About Names: “Cleveland Evans: Amber still a somewhat rare jewel among first names”

Amber Ruffin, star of “The Amber Ruffin Show” on Peacock (Public Domain)

Amber Ruffin, star of “The Amber Ruffin Show” on Peacock (Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 20th column, he looks at the name Amber.

Amber and Lacey hit bookstores again on Tuesday.

Last year, Omaha-raised comedian Amber Ruffin and sister Lacey Lamar’s “You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey”, a humorous look at the serious subject of racism, was a bestseller. November 22 their sequel, “The World Record Book of Racist Stories”, goes on sale.

Amber is a fossilized tree resin, usually brownish-yellow, used as a gemstone since the Stone Age. The word comes from Arabic “’anbar”, originally meaning “ambergris”, a substance secreted by sperm whales used in perfumes. Both ambergris and amber are commonly found along the shores of the Baltic Sea.

In the early 19th century parents, inspired by flower names like Lily and Violet, started naming daughters after gems like Ruby, Pearl and Opal.

Unlike flower names, at first gem names like Pearl, Garnet and Beryl were also given to boys. In the 1850 census, there were 29 male and 16 female Ambers. Some male Ambers were probably inspired by the rare surname Amber, itself perhaps a form of Ambler (“enameller”).

The oldest two women Ambers in 1850 were free Black women. Amber Whorton, age 90, lived with husband, Wellcome, also 90, in Cherokee County, Alabama. New Jersey-born Amber Harris, 57, lived with 25-year-old waiter Charles Harris in New York City.

As neither of these women appear in the 1860 census, it’s possible their names are mistakes. The oldest example in multiple censuses, Amber Read of Swanzey, New Hampshire, was born in 1821.

Though by 1880, Amber became primarily female, it stayed rare and vanished from the top 1,000 in 1917. It was revived by Kathleen Winsor’s 1944 novel “Forever Amber”.

About Names: “Cleveland Evans: Now uncommon, Sally was found on stage, screen and sky”

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space (Image: Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 6th column, he looks at the name Sally.

Happy birthday to Sister Bertrille, Nora Walker, and Sybil’s 16 personalities!

Actress Sally Field turns 76 today. First starring in sitcom “Gidget” (1965-66), Field played Bertrille in “The Flying Nun” (1967-70), where her huge headpiece combined with her small size let her catch the wind and fly.

Field overcame silly sitcom typecasting in 1976, winning an Emmy for “Sybil,” a TV movie about a young woman with multiple personalities. She went on to win Best Actress Oscars in “Norma Rae” (1979) and “Places in the Heart” (1984), and a Best Actress Emmy in 2007 as matriarch Nora in “Brothers and Sisters” (2006-2011).

Sally is an English pet form of Sarah, name of the biblical matriarch, from Hebrew “princess.” One of the few purely Old Testament names used in medieval England, Sarah boomed after the Reformation to rank fourth between 1660 and 1700.

Internal “r” is hard for small children to say, and so Sally developed from Sarah just as Hallie, Lolly and Dolly come from Harriet, Laura and Dorothy.

In the late 18th century, Sally became a name in its own right, as well as a nickname for Sarah. In the 1850 United States census, there were 56,800 Sallys and 2,066 Sallies.

The preferred spelling then shifted. In 1870, 42,399 Sallys and 70,587 Sallies were found. When Social Security’s baby name lists start in 1880, Sallie ranked 64th and Sally 166th. Only in 1911, did Sally again became more common.

Call for Papers: Dis/continuity in the representation of gender in names across languages (Online Workshop, September 2023)

From Ivona Barešová, EACS The Vice-General Secretary:

Dear colleagues,

We invite you to submit an abstract of 150 words on gender and personal names for inclusion in an online workshop to be held in September 2023. Selected papers will be published in a special issue of a Scopus-listed journal in 2024.

