That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

Dignity and the Made-Up Name

My name is Derrick. My sisters, Cassandra, Karin, and Kim all have what you would call standard, regular American English names.

My son’s name is Max Ellis, and my daughter’s name is, Diana Elise. I wanted masculine, straight-to-the-point, famous-sounding names for the boys, and feminine, delicate names for the girls. And I wanted them to have jobs. Jobs where they didn’t have to wear visors or steel-toed boots. I– we— didn’t want to handcuff our kids to a crusade by short-sightedly giving them names which would easily allow bigots to exercise their prejudices.

We black folk — and you white folk too, admit it — talk from time to time about the “phenomenon” of the made-up name — the Shaniqua, the Montevion, and the Equarious (a strange mixture of geography and an adjective).

I’m not talking about ETHNIC names.

I will admit to being, at times, a little ashamed when watching a college basketball game and having to wince while the play-by-play man stumbles over the names. It is almost as though you can predict who was raised by two parents (Shane Battier, Blake Griffin, Grant Hill), and who wasn’t (DeVanta, Jumawl, LaQuon, “I’d like to thank my mama who raised me…”)

I know a guy, a nice kid, named “Rarecas.” His mom was obviously trying to spell, “Rodriguez,” but missed BADLY! I know Shatericas and Uniquas and Treyvions. They show up on the news and in classrooms all over the country. There are mainstream websites (with white faces on the homepages) where you can pick a nice name of your own for your newborn.

In practically every case, the economic heritage of those with the cute made-up name is that of “less-than.” Poor black folk.

I was just wondering about the whole thing, and came to this conclusion: Folk who name their kids, Lasswon and Bearcolt (REAL names!!!) do so because that is the only thing they can do that costs not a dime! It is the one thing they can give their children (in their minds) that will give them some sense of CLASS and elegance.

They don’t have inheritances and dowries and silver spoons and trust funds and birthday cars with red bows in circular driveways and summer vacations to give.

All they can give is a French-sounding name beginning in De-something, or one with a lot of “Q’s” in it. Everybody knows that if it’s French, it says, “Class.” And if the middle name is “Nicole” that is the coupe de maitre!

As we say around my way, “Black folk like nice stuff, too!” In a messed up kind of way, that is all that is going on.

So, how about exhibiting a little grace and understanding (not conservative traits, to be sure!) the next time you see a NutraGina, or an Alize, or Shardinnay other alcohol-monikered black person. Connor, Brad, and Chadwick would have a hard time in the ‘hood!

Besides, we don’t judge YOU because some celebrity named his child, Apple, Pilot Inspektor, Banjo, Dweezil, Moon Unit, Racer, or Tu Morrow.


June 12, 2009 - Posted by | Babies, Baby Names, Ghetto Names, Hollywood, Humor, Names


  1. You know, I hadn’t thought of it that way … but that’s a good point.

    For my own part, I figure that every name had to be made up at some point, right?

    Comment by wickle | June 12, 2009 | Reply

    • Hey,Wickle! Thanks!
      And that’s a good point you made.

      Comment by maxdaddy | June 12, 2009 | Reply

  2. Let’s revisit the Bible before I share my anecdotes, gentlemen:

    “A good name is rather to be chosen than a great name” (Proverbs 22:1).

    Back then, people understood the idea of the name not meaning a thing, rather the meaning of the name is creating a destiny.

    Now, I know what “HiScrivener” means. I have no clue what “Wickle” means. But, “Derrick” means “ruler of people”. And somehow D, you have extremely gifted leadership qualities because of that scripture.

    So, when I met “LaQuisha”, “Shaqunette”, “DeShavonte” and the like, I think they baby daddy didn’t know the meaning, much knew how to read.

    The destiny those kids have in front of them is awful. “Can I get a job?” “uh NO!”

    And so, when I was in radio, a guy – all thugged out – walks into the station to get his prize. He said his name was (phonetically spelled) “ah-shole-ay”. I asked to see his I.D., and KID YOU NOT, his name (with all apologies of those you read this… not for Max, brother) was:


    Baffling. What’s worse is this kid was 10 years old when he finally figured out how bad this was. He was 18 when I met him. I can only assume his name is legally, “Fred” or somesuch.

    Comment by HiScrivener | June 13, 2009 | Reply

  3. For the record, “Wickle” means “My real initials are WKL and I made a nickname out of them in the 4th grade, and I’m now using it as an online name when I’m 35.”

    It might also be ancient Gaelic for “Guy with serious issues,” but I’m not sure about that. ; -)

    Comment by wickle | June 13, 2009 | Reply

  4. Man, you are so right. I grew up around a lot of young black mother’s and there was an unspoken competition in many of their minds to come up with, what they considered, an elegant name. Girls would come up with names for kids before they were sexually active. This theory is evidenced by the mothers that name their babies after luxury cars.

    Guys didn’t seem to care too much after their first born. As long as the first one had their name or some derivative there of, they were fine.

    Comment by Rick T | June 14, 2009 | Reply

  5. confession time for me. Not too long ago I made an assumption about the color of a person (whose blog I was reading) based on her name. Just as there might be black names and neutral names, there are some names that I didn’t realize that I consider very white – and this particular woman has what I thought of as a white name. Then I saw a picture of her child and wondered if her husband was black or if she had adopted. I know, I know, I’m a terrible person. Prejudice is sneaky.

    Comment by sara | June 15, 2009 | Reply

  6. and, your theory makes a lot of sense to me – I’ll be passing it on.

    Comment by sara | June 15, 2009 | Reply

  7. Derrick,

    You have got to be one of the most articulate men I know. It’s been awhile since I’ve visited but each time I do, I am always amazed and touched by something … and I’m not really an emotional guy. Some of your blogs made me sad, some angry, others make me laugh, while others give me a perspective and sense of reality that I just don’t (and can’t) see on my own.

    Keep up the good writing my friend,

    Comment by Bones | June 16, 2009 | Reply

  8. Thanks for the comments, everyone!
    I appreciate the insights, the compliments, and the time taken to reply.
    Scrivener, I hear you.
    Sara, as always, I’m glad to “see” you!
    Rick… well I talk to you all the time!
    Marc, you honor me, sir! I never had this kind of fellowship from an OFFICER!!! an NCO like myself…

    Comment by maxdaddy | June 19, 2009 | Reply

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