The new pneumonia-causing virus needs a name

With the reality that a previously unknown animal virus has started infecting people, the world faces a recurring question: What does one call it?

The pneumonia-causing virus, which is spreading rapidly in China and beyond, is currently being identified as 2019-nCoV, shorthand for a novel or new (i.e. “n”) coronavirus (CoV) that was first detected in 2019. The disease it causes doesn’t yet have a name, either, though Wuhan SARS or Wu Flu are among of the options being thrown around on the internet.

None of these is likely to be the virus’ or the disease’s permanent name. They almost certainly would be unacceptable to the Chinese, and to the World Health Organization, which discourages the use of place names in the naming of diseases. As for the virus, the longer it spreads the less novel it becomes.

So how to name it? And who gets to name it?

Words you may not have known were named after people

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary site is an epicurean and sometimes mercurial presentation of language that tantalizes even the most Draconian and martinet-ish of word lovers. A case in point: The delightful “Eponym Quiz,” which tests your knowledge of many of the words in the previous sentence that are based on the names of people. This article in the Columbia Journalism Review discusses well-known – and more obscure – eponyms. Here’s a sample:

In traditional usage an “eponym” is something that has loaned its name to something else. By extension, in everyday usage and many dictionaries, the “eponym” is also the thing that borrowed the name.

Some eponyms have retained the capitalization of their namesakes, such as “Bakelite” (1909), a trademark for the first synthetic plastic, created by Leo Baekeland. Most have lost their capitalization, though some are recognizable as deriving from names. For example, “béchamel” sauce, named for the Marquis Louis de Béchamel, a steward to Louis XIV of France in the late 17th century. The sauce had probably been brought to France at least a hundred years earlier, but the Marquis got naming rights. (The Oxford English Dictionary says it first appeared in English in 1789 spelled “bishemel.”)

Click through to read more!

About Names: Arrokoth, Greta Thunberg are among top names of 2019

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg attends a climate strike in Stockholm on Friday, Dec. 20.

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 18th column, he looks at the American Name Society’s Name of the Year.

Do you know where Arrokoth is? At its meeting in New Orleans on Jan. 3 2020, the American Name Society voted Arrokoth 2019’s Name of the Year.

In November, NASA announced this as the name of “minor planet 486958.” Before the New Horizons probe flew over this far-away rock in the Kuiper Belt on Jan. 1, 2019, NASA received about 34,000 name suggestions. Their initial selection, Ultima Thule, was abandoned when it turned out that Ultima Thule was used by Nazi occultists as the mythical home of the “Aryan race.” Arrokoth means “sky” in Powhatan, an extinct Algonquian language formerly spoken in eastern Virginia.

ANS chose Names of the Year for place names, artistic-literary names, personal names, trade names, e-names and miscellaneous names before picking the overall Name of the Year.

“Greta Thunberg” won personal name of the year. Swedish teen Thunberg, who turned 17 on Jan. 3, leads a global youth movement addressing climate change. She was chosen as Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019, and her name has become a byword for youth climate activists. Their influence on politics is called the Greta Effect. A documentary film about the movement is titled “Make the World Greta Again.”

Soon you’ll be able to correct Google’s name pronunciations

Intrepid sleuths at XDA-Developers have uncovered code in the latest Google App, buld 10.93, that may be part of a new feature to improve the apps pronunciation abilties when it comes to proper names. Right now if your name is hard for Google to pronounce, your best option is to find the Nickname settings and enter a more transliteral spelling that forces Google to say it the way you prefer. Quite inelegent.

The new feature gives you the option to “record your own” pronunciation. It is unclear what happens then, once Google has a recording. At best there will be some sort of AI methodology to analyze the way you pronounce the name, then transpose your pronunciation onto the Assistant’s voice. At worst it may just play the recording of you reading your own name, but that seems unlikely.

McGill BA student receives American Name Society’s Emerging Scholar Award

Congratulations to McGill BA student, Marielle Côté-Gendreau, who was recently awarded the American Name Society Emerging Scholar Award, which recognizes “outstanding scholarship of a names researcher in the early stages of his/her academic or professional career”. She received the award for her submitted article “Tracking Napoleon, his name and his myth in 19th century French Canada: Sociodemographic regard on a revealing naming pattern“, at the 2020 Annual Meeting of the American Name Society, which meets concurrently with the Linguistics Society of America, last week in New Orleans. Congratulations Marielle!