Dis/continuity in the representation of gender in names across languages

Editors: Ivona Barešová (Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic) and Jane Pilcher (Nottingham Trent University, UK)

Personal (or given) names in many countries are typically sex-specific, whether this is legally enforced or completely unregulated, and gender-neutral names are rather rare. In some languages, such as English and Japanese, names are not linguistically obligated to indicate a person’s sex category suggesting that the representation of sex and gender in names in these languages is socially motivated. Previous research on name selection in the United States pointed out that gender-neutral names tend to evolve from masculine names, and are seen as more advantageous for girls than boys, to whom sex stereotyping is more rigidly applied (Lieberson et al, 2000). However, recent developments suggest that such tendencies change over time and vary across cultures. For example, parenting and baby name websites report and reflect an increasing interest in names which do not indicate a child’s sex or gender. In Japan, not only are gender-neutral names on the rise but a number of them were originally used only for girls. In other languages, such as Czech, gender markings are linguistically obligatory, meaning that choosing to use gender-neutral names may have a larger impact on the language long-term.

Our main goal in this special issue is to advance the present state of knowledge about gender-related personal naming practices especially in contexts, observed in many countries, of recent shifts around gender equality and in conceptualizations of gender as non-binary. We aim to bring together a collection of studies dealing with gender in personal or given names across a range of languages and cultures. Contributions will incorporate the latest findings about current preferences for expressing gender in names, identifying regional and cultural specifics, and their interactions with more general trends.

We welcome contributions exploring recent trends in name selection with respect to gender in any language culture and from a variety of perspectives, and grounded in a range of disciplines – anthropology, linguistics, psychology, sociology, and other fields. Topics might include:

  • transitions in gender marking on names
  • the emergence of new gender-neutral names
  • linguistic expressions of gender in names
  • the nature and characteristics of current gender-specific and gender-neutral names
  • current gender-related naming practices and their background
  • motivations for the bestowal of gender-neutral names
  • the influence of a gender-neutral name on the young person’s self-perception
  • the perception of gender-neutral names bestowed upon girls/boys

Submissions must be in English and should be original research or general review papers about these topics.

Important dates:

Online workshop abstract deadline: 31 January 2023

Acceptance announcement: 31 March 2023

The date of the online workshop: 22 September 2023

Manuscript submission deadline: 30 November 2023

Abstracts should be e-mailed to ivona.baresova@upol.cz

Please feel free to contact either Ivona or Jane (jane.pilcher@ntu.ac.uk) if you have any queries.

Call for Nominations for the 2022 Names of the Year

The American Name Society requests nominations for the “Names of the Year for 2022”. The names selected will be ones that best illustrate, through their creation and/or use during the past 12 months, important trends in the culture of the United States. It is not necessary, however, for a nominated name to have originated in the US. Any name can be nominated as long as it has been prominent in North American cultural discourse during the past year.

Nominations are called for in the following categories:

  • Personal Names: Names or nicknames of individual real people or individual animals.
  • Place Names: Names or nicknames of any real geographical location, including all natural features, political subdivisions, streets, and buildings. Names of national or ethnic groups based on place names could be included here.
  • Trade Names: Names of real commercial products, as well as names of both for-profit and non-profit incorporated companies and organizations, including businesses and universities.
  • Artistic & Literary Names: Names of fictional persons, places, or institutions, in any written, oral, or visual medium, as well as titles of art works, books, plays, television programs, or movies. Such names are deliberately given by the creator of the work.
  • E-Names: Names of persons, figures, places, products, businesses, institutions, operations, organizations, platforms, and movements that exist in the virtual world.
  • Miscellaneous Names: Any name which does not fit in the above five categories, such as names created by linguistic errors, names of particular inanimate objects, names of unorganized political movements, names of languages, etc. In most cases, such items would be capitalized in everyday English orthography.

Winners will be chosen in each category, and then a final vote will determine the overall Name of the Year for 2022. Anyone may nominate a name. All members of the American Name Society attending the annual meeting will select the winner from among the nominees at the annual ANS meeting on January 20-22 2023.

Survey Link

Advance nominations must be received before January 13, 2022. Nominations will be accepted from the floor at the annual meeting. You can also send your nominations, along with a brief rationale, by email to Deborah Walker: debwalk@gmail.com.

