It’s Official: ANS 2021 Conference will be Virtual

American Name Society

After serious deliberation of an official proposal made on the 8th of May 2020, the Executive Council of the American Name Society unanimously voted to hold the 2021 Annual Conference online. The exact format and date of the conference will be announced by June 15, 2020. This means that our conference will NOT be held in conjunction with the LSA meeting, which is still slated to be held in January 2021 in San Francisco.

As stipulated in the proposal, there were several important reasons behind the decision to hold our upcoming annual conference virtually: 1) a significant number of our members are in high-risk groups because of their age and/or pre-existing health conditions; 2) the international and domestic travel restrictions that have been imposed to control the spread of COVID-19 will make it exceedingly difficult for members to attend the conference; and 3) the individual and institutional economic fallout of COVID-19 will no doubt make prohibitive the costs connected with a traditional conference (LSA/ANS registration fees, travel costs, hotel accommodation food, etc).  Of all these reasons, the most important is of course the first. It is important to bear in mind that the very factors which make the traditional conference enjoyable also make it high-risk (i.e., traveling to a major metropolitan area to join a large gathering of people—both the attendees and the other hotel guests—who meet for intensive discussions, often times over shared meals, in small crowded spaces for a prolonged period of time).

The ANS Executive Council agreed that a virtual format would allow members to share their work without the dangers mentioned above. Even if COVID-19 were not an issue, this format will also attract people who might otherwise not have been able to attend our conference. Finally, this decision offers the added bonus of holding a conference in manner that is more environmentally sound. Members who are interested in viewing the original proposal or the report on proposal made to the ANS-EC vote  are encouraged to contact the ANS Secretary, Dr. Star Vanguri.

A revised Call for Papers will be sent out as soon as the date and time have been finalized. In the meantime, we will continue to accept abstracts for the 2021 conference. If you have questions, please contact us at <>.

About Names: Where did the name Glenda come from? And where did it go?

British actor Glenda Jackson

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his May 9th column, he looks at the history of the name Glenda.

Glenda is a modern name with obscure origins. Most baby name books claim it’s from the Welsh words glân, “clean, pure,” and da, “good”. Welsh pride created many names from Welsh words in the early 20th century. Delwyn (“pretty and fair”) and Tegan (“lovely”) are two examples.

The problem with the Welsh theory is that the earliest examples of Glenda in census records aren’t related to Wales. The first example in Britain, Glenda Day, was born in 1864 in Somerset, with most other early examples near London. The first Welsh Glenda doesn’t show up until 1910. It’s probable Glenda was originally created another way and reinterpreted with the Welsh meaning.

Glenda skyrocketed 136% between 1932 and 1933, when 680 arrived. Its boom continued until 1944, when the 3,366 born ranked it 79th. Glenda stayed among the top hundred through 1952.

Glinda, the good witch in L. Frank Baum’s famous 1900 children’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (played by Billie Burke in the 1939 film), often is misremembered as “Glenda.” Glinda was ignored as a baby name, however, until Linda became popular. Glinda was in the top thousand between 1944 and 1955, peaking at 733rd in 1951. Glinda is nonexistent as a baby name today, despite the popularity of Oz spinoffs like “Wicked.”

Surnames dictionary in the UK goes free for a week

An online dictionary explaining the meanings and origins of more than 45,000 British and Irish surnames is being made accessible to all in the hope that it might help bring families separated by Covid-19 closer together.

For the next week – until May 21 2020 – people will be able to tap into the Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland for free and find out where their surnames – and thus perhaps their ancestors – came from. The dictionary was compiled by a team of researchers from UWE Bristol. It includes every surname that currently has more than 100 bearers, and all those that had more than 20 bearers in the 1881 census.

ANS member Richard Coates, a professor emeritus of onomastics at UWE Bristol, who led the research, said he thought it was a “splendid” idea to open it up. “There seems to be perpetual interest in where surnames come from. It can be an excellent way of helping people begin to trace their family histories.”

The dictionary suggests nearly 40,000 family names are native to Britain and Ireland, while the remainder reflect the diverse languages and cultures of immigrants who have settled since the 16th century.

The dictionary can be accessed here. Families are being invited to post a photo or image that sums up what their name means to them with the hashtag #familynames202.

The coronavirus has inspired a wave of virus-related baby names

While parents are often inspired by their favourite film character or the names of lost loved ones when choosing the perfect moniker, the coronavirus outbreak has influenced couples around the world to chose novel names related to the crisis.

After giving birth to twins during lockdown on 27 March, a couple in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh named their babies Covid and Corona. In a similar vein to other virus-themed names, another Indian couple chose to call their child Lockdown. In a bid to raise awareness of the importance of hygiene during the pandemic, a father from Uttar Pradesh, India, named his newborn baby Sanitiser on Sunday 19 April. Describing the choice as a “contribution” to the fight against Covid-19, Omveer Singh told India Today Television: “We have named our baby ‘Sanitiser’ because it is being used by everyone at present to deter the spread of germs on our hands.”

