Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Names and Socioeconomic Status/Race

Here are a couple of articles about the socioeconomic differences in naming trends, as well as the difference in naming trends between blacks and whites in the USA.

A Roshanda By Any Other Name

Where do Baby Names Come From?

I am totally fascinated by African American vs. white naming trends. White people have a tendency to make fun of names like Lakisha, Shaniqua, etc., that are pretty much exclusively used by African Americans. I've heard comments like, "adding -isha to a name doesn't make it African," and "it's so obvious that they're black" (implying that if LaShondra had been named something "whiter," she might be taken more seriously).

Today I met a pregnant black woman who plans on naming her daughter Samaria (pronounced like Sa MAHR ee a (second syllable rhymes with 'car'), not like sa-mary-a, where the 2nd syllable rhymes with 'bear')-- she made it up after the Samartian women in the bible. She asked me if I'd heard of the name, and I said "no, but I've heard sa-mary-a." She breathed a sigh of relief, saying she wanted her daughter to have a totally unique name. In fact, the baby's middle name is going to be Eunique (baby's dad picked that one out).

The woman stressed the "unique" thing several times. It's funny, because white people seem to want just the opposite. When white people are talking about baby names, they are always worried that the child's peers will make fun of it, or that a boy's name will be "girly" (a really big fear). A name's uniqueness doesn't seem to enter into the equation at. all.

I would love to do some kind of project on naming and race, but I'd look like a total freak walking up to random black people and being like, "what's your name? How did you get that name?" I'd also like to talk to white mothers of babies with (1)really common names and (2) really odd names. Ahh, the things I would do if I had the time and money to do stuff!


Anonymous said...

according to their FAQ ( it comes from the 1990 census

Samaria said...


I'm an African-American Samaria, with that exact same pronunciation. But I'm also 15, a '93 baby...

Samaria said...

And it's not a made-up name at all. Samaria is a place name, historic and Biblical. It's the area of the West Bank I believe, and was the capital of Ancient Israel.

Rachel said...

I think that would be a fascinating study. I wonder if anyone else has done anything like that?