About Names: Once big, Deborah had a fall from grace

Debra Messing co-starred as Grace Adler on NBC’s “Will & Grace” from 1998 to 2006. Her name in all its forms — Deborah, Debra, Debbie, Deb — once dominated the baby boomer names lists. / Associated Press

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 15 column, he looks at the history of the name Deborah.

The name Debra is just as amazing. It’s an alternate spelling of Deborah, which is derived from the Hebrew word for “bee.” The name wasn’t used by Christians until after the Reformation. Then parents searching the Old Testament discovered it.

In England, Deborah first joined the top 50 names in 1610, peaking at 24th in the 1660s. The name was even more popular with Puritans and Quakers of colonial New England and Pennsylvania.

When yearly baby names data start in 1880, Deborah ranked 499th. It bottomed out at 892nd in 1912, and barely rose until 1928. What happened to Deborah after that? Read on to find out more about Deborahs in history!


A bar named Opium

The state of Maine has been hit hard by the nation’s opioid addiction crisis. About every 24 hours, another state coroner declares that someone’s son or daughter died from a drug overdose. Given that frightening statistic and the family tragedies related to it, many Maine residents are outraged when they heard that a new bar in Portland would be named “Opium”. While the bar owners’ argue that they picked the name as a “metaphor for relaxing and having a happy time”, activists and family members who have lost someone to drugs say the name is in very poor taste. More on this controversy can be found in this article at the Portland Press Herald.

About Names: August, a name with ancient roots, is again in robust usage

Queen Latifah portrayed August in “The Secret Life of Bees.”

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 1 column, he looks at the history of the name August.

In the year 8 B.C. the Roman Senate renamed the month Sextilis after the first Roman emperor, Augustus, whose great military victories came in that month. Around the year 1500, noble families in Germany and Poland, inspired by the emperor’s fame, began using the name. In German and Polish the name was “August,” but these men were usually called “Augustus” in English.

German immigrants brought the form August to the U.S., where, in 1850, the census found 10,320 Augustuses and 3,049 Augusts. There were also 776 men named Auguste, the French form.

2008 was the first year that more than 100 baby girls were named August. In 2016, 222 arrived. If 265 arrive this year, August will make the top thousand for girls as well as boys. Read on to find out more about Augusts in history!


We look like our names: Research on face-name matching

Who do you see when you look in the mirror? Does your name match your face?

Researchers at Hebrew University examined a social tag that is associated with us early in life— given names. The hypothesis is that name stereotypes can be manifested in facial appearance, producing a face-name matching effect, whereby both a social perceiver and a computer are able to accurately match a person’s name to his or her face

According to a study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a person’s facial features actually become those we associate with their particular name. Using volunteers, researchers showed each person photos of different people and asked to guess that person’s name (from a list of five).

It turned out people were able to guess the correct name far more often than they would have done by chance. The random chance for getting it right is 20 percent; study participants nailed it a full 35 percent of the time – but only if they shared a culture. Read on to find how more and the implications of this work.

Walmart.com in trouble for allowing the n-word in product description

Civil rights leaders have called for a general boycott of the discount retailer Walmart for the use of an offensive product name listed on its website. On Walmart.com. a third-party seller posted a wig cap that reportedly comes in the color “N*****r Brown”. The company quickly removed the product posting from its site, but not before it had been spotted by countless shoppers. Although Walmart has issued a formal apology for that the advertisement it claimed was placed by a third party seller, activists and shop-goers remain incensed that one of the most offensive names in the US language had not been spotted and eliminated before appearing on the site.

Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) Online

The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is often described as the American version of the world-famous classic, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Since 1965, the DARE has provided, linguists, lexicographers, and onomasticians detailed information about regional variations in the use of American English words, phrases, and pronunciations. Initially, the plethora of linguistic information offered by the DARE was only available in book form. However, today, word-lovers can find use the resource online. The digital edition features audio, interactive maps, and insights into the DARE Survey.

Nicknames for unborn babies can help parent/child bonding

You probably know that many parents give their children nicknames before they’re born – but did you know that they can actually help parents bond with their babies? These “noms de womb” are often sweet and amusing, but they can also be a way of using gender-neutral language for the child.

When the question of in-utero nicknames was put out on social media by ABC Radio Hobart in Tasmania, some common themes started to show. “Peanut”, “bean”, and “jellybean” were popular nicknames, as were “Cletus the foetus” and “George”. And sometimes a name given to the unborn baby might be intended as their forever name — until the baby arrives, as happened for one set of parents who nicknamed their baby “Xena” and were more than a little amused when a boy was born.

Crowdsourcing a name: Trainy McTrainface


Remember Boaty McBoatface?

A public vote to name four trains running between the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg has resulted in one of the four being called Trainy McTrainface in an echo of the name chosen by the British public for the new polar research vessel.

Trainy McTrainface received 49% of the votes in a poll, jointly run by Swedish rail company MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro. That placed it well ahead the other three options: Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon.

Get more details about the other interesting train names in Sweden in this Guardian article.

What will the next Swedish royal be named?

Princess Sofia and Prince Carl Philip of Sweden are expecting their second child. The expected birth month is this coming September. As with royal tradition, the baby’s name has not been released. However, that has not stopped enthusiasts of the Scandinavian monarchy from guessing name will be chosen for the sixth in line to the Swedish crown. With baby names like Estelle, Oscar, Leonore, and Nicolas, many of the names chosen by Swedish Royals have proven to be exceedingly popular throughout the northern nation. Whether or not the proud parents will continue in this tradition or will select a name that is comparatively unusual remains to be seen. For a look the top 100 boys and girls names in Sweden for the year 2016, check out Nameberry’s list.