Changing School Names to a Different “Lee”

This Wall Street Journal article looks at the trend of Southern American schools changing their name from “Robert E. Lee” to, well, any other “Lee” or similar name.

Many school districts are wrestling with sometimes contentious debates over being named for Confederate figures, while also facing tight budgets. The solution, they are finding, can be picking someone with a similar name. Districts began naming schools for Confederate figures after the Civil War, with an uptick in the 1950s and 1960s. Several dozen school districts have dropped Confederate school names in recent years.

In the Houston Independent School District, officials changed a school named for Confederate soldier Sidney Lanier to the late Bob Lanier, a former mayor of the city. The Austin school district’s Robert E. Lee Elementary is now Russell Lee Elementary, named for a Depression-era photographer.

Oklahoma City Public Schools wasn’t sure whether its Lee Elementary was even named for Robert E. Lee, because the school never carried the full name. But after the 2017 discovery of board minutes from the early 1900s that listed a portrait of Robert E. Lee as a gift to the school, officials figured the school must be named for the Confederate general. It changed the name to Adelaide Lee, after an Oklahoma philanthropist, in 2018.

Want to know more? Click through to read the rest of the article!

About Names: ‘Days of Our Lives,’ ‘Twilight’ helped Isabella regain its crown

Isabella Rossellini at Cannes in 2015

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his June 18th column, he looks at the history of the name Isabella.

Occitan is a Romance language spoken in southern France. In medieval times, Elisabel appeared there as a variation of the biblical name Elizabeth. Though linguists explain that “th” or “t” don’t normally end Occitan words, that “bèl” means “beautiful” in Occitan surely helped. Elisabel shortened to Isabel, which quickly became the normal form of Elizabeth in Spanish and Portuguese. Isabel spread to northern France, and was introduced into England by the Normans.

Isabel was hugely popular in medieval England because of three queen consorts. Isabella of Angoulême (1186-1246) was wife of King John and mother of Henry III. Isabella of France (1295-1358) was Edward II’s wife and regent for her son Edward III. Isabella of Valois (1389-1409) was the child bride of Richard II.

The hit book series about high school student Isabella “Bella” Swan and sparkly vampire Edward appeared in 2005. Author Stephenie Meyer, who has only sons, gave her character the name she was saving for a future daughter. The first “Twilight” film, starring Kristen Stewart as Bella, premiered November 2008. In 2009, over 25,000 Isabellas were born, ranking the name No. 1.

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

Call for Submissions: Names, Naming, Identity, and the Law

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. (

Proposal Submission Deadline: January 5, 2020

The official call for papers may be downloaded here.

More than 800 Māori place names officially recognised

The New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa has made 824 Māori place names official. About 300 of them now officially include macrons, such as Taupō, Whakatāne, Whangārei, and Ōpōtiki.

The correct spelling of the names were a collaborative effort between the board and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to officially recognise their traditional tūturu names from their online cultural heritage atlas, Kā Huru Manu. The full list is available on the New Zealand Geographic Board website.

Many Māori place names have important stories behind them, so ensuring the correct spelling will help keep those stories alive. For example, as part of these changes New Zealand’s longest place name, Taumatawhakatangihangakōauauotamateapōkaiwhenuakitānatahu, has had macrons added. The name tells the story of the hill where Tamatea played his flute to his loved one.


What it’s like to be a white woman named LaKiesha

When you’re a white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman named LaKiesha, life can get complicated, as told in the article by John Blake. It can be exhausting constantly explaining yourself to white people, even though you’re white.

What she has discovered is that the names of Americans are as segregated as many of their lives. There are names that seem traditionally reserved for whites only, such as Molly, Tanner and Connor. And names favored by black parents, such as Aliyah, DeShawn and Kiara. Add into that mix names that are traditionally Asian, Latino or, say, Muslim. LaKiesha had to learn how to not apologize for her name. Read more if you want to find out how…

NASA honors Hidden Figures by renaming street

NASA headquarters in Washington, DC, now rests on Hidden Figures Way. The street was renamed in June 2019 in honor of Katherine Johnson, the late Dorothy Vaughan and the late Mary Jackson, three women who helped put astronaut John Glenn in orbit by calculating his flight trajectory by hand.

Hidden Figures is the name of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book on the subject, as well as a movie. Both the book and movie tell the story of not only the work the women did, but also the challenges that black women faced at NASA in the 1960s.

“Here we are, 50 years after the landing of the Apollo 11 Moon lander, celebrating those figures who were, at the time, not celebrated,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at the ceremony.


Stunning USA map swaps place names for most Wikipedia-ed residents


This is a People Map of the US, where city names are replaced by their most Wikipedia’ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place.

Data for this story were collected and processed using the Wikipedia API. The period of collection was from July, 2015–May, 2019, from English Wikipedia. Person/city associations were based on the thousands of “People from X city” pages on Wikipedia. The top person from each city was determined by using median pageviews (with a minimum of 1 year of traffic). We chose to include multiple occurrences for a single person because there is both no way to determine which is more accurate and people can “be from” multiple places.

Gaelic Place Names

Here’s a selection of gaelic derived place names – from Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA) ~ Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland the national advisory partnership for Gaelic place-names in Scotland.

Reproduced here with thanks to Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

For more on these names consult

Do you know what onomatophobia is?



Onomatophobia means an abnormal dread of certain words or names because of their supposed significance. It is also a kind of the fear of hearing particular names.

The origin of the words onomato (meaning word) and phobia  (meaning fear) is Greek. Onomatophobia is considered to be a specific phobia. Onomatophobia is also related to Nomatophobia (fear of names), Logophobia and Verbophobia (which both mean the fear of words). Many specific phobias can be traced back to a specific triggering person, event, usually a traumatic experience at an early age. Treatment includes cognitive and behavioral therapy. These people are taught not to react in a certain way to a particular name.

The Helsinki Scientific Award was granted to name researcher

The City of Helsinki Scientific Award in 2019 was granted to Finnish onomatologist Terhi Ainiala, professor of Finnish language specialising in onomastics at the University of Helsinki. Sie is a versatile onomastic researcher and is familiar with both place names and personal names. Her socio-onomastic research is particularly related to the informal #toponyms of cities such as Helsinki and the social identity of speakers.

The Helsinki City Scientific Award is granted as recognition for important scientific work carried out in Helsinki or by an academic with a background in Helsinki. The Scientific Award is EUR 10,000. The awards were presented at the Helsinki Day ceremony held on 12 June 2019.