Thank you for your nominations!


On the Name “Gitmo”

Logo of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay (Public Domain)

As President Biden moves to close the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base prison, columnist Ben Zimmer explores the history of the name “Gitmo”. Zimmer writes:

“The origins of the “Gitmo” designation go back to the end of the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. arranged a permanent lease of land on Guantanamo Bay at the southeast end of Cuba. The lease agreement with the new Cuban government ensured a continued American military presence on the island. That presence was sometimes used to protect Cuba’s sugar industry … From then on, Guantanamo Bay became a crucial hub of operations, and with telegraphy used for essential communications, an abbreviated form of the name was pressed into service: “Gtmo.””

From this origin, Zimmer traces the history of usage in media and popular culture, noting that the word “may no longer have such a hold on the public consciousness” if the Biden administration is successful in closing the prison.

Read more over at The Wall Street Journal.

Call for Papers: Onomastica Canadiana

From Grace Gomashie:

“The Executive Committee is pleased to announce Drs. Marcienne Martin and Rebekah Ingram as the next editors of the journal. Dr. Martin is Editor, French Language and Dr. Ingram is Editor, English Language Editor. They will serve for a three-year term, which begins this fall. We look forward to their brilliant leadership in starting this new chapter of the journal.

The appointment of the editors means that Onomastica Canadiana has resumed publication. Onomastica Canadiana is now inviting submissions in English or French. Papers in any area of onomastics are welcome. Please visit the journal’s website to submit your contributions. Please submit any question to Dr. Martin or Dr. Ingram.”

Contact information for the editors can be found on the journal’s website. You can submit contributions here.

When Manufacturing Cannot Keep Up with Demand for Brand Insignia

A Ford logo on a sign at the Den Hartog Ford Museum (Public Domain)

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal details the latest woes at Ford Motor Company: the manufacturer of the iconic blue Ford insignia has slowed production of the logo. The supplier, Tribar Technologies, slowed manufacturing in recent months due to an environmental regulatory order:

“A Michigan-based supplier that has made badges for Ford in the past had to limit operations in August, after disclosing to Michigan regulators it had discharged industrial chemicals into a local sewer system, according to city and state officials.”

The badge shortage is just one of many supply shortages that plagued manufacturers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more over at The Wall Street Journal and Jalopnik.

About Names: “Cleveland Evans: Once a rare name, Heather’s popularity peaked in the ’70s and ’80s”

Heather Gell (1896-1988) was an Australian kindergarten teacher and a radio broadcaster, television presenter and theatre producer (Photo of Heather in 1941, Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his September 25th column, he looks at the name Heather.

Happy Birthday to Sammy Jo and Amanda!

Heather Locklear, the actress who played golddigger Sammy on the original “Dynasty” (1981-1989) and manipulative Amanda Woodward on “Melrose Place” (1993-1999), turns 61 today.

In addition, the movie version of musical “Heathers,” based on the 1988 cult teen comedy film featuring three “queen bee” high schoolers all named Heather, premiered on Roku Sept. 16.

Heather is a low-growing evergreen shrub found throughout Europe. It’s especially common in northern England and Scotland, where its purple flowers cover the moors every summer. The plant’s name was originally “hathir.” This probably had a Celtic source, but its spelling was altered through confusion with “heath,” from Old English for “flat shrubby wasteland.”

Many cultures have named girls after flowers. Rose and Violet were used in medieval England, though Rose also came from a Norman name meaning “famous sort.” When the Victorians revived Rose and Violet along with other medieval names, creative parents were inspired to use other plant names. Girls called Lily, Pansy, Hazel, Fern, Daisy and Laurel soon sprang up.

The first British girls named Heather appeared by 1880. Though the flower was common in Scotland, the name was more common in England, probably because Scots didn’t have the same romantic image of heather English and Americans did.

Initially, Heather was one of the rarest flower names. The first Heather in the United States census, Heather Bremer of Dayton, Ohio, was a boy born in 1871. His parents were probably inspired by the rare surname Heather. In later records he’s “Robert Heather Bremer.”