And climb the stairs to the beach...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Name Game

I read the funniest article in the New England Historical and Genealogical Society's weekly newsletter. It was an article written by Dahlia Lithwick, a catchy name, I'd say. It appeared in a daily on-line publication called The Slate, which is owned by the Washington Post. The title of the article is "Can You Name Your Baby Messiah?"

Dahlia Lithwick is a Canadian writer and editor who lives in the United States. Lithwick is a contributing editor at Newsweek and senior editor at Slate. Wikipedia

I was careful to mention the article and its author and the publication because I think it's worthy of quoting and I don't want to be accused of plagiarizing. She begins the article by summarizing what's been going on in Newport, Tennessee, as most of you have already heard, where a couple was appearing before a judge at a child support hearing and there was a dispute about the child's name. His name on the birth certificate is "Messiah Deshawn Martin" The judge, Lu Ann Ballew, just decided to change his first name to Martin, along with changing his last name his father's surname, McCullough. There was no dispute about the first name in court but the judge took it upon herself to change the name with the following explanation. "The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ."

So, that was the story that inspired the author to write the article. Some of the names she has uncovered and included struck me as very funny.

Writer Dahlia, goes on to tell us how lucky we are in the US because the government doesn't interfere with child naming on nearly the level that it does elsewhere in the world. In fact, Messiah was in the top 400 baby names in 2012 and the judge's decision will most likely be overturned and Martin will once again be Messiah.

In New Zealand, you can't name your child anything that might offend a "reasonable person." I hadn't ever heard of this, but she says that it's a famous case where someone there wanted to name their daughter "Talula Does the Hula in Hawaii". I thought that was hysterical. They blocked that one. But they also blocked Messiah and they stopped someone from naming their twins "Fish and Chips." Isn't that the funniest thing you ever heard? I guess New Zealand judges don't have a sense of humor when it comes to naming children. I am still chuckling about Fish and Chips.

In Sweden, she goes on to tell us, the names "Metallica" and "Ikea" were blocked. And in Norway, a woman went to jail for naming her son "Gesher" which means bridge in Hebrew. I don't know why that would be offensive, do you?

In Iceland,"a teen is suing the government to reinstate her name, which means, benignly, "Light Breeze." I kind of like that one. In Denmark and Japan, the Government issues lists of several thousand names that parent's are allowed to choose from. German babies must have names that make it obvious if they are girls or boys and last names or names of objects can't be used for first names. The name "Dear Pineapple" was rejected in the Dominican Republic, although I just read that they now allow that name, along with another recently tested case where the child was named Dummy Ruiz. Actually, Dummy Hernandez has a ring to it, especially here in NE Patriots territory.

The article goes on to mention a study done by UCLA-Davis law professor Carlton F. W. Larson in 2011 on the "law of parental naming rights in the United States" . He found that in NJ you can name your child just about anything. But California does restrict names. Somebody tried to name their baby Luc'ia but wasn't allowed to because of the accent mark. And in Massachusetts the first, middle and last names can't be more than 40 letters each. Wow. I am amazed that there are that many spaces that can be accommodated by most data bases.

He lists some really unusual names in this study:  "Loyal Lodge No. 296 Knights of Pythias Ponca City Oklahoma Territory" is quite a name and the writer adds "must have been extremely hard to call to dinner." Somebody named their child Ghoul Nipple.  And there are also the little ones who were named "Toilet Queen", "Leper", "Loser", "Fat Meat", "Cash Whoredom", "Tiny Hooker", " Giant Pervis" and "Acne Fountain". Being a genealogist of sorts, I had to do some searches on these people and was amazed at what I found.

I decided I didn't want to try to find Loser and I didn't want to touch the name Leper. I couldn't find any record of Loyal Lodge...Territory or Fat Meat. They may be more contemporary than the records on Ancestry.Com. But I did find Acne Fountain who was born in 1871 in North Carolina. He was a public school teacher in 1930 living with his unmarried and older cousin Mettie Jarman. Apparently, Acne was a fairly popular name at one time. In a really quick search, I found:

Acne Ales from NM
Acne Simoff from Cincinnati
Acne Cratlar from Tennessee (Do you think Judge Ballew would have put the Kibosh on that one?)
Acne Rassmussen from Iowa
Acne Fisher from NH

But Acne wasn't just an American name. I also found Acne Badweeky from Ontario. (Still laughing at that one.)
And From England we had Acne Legg and Acne Healey.
My favorite, though was Acne Shine. Because that Acne was from Hackney. (hee hee)

I did find Cash Whoredom who was born in Texas in 1852. His father, Adolph, was a farmer. His mother was Mary. In 1860 Goliad Texas he lived with the whole Whoredom family.

Giant Pervis, also born in Texas, was 40 years old in 1930 and lived in Houston with his 18 year old wife Elda and their baby 1 year old Annie. Now if her name had been Tiny, that really would have been funny.


I found Tiny Hooker in the census records for 1930 Allegheny, VA. She is the daughter of Hill and Medie Hooker.
I didn't find a photo of Tiny Hooker's grave, but I found for Mini Hooker. (Okay, it is spelled Minnie, but I still thought it was funny,)
Toilet Queen was born in 1890 and lived in Ashton, Iowa with her parents and siblings in 1900.  I have a feeling her name was changed because she doesn't appear in subsequent records. Do you think maybe her father manufactured bathroom fixtures? Or maybe they named her after she was potty trained and they were really proud of her. But as it turns out, her father  James Harvey Queen was a farmer. Toilet changed her name to Helen, which was her middle name, never married and was postmistress in Blackbird, Nebraska.

1900 Census showing Toilet Queen, daughter of James and Ada, sister to Galoa?
I found a photo of James Harvey Queen and "unknown child" on Ancestry. Could this be Toilet?

Much to my surprise, I did find Ghoul Nipple who was named by his parents Alfred and Bertha Nipple. He had a brother named Ray. I found Ghoul in several census records and directories in Rock Creek and Logansport, Indiana. He was a foreman for the railroad. I am not fond of the name Ghoul, but it's better than if they'd named their son Giant, like the Pervises had.

1940 Census record for Rock Creek, Indiana shows Ghoul and Mary Nipple living with their children. Ghoul was born in 1894.
 Believe it or not, I also found  a photo of Ghoul Nipple with his parents and brother Ray.
The Nipples. Bertha, Ray, Ghoul and Alfred -The photo is on Ancestry.com
 
"Professor Larson", Lithwick writes, "cites numerous studies concluding that people with unusual first names show "more severe personality disturbance than those with common names" and reporting that having weird first names correlates to higher instances of delinquency in youth."

Most serial killers I have heard of have fairly normal names, like Ted, Jeffrey and John. I certainly haven't heard of any criminals named Dear Pineapple or Toilet. I feel bad for these oddly named children, but it does demonstrate to me that  for generations people have had senses of humor. It's a good thing I don't have anymore child-naming years left. I could come up with some doozies now that I've had a little inspiration! 

1 comment:

  1. As a teacher, I never hear the unending variety of names and spellings of common names. I used to think unusual names were really great but over time, I've decided that good old Mary and John are much better. Kids with unusual names have to spend their entire lives spelling, explaining and sometimes defending those names and it just doesn't seem fair.

    I definitely believe that unusual first names affect a person's sense of self and self esteem and though we don't often see killers and psycopaths with odd names, the kids with oddest names in school typically spend the most time in trouble. There's an in-depth study to be done there.

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