The Changing Place Names of Washington, D.C.

“View looking northwest from Anacostia: [Washington D.C.],” John L. Trout, 1901. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Kim Edwin, a library technician in the Geography and Map Division, has written about the history of place names in Washington, D.C. for the Library of Congress. She discusses the complicated array of toponyms and political geography over its history. Here’s a sample:

The Residence Act of 1790 created a national capital, known as the Federal District, from portions of Maryland and Virginia, centered on the convergence of the Potomac and the Anacostia rivers, which are names derived from the Algonquian Native American language. In 1791, President George Washington appointed Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant to develop a plan for the new city. This resulted in a map, now famously known as the L’Enfant Plan, an enhanced version of which can be seen below. L’Enfant does not name the new city in his map, but within his layout of streets, marked by circles and diagonals, he shows locations for the “President’s House” as well as the “Congress House.” It even has a “Grand Avenue” on the site of today’s National Mall.

Want to know more? Click through to read it all at the website for the Library of Congress!

About Names: Swahili names like Taraji, Sanaa see swell in popularity

Taraji P. Henson

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his September 10th column, he looks at Swahili names.

Actress Taraji P. Henson turned 48 recently. Bernice and Boris Henson named their daughter Taraji Penda. In Swahili, taraji means “hope” and penda means “love”. Both taraji and penda are verbs in Swahili. “Penda maadui wako” is Swahili for “Love your enemies.”

The English verb “hope” is more often translated by the Swahili word “tumaini” than “taraji.” Swahili speakers use “tumaini” when they trust what’s hoped for will really happen. “Taraji” is a bit more tentative, closer to English “wish.”

Swahili was first spoken in Zanzibar and coastal Tanzania and Kenya. It became the trade language of all East Africa. Today, it has around 75 million speakers in Uganda, Mozambique, Rwanda and the Congo, as well as Kenya and Tanzania.

Since the 1960s, African-American parents have turned Swahili words into names. Many of them aren’t actually used as names in East Africa. Of course, they aren’t the only foreign words turned into American names — Irish “colleen” (girl) and French “chérie” (darling) weren’t names in Ireland or France.

In East Africa, the huge majority of Swahili speakers are Muslim, and most of the names they use are Islamic. Swahili variations of Muslim Arabic names are also used by African-Americans. One of the most common is Omari, Swahili form of the Arabic “Umar,” “long life” or “flourishing,” name of the second caliph after Muhammad’s death. Actor Omari Hardwick (1974), since 2014 starring as the nightclub owner “Ghost” St. Patrick on the crime drama “Power,” has helped this name boom in the African-American community. Omari ranked 512th for American boys in 2017.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Swahili names in American history!

Registration opens for the 2019 ANS Conference, New York City, NY, January 3-6, 2019

American Name SocietyRegistration is now open for the 2019 ANS Conference in New York City, NY. The ANS conference will take place in conjunction with the Linguistics Society of American (LSA) Conference from January 3-6, 2019.

To register, you must join the ANS or renew your ANS membership.

LSA Registration is now open! Go to the LSA Meeting page to register. You must be a member of the LSA (as well as the ANS) in order to attend.

You can also reserve your room at the Sheraton in New York City via the LSA. Use the LSA link to receive a special discounted room rate.

Note that to renew your ANS membership, you will be redirected to the Taylor & Francis website where you will need to enter information from your renewal notice.

Once your membership is up to date, you can register online here, or download a PDF of the Conference Registration Form and mail it to ANS Treasurer Saundra Wright, as per the instructions on the form.

For more information about the ANS Conference and the LSA Conference, including rate and hotel information, please visit our Conference Page.

Book Announcement: Onomastics Between Sacred and Profane, ed. by Oliviu Felecan, Vernon Press

Vernon Press announces publication of the volume Onomastics Between Sacred and Profane, edited by Oliviu Felecan, part of the Vernon Series in Language and Linguistics. A free sample of the book is available as a PDF download, containing the Table of Contents, the Foreword, the list of Contributors, the Preface and the Indexes.

Religiously, God is the creator of everything seen and unseen; thus, one can ascribe to Him the names of His creation as well, at least in their primordial form. In the mentality of ancient Semitic peoples, naming a place or a person meant determining the role or fate of the named entity, as names were considered to be mysteriously connected with the reality they designated. Subsequently, God gave people the freedom to name persons, objects, and places. However, people carried out this act (precisely) in relation to the divinity, either by remaining devoted to the sacred or by growing estranged from it, an attitude that generated profane names. The sacred/profane dichotomy occurs in all the branches of onomastics, such as anthroponymy, toponymy, and ergonymy. It is circumscribed to complex and interdisciplinary analysis which does not rely on language sciences exclusively, but also on theology, ethnology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, geography, history and other connected fields, as well as culture in general.

