About Names: “Darci rooted in old English aristocracy”

Illustration by C. E. Brock for Pride and Prejudice (Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his February 27th column, he looks at the history of the name Darci.

Darci will be throwing her voice in Omaha next Sunday.

Darci Lynne, born Darci Lynne Farmer in 2004, won the top prize on “America’s Got Talent” in September 2017, a month before turning 13. A ventriloquist whose puppets include sweet bunny Petunia and stuttering Motown mouse Oscar, she stars at Omaha’s Orpheum Theater March 6.

Darci’s a respelling of Darcy, a surname with two origins. Darcy came to England with William the Conqueror’s knight Norman D’Arcy. He was granted vast lands in Lincolnshire. He was from Arcy, a French village whose name meant “Bear’s place” in Gaulish.

Darcys have been English aristocrats ever since. Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy of Darcy (1467-1537), was beheaded for rebelling against Henry VIII’s seizure of monasteries.

The most famous English Darcy is fictional Fitzwilliam Darcy in Jane Austen’s 1813 novel “Pride and Prejudice.” Proud but honorable Mr. Darcy is the model for romantic heroes in countless other novels and films.

In western Ireland, Darcy’s the English form of Ó Dorchaidhe, “descendant of the dark one.” Patrick Darcy (1598-1668) was a Galway lawyer who wrote the constitution for Confederate Ireland, Catholic rebels who ruled two-thirds of Ireland between 1642 and 1649.

When the custom of turning surnames into first names began during Elizabethan times, Darcy turned up among sons of British nobles. It remained rare; in 1841, the first British census found 29 men named Darcy.

About Names: “Sonny a famous nickname with a long lineage”

Jazz musician Sonny Rollins (Photo by Yves Moch, CC-BY-3.0)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his February 13th column, he looks at the history of the name Sonny.

Omaha has a new favorite Sonny.

The male elephant born to mother Claire at Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium Jan. 30 has been named Sonny by an anonymous donor. Half-sister Eugenia was born Jan. 7 to mother Kiki and father Callee.

Sonny’s a diminutive of “son” used to address boys or men younger than oneself. Though “son” goes back millennia to ancient Indo-European, “sonny” is surprisingly recent. The earliest example is found in 1833.

It’s hard to tell when Sonny became a nickname. It looks a lot like Lonny in 19th-century handwriting, and census takers sometimes used it for an unknown name. The 1860 census of Bloomington, Illinois, includes a German immigrant family with parents Daddy and Mammy and two boys both called Sonny. The census taker probably couldn’t understand their real names.

Exactly when the nickname became an official name is also unclear. Sonny first appeared on Social Security’s yearly name lists in 1888. However, Social Security only began in 1935, and only since the 1980s has everyone gotten a Social Security card as an infant. Many born before 1970 didn’t enter the data until they were going by a nickname which wasn’t given at birth.

It’s probable boys were being officially named Sonny by 1920, though, because the name starts showing pop culture influences. The first big boom in Sonnys began in 1928, when Al Jolson’s hit song “Sonny Boy” premiered, sung by a father whose little son “made a heaven for me here on earth.” Sonny first peaked at 470th in 1935.

ICOS Presents Onomastics Online lecture series

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to prevent face-to-face scientific meetings, ICOS (the International Council of Onomastic Sciences) wants to support sharing onomastic ideas by introducing a new initiative: Onomastics Online. Onomastics Online is a series of lectures dealing with important timely topics related to names and naming. Given by distinguished scholars from various academic backgrounds, the lectures demonstrate the importance and the multidisciplinary nature of onomastic research. For more information, see the ICOS website.  

The series start with four lectures during spring 2022, first of them given by Derek Alderman on 15 February, 3:00 PM (UTC). You can follow the lectures in real time via Zoom or watch their recordings afterwards on the ICOS YouTube channel. The schedule and the Zoom links can be found below.

The aim of the series is also to improve the visibility of ICOS and onomastic research, so please share this information to colleagues and friends who might be interested. If you have any questions or want to suggest improvements to this concept, you may contact ICOS President Katalin Reszegi (reszegi.katalin@arts.unideb.hu). For questions related to Zoom events and YouTube, please contact Lasse Hämäläinen (lasse.hamalainen@tuni.fi), the chair of the ICOS PR Group.  

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  • 15 February 2022, 3:00 PM (UTC)
    Derek H. AldermanRace, Memory, and Campus Place Name Reform: Strategies for Transforming the Classroom into a Toponymic Workspace. Zoom link  
  • 24 March 2022, 3:00 PM (UTC)
    Martin Thiering: Toponyms and Landmarks as Cognitive Maps in Dene Chipewyan and Eipomek. Zoom link  
  • 11 April 2022, 10:00 AM (UTC)
    Kimberly Klassen: The lexical load of proper names for second language readers of English. Zoom link  
  • 18 May 2022, 2:00 PM (UTC)
    Richard Coates: Introducing The Pragmatic Theory of Properhood (TPTP). Zoom link  

On the Shift from Popular to Unique Baby Names

A page from the 1940s US Census, years before the trend emerged (public domain)

In a column in The Atlantic, writer Joe Pinsker explores a noticeable shift in parents’ selection of baby names. Since the 1960s, more American parents have opted for less-popular names to help their children stand out. Pinsker interviews ANS member and Past President Dr. Cleveland Evans about this trend, who points out that the unifying events of the early- to mid-twentieth century may have given parents “a sense of solidarity with the whole culture, the whole country”.

Read more in The Atlantic!