Call for Papers for the Modern Language Association (MLA) Conference, Toronto, Canada, January 7-10, 2021

ANS Panel at the Modern Language Association Conference

January 7-10 2021, Toronto, Canada

The American Name Society is inviting abstract proposals for a panel with the literary theme “Toponyms and Literaryscapes”. Although toponyms are often taken for granted in our daily lives, they bear considerable potential for acquiring personal and social meanings depending on their contexts and co-texts of use. These multi-layered meanings are often utilized by authors as a literary resource to evoke associations or invoke evaluative positioning. Papers accepted for this panel will explore how the meaning potential of place-names—be they real or fictional—is effectively harnessed to shape literary settings within specific works or by specific authors. Examples of themes that can be addressed include toponyms choice/invention and their connotations; toponyms in translation; toponyms in literary theory; and toponyms and intertextuality.

For more information about the MLA, check out the official website.

Proposal submission process:

  1. Abstracts proposals (350 words) should be sent as an email attachment (PDF format) to Dr. Luisa Caiazzo (luisa.caiazzo@unibas.it>
  2. Proposals should include “MLA 2021 proposal” in the subject line of the email;
    All submissions must include an abstract title, the full name(s) of the author(s), the author(s) affiliation(s), and email address(s) in the body of the email and NOT with the abstract
  3. DEADLINE: Proposals must be received by 8pm GMT on 30 April 2020. Authors will be notified about the results of the blind review on or by 8 May 2020
  4. Contributors selected for the thematic panel must be members of both MLA and ANS in order to present their papers
  5. For further information, please contact Dr. Luisa Caiazzo <luisa.caiazzo@unibas.it>.

A downloadable version of the Call for Papers can be found here.

More information about ANS and MLA conferences is available on the Conferences page of this website.

 

About Names: From saintly to ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ the name Conrad has fluctuated in popularity

Dick Gautier as Conrad Birdie in the 1960 Broadway Musical BYE BYE BIRDIE

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 3rd column, he looks at the history of the name Conrad.

Conrad is the modern form of an ancient Germanic name combining “kuoni” (brave) and “rad” (counsel.) The first famous Conrad was St. Conrad (900-975), bishop of Constance, a city on Germany’s border with Switzerland. He once drank a chalice of concentrated communion wine a spider dropped into. Because they thought that all spiders were poisonous, Conrad’s contemporaries saw this as proof of great bravery.

In 1880, when Social Security’s yearly baby name lists began, Conrad ranked 262nd. Though its use then drifted downward, this very German name surprisingly rebounded during World War I. Two men whose last name was Conrad may have helped. During the war, Austrian Field Marshal Franz Conrad, Baron von Hötzendorf (1852-1925), was considered a military genius despite many defeats. Perhaps more importantly, Polish-born British novelist Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), best known today for “Heart of Darkness” (1899), was then at the height of his fame.

Though hotel magnate Conrad Hilton (1879-1979) countered that image with one of wealth and power, the name fell to 836th in 2005.

3rd Call for Submissions: Names, Naming, Identity, and the Law – Extended Deadline

Professor I. M. Nick, Editor-in-Chief of NAMES and Immediate Past President of the American Name Society, has issued a call for book chapter proposals on the topic of Names, Naming, Identity, and the Law. This call is for chapter proposals that critically address one of the following two sub-areas:

SUB-AREA ONE: the relationship between names, naming, the law and one of the following areas of identity: gender identification, sexual orientation, ethno-racial classification, family status, political affiliation, socio-economic attainment, religious denomination; nationality and citizenship, etc.
SUB-AREA TWO: the analytical methods used by private industry and/or governmental agencies to covertly or overtly extrapolate information about name-bearers’ potential identity using onomastic data.

