose name was America Arabella. To honor her, they combined her two names and came up with the Ameribella, which also has the unique quality of honoring this cheese’s American terroir and Italian origins.
The list was created by amateur genealogist G. M. Atwater as a resource for writers. It contains names and name combinations that were commonly seen in the U.S. from the 1840s to the 1890s. Below is the full list (with a few minor changes).
Victorian Era Female Names
Victorian Era Male Names
Abigale / Abby
Almira / Almyra
Ann / Annie
Dorothy / Dot
Elizabeth / Eliza / Liza / Lizzy / Bess / Bessie / Beth / Betsy