Despite the contributors’ cultural diversity (29 researchers from 16 countries – England, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Spain, U.S.A., and Zimbabwe – on four continents) and their adherence to different religions and faiths, the studies in Onomastics between Sacred and Profane share a common goal that consist of the analysis of names that reveal a person’s identity and behavior, or the existence, configuration and symbolic nature of a place or an object.

If you would like to order a copy through the publisher,  you can get a 24% discount using coupon CFC7736DFEE at Vernon Press. You can also order this book on Amazon.

5th International Symposium on Place Names: Recognition, regulation, revitalisation: place names and indigenous languages, Clarens, South Africa, Sept. 18-20 2019

The Unit for Language Facilitation and Empowerment at the University of the Free State (UFS), in partnership with the Joint IGU/ICA Commission on Toponymy, is pleased to announce the next biannual international symposium on place names. The 5th International Symposium on Place Names: Recognition, regulation, revitalisation: place names and indigenous languages will be held at Mont d’Or Hotel, Clarens, South Africa, 18-20 September 2019.

The toponymic landscape of any place is inscribed with names from different periods of human history. These place names are not only records of natural and social events, but also of indigenous languages and language contact. Very often, place names are all that remain of certain languages and even communities. However, place names are often not recorded in their original languages, but have been adapted or translated into other languages over time. Researching the etymology of place names is one way of uncovering this treasure of indigenous knowledge. ISPN 2019 aims to explore the
processes of researching, maintaining and restoring indigenous place names, as well as the preservation and promotion of the indigenous languages from which these place names originate.

Prof Charles Pfukwa (Bindura University of Science Education, Bindura, Zimbabwe)
Prof Peter Jordan (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria)

Potential subtopics

  • Place names and indigenous languages
  • Etymology of indigenous place names
  • Regulation and standardisation of indigenous place names
  • Indigenous place names and language development/maintenance/promotion/revitalisation
  • Indigenous place names as artefacts of languages, cultures or historical events
  • Other dimensions of indigenous place names: Administrative, commercial and/or economic, cultural and historical/commemorative, linguistic, physical, political

The first call for papers will go out in November 2018.

The announcement can be downloaded as a PDF here.

Seeking New ANS Officers for 2019

Ever thought about getting more involved with the American Name Society but did not know how?  Here is your opportunity!  The American Name Society is currently looking for a few good people who are interested in joining the Executive Council.  Starting January 2019, new officers will be needed to fill the positions listed below.

To apply for one or more of these positions, please fill out the application form on this page.


ANS Treasurer (2019-2021)

The person elected to this position will be responsible for keeping official record of all funds and securities of the Society; giving and keeping receipts for moneys due and payable to the Society; depositing all moneys in the name of the Society; responding to inquiries from annual conference attendees regarding registration payments; and informing the ANS President, the members of the ANS Executive Council, and the general membership about the financial status of the Society via an end-of-the year fiscal report. The ANS Treasurer will work closely with the ANS President, Vice President, and Membership Officer as well as Taylor & Francis, the current publisher of the ANS Journal NAMES. The person elected to this position is expected to have demonstrable accounting experience and competence in using standard spreadsheets programs (e.g., Excel). Applicants for this position must be long-term ANS members in good-standing.


Member-at-large (2019-2022)

The person elected to this position will serve as a voting member of the Executive Council (EC) and is expected to participate actively in the legislative decision-making involved in resolutions and motions placed before the EC.  In addition to these duties, members-at-large serve on various auxiliary sub-committees to, for example, help with the nomination of new officers, coordination of the annual conference, and organization of allied conferences.  Officers in this position can renew their term of service twice.


Information Officer (2019-2021)

The person elected to this position will be responsible for maintaining the ANS social media presence via our website as well as Facebook and Twitter. The main duties for this position include the following: updating the news page of the ANS website on a weekly basis; posting special alerts (e.g., conference announcements, calls for papers, ANS newsletters); responding to requests made via the Facebook and Twitter accounts; and adding books that are reviewed in NAMES to the ANS Amazon Wishlist. The person chosen for this position must not only be highly computer literate, but also an avid user of social media. Experience in using WordPress is desirable but not mandatory. Training will be provided. The new Information Officer must also have excellent writing and time-management skills as well as a high level of creativity. The Information Officer will work very closely with the ANS President and Vice President throughout the year.