The focus of this publication is placed upon nations where English is used as either a national or official language. However, chapter proposals that draw comparisons with other geolinguistic areas are also welcome. Proposals may explore any type of name (e.g. personal names, place names, trade names, brand names, etc.). The intended readership for this publication is made up of university students in advanced courses (upper undergrad/grad) as well as researchers in the disciplines of linguistics, language policy, law, history, sociology, government and politics. Despite the interdisciplinary appeal of this publication, this volume is primarily intended for students and scholars in language/linguistics. Researchers are encouraged to contact Dr. Nick with any questions regarding the suitability of envisioned themes. (mavi.yaz@web.de)

Revised Proposal Submission Deadline: February 1, 2020

The official call for papers may be downloaded here.

Book Announcement: Personal Names, Hitler, and the Holocaust by Dr. I.M. Nick

ANS Editor-in-Chief and former President Iman Nick has just published a new book, Personal Names, Hitler, and the Holocaust: A Socio-Onomastic Study of Genocide and Nazi Germany (from 2019 Lexington Books: An Imprint of the Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.). The book is available now in hardcover and Kindle editions.

Synopsis:

This book provides readers with an increased understanding of and sensitivity to the many powerful ways in which personal names are used by both perpetrators and victims during wartime. Whether to declare allegiance or seek refuge, names are routinely used to survive under life-threatening conditions. To illustrate this point, this book concentrates on one of the most terrifying and yet fascinating periods of modern history: the Holocaust. More specifically, this book will examine the different ways in which personal names were used by Nationalist Socialists and targeted victims of their genocidal ideology. Although there are many excellent scientific and popular works which have dealt with the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, to my knowledge, there are none which have examined the importance of naming during this period. This oversight is significant when one considers the incredible importance of personal names during this time. For example, many people are aware of the fact that Jewish residents were forced to wear a yellow star (the Star of David) on their outermost apparel to distinguish them from the Aryan population. It is also generally known, albeit much less so, that as of 1938, all Jewish citizens living within Nazi German or one of its occupied territories were also required to have either the word “Jewish” or the letter “J” stamped in their passports.

However, comparatively few people realize is that before those regulations were implemented, Nazi leaders had decreed that all Jewish women and men must add the names ‘Sara’ and ‘Israel’ respectively to their given names. Once the deportations began, the perfidious logic behind this naming (onomastic) legislation became clear: it made it that much easier to pinpoint Jewish residents on official governmental listings (e.g. housing registries, voting rosters, pay rolls, labor union registers, bank accounts, school, university, military, and hospital records, etc.). Once the Jewish residents were identified, new lists of names were drawn up for people designated for relocation to a deportation center; relocation to labour camp; or transportation to an extermination center.

By using first-hand accounts of Holocaust survivors, the direct descendants of Nazi war criminals, and chilling cases extracted from international and national archival records, this book presents a harrowing depiction of the way personal names were used during the Third Reich to systematically murder millions to achieve Hitler’s dream of a society devoid of cultural diversity. Importantly, the practice of using personal names and naming to identify victims is not an historical anomaly of World War II but is a widespread sociolinguistic practice which has been followed in modern acts of genocide as well. From Rwanda to Bosnia, Berlin to Washington, when normal governmental controls are abridged and ethical boundaries designed to protect the human rights and liberties are violated, very quickly something as simple as a person’s name can be used to determine who lives and who dies.

Call for Papers: CSSN 54: Canadian Society for the Study of Names , Ontario, Canada, May 30-31 2020

The Canadian Society for the Study of Names (CSSN) / Société canadienne d’onomastique (SCO) will hold their annual meeting as part of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Canada, May 30-31, 2020, at Western University in London, Ontario.

The theme of the 2020 Congress is “Bridging Divides,” but papers on any onomastic topic are welcome:

  • Personal names (e.g. family names, nicknames, naming trends and systems, etc.)
  • Place names (e.g. streets, settlements, rural names, rivers, etc.)
  • Names in literature
  • Names in society (e.g. identity, power, perceptions, attitudes, forms of address, etc.)
  • Names and linguistic landscape (e.g. public road signs, advertising billboard signs, street signs, commercial shop signs, etc.)

Presentations are allotted 20 minutes, with an additional 10 minutes for questions and discussion. Please submit an abstract of 150-250 words, including the title of your paper and indicate whether you would like your paper to be considered for this year’s special panel.

Please email your abstract to: <jonathan.lofft@mail.utoronto.ca>

Please see the official call for papers for more details.

DEADLINE: Proposals must be received by February 1st, 2020.