Time for the latest batch of name quotes!
From an interview with Saturday Night Live comedian Michael Che:
I was named after Che Guevara. My name is Michael Che Campbell. My dad is a huge history buff, and he named me after Che Guevara cause he loved Che Guevera for whatever reason. Which is a very polarizing figure, because when I tell people I was named after Che, they’re either like, “Oh, wow that’s cool,” or they’re like, “You know, Che killed people.” I’m like, I didn’t pick my name.
From Sanjana Ramachandran’s recent essay “The Namesakes“:
Shanaya Patel’s story, in more ways than one, encapsulated an India opening up to the world. In March 2000, Shanaya’s parents were at a café in Vadodara, Gujarat, when some Shania Twain tunes came on: she was also the artist who had been playing when her father saw her mother for the first time, “during their whole arranged-marriage-thing.” Finally, after eight months of “baby” and “munna,” Shanaya’s parents had found a name for her.
But “to make it different,” Shanaya’s parents changed the spelling of her name slightly. “Before me, all my cousins were named from this or that religious book,” she said. “When my parents didn’t want to go down that road, the elders were all ‘How can you do this!’—but my parents fought for it. There was a small controversy in the family.”
(Her essay also inspired me to write this post about the name Sanjana!)
About the “naming” of a Native American man who was discovered in California in 1911, from a 1996 UC Berkeley news release:
Under pressure from reporters who wanted to know the stranger’s name, [anthropologist] Alfred Kroeber called him “Ishi,” which means “man” in Yana. Ishi never uttered his real name.
“A California Indian almost never speaks his own name,” wrote Kroeber’s wife, “using it but rarely with those who already know it, and he would never tell it in reply to a direct question.”
About street names in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, from the book Names of New York (2021) by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro:
Clymer, Ellery, Hart; Harrison, Hooper, Heyward, Hewes; Ross, Rush, Rutledge, Penn — they’re all names belonging to one or another of those fifty-six men who scrawled their letters at the Declaration [of Independence]’s base. So are Taylor and Thornton, Wythe and Whipple.
[Keap Street’s] name does not match that of one of the Declaration’s signers, but it tries to: “Keap” is apparently a misrendering of the surname of the last man to leave his mark on it: Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania, whose name’s illegibility was perhaps due to his having rather less space to scrawl it by the time the document reached him than John Hancock did.
From a 2008 CNN article about the pros and cons of unusual names:
“At times, for the sake of avoiding an uncomfortable conversation or throwing someone off guard, I answer to the names of ‘Mary’ or ‘Kelly’,” says Bluzette Martin of West Allis, Wisconsin. At restaurants, “the thought of putting an employee through the pain of guessing how to spell and pronounce ‘Bluzette’ just isn’t worth it to me.”
Martin was named after “Bluzette,” an up-tempo jazz waltz written by Jean “Toots” Thielemans. Despite her daily problems with this name, it certainly has its perks, like when she met Thielemans in 1987 at a club in Los Angeles. “When I met [him], he thanked my mother,” she says.
(Here’s “Bluesette” (vid) by Thielemans, who was Belgian.)
From a 1942 item in Time magazine about ‘Roberto’ being used as a fascist greeting:
Last week the authorities ordered 18 Italian-Americans excluded from the San Francisco military area as dangerous to security — the first such action against white citizens. The wonder was that it was not done earlier: everybody heard about the goings on in the North Beach Italian colony. Fascists there used to say RoBerTo as a greeting — Ro for Rome, Ber for Berlin, To for Tokyo. Italy sent teachers, books and medals for the Italian schools. Mussolini won a popularity contest hands down over Franklin Roosevelt.
From a news release about the 2021 baby names at St. Luke’s in Duluth, Minnesota:
Parents also got creative with their children’s names, naming tiny new Apollos, Elfriedas, Tillmans and Winnifreds. Other great names included everything from Atlas to Ziibi and some precious little gems like Amethyst and Ruby.
From a 2014 article in Vogue about 1950s fashion model Dovima:
Dovima, born Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba, would have been 87 today. She hailed from Jackson Heights, Queens, and was purportedly discovered in 1949 when she strolled out of an Automat near the Vogue offices. The name Dovima wasn’t thought up by a canny publicist, if was concocted by Dorothy herself, invented for an imaginary playmate during a lonely childhood when she was bedridden with rheumatic fever.
(Dovima was the first single-name fashion model. She did legally change her name from Dorothy to Dovima at some point, according to the records, and a handful of baby girls born in the late ’50s were named after her, e.g., Dovima Marie Ayers, b. 1959, VT.)
P.S. “Louvima” is another three-in-one name I’ve blogged about…