Why do Americans have aristocratic names?

Well, to be fair, his surname was Baldrick. His first name was Sod Off. :wink:

Americans have a history of very odd names. Check out some of the names around the Civil War, or the Revolutionary War.

Dang, that almost makes me sorry my reproductive days are finished. Peon Hall has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

This, of course, was meant to humilate the illiterate. “I see we have the pleasure of a gentleman in our company! Good sir, wouldst thou favor us with a few lines from The Pilgrim’s Progress? Hmm? Hmm?”

Donald Trump’s latest offspring is named Barron. I can’t help thinking that the aristocratic implication was a factor in choosing this name. Since daddy is often called “the Donald,” it seems likely that the kid will be “the Barron,” which sounds very noble indeed.

Which country are you talking about? The U.S. government is constitutionally barred from recognizing titles of nobility, so why would the government make such a rule?

In point of fact, however, I don’t think there are any federal or state laws in the United States restricting naming. You can use any name you want.

One day, I hope to have a little turnip of my own.

The only Baron I know is Baron Davis the basketball player. I thought this was going to be about the whole three-pronged naming tradition that WASPs use. You know like Alexandra Elizabeth Uperton or some other such nonsense (spoken by someone who has the WASP name construction in real life).

Maybe we can work something out…

We have a Charles Lackey working here at AWC.

Yeah, but the point is that you’re a lot less likely to find a Lackey Charles working anywhere.

It usually does indicate nobility, but there are exceptions going both ways–noble* families who don’t have the “von” or any other such prefix in their name, and families who do have the “von” but are not noble.

Von also means “from” in some contexts, and historically it could mean simply that the family came from a place, like ‘van’ in Dutch. I’m not sure how ‘von’ came to be almost exclusively noble in German; I believe it is a much more reliable indicator of nobility than are corresponding prefixes elsewhere Europe.

*Historically noble, of course. The large German speaking countries do not recognize any official nobility now.

I suspect this is somerthing that varies from place to place and time to time. I never said that “von” was required to indicate nobility, but I’ve encountered more than one piece of literature that made much of the fact that someone had a “von” in their name – and in those cases both writer and reader understood that this indicated something special. Nowadays, of course, and in the US it doesn’t mean a thing.

When I first heard of young Barron, I felt that his name might have been inspired by a certain financial publication. Perhaps both factors were involved in the selection.

Some plantation owners in pre-Civil War America gave their slaves such names as King and Prince, probably out of a sense of irony. Once emancipation came, the newly-freed African-Americans could select names they preferred for their progeny, and “King” fell into disfavor. However, the popularity of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Junior, led a few parents to use his surname as a first name for sons born in the 1950’s or later. The Cleveland Browns drafted defensive back King Simmons in 1986, and I recall reading an article which mentioned his parents’ admiration for, and desire to honor, the civil rights leader.

Seton Hall University once had a basketball player whose given name was Sir John Collins.

You were correct; I was only pointing out that there are some exceptions. But in years of college German, and majoring in it, and living in the country for a year, I got the impression that ‘von’ does indicate nobility at least 90% of the time.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that on the Continent the lower ranks of the nobility usually included people whose analogues in Britain would be merely knights or even ‘squires’ and the like. Having ‘von’ in your name, even when it did imply noble heritage didn’t mean you were living like the Marquess of Marchmain in Brideshead Revisited.

I have a slightly on topic anecdote! Years ago, my grandparents took a vacation to the USSR. My grandfather’s first name is Don, and the border crossing guards when they entered on the train were very upset that this obvious Spanish nobility, Don Lastname, was trying to sneak into their lovely egalitarian country. Nope, sorry, its Don, a short form of Donald, and American, of Northern European extraction, not Spanish. Just enough education to make trouble, not enough to get out of it.

Also, I know of two children, rural and white, named Lady Hifalutin’Firstname NormalLastname, and her younger brother Sir FancifulFirstname NormalLastname. The firstnames were also historical, not LOTR-derived, so I couldn’t tell if it was just geekitude or real weirdness.

I have known someone whose actual given name was “Squire.”

I’ve personally known a Prince, a Princess, a Mussiah (pronounced, for those of you who don’t know, Messiah), a Baron and a Noble.*

All Black, as are I.

My “*” was for this → :wink:

I also know severally Roy’s.

There’s also the famous director, King Vidor.

Though nowadays, he sounds like a subtitle from a Chinese Star Wars bootleg.