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.


About Names: We can thank pop culture for scores of Gen X Amys

Singer Amy Winehouse; Greg Gebhardt from Laguna Beach, CA, USA, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his February 23rd column, he looks at the history of the name Amy.

Amy is the English version of medieval French Amée, “beloved,” itself from Latin “Amata.” Saint Amata, who died around 1250, was an Italian girl miraculously healed by her aunt, St. Clare of Assisi. By 1320, Amy was well-used by England’s Norman French-speaking aristocracy. It was among the Top 50 names for English girls baptized between 1538 and 1700.

The most famous Amy then was Amy Robsart Dudley (1532-1560), first wife of Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite Robert Dudley. She was found dead of a broken neck at the foot of a flight of stairs. Though both a 1560 coroner’s jury and most modern historians conclude this was accidental, rumors abounded that Dudley murdered Amy in hopes he could then marry the queen.

In 1880, Amy ranked No. 108 on Social Security’s first yearly baby name list. It steadily declined, bottoming out at No. 364 in 1933. By 1948, Amy inched back up to No. 310. That year “Where’s Charley?”, Frank Loesser’s musical based on British author Brandon Thomas’ play “Charley’s Aunt,” began a two-year run on Broadway. Its hit song “Once In Love With Amy (always in love with Amy)” became star Ray Bolger’s signature. He often sang it on 1950s television variety shows. Both Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra recorded it.

Call for Interviewees on the Baby Names Podcast!

We’re seeking name experts to be interviewed on this season of The Baby Names Podcast. We’ve already featured many ANS scholars on the show and always get an amazing response. The podcast is hosted by longtime ANS member Jennifer Moss.

The Baby Names Podcast receives over 10,000 listeners PER DAY and it’s growing fast. We promote it through our site and social media and are happy to link to your social accounts and/or research. Here’s our lineup for seasons 4 & 5 – If you have an expertise in any of the subjects – or want to pitch your favorite name topic,  please reach out!
  • Puritanical Names
  • Italian Names
  • Hebrew/Jewish Names
  • Early 20th Century Naming 1900-1930
  • Cultural Appropriation and Names
  • Naming Trends
  • Chinese Names
  • Japanese Names
  • Slavic Names
Email Jennifer Moss,, to submit yourself for a topic…or to suggest one!

Call for Papers: Special Journal Issue of NAMES devoted to Children’s Literature, Names, and Naming

The American Name Society (ANS) is issuing its first call for abstracts for an upcoming special issue of the Society’s journal, NAMES.  This issue will be devoted to analysis and discussion of children’s literature, names, and naming. For many of us, one of the earliest and fondest memories includes story-time, when we discovered tales that had the power to inspire, calm, or chill the spirit.  Although over the years, the plots of most of those  stories may have faded from our memories, the names of many of those main characters and the fictional places they inhabited, have managed to survive.  For an upcoming special issue of NAMES, onomastic scholars and names enthusiasts are warmly invited to re-ignite that early childhood fascination and submit a paper that explores names and naming in literature intended for children and/or adolescents.  From the names of places, people, animals, and plants to the monikers of ferries, goblins, witches, and hobbits–any type of name from any period of time or language is welcome.  Papers examining author names, be they real or pseudonyms, are also invited.   The primary works examined may be fiction or non-fiction. The only stipulation for submission is that the primary intended reading audience of the piece(s)  of literature investigated must be children and/or adolescents/juveniles.

Proposal Submission Process

  • Abstract proposals (max. 500 words, excluding the title and references) should be sent as a PDF email attachment to Dr. I. M. Nick (
  • For organizational purposes, the proposals must include “CHILD2020” in the subject line of the email
  • All proposals must include an abstract, title, and a preliminary list of references;
    the full name(s) of the author(s), the author(‘s’) affiliation(s) must appear in the body of the email and NOT the abstract itself
  • In the case of multi-authored submission, one person must be clearly designated as the primary contact
  • The DEADLINE for abstract submission is June 15, 2021. Authors will be notified about acceptance on or by July 15, 2021
  • Final papers (max 5,000 words, excluding abstracts and references) will be due October 15, 2021

For further information about this call, please feel free to contact Dr. I. M. Nick (

NAMES Vol 69 Issue #1 is published!

We are delighted to announce that the new issue of NAMES is now published! NAMES 69:1 is available online at its new home at the University of Pittsburgh as an open access journal.

All articles in this and past journals are available for free, as downloadable PDFs.

If you are a subscriber to the print version of the journal, it should be arriving at your address in a couple of weeks.