Confronting “Dixie” in Southern Utah

Dixie National Park in Utah (Photo by m01229, CC-BY-2.0)

A recent column in The Washington Post recounts efforts to confront the name “Dixie” in a small part of Utah. The author notes that there are an “unusually high numbers of Dixie names” in three different Utah Zip codes. Local businesses, and even cuisines, cary the “Dixie” name. While residents are ready for a name change, others are hesitant because the name is so ingrained in local culture.

Read more in The Washington Post.

About Names: “Sports, music, and works of fiction helped popularize Andre”

French author and poet André Breton (Attribution: public domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 2nd column, he looks at the history of the name Andre.

Andre starts the beginning of the end Tuesday.

“Black-ish,” the popular ABC sitcom about a wealthy African American family, premieres its final season Jan. 4. Anthony Anderson, starring as advertising executive Andre “Dre” Johnson, has been nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series all seven seasons.

André is the French form of Andreas, a Greek name derived from “andreios” (“manly”), known as Simon Peter’s brother, the first Apostle of Jesus. In English, he’s of course called St. Andrew.

Before the 19th century, it was normal to translate given names when moving from one culture to another. Men born André in France would naturally be called Andrew when visiting or immigrating to an English-speaking country. It’s only around 1800 that different forms of common saint’s names from other languages started being adopted into English.

The 1850 United States census, first listing all free residents by name, found 475 men called Andre. Eleven percent were born in France or Quebec, and 38% in French-influenced Louisiana.

The names of slaves weren’t listed in the census. The 1870 census included 670 Andres. Twenty-two percent of those were Black, mostly freed slaves and their sons. Forty-two percent of them were born in Louisiana.

Andre increased slowly over the next 70 years, though it didn’t maintain its popularity with Black parents. In the 1940 census, the latest with names available, only 5.4% of the 3,673 Andres were Black men, though Black men made up 9.8% of the population.

Meanwhile André had boomed back in France. Between 1910 and 1935, it was second only to Jean as a name for French boys.

Andre entered the top thousand baby names in the United States in 1924. Starting in the 1930s, it was helped by orchestra conductor Andre Kostelanetz (1901-1980). Born Abram Kostelyanetz in Russia, he’s credited with inventing “easy listening” light classical arrangements years before the term was created. Albums with him conducting the New York Philharmonic billed as “Andre Kostelanetz and his orchestra” sold millions.

Vaccine Names and the Trademark Restrictions that Govern Them

A column in The Wall Street Journal discusses the difficulties involved with creating and marketing new trademarks in the pharmaceutical industry. COVID-19 vaccine shots are more popularly designated by the company that produced the vaccine rather than their proper names. “Moderna” and “Pfizer” are likely more recognizable than “Spikevax” or “Comirnaty”. While one executive from Moderna is quoted as favoring either “Spikevax” or “The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine”, she notes that a unique and catchy name is still necessary.

Read more about how pharmaceuticals navigate these tricky trademark-naming waters in The Wall Street Journal.

“Rudolph” was one of many Names Considered for Santa’s Ninth Reindeer

“Rodney, Roddy, Roderick, Rudolph, Rudy, Rollo, Roland, Reggy, Reginald, Romeo.” All of the preceding names have two things in common: they begin with the letter “R” and they were all finalists for the name of Santa’s ninth reindeer in Robert May’s story “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” A recent column in The Chicago Tribune tells the story of the famous reindeer and its creator, a Montgomery Ward copywriter who penned the book as part of an ad campaign. On May’s handwritten list of names—located in a special collection at Dartmouth College—only “Rudolph” and “Reginald” are circled.

Read more in The Chicago Tribune!

You’re [named after] a wizard, Harry: The Cultural Impact of Harry Potter on Naming Practices

Author JK Rowling reading from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (Public domain)

In a column in The Wall Street Journal, Ellen Gamerman explores the cultural impact of the Harry Potter series by sifting through onomastic data from naming records in the United States. According to the US Social Security Administration, virtually all names that appear in the Potterverse—those of protagonists and antagonists alike—saw a meteoric rise in use after the year 2000. Gamerman also interviews Harry Potter fans who named their children after the characters; only some of these children became Harry Potter fans themselves.

Read more in The Wall Street Journal.

The Linguistics Behind “Omicron”

In a recent article in The New Yorker, Mary Norris explores the use of the Greek language to designate disasters. She writes:

“What is this penchant for using Greek to designate disasters? During hurricane season, if meteorologists use up the approved letters of the English alphabet, they have traditionally turned to Greek for naming storms. In recent years, we got as far as Hurricane Iota. During the pandemic, scientists with the World Health Organization are relying on Greek to make the variants of the coronavirus easier to talk about and to avoid associations with the names of places where the variants were initially detected; for instance, the strain with the designation B.1.617.2, which was first identified in India, is popularly known as the Delta variant. Although it was unlikely that, even with global warming, a single hurricane season could yield enough storms to run through both alphabets, the pandemic threatens to deplete our store of Greek in no time. Having reached omicron (ο), we are already more than halfway through the alphabet.”

