April 25, 2006

D'Brickashaw Ferguson: Black or Mormon?

One of the top prospects in the NFL draft is D'Brickashaw Ferguson. D'Brickashaw is a U. of Virginia offensive tackle. His mother named D'Brickashaw after Richard Chamberlain's Father Ralph de Bricassart from "The Thorn Birds" miniseries. I can't think of any other reasons to write the name "D'Brickashaw "

And then there's the kind of names that Mormons in Utah saddle their kids with. I hadn't realized how similar in whimsicality Mormon first names have been to modern black names. Utah names tend to sound like the result of a creative collaboration between a 16-year-old black single mother and L. Ron Hubbard. Cari Bilyeu Clark explains in "What's in a (Utah) Name?"

With the generally larger-than-average family, often saddled with the very ordinary surnames Smith, Johnson, or Young, it's not surprising that many Utah parents look for unique given names for their children. When you throw in the reverence for family and ancestors forwarded by the LDS Church, it seems inevitable that someone would end up with LaEarl, KDell, Arnolene or Hariella.

Of course, some guys get all the luck. One of Brigham Young's direct male line descendents won the Heisman Trophy at Brigham Young University, then went on to become perhaps the most gifted quarterback in the history of the NFL. And this Mr. Young didn't get stuck with a Mormon boy's name like "Azer Baloo," "Bretile," "Clemouth, "Denim Levi," "D'Loaf," "EdDean," or "ElVoid," (just to choose a few from the first 5/26th of the Utah Baby Namer for Boys). Nah, he got to be Steve Young. (Okay, I'll admit he sounds like some science nerd, but "Steve" is still a lot better than such only-in-Utah names as "Sterile," "Tabernacle," or "Thermos.")

Clark notes:

The quintessential Utah name often has a French-sounding prefix such as Le-, La-, Ne-, or Va-. Often names appear to have genesis in the combined names of the parents--Veradeane or GlenDora, for example. Related is the practice of feminizing the father's name--as in Vonda (dad is Vaughan) or Danetta. Others, such as Snell or Houser, appear to be surnames called into service as first names.

Related is the curious tendency, more common in Utah than elsewhere, for men (women do not seem to do this) to use the first initial, then the full middle name as the given name, such as L. Flake Rogers, who ran for office in Utah County when we lived there. (Come on, you've noticed this habit among the general authorities of the LDS church!) Besides puzzling over why someone would want to be known as "Flake," it makes one wonder just what the "L" stands for.

So my husband and I entertained ourselves by collecting the often bizarre names we found in Utah publications (including the obituaries, which indicates that this is not a recent fad) and of Utah natives we met... (My personal favorite, LaNondus, came from this source.) Another friend told us of a set of sisters, all of whose names began with "Ja."

Once my husband had Internet access, he collected more names and corresponded with another couple who amused themselves the same way. They made cleverly categorized lists: "The ward choir director's daughters: LaVoice, Choral, Audia."

It makes you wonder what some parents were thinking when, for instance, they named their baby girl Lanae (la-nay)--and she unfortunately ended up with a big nose (le nez [la-nay] in French means "the nose"). Or the girl named M'Lu--are clever wags endlessly asking her to skip to it? And how the heck do people with apostrophes in their names fill out computerized forms? There's no apostrophe space. The guy I really pity, though, is the one saddled with the unfortunate moniker, Rube.

Of course, parents cannot predict what new interpretations the marketplace will bring to the names they lovingly bestow on their offspring. I once worked at a company which had dealings with a woman named LaPriel (pronounced la-prell). When I told my former roommate about this inexplicable first name, she sardonically replied, "What's her sister's name--LaTegrin?"...

Some names, though, seem to defy description--if not pronunciation. While pride of place may have spawned Utahna, how did somebody come up with Wealtha? And while Lloydine's genesis seems plausible, how on earth were Printha or Noy coined? And I have no idea what constitutes the correct pronunciation for Kairle or Tawhnye. (I suspect they may be wildly creative spellings of Carol and Tonya.)

By the way, is this all for real or am I being the victim of an elaborate hoax by cynical Nevadans making fun of their more pious neighbors to the east? I mean, I can believe there's a boy in Utah named "Stockton Malone," but what about "Truss," "Umson" (not to mention "Urmson"), and "Zanderalex" (which I think I got a prescription for when I had a rash).

Well, Google shows that there really have been men named "Elvoid," which I would have thought was a name made up by the bassist in the 1977 punk band Richard Hell and the Voidoids.) So, this can't be a complete hoax, but I'm still not sure I'll completely trust these names.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

The name "Flake" is a prominent
pioneer name in the 19th century
inter-mountain west i.e. Arizona].

Oft times the name is perpetuated
from generation to generation on
the maternal side by using it as
a middle name.

Maybe "L." wasn't such a bad name,
but more likely he was proud of his
heritage, being from the Flake family.

Anonymous said...

I once read somewhere that W(illard) Mitt Romney had a couple of uncles named Att and Ott.
I live in a town with a lot of Mormons, many of them migrants from Utah, and a Mormon temple. My children have gone to school with a lot of Mormon kids; I'm sure that if many of them had strange names, I would have heard about them.

Boogliodemus said...

Yep, it's true alright. I have a sister named LaPriel, though it's pronounced luh PREEL. My brother is a painter an signs his work with 1st initial full middle and last name. Though wikipedia doesn't say, I suspect L. Ron Hubbard was a Mormon. Lots of Mormony names in his line. I have known males named LaDon, Merle, Kenyan, LaVoine, Lemoine, etc... Can't wait to let my brother know it's a Mormony way to sign his name. Our line goes back to the beginning (Joseph Smith Jr). I was actually raised in Orem, which is a cross between 'Leave it to Beaver' and 'The Twilight Zone'.