Spencer Tracy (Public Domain)
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his October 25th column, he looks at the history of the name Spencer.
Will Spencer’s team win the state championship? Fans find out Monday.
“All American,” a television drama about high school football players in Los Angeles, starts its fourth season then. Starring Daniel Ezra as Spencer James, it’s based on the life of NFL linebacker Spencer Paysinger (born 1988). Last season’s cliffhanger ended with Spencer’s team running onto the field to face Beverly Hills High.
Spencer is an English surname meaning “dispenser,” the official on a noble estate who disbursed provisions. All estates had a spencer, so it’s a common surname. Almost 140,000 Americans bore the last name Spencer in 2010, ranking it 199th.
Noble English Spencers trace their ancestry to Sir John Spencer, a wealthy livestock trader who purchased the Althorp estate in 1508.
King Henry VIII knighted him in 1519. One of his descendants married a daughter of John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. The surname changed to Spencer-Churchill, and the family spawned British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965).
The American Name Society requests nominations for the “Names of the Year for 2021”. The names selected will be ones that best illustrate, through their creation and/or use during the past 12 months, important trends in the culture of the United States. It is not necessary, however, for a nominated name to have originated in the US. Any name can be nominated as long as it has been prominent in North American cultural discourse during the past year.
Nominations are called for in the following categories:
- Personal Names: Names or nicknames of individual real people or individual animals.
- Place Names: Names or nicknames of any real geographical location, including all natural features, political subdivisions, streets, and buildings. Names of national or ethnic groups based on place names could be included here.
- Trade Names: Names of real commercial products, as well as names of both for-profit and non-profit incorporated companies and organizations, including businesses and universities.
- Artistic & Literary Names: Names of fictional persons, places, or institutions, in any written, oral, or visual medium, as well as titles of art works, books, plays, television programs, or movies. Such names are deliberately given by the creator of the work.
- E-Names: Names of persons, figures, places, products, businesses, institutions, operations, organizations, platforms, and movements that exist in the virtual world.
- Miscellaneous Names: Any name which does not fit in the above five categories, such as names created by linguistic errors, names of particular inanimate objects, names of unorganized political movements, names of languages, etc. In most cases, such items would be capitalized in everyday English orthography.
Winners will be chosen in each category, and then a final vote will determine the overall Name of the Year for 2021. Anyone may nominate a name. All members of the American Name Society attending the annual meeting will select the winner from among the nominees at the annual ANS meeting on January 21-23, 2022.
Advance nominations must be received before January 15, 2022. Nominations will be accepted from the floor at the annual meeting. You can also send your nominations, along with a brief rationale, by email to Deborah Walker: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your nominations!
If you enjoy reading about names, we encourage you to join the American Name Society and share your name news with us! Membership is very affordable, with yearly dues starting at $20.
Membership in the ANS allows access to a community of scholars and its communications, as well as eligibility to present your research at the ANS annual conferences and the ability to submit articles to Names: A Journal of Onomastics.
Keep apprised of the latest onomastic research by joining today!
The entrance to Fort Bragg in North Carolina (US Army, Public Domain)
A recent piece in the New York Times showcases interviews with populations in and around ten different Army bases. What is at the heart of these interviews? Congress’ decision to rename these Army bases as their current names honor Confederate leaders. The reaction is generally mixed, as the reputation of the bases have transcended their association with former Confederate leaders. One interviewee responded, “There are some people who don’t want the name to change. It’s not that they want to embrace Confederate symbolism, it’s because they identify the installation as a place not a person.”
Read more in the New York Times.
One possible logo, from California University of Pennsylvania
State universities in western Pennsylvania, including California, Clarion, and Edinboro campuses, have been integrated into one, new university system under a new name: Pennsylvania West University or “PennWest” for short. Read more about the name change in the Post Gazette.