Read more in The New Yorker.

About Names: “From stage to screen to athletics, Evan celebrates pop culture popularity”

Figure skater Evan Iysacek at the 2004 Four Continents Championships in Hamilton, Ontario; Photo by Vesperholly (CC-BY-2.5)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his December 19th column, he looks at the history of the name Evan.

Evan is celebrating the new year in Omaha.

“Dear Evan Hansen,” the Broadway musical about a high school loner who falsely claims he was the best friend of a classmate who committed suicide, will be at Omaha’s Orpheum Theater Dec. 28 through Jan. 2. In 2017, it won the Tony Award for Best Musical, and Ben Platt became the youngest winner of Best Leading Actor in a musical for playing Evan. A film version starring Platt premiered in September.

Evan is the English spelling of Welsh Iefan. (Welsh “f” is pronounced like English “v”.) Iefan is a Welsh form of John, the Biblical name derived from Hebrew Yochanan, “God is gracious.”

Just as John was common in England after 1250, Evan was common in Wales. The Welsh were late in adopting hereditary surnames, and so a few family names based on given names became overwhelmingly popular. The surname Evans today ranks fourth in Wales and seventh in the UK. The 355,593 Evanses in the 2010 United States census ranked 53rd.

The first British census in 1841 included 14,985 named Evan in Wales out of a population of just over a million, and 1,706 in England among almost 15 million. The 1851 United States census found 3,082, with 21% born in Wales.

The popularity of Evan with those of Welsh ancestry led to a surprising number of men named Evan Evans. Fifteen percent of those named Evan in Wales in 1841 were surnamed Evans, and 291 (7%) of 1851’s Americans were “Evan Evans.” Mathematician Evan Evans (1827-1874) was the first professor at Cornell University at its founding in 1868. Evan Evans (born 1965) is a champion off-road racing driver while using hand controls as a paraplegic.

About Names: “In song or in prayer, Maria is ‘beloved’ by many”

Physicist and chemist Maria Skłodowska-Curie, renowned for her work in radioactivity

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his December 5th column, he looks at the history of the name Maria.

Maria and Tony meet on screen again Friday.

Steven Spielberg’s remake of 1961’s “West Side Story” premiers Dec. 10. Based on 1957’s Broadway hit with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021), who died Nov. 26, it’s the story of star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria, who fall in love despite being connected to rival New York City street gangs.

Maria is the Latin form of Miryam, the Hebrew name of Moses’s sister in the Bible. The origin of Miryam is unknown. The most common guess used to be “bitter sea,” because Mara is a Hebrew name meaning “bitter.” Today “rebellious” and “wished for child” are thought possible. Some modern scholars think Miriam was based on Egyptian “mry,” “beloved.”

Whatever its origin, Maria is famous as Jesus’s mother, venerated as the “Mother of God” by Christians for two millennia. Today it’s her name in most European languages. English (Mary), French (Marie), and Irish Gaelic (Máire) are among the few where Maria isn’t the traditional name of the Virgin.

Though Orthodox Christians have named girls Maria since ancient times, in the Middle Ages Roman Catholics thought it too sacred to give to babies, as Christians outside the Spanish speaking world still think of “Jesus.” When Orthodox Princess Maria of Kiev married Duke Casimir of Poland in 1040, she was rebaptized “Dobroniega,” because Catholic Poles found calling her “Maria” offensive.

This attitude changed in Iberia and Italy by 1250. Soon so many Spanish and Portuguese girls were named Maria, they were given titles of the Virgin, such as “María de los Dolores” (“Mary of the Sorrows”) as their full name, with epithets like Dolores, Gloria “glory,” and Mercedes “mercies” becoming names themselves.

The “Sackler” Name will be Removed from Metropolitan Museum of Art Wing

“A Day at the Met” (Photo by Sracer357, CC-BY-3.0)

Most well-known for its role as the meeting place of the Met Gala, the “Sackler Wing” of the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be renamed. According to an article in The New Yorker, the Sackler family of Purdue Pharma—best known as the maker of OxyContin, one of the primary motivating forces behind the current opioid crisis—has been engulfed in controversy surrounding the business practices of the pharmaceutical. Other museums, universities, and galleries are named for the Sacklers around the world, and many of these institutions have been waiting for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s move concerning the name of the wing.

Read more in The New Yorker.

Call for Papers: 56th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society for the Study of Names, 14-15 May 2022

The Canadian Society for the Study of Names / Société canadienne d’onomastique is inviting paper proposals for its 56th Annual Meeting, held virtually in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Canada. The theme of the 2022 Congress is “transitions,” though papers related to any topic in onomastics are welcome.

Read the Canadian Society for the Study of Names Annual Meeting Call for Papers here.