Brown, Green, Black, White as surnames

There’s actually an actor named David Blue (currently working on “Ugly Betty” as Marc St. James’s boyfriend Cliff), but with actors you never know if it’s the surname they were born with or a SAG-directed rename.

Let’s also not forget Randy Blue, of internet porn fame.

How could I have forgotten him!? :eek:

Could be anything- maybe Mr. Green painted his house green.

I lived in Cameroon during a period when many people did not have last names, but were beginning to live in towns big enough where they needed to be distinguished from the other "Amadou"s in town. It was absolutely fascinating to see the process where last names take place. Some people picked up patronyms simply by becoming “Bouba’s Amadou” (Amadou Bouba) as opposed to “Bakari’s Amadou” (Amadou Bakari).

Others picked up names from their job (Souley Moto was the local motorcycle taxi man), their physical characteristics (Robert Manga meant “Big Robert”) or other random things.

I remember getting a big worried when people’s names were based on their sometimes pretty crappy jobs. One guy introduced himself as “Souley Woila Voyage.” Woila Voyage was the name of a really pretty cut rate bus company where they guy worked- it’d be the equivalent of someone becoming"Sam Greyhound". Who knows how many generations may end up stuck with the name of the place where a guy worked briefly as a baggage handler?

Anyway, intresting stuff.

Obligatory Reservoir Dogs reference.

Blue isn’t a common surname, but not unheard of either. Vida Blue was an MLB pitcher for a while, and Dan Blue was speaker of the NC house a while back. His daughter, Kanika Blue, went to my high school and sometimes drove a car with the license plate “1”, which was pretty cool.

In a similar vein, I suppose ‘Brown’ could derive from ‘Bourn(e)’?

And more speculation, Black, White and Grey could perhaps also stem from descriptions of people’s personalities or other characteristics.

I don’t have a cite, but I read somewhere that during the 1800’s Jews living in Germany were legally required to change there name to some common object. Thus the many Golds and Steins (stone)

And don’t forget Silverman

And I suppose Pearlman would be up there, too.

Isn’t the whole thing about people changing their names at Ellis Island a myth (unless you use Ellis Island as a metaphor for the whole process of immigrating)?

Not to mention they’d just endured a long rough sea crossing, so no wonder there’s lots of Greens :stuck_out_tongue:

Ellis Island name changes are not myth. In 1917 my great grandfather was told by another passenger that he wouldn’t be able to get a job in America with a name like Mikovitch. He didn’t know any American names … saw a box of lettuce on the dock labeled McCobin Produce … and chose McCobin as the new American family name.

I don’t care who you are, that’s funny right there.

I checked my local phone book for less common color names. I did find some people named Blue, Redd, Orange, Pink, and Violette, but no more than two or three of each. There were no Yellows but there were a few people named Yellowdy. This is out of over 300 pages of telephone listings.

To those not in the U.S.: do names involving the words gold or silver have the same ethnic connotation as they do here? In America they’re often considered stereotypically Jewish names.

Lemon is not unknown.

At the Doctors surgery where I used to go there were Drs White, Black and Green, then they were joined by a Dr Lavender and the name board began to look silly.

At least in my family, immigrating to the US from Finland, 4 brothers had to decide on a last name. They had been using the —son form, changing with each generation, and that wasn’t going to work as well. So they all decided on a name they liked and tah dah, that’s the one we’ve all used for the last 120 years.

Yep, they came through Ellis Island. So not a total myth.

Also, many freed slaves took the surnames of their former owners. So names that were common among whites in the antebellum South would also have some popularity among blacks who are descended from slaves.

FWIW–my last name derives from the German “gelb,” meaning yellow.

Sure, my ancestors also came through Ellis Island and also changed their names. But I don’t think the change occurred at Ellis Island–it was just part of the process of establishing oneself in a new country.

Black, Brown White and Green are all associated with the clans of Scotland.