African-American names

When I lived in New Mexico, an unusually large number of young Hispanic women had names that would normally be associated with elderly Anglos; Esther, Agnes, Gertrude, Ethel, Millicent, and so on.

Even though I’m white, I’ll second and third the “usually it’s a lower class thing” comment regarding African American names. African-Americans I know who were born into middle-class families tend to have “white” names. There are still some white names that I’ve encountered among a large number of middle-class blacks, though, for instance Darrell. Not uncommon among whites, but when I see the name Darrell I instinctively think “black.”

I’d also wager that you might see ethnically appropriate names in areas where ethnic groups tend to be insular, regardless of class. Italian-Americans in Buffalo more often than not have very ethnic-sounding names, like Rocco, Maria, Guido, Angela, Angelo, Giacomo and Giuseppe. Italian-Americans I’ve encountered outside of places like Buffalo, Erie, Philadelphia and NYC tend to have conventional Anglo names. Same thing among Buffalo’s Irish and Polish population; there’s any number of children running around Cheektowaga named Stanley, Stashew and Karol.

Of course, Stanley isn’t Polish; it’s the Anglo from of Stanislas (I’m not sure of the spelling).

No, it’s just an anglicisation of Tír Eoghain, “land of Eoghan”, now called County Tyrone.

The Wifestrocity teaches music, grades 3-5. About 6 years ago, she had a little girl come into her room the first week of school. 3rd grade. 8 years old. She was named Bagina. Yes, the girl pronounced it to rhyme perfectly with vagina. The girls in the class were silent, they’d already been down this road with their classroom teacher.

Wifestrocity said, honey, it’s pronounced “Bah-geena”. The girl insisted on the pronounciation she’d used, and was informed that in THAT music classroom, she would be addressed as “Bah-geena”.

The mother was called, who proceeded to rail with copious obscenities at the white principal and white teachers, all of whom were attacking her daughter’s name and race ( !!! ). She demanded her child be addressed as Bagina. Her demands were not obeyed.

In other news, I went to Jr. High with an African-American gal named Varinia, and elementary school with a gal named Fredlyn. She was - in the 6th grade- pushing 5 foot 10. Tall, slender and very very beautiful; I always felt badly for how far up she’d sprouted at that fairly young age.

OTOH, my son’s birth name is Dong-Huhn. That’s right. Dong. While it may be a very nice name on the Korean peninsula, there is NO WAY in heck I’d name my boy Dong. :eek:


Wifestrocity was in the wrong, sorry. You don’t make up a name for someone just because you don’t like their name. If someone intentionally called me out of my name, I would not answer to them. It’s disrespectful.

This doesn’t change the fact that the mother should be horsewhipped, though.

You might not name your son “Dong,” but I would hope that were you to meet someone named “Dong” that you would use that name respectfully and not take it upon yourself to change it for him.

I can top that. I was in the same lab in grad school with a Vietnamese student whose birth name is Hung Dong. The next year he changed his name to Dan.


My understanding is that it is a common African custom to give your child unique and special name to recognize how unique and special each one is.

monstro, I disagree. While it is important to show due respect to every single person regardless of their age, there is a serious imperative here. To make the dynamic exist day to day in a classroom full of 8 year olds wherein one child- in a noisy classroom- is made to appear to be answering to the name Vagina, is absolutely unacceptable. The mother and father did their child a disservice, and it was handled as carefully as possible. The school is NOT the one that named that girl. Keep that in mind?

ascenray, of course. I mean, my god. I didn’t think my post violated ten thousand P.C. rules or anything. This was MY CHOICE as an adoptive parent, mine and the Wifestrocity’s. We chose not to have our son deal with that. If I met a man or boy named Dong, or Dong-Huhn, I would show him all due respect.

Now, this paragraph and the previous one in this post may seem totally contradictory. Difference is, one is me talking about what I would do as an adult, the other one is the negotiation of a group dynamic involving children. To me, the difference is important and clearly defined.

