In Memoriam: Don Orth (1925-2019)

Long-time ANS member and past president of the American Name Society Donald J. Orth died peacefully at his home in Falls Church, Virginia on October 30, 2019 at the age of 94. Donald presented papers at numerous ANS meetings over the years. He served as the executive Secretary of the U. S. Board on Geographic Names, and among his many publications on toponymy was the highly regarded Dictionary of Alaska Place Names. Don was a significant contributor to the work of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographic Names.

A native of Wisconsin, Don joined the U.S. Navy in 1942 and landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He studied anthropology, cartography, and geography at the University of Wisconsin, knowledge essential for his 39-year career with the U. S. Geological Survey in Denver, Colorado. There he was involved with topographic surveying programs in the Western United States. He was also behind the creation of the automated Geographic Names Information System, the first of its kind in the world. Orth received the U.S. Department of Interior’s Medal and Meritorious Service Award for substantial contributions to cartography through his work in toponymy.

Don taught courses in Geography at George Washington University and Catholic University in Washington D.C. He was a member of the International Congress of Onomastic Sciences. Don engaged in many active hobbies, including mountain-climbing and historic preservation. Don is survived by his wife, Martha B. Orth, five grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and 17 great-great grandchildren.

In Memoriam: John Algeo (1930-2019)

John Algeo

Long time ANS member, past ANS President (1984), and names scholar John Algeo passed away on Sun., Oct. 13th 2019, at the age of 88, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Over the years he published several important articles in Names. The American Name Society would like to express its sincere condolences to the Algeo family.

He served as president of the American Dialect Society in 1979 and was the editor for American Speech from 1969 to 1982, overseeing the journal’s transition to becoming the official organ of the ADS in 1970. He also served as chair of the society’s New Words Committee, and in that capacity edited “Among the New Words” for American Speech from 1987 to 1997, joined for most of that time by his wife Adele as co-editor. They commemorated the 50th anniversary of the feature in 1991 with the publication of the book 50 Years Among the New Words. He also wrote and edited many other valuable works on American English, including Cambridge History of the English Language: Vol. VI, English in North America (2001), British American Grammatical Differences (2004), The Origins and Development of the English Language (6th ed., 2005), and British or American English? A Handbook of Word and Grammar Patterns (2006).

His obituary in the Bowling Green Daily News can be found here.

In memoriam: Alan Rayburn (1932-2019)

On the 19th of September 2019, Alan Rayburn, former president of the American Name Society and internationally recognized toponymist passed away at the age of 86. Alan is survived by his wife, Mary Teresa (née Fox); their three sons Kevin, Sean, and Garth; and their grandson Thomas. A funeral mass will be held to celebrate Alan’s life in Ottawa, Canada at St. Martin de Porres RC Church, Bells Corners, on Thursday, September 26, 2019 at 10:00 am.

The American Name Society would like to express its sincere condolences to the Rayburn family. Alan will always be remembered for his outstanding contributions to the scientific study of place names, his many decades of service to the American Name Society, and his extraordinary kindness to the ANS family. Friends and colleagues of the Alan Rayburn can share their condolences at

In Memoriam: Randolph Quirk, linguist and UCL scholar

The ANS is saddened to report the passing of one of the greatest researchers of English linguistics, Professor Randolph Quirk, at the age of 97 on 20 December 2017. The founder of the Survey of English Usage, Professor Quirk’s publications include such legendary works as the Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language which he co-authored with Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartik.  Since its initial publication in 1985, this work has been one of the international standards of linguistics references.  In honour of his stellar scholarship, Professor Quirk became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and was knighted in 1985.  A detailed biography of this luminary can be found at the University College London website.

In Memoriam: Sheila Barry, children’s literature publisher

The award-winning publisher of Groundwood Books, Sheila Barry, died on November 15 at Mt. Sinai Hospital due to complications from cancer. An advocate for children’s literature that championed the rights of children and adolescents, the Newfoundland native was the publisher of Canadian children’s literature was a trailblazer in the industry. Among the many critically-acclaimed works she helped to bring to the market over the course of her impressive career was the New York Times’ 2017 pick for Best Illustrated Children’s Book: Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith. Barry’s passion, positivity, and light will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

In Memoriam: Iona Opie, Folklorist and Children’s Literature Expert

Iona Opie. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

On the 23rd of October 2017, Iona Opie, internationally recognized folklorist of children’s literature and childlore passed away at the age of 94. Along with her husband, Peter, her legacy includes such publications as The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1951) and The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (1959).

Their first publication was I Saw Esau (1947), a slim precursor of the wide spine of The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book (1955). The Opies applied years of rigor to an oral culture too commonplace to have received attention before: their scholarship, informally communicated, was important to the postwar discovery of the words of ordinary people. “It took 50 generations to make up Mother Goose,” Iona said. “Nursery rhymes are the smallest great poems of the world’s literature.”

In Memoriam: Vern O’Brien, Australian Placenames scholar

In the September 2017 Newsletter of the Australian National Placenames Survey, the editors report the death of Vern O’Brien. Affectionately known as the “grand old man of Australian toponymy”, O’Brien was instrumental in researching and documenting the origin of named geographical features throughout the Northern Territories. Among his impressive list of scholarly accomplishments, O’Brien was the Surveyor-General and the Director of Lands in Darwin and served as a prominent member of numerous scholarly toponymic organizations such as the Committee for Geographical Names of Australia, the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory, and the Historical Society of the Northern Territory.

In Memoriam: William Noble

The officials of the Australian National Placenames Survey (ANPS) recently announced the passing of Australian toponymist, William Noble, the former editor of the ANPS Bulletin.  Among his many publications is the New Holland Dictionary of Names.  This reference offers detailed information on thousands of personal names in Australian use.  William, or “Bill” as he was most often called, is survived by his wife and their three sons.

Bill was the editor of the ANPS Bulletin, the predecessor of Placenames Australia, and designed the original masthead. Bill’s work in toponymy was just one aspect of his wider interest in name studies (onomastics), and in 2003 he published Names from Here and Far, the New Holland Dictionary of Names. The dictionary records and explains thousands of personal names in Australian use and is a celebration of Australia’s ‘glorious mix of names from over 150 cultures’.