One Josh to Rule them All

It all started with a short message, sent to everyone named “Josh Swain” via Facebook Messenger in the Spring of 2020:

“Precisely, 4/24/2021, 12:00 PM, meet at these coordinates, (40.8223286, -96.7982002) we fight, whoever wins gets to keep the name, everyone else has to change their name, you have a year to prepare, good luck”

Eventually, all those with the name “Josh” were invited to the faux battle, which itself was moved from private Nebraskan farmland to a nearby public location. What followed can only be described as something out of the battle royale genre: armed with foam pool noodles, people united only by their common name battled until only one Josh was left standing. Read more about the battle of the Joshes in the Wall Street Journal.

“America Ruined my Name”: Immigration, Assimilation, and Asian Personal Names

A modern story of immigration, assimilation, and the challenges that those with Asian personal names encounter through both, Beth Nguyen retells the account of her family arriving in America from Vietnam in the 1980s and the difficulties she encountered surrounding the general public’s perception of her first name. Those unfamiliar with the pronunciation of Beth’s birth name (Bich, pronounced “Bic”) might perceive it as homophonous with an English curse word, and her peers, teachers, and others often did. Beth speaks about the decision to change her name and the impact that personal names have on individuals in America, especially refugees.

Beth’s first book, published under her birth name Bich Minh Nguyen, is Stealing Buddha’s Dinner: A Memoir (Penguin, 2008).

About Names: History has many famous Duanes; ‘Young Rock’ could spark a new round

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, photo by Eva Rinaldi (, CC BY-SA 2.0

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his February 14th column, he looks at the history of the name Duane.

Dwayne’s a respelling of Duane, a form of Irish surname Ó Dubháin, “descendant of Dubhán.” Dubhán, “black-haired,” is known through St. Dubhán, founder of a medieval church in County Galway. Duane was the English form of Ó Dubháin in Connacht. Doane, Doone, Downe, Dewan, Dwane, and Devane were used in other parts of Ireland.

Duane first appeared on Social Security’s top thousand list in 1903. DeWayne showed up in 1918, followed by Dwayne (1921), Dwain (1923), Dwaine (1926), Duwayne (1929) and Dwane (1935).

DeWayne left the top thousand baby name list in 2002 and Duane followed in 2003. Dwayne held on until 2019. Will “Young Rock” be able to wrestle it back? We’ll know a couple of years from now.

In Memoriam: Ronald Butters (1940-2021)

Long-time ANS member Ronald Richard Butters 81, passed away in his home on April 6, 2021 after a long battle with cancer. Ron was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in February of 1940. After achieving his PhD at the University of Iowa, he moved to Durham, NC to begin his 40 year career at Duke University. He was a professor of English and Linguistics as well as a founder of the linguistics program at Duke University and held a joint appointment in the Cultural Anthropology Department at Duke. Following his retirement from Duke University in 2007, he developed a consulting firm called Trademark Linguistics and continued working in the field with many distinguished law firms.

Ron loved to travel and experience other cultures and he especially enjoyed the time he spent teaching in Bamburg, Germany and Marrakesh, Morocco, as well as the many lectures and seminars he gave in countries around the world. He was honored to touch the lives of so many students, as well as others, throughout his life.

Ron wrote extensively on naming and trademarks. A detailed list of his work can be found on his website, and you can read his obituary online here.

In Memoriam: Lynn Westney (1947-2021)

Long-time ANS member Lynn Westney passed away Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, at Hamilton Communities in New Carlisle, Indiana. Born Dec. 24, 1947, in Chicago, Ill., to Joseph and Alma (Stankovitch) Tvrdik (both now deceased), Lynn lived a rich life filled with curiosity, exuberance and passion. In June 1980, she married William Homer Hattendorf, II, who preceded her in death in 1995. In August 1997, she married Robert J. Westney, who preceded her in death in 2014.

Lynn earned the BA in Sociology from Loyola and the MS in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Champaign. Lynn enjoyed a 25-year career at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she was a reference librarian and Associate Professor and Coordinator of Reference Collection Development. She was a member of the American Library Association, Illinois Library Association, and the Canadian Society for the Study of Names. Lynn was Editor of the Educational Rankings Annual for years 1991-2006, and wrote numerous scholarly papers, many of which she presented as a guest speaker in a variety of international locations, including Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United States. She also served as the editor of a regular column on e-journals, “E-Journals-Inside and Out”, in JAHC: Journal of the Association for History and Computing.

Her 2007 paper, “From Courtesans to Queens: Recipes Named for Women”, can be found online in the archives of NAMES.

Lynn loved reading about and writing about food, and enjoyed fine dining and ethnic cuisines. She was an avid rock and fossil collector, especially the Petoskey stones found along the Michigan shoreline of Lake Michigan. She was also a passionate advocate for the protection and humane treatment of all animals, domesticated and wild.