I think it would be just as important to demonstrate to a class of children that there is nothing funny about someone else’s name, no matter what you think it sounds like. And there’s also nothing funny about the word “vagina,” which is nothing more than the standard name for a part of the female anatomy. Part of what encourages children to treat such simple facts from a distorted point of view is adults’ willingness to go along with the idea that there’s something wrong with it.

I also think Wifesrocity was completely in the wrong. How arrogant and rude do you have to be to tell someone that they are pronouncing their name wrong. While I will admit that the name is unfortunate there degree of disrespect is just staggering. I do not believe it is possible to teach students you humiliate in public in this manner.

No, the school is the one that RENAMED the girl. If you want to talk about doing a disservice, it is that done by whomever decided for that little girl and her family that just because her name rhymes with vagina, she will be addressed otherwise. What the hell are they gonna rename that young fellow, “Buck”? Lord knows what presumptuous creative license the Wifestrocity would take with the name “Dick”!

While we’re at it, I’d also like to have her tell me where people from City of Regina actually come from, in her “can’t rhyme with something I think is dirty” world.

Disgusting. Good Lord…these are the people teaching our children.

I call bullshit on that, since the Spanish word for placenta is… :drumroll: … placenta.
A good rule of thumb is that any vaguely latin sounding word in English, will be the same in Spanish:

Investigation - investigacion
armistice - armisticio
pertinent - pertinente

I agree with Wifestrocity in this case. Or perhaps, another name could be chosen for the child, like her middle name, or her last name, like they do in Brit Public schools. So her last name was “Smith” call her “smith”.

But “bAGINA”- OMG! I think CPS should be able to get involved in case like this, or the hospital be allowed to say “nope, sorry, her name is now… “Sally””. :smiley:

Cartoonuniverse, it is rude to rename someone against their wishes. Calling someone out of their name is completely inappropriate. And that poor little girl didn’t need such an obvious reminder that her name was shameful. If the kids were used to it, then the teacher could also get used to it.

What’s wrong with addressing people by their last name? I had a music teacher in elementary school who would do just that and I liked it fine.

How ironic…I meant Cartooniverse.

Note: I don’t have an unsual name, but people mispronounce it for no real reason. Along with the fact people often call me my twin sister’s name, sometimes I feel like no one really knows me.

That’s why I disagree with you, Cartooniverse. It seems like respect for a person begins at their name. Changing a name against someone’s wishes is disrespectful, plain and simple. An eight-year-old isn’t too young to know this.

I think black people in particular are sensitive to this. Africans were brought over here with their names and identity robbed from them. At birth, slaves were often named by their “owners”. Even beyond Emancipation, mistresses would often address their black help with names of convenience, regardless of how those people felt about them. And don’t forget: black people living in the South were not often properly addressed by white people. Imagine being a piller of the community, a deacon or minister at your church, and then having to suffer the indiginity of being called “boy” or “Willie” by a white child exerting his superiority.

This history is responsible for the sensitivity when it comes to names. That’s probably why the mother of that child flew off the handle. Proper naming is important, but so is the treatment of those names that are chosen.

The United States is not the only country in the world that had African slavery, or has uprooted minority groups. Do these patterns exist in similar ways elsewhere? How about Jamaican or Barbadian names, or black British people? Most that I have heard sound rather “British” (which leads me to why are some names like Nigel, Trevor, or Desmond are so “British”, but thats another topic).

Afro-Cubans can have some unusual names (to a Spanish speaker), but in that case, there may a unbroken cultural legacy from the Yoruba and Ibo. I don’t know if much African naming patterns survived in the United States.

I don’t know about twin sisters, but there is a pair of brothers in Prince George’s County, MD with those names.

The problem I often see is the names unintentionally have a meaning- last week I met a nice black lady named Vendetta. I also met one named Calpurnia- she had to tell me it was taken from Shakespeare-I had forgotten.

Also, although it may be OK-often a son with same exact name as father(& no other male has the name) is named II,instead of Junior.
Lastly, twins’ names almost always rhyme. This causes a need to create/misspell names- Kelvin w/ Melvin; Errick w/ Derrick etc.