Also, you can watch the announcement here:
ANS President Laurel Sutton (Photo from the Linguistic Society of America)
The October 2021 Member Spotlight of the Linguistic Society of America features our own ANS President Laurel Sutton! Following a short introduction to President Sutton’s involvement in the Linguistic Society of America, the LSA asks her about her interests and accomplishments in an interview. Read that interview on the LSA’s website here.
A photo of quarterback Brett Favre at Lambeau field (Photo by Mike Morbeck, CC-BY-2.0)
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his October 10th column, he looks at the history of the name Brett.
Which NFL quarterback holds the record for most consecutive starts?
Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers, who started 297 regular season games between 1992 and 2010. Favre turns 52 today.
Brett is a surname indicating one’s ancestor was a Celtic-speaking Breton or Briton. In southern England, Bretts are descended from settlers from Brittany who arrived after 1066’s Norman conquest. In Scotland, Bretts had ancestors from Strathclyde, a kingdom along the Scottish-English border where Cumbrian, a language akin to Welsh, was spoken when Scots conquered it around 1030.
When the custom of giving boys surnames as first names was established, Bretts began to occasionally appear. The oldest of the five in the 1850 United States census, Brett Stovall of Patrick County, Virginia, was born in 1766.
Author Bret Harte (1836-1902) was born as Francis Brett Hart in New York; Brett was his paternal grandmother’s maiden name. He went to California in 1853, later becoming famous for short stories and poems about miners and gamblers of the California Gold Rush.
Registration is now open for the 2022 ANS Conference. The ANS conference will take place online, on Zoom, from January 21-23, 2022.
You can register online here, or download a PDF of the Conference Registration Form and mail it to ANS Treasurer Saundra Wright, as per the instructions on the form.
The schedule will be available as soon as possible.
For more information about the ANS Conference, please visit our Conference Page.
(Photo by Nhandler, CC-BY-2.5)
An article in The Washington Post notes an interesting phenomenon at animal shelters: animals with unordinary names get adopted quicker. While adopting “pandemic pets” was a national trend in 2020, this year shelters are overcrowded as more animals are brought in. Included are “ones named after random objects, like Lawn Mower or Chainsaw, but others verge into the more abstract, such as a pit bull terrier mix named Knowledge or a guinea pig named Constructive Criticism.” Read more at The Washington Post.
While Meredith was not his first name, James Meredith was the first African-American man admitted to the segregated University of Mississippi
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his September 27th column, he looks at the history of the name Meredith.
What new crises will Meredith have this fall?
“Grey’s Anatomy” begins its 18th season Sept. 30. The medical drama, set in a large Seattle hospital, revolves around the professional and personal lives of surgeon Meredith Grey and her colleagues. An immensely talented doctor with a messy emotional life, Meredith almost died from COVID-19 last season. “Anatomy” maintains high ratings; Ellen Pompeo, who plays Meredith, is one of television’s highest-paid actresses.
Meredith is the modern form of medieval Welsh Maredudd, combining words meaning “great, splendid” and “lord.” Maredudd, son of King Owain of Deheubarth in southwestern Wales, seized the northern kingdom of Gwynedd for his father in 986. When Owain died in 988, Maredudd became king of most of Wales until his death in 999. The name stayed popular in Wales and English counties bordering it for centuries, spawning the surname Meredith.
In 1851, the British census found 264 men with the first name Meredith. The 1850, the United States census found 776, though the total population was about equal. Some American Merediths may have been named after Jonathan Meredith (1772-1805), a Marine killed in the First Barbary War after saving an officer’s life. Four U.S. Navy ships have been named “Meredith” in his honor.
Though more used in America than Britain, Meredith was never common for boys. Its highest rank on Social Security’s yearly lists was 582nd in 1941, while actor Burgess Meredith (1907-1997) was at the top of his Hollywood fame.
Iowa-born Meredith Willson (1902-1984), who wrote hit Broadway musicals “The Music Man” (1957) and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” (1960) and the song “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (1951), is probably the most famous American male Meredith.