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February 12, 2010

The (wrong) name game


We still haven’t picked a name but we’ve narrowed it down a bit (no, we’re not telling you our current choices). but I came across an interesting article on Slate.com – A Roshanda by Any Other Name How do babies with super-black names fare? which starts off with this story..

In 1958, a New York City father named Robert Lane decided to call his baby son Winner. The Lanes, who lived in a housing project in Harlem, already had several children, each with a fairly typical name. But this boy?well, Robert Lane apparently had a special feeling about him. Winner Lane: How could he fail with a name like that?

Three years later, the Lanes had another baby boy, their seventh and last child. For reasons that no one can quite pin down today, Robert decided to name this boy Loser. Robert wasn’t unhappy about the new baby; he just seemed to get a kick out of the name’s bookend effect. First a Winner, now a Loser. But if Winner Lane could hardly be expected to fail, could Loser Lane possibly succeed?

Loser Lane did in fact succeed. He went to prep school on a scholarship, graduated from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, and joined the New York Police Department, where he made detective and, eventually, sergeant. Although he never hid his name, many people were uncomfortable using it. To his police colleagues today, he is known as Lou.

And what of his brother? The most noteworthy achievement of Winner Lane, now in his late 40s, is the sheer length of his criminal record: more than 30 arrests for burglary, domestic violence, trespassing, resisting arrest, and other mayhem.

It then goes on to talk about “The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names,” a research paper written by a white economist (Steven Levitt, a co-author of the Slate.com article) and a black economist (Roland G. Fryer Jr., a young Harvard scholar who studies race). The paper acknowledged the social and economic gulf between blacks and whites but paid particular attention to the gulf between black and white culture. Blacks and whites watch different TV shows, for instance; they smoke different cigarettes. And black parents give their children names that are starkly different than white children’s.

I bring all this up because one of the names I considered (but was vetoed) was Malcolm. Its a name I’ve liked for some time and associate with one real life person, whom I know, and one fictitious person, whom I’ve never met. Unfortunately, most people seem to associate it with Malcolm X and say that its a “black name” even though Malcolm in the Middle is very white – very.

But from that same article comes these lists of the 20 Whitest and Blackest names. My question to you is, are these names really white or black? And how hard is it for the other side to appropriate one of these names?

The 20 Blackest Boy Names

1. DeShawn
2. DeAndre
3. Marquis
4. Darnell
5. Terrell
6. Malik
7. Trevon
8. Tyrone
9. Willie
10. Dominique
11. Demetrius
12. Reginald
13. Jamal
14. Maurice
15. Jalen
16. Darius
17. Xavier
18. Terrance
19. Andre
20. Darryl

The 20 Whitest Boy Names

1. Jake
2. Connor
3. Tanner
4. Wyatt
5. Cody
6. Dustin
7. Luke
8. Jack
9. Scott
10. Logan
11. Cole
12. Lucas
13. Bradley
14. Jacob
15. Garrett
16. Dylan
17. Maxwell
18. Hunter
19. Brett
20. Colin

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6 comments

  • At 5:44 pm on February 17, 2010, Debby Jester commented:

    I’m generally against names that are also adjectives. I met a woman named Precious this week. I’m sure she is precious, but I felt awkward calling her that. :)

  • At 7:56 am on February 18, 2010, archshrk commented:

    I imagine she’s had some trouble with it over the years, too. Between people who find it too odd a name to those making Lord of the Rings jokes she probably had to put up with a lot regarding her name.

  • At 8:46 am on February 23, 2010, Kristi commented:

    “Mal. Guy killed me, Mal. He killed me with a sword. How weird is that?” I’m with you, Malcolm would have been excellent!

  • At 9:28 am on February 23, 2010, archshrk commented:

    That’s one of my favorite lines. I find myself saying “how weird is that” all the time now.

    I kind of took the lead on selecting Corbin’s name, so I told Julia that the final decision was her’s this time. But that doesn’t mean I can’t lobby for, or against, certain names. That does mean, however, that she can veto any name she just can’t live with (like Malcolm). Maybe by the time we have a third boy, she will have come around.

    or maybe not.

  • At 8:43 am on March 4, 2010, John Rucker commented:

    shouldn’t jamal be on the top? It’s a very common name never heard reginald

  • At 8:45 am on March 4, 2010, John Rucker commented:

    Why isn’t there a top 20 hispanic name up there. Like Jose or Juan

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