Names and Identity in the Medieval World: The 2018 Medium Ævum Day Conference, Oct 27 2018, Glasgow, Scotland

Registration is now open for Names and Identity in the Medieval World: The 2018 Medium Ævum Day Conference, to be held Oct. 27th, in Glasgow, Scotland, at the University of Glasgow. Medium Ævum is the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature.

Speakers include:

  • John Hines (University of Cardiff)
  • Kelly Kilpatrick (University of Wales)
  • Dauvit Brown (University of Glasgow)
  • John Baker (University of Nottingham)
  • Carole Hough (University of Glasgow)

For the full program and registration, please visit the Medium Ævum website.

ICOS Summer School 2019: Methods of Onomastics, Helsinki, Finland, Aug 26-30 2019

The International Council of Onomastic Sciences (ICOS) will organize its first Summer School in Helsinki, Finland from 26 to 30 August 2019. The idea of an ICOS Summer School is to bring together young onomastic researchers from all over the world, to help them network and expand their onomastic knowledge. The theme of the Summer School 2019 is Methods of Onomastics. The fast technological development – especially new tools and large datasets – are changing the nature of onomastic research. The course gives students an overview of the most crucial current methodological issues on various sub-areas of onomastics (e.g., toponomastics, anthroponomastics, literary names, commercial names, and socio-onomastics). The course will be held in English.

The full announcement can be found here.

The course is targeted especially to PhD students, but Master’s students intending to continue to PhD level are also welcome. Please note that the course is only for ICOS members. If you are not a member currently, you can become one simply by filling in the course application form. The maximum intake for the course is 25 students. Participants will be awarded with 5 ECTS (study points) and a diploma.

The application form can be found here, and should be submitted by December 14th 2018 at the latest. Students who are accepted for the course will be informed on January 2019.

Call for Papers: Minority Names in Oral and Written Contexts, NORNA 49th symposium, Guovdageaidnu (Kautokeino), Norway, April 24-25 2019

NORNA’s 49th symposium will be held in the middle of the North Sámi area in the town of Guovdageaidnu (Norwegian Kautokeino) in northern Norway, 24–25 April 2019. The symposium is set to last for two working days, with a provisional starting time of 09.00 on 24.4.2019 and finishing at 16.00 on 25.4.2019. Following the symposium, on 26.4.2019, there will be an optional excursion around the host town of Kautokeino.

The central topic of the symposium is to examine questions related to minority language names using various different approaches, as well as from a cross-disciplinary viewpoint. Presentations may deal with all types of name categories in onomastics, such as, e.g. minority language place names, personal names, administrative names, animal, business and artifact names.

Proposals for 20-minute paper presentations or for posters are due by 30th September 2018 at the latest.

The symposium is being hosted in collaboration with Sámi allaskuvla | Sámi University of Applied Sciences and Sámediggi | The Sámi Parliament in Norway, and will be held in the science-building, Diehtosiida, on the premises of Sámi University of Applied Sciences and the Sámi Parliament’s language department.

The call for papers can be found here.

About Names: Keegan keeps on growing in popularity

Keegan-Michael Key

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 27th column, he looks at the history of the name Keegan.

Keegan is an Anglicized version of two Irish surnames. Most Keegans were originally Mac Aodhagáin, “son of Egan.” Egan is from Áeducán, a diminutive of Áed (“fire”), the most common name in seventh-century Ireland. The best known Mac Aodhagáin family founded a law school in County Tipperary around 1350. The first Irish law books were compiled under their sponsorship.

A few Keegans were originally Mac Thadhgáins, “son of Tadgán,” a diminutive of Tadhg, “poet.” In the 1850 United States census, 283 of the 465 people with last name Keegan were born in Ireland.

In 2004, Keegan-Michael Key (born 1971) began six seasons on the sketch-comedy hit “Mad TV.” He probably helped Keegan peak at 222nd in 2007. The name had another small uptick when Key starred in Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele” from 2012 to 2015. Other famous Keegans include pro golfer Bradley (1986), the PGA Rookie of the Year in 2011 after winning the PGA Championship. His fans wear “Keegan vs. Everybody” T-shirts. Chef Keegan Gerhard (1969) hosted “Food Network Challenge” from 2005 to 2010. Keegan Allen (1989) starred as Toby on teen drama “Pretty Little Liars” (2010-2017).

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Keegans in history!