Heroes and “J” Names

In a recent investigation published in Slate, Demetria Glace explores the names of action heroes, asking the question, “Why is every action hero named Jack, John, James, or, occasionally, Jason?” While data demonstrate that not every action hero has a J name, many indeed do have a name beginning with a J. Included is a consultation with ANS member Jennifer Moss:

“Jennifer Moss, from BabyNames.com, told me over email, “When I sit down to watch a new show and hear that the protagonist is named Jack, I think ‘Isn’t that over, yet?’ ” Going back to the data, I wanted to see how the trend has changed over time and whether we are seeing an end to it. From the data dating back to 1962, J-named action stars overtake all other names a few times, in the early 1970s, for a moment in 1984, and last in 2002. It’s already been more than two decades since the J’s reigned supreme.”

Read more over at Slate!

About Names: Dr. Evans on “Sandra”

Sandra Day O’Connor (Image: Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his March 26th column, he discusses the name “Sandra”.

Are you observing Women’s History Month? If so, you should celebrate today as Sandra Day O’Connor’s 93rd birthday.

O’Connor became the first woman Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States Sept. 25, 1981. She left the court Jan. 31, 2006.

Sandra is originally a short form of other names. Most name dictionaries state it was introduced to English speakers by George Meredith’s 1887 novel “Sandra Belloni.” The full name of the heroine is Emilia Alessandra Belloni. Alessandra is the Italian form of Alexandra, Greek “defending men.”

Sandra’s history is actually more complicated. In 1860, the first two Sandras in the United States census, 28-year-old Sandra Nason of Massachusetts and 32-year-old Sandra Adams of Ohio, were both “Cassandra” (Greek “shining upon men”) in other records found on Ancestry.com.

Italians weren’t the only ones to shorten Alexandra. Sandra was also used where it was spelled Aleksandra, including most of eastern Europe. In 1900, 46 of the 211 Sandras in the census were born in Finland. Another 10 were from Sweden or Norway. Only two were born in Italy.

Meredith’s novel was first published in 1864 as “Emilia in England.” The heroine, a professional singer deciding between two suitors, is called “Sandra” by her father. Everyone else calls her “Emilia.” “Sandra” only occurs 22 times in the story, while there are 880 examples of “Emilia.”

Publishers in 1887 probably thought the novel would sell better if the then more exotic name became the title. They were right; “Sandra Belloni” stayed in print for decades. However, the use of Sandra as an American name owes as much to Cassandra and Finnish immigrants as it does to Meredith’s Italian heroine.

Sandra first was a top thousand baby name in 1913. It got a boost in 1924 from the film “Sandra.” Sandra, who has a dual personality, abandons her husband for adventurous affairs in Europe, returning home to be redeemed by his forgiveness. Barbara LaMarr, called “The Girl Who Is Too Beautiful” by fan magazines, played Sandra.

When Sandra Day O’Connor was born in 1930, Sandra ranked 392nd. Sandra’s stock soared during the Great Depression. It 1939 it ranked 13th. It fit in with other booming fashions like Linda, Barbara, Nancy and Sharon. Sandra peaked at 5th in 1947.

The Big Leplowski, Bin Diesel, and Sweeping Beauty

A photo of “Sweeping Beauty” (Photo by The City of Tampa, Public Domain)

No, these are not counterfeit DVD titles encountered in an open air market. These are the new names for pieces of municipal equipment, including plows, garbage trucks, and street sweepers. One might remember “Boaty McBoatface“. It’s kind of like that: a city asks local residents to decide on the name of the machinery and the internet responds. Read more over at The Wall Street Journal.

About Names: Dr. Evans on “Brendan”

Brendan Fraser (Photo by Montclair Film, CC-BY-2.0)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his March 12th column, he discusses the name “Brendan”.

Will Brendan win an Oscar tonight?

Brendan Fraser (born 1968) is nominated for Best Actor for portraying a morbidly obese man in “The Whale.” He’s already won top prizes from the Screen Actors Guild and Critics’ Choice Awards.

Irish actor Brendan Gleeson (born 1955) is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “The Banshees of Inisherin,” where his character cuts off the fingers of his left hand to spite his former best friend.

The Welsh word breenhin, meaning “prince,” was turned into the name Brénainn in ancient Ireland. Monks writing in Latin made this “Brendanus.” That led to the modern Irish Gaelic Breandán and English Brendan.

Seventeen medieval Irish saints were called Brénainn. The most famous, St. Brendan of Clonfert (484-577), is called “Brendan the Navigator.” Three centuries after his death, “The Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbot” appeared, claiming Brendan and 16 monks discovered a blessed forested island full of songbirds where the sun never set.

If St. Brendan’s Isle wasn’t completely imaginary, it was probably based on sightings of Atlantic islands like Madeira. However, since 1900, the theory that Brendan reached the Americas centuries before Columbus has been popular. Many songs, poems and novels are based on that speculation.

Despite that, Brendan vanished as a given name when Ireland’s British overlords prohibited most Gaelic names in official records. It was revived by Irish nationalists in the late 19th century.