Call for papers: Revista Onomástica desde América Latina (2021)

Revista Onomástica desde América Latina (Onomastics from Latin America) is a semiannual publication dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of onomastic research at national and international level. The journal is receiving articles in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

Articles received from April 2020 to November 2020 will be evaluated for number 3, with publication scheduled for the first half of 2021. Those submitted from December 2020 to June 2021 will be evaluated for number 4 of the journal, with publication scheduled for the second half of 2021. There is more information about the journal on the journal’s website.

About Names: Hollywood stars helped deliver a rebirth for the French name Renée

Professional tennis player Renée Richards

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his April 25th column, he looks at the history of the name Renée.

Renée is the feminine of René, French form of Renatus, Latin “born again.” The name was created by early Christians to commemorate their symbolic rebirth in baptism. By 1300, French girls were being named Renée. In 1510, King Louis XII gave his second daughter the name.

Despite Renée of France’s fame as a Protestant heroine, before 1864, Renée was nearly nonexistent as a baby name in the United States. Then French brothers Edmond and Jules de Goncourt (for whom the Prix Goncourt, France’s most important fiction prize, is named) published “Renée Mauperin,” the tragic tale of a young woman who wastes away from heart disease after her beloved brother is murdered by a French nobleman. It went through several English-language editions the next 30 years.

Renee first became a Top 1,000 baby name in 1905. It got a big boost from French-born silent film star Renée Adorée (1898-1933). Adorée moved to Hollywood in 1920. She became a star in 1925’s “The Big Parade” as Melisande, a French girl loved by American soldier Jim (John Gilbert). The film, rated by critics as one of the best silents, was a box-office smash.

Renee left the Top 1,000 list of first names in 2018. As the typical Renee turns 53 this year, that’s to be expected. In another 40 years, Renée can be reborn again for babies.

How Atlanta got its name

Atlanta was named by J. Edgar Thomson, Chief Engineer of the Georgia Railroad. The city was named for former Governor Wilson Lumpkin’s daughter’s. Her middle name was Atalanta, after the fleet-footed goddess.

Early settlers called the area Canebreak or Canebrake. In 1835, the federal government recognized the area with the Whitehall Post Office. Hardy Ivy was an early citizen and it was on his property that Stephen Long established the end of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Colonel Abbott Hall Brisbane, Chief Engineer of the W&A named the area Terminus in September, 1837. The name Terminus was never an official name and between 1837 and 1842 the area was also called Deanville (for Lemuel Dean) and Thrasherville (for John J. Thrasher).

In 1842 former governor Wilson Lumpkin, then president of the W&A suggested either the name Lumpkin or Mitchell for the town (Samuel Mitchell had given land to build the actual terminus). On December 23, 1842, the tiny town was incorporated as Marthasville in honor of his daughter, Martha Atalanta.

In the name of science: animal appellations and best practice


The practice of giving animal research subjects proper names is frowned on by the academic scientific community. While researchers provide a number of reasons for desisting from giving their animal subjects proper names, the most common are that (1) naming leads to anthropomorphising which, in turn, leads to data and results that are unobjective and invalid; and (2) while naming does not necessarily entail some mistake on the researcher’s part, some feature of the research enterprise renders the practice impossible or ill-advised.

Jessica du Toit (Western University, Canada) aimed to assess whether the scientific community’s attitude towards naming animal research subjects is justified. That is, he wishes to consider whether the practice of naming animal research subjects is good or bad for the purposes of scientific research. After reviewing the extant literature, he constructed a list of the main arguments researchers provide for desisting from naming their animal research subjects. He then analysed these arguments, with a view to determining whether they in fact provide good reasons to avoid naming animal research subjects. Read more here.

Long-term sociolinguistics trends and phonological patterns of American names


This paper (published in Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America, Vol 5, No 1 (2020) identified macro trends and phonological patterns of 348 million American baby names over 137 years from 1880 to 2017. The analysis showed that sociolinguistic trends have significantly influenced naming over time, as seen in the rise of individualism and unisex names, the impact of public figures and pop culture, and the substantially higher count of unique female names compared to male names. In addition, phonological analysis showed significant differences between male and female names in the number, type, and location of vowels as well as the number of syllables. On average, female names had more vowels, less consonants, and more syllables than male names. Also, names with certain wordfinal vowels and consonants were identified to be mostly-female or mostly-male. These findings demonstrated an inherent correlation between phonology and the perceived gender of names.

About Names: Leona: A tribute to a mother who set a good example by always helping others

Leona Frances Evans, mother of names columnist Cleveland Evans. She died April 2, 2020, in Tennessee. She was 98. This photo was taken at Christmas 2016.

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his April 11th column, he tells the story of his mother, Leona Frances Evans.

This column was first published in November 2009. It’s being reprinted in memory of Evans’ mother, Leona Frances Evans. She died April 2 in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. She was 98.

Leona is the feminine form of Leo or Leon, Latin and Greek forms of an ancient name meaning “lion.” Leo became a famous name in 440 when Leo I was elected pope. Called Leo the Great, he was the first to assert the primacy of Rome within the Catholic Church.

During the early 1800s Leona turned up occasionally as a baby name in England and Germany, but it became popular only in the United States. Between 1896 and 1921, Leona was among the top 100 names for American girls, peaking at 69th place in 1905.

Want to know more? Read on to find out!