The first Brendan in the United States census was an Irish-born monk at Indiana’s University of Notre Dame in 1870. He probably adopted the name after taking vows.

The oldest Brendan in the 1880 census, 36-year-old Canadian-born Brendan Letourneau of West Waterville, Maine, was probably an example of the 19th-century French Canadian fashion of searching the saints’ calendar for obscure baby names.

The first American-born example, 9-year-old Brendan Merrigan, lived with Irish immigrant parents Patrick and Mary in New York City in 1880.

Changing Names, Changing Times: A New Name for a Ski Hill Points to Wider Cultural Change

An aerial view of the former “Suicide Six” Ski Resort (Photo by Jared C. Benedict, CC-BY-4.0)

An article recently published on VTDigger explores local place names and their broader cultural significance. Last year, the owners of the ski hill known as “Suicide Six” changed its name to “Saskadena Six”, a term that means “standing mountain” in the Abenaki language. The article cites both local residents and onomastics experts, specifically our own past president Laurel Sutton. The article reads:

People create names mostly for convenience, Sutton said, describing the process as innately human. “We make up names. We make up words. We’re people — that’s what they do. But words have meaning,” she said. “There’s nothing inherent about a name that makes you have to stick with it.” Over time, people become emotionally invested in names, Sutton said, which can explain their resistance to change. When she works with companies in the midst of a name change, Sutton often finds employees upset at the idea of leaving behind an old name. Her work then becomes largely psychological. “It’s a little like family therapy,” Sutton said, describing corporate name changes.

Read more over at VTDigger.

Call for Book Chapter Proposals: “Chosen, Bestowed, Acquired, Assigned: Names and Naming in Youth Literature”

“Children’s Literature” (Photo by Shambhavi Karapurkar, CC-BY-4.0)

Call for Book Chapter Proposals

Chosen, Bestowed, Acquired, Assigned: Names and Naming in Youth Literature

Edited by I. M. Nick and Anne W. Anderson

Just as names are among the first and most basic means by which we order and make sense of our world, so too do names in works of literature help readers order and make sense of created worlds. Moreover, names in literature often connote more than they denote. This edited collection will consider how names, depictions of naming practices, and explorations of name theory in youth literature can enrich our understanding of created worlds and, by implication, of our real world. For the purposes of this collection, we draw on the Children’s Literature Association’s conception of literature as “books, films, and other media created for, or adopted by, children and young adults around the world, past, present, and future” (https://www.childlitassn.org).

Chapters proposed for this volume might address names, naming, and name theory in youth literature of any media and/or modality, from any perspective, and using the analytical tools of any discipline. From the names of places, people, animals, and plants to the monikers of fairies and goblins, cyborgs and droids, any type of name from any time period or from any language is welcome. Please see the American Name Society’s glossary of naming terminology (https://www.americannamesociety.org/names/). The primary works examined may be fiction or non-fiction. The only subject-matter stipulation for submission is that the primary intended reading audience of the piece(s) of literature investigated must be youth (i.e., children, adolescents, and/or early adults).

The following is a partial list of possible topics, but we also welcome being surprised by other pertinent suggestions.

  • Names as chosen, bestowed, acquired, assigned, or self-selected
  • Naming practices, rites, rituals, and regulations and their implications
  • Literary devices or linguistic mechanisms used in creating names and their implications
  • Questions of unnaming and renaming of people, places, and things
  • Questions of names and identity, self-hood, and socio-cultural connection
  • Names as constructions of normal vs. abnormal, good vs. evil, acceptable vs. anathema
  • Theoretical frameworks for analyzing names in youth literature and media
  • Challenges and strategies for translating names
  • Names of the non-human, inhuman, mechanical, and systemic and their implications
  • Names in galaxies far, far away and in subatomic systems
  • Names as markers of political, ideological, historical controversies
  • Nonsensical names and/or memetic names and their implications
Proposal Submission Process

  • Abstract proposals (max. 500 words, excluding the title and references) should be sent as a PDF email attachment to Dr. Anne W. Anderson (YouthLit2023@gmail.com).
  • For organizational purposes, the proposals must include “YOUTHLIT2023” in the subject line of the email.
  • All proposals must include an abstract, a title, and a preliminary list of references.
  • The full name(s) of the author(s) and the author(’s’) affiliation(s) must appear in the body of the email. These details should NOT appear in the attached proposal.
  • In the case of multi-authored submissions, one person must be clearly identified as the primary contact.
  • The DEADLINE for proposal submissions is July 15, 2023. All proposals will be submitted to a double-blind review process. Authors will be notified about acceptance on or before September 15, 2023.
  • Final chapters (max. 7,000 words, excluding abstracts and references) will be due March 15, 2024.

For further information about this call, please feel free to contact Dr. Anne W. Anderson (YouthLit2023@gmail.com). We look forward to receiving your proposals!

Call for Papers: XXVI International Onomastics & Literature Symposium (19-21 October 2023)


Call for Papers

Onomastics & Literature, the Italian Society for literary onomastics studies based at the University of Pisa, is issuing a Call for Papers for the XXVI International O&L Symposium to held at the University of Cagliari, 19-20-21 October 2023.


The topics it will focus on are the following:

  • Names and memory
  • Names and translation
  • Other Proper Names: not only Names of person and place
  • ‘Protected’ Names
  • Regional literary onomastics

Those who intend to participate in the Conference or who wish to submit their article to the editorial staff of the journal “Il Nome nel Testo” are requested to send Donatella Bremer (donatella.bremer@unipi.it) no later than 30 June 2023 an abstract, not generic, but sufficiently indicative (about 2200 characters with spaces) of their contribution.

Please also attach a short resume.

The length of the articles to be submitted to the peer review process for a possible publication in the journal “Il Nome nel Testo” must be around 12 pages.

For more information see the O&L webpage http://oel.fileli.unipi.it/

or contact Giorgio Sale: giosale@uniss.it

About Names: “Cleveland Evans: Like Elvis Costello asks, has Veronica gone to hide?”

St. Veronica with the Holy Kerchief (ca. 1420 CE, Public Domain)

St. Veronica with the Holy Kerchief (ca. 1420 CE, Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his February 26th column, he discusses the name “Veronica”.

Veronica is bringing ancient Greece to the far future.

“Arch-Conspirator,” latest novel by Veronica Roth, author of the bestselling “Divergent” dystopian science fiction series, debuted Feb. 21. It retells the legend of Antigone in a far-future desolate Earth where an Archive stores human genes from which our species can be recreated.

The name Veronica also reshapes an ancient Greek source. Berenike, Macedonian form of Greek Pherenike, “bringing victory,” became well-known throughout the eastern Mediterranean after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the fourth century B.C.

The Gospels of Mark and Luke tell of an unnamed woman with “an issue of blood” who’s healed simply by touching Jesus’s robe. Around 400, the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus named her Berenike.

Soon after, stories of the crucifixion were elaborated to include a woman who wipes Jesus’ face with a cloth while He’s on His way to Golgotha. The cloth retains an image of His face. By 900 A.D. the cloth was displayed as a relic in Rome, and Berenike was identified as the woman.

“Vera icon” is Latin for “true image.” Latin versions of the story changed Berenike to “Veronica” to link the name to the relic.

Though St. Veronica’s legend spread the name throughout western Europe, it was never common in England. Puritans avoided it along with other non-Biblical saint names. The 1851 census found only 74 Veronicas in Britain.

Call for Papers: “American Onomastics” (Onoma)

The editorial board of Onoma, journal of the International Council of Onomastic Sciences publishing in English, German, or French, seeks contributions to a themed volume (number 59 to appear in 2024) on the study of names in America (i.e., as they are used or applied in North, Central, or South America, or as they may be studied by scholars from those regions). The subject matter is open (i.e., place names, personal names, commercial names, or names in literature). Guidelines may be found on the Onoma website: https://onomajournal.org

Please send abstracts of about 250 words to the principal guest-editor, Grant Smith (gsmith@ewu.edu), and to the co-guest-editors, Yolanda Guillermina López Franco (yolalf1@yahoo.com.mx) and Márcia Sipavicius Seide (marciaseda4@hotmail.com). Abstracts must be received by July 15, 2023, recommendations or acceptance will be sent by August 1, 2023, and final drafts must be completed by February 11, 2024.

Call for Papers: “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Names and Naming in Literature” (ANS panel, MLA 2024)

The American Name Society is issuing its Call for Papers for the ANS panel at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention, which will take place 4-7 January 2024 in Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. Individually, each word has been used in multiple contexts with varying connotations. Narrative works can create scenes that make space for us to consider deeply the essence of the ideas encased in the labels. In this panel, we ask how literary components of narrative fiction and non-fiction works address DEI concepts through names of characters (charactonyms), places (toponyms), institutions, and events as well as through depictions of socio-cultural, religious, ideological, personal, and political practices of naming, renaming, and unnaming. We welcome explorations of these themes through literature from around the world, from any era, from any narrative genre, and for readers of any age. Useful resources might include the ANS list of terminology (https://ans-names.pitt.edu/ans/keywords), the ANS archives (https://ans-names.pitt.edu/ans/issue/archive), Luisa Caiazzo and I.M. Nick’s edited collection Shifting Toponymies: (Re)naming Places, (Re)shaping Identities (2020), Guy Puzey and Laura Kostanski’s edited collection Names and Naming: People, Places, Perceptions and Power (2016), and the Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming (2018).

Proposal Submission Process:

  1. The abstract of the proposal (350 words), with NO author identification, should be sent as an email attachment (PDF format) to Dr. Anne W. Anderson (awanderson@usf.edu);
  2. The subject line of the email should include “MLA 2024 proposal”;
  3. The body of the email must include the title of the proposal, the abstract, the full name(s) of the author(s), their affiliation(s), and their email address(s);
  4. DEADLINE: Proposals must be received by 11:59 pm EST on Friday 17 March 2023. Authors will be notified about the results of the blind review on or by 24 March 2023;
  5. Contributors selected for the thematic panel must be members of both MLA and ANS in order to present their papers; MLA membership must be obtained by 7 April 2023.

For further information, please contact Dr. Anne W. Anderson (awanderson@usf.edu).