Posted by: Tony Carson | 19 November, 2009

What’s Up With Afro-Amer First Names?

Gender tests, soccer hand-balls as act of God, crack-taking tennis stars, deliberate concussion-causing head-shots — the problems of sports grab front-page headlines while scores have become after-thoughts.

But the real headline in sports should be the problem with announcing them.

As if baseball wasn’t bad enough with all those Spanish-sounding names, basketball introduced us to the muslim multi-syllables, then hockey triple-played with all the unpronounceable Russians and Czechs and worst, Finns.

But the biggest problem with announcers in sports today … and with fans, is in football.

Who can pronounce and then remember all these African-American first names? Gone are the Johns and Toms and even Alexs. Now, we’ve got all these cobbled-together truncations often with gratuitous apostrophes.

Used to be that first and last names were a kind of cause and effect: you’d never get a Tarkington without a Fran, or an Etcheverry without a Sam. One inspired the other, going both ways.

Not anymore. These new names require vivid memory and hybrid spelling skill. Each one is as unique as they guy owning it.

I’d give you some examples but I can’t remember any. And that’s my point. When you have a hard time with the first name you’ve lost the memory clue to the last name with a result that you tend not to remember either. At least, that’s what I’m finding.

I do remember Mooki Wilson, but that’s it.

Hey, call yourself what you want. But for those of us who actually remember ‘i before e except after c’ and all the other English language rules, don’t expect us to remember you. We can’t.

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Responses

  1. First, perhaps you should realize that John, Tom and Alex are white anglo saxon names.

    It is slightly disturbing that you expect non-whites to use names that are outside of their ancestry.

    A few hundred years ago, slaves were given white names by their masters. Now they get to pick their own names.

    Finally, some Afro-Amer’s believe that some names are closer to their heritage (Shaniqua, Tajana, Umoja). Unfortunately, most do not really know what precise heritage they have (i.e. what part of Africa, what tribe, what language their ancesters came from) because it was lost in between 400 years of slavery.

    So they often draw randomly from the Swahili language and Nubian tribe.

    Others are just uneducated ghetto baby mamas who have little grasp of the English language and do the best they can to be original and different.

    Who needs yet another man named John anyways?

  2. Ya, I know I was being a tad insensitive but I didn’t mean it that way, honest. I’m just annoyed because I can’t remember one of those names from the other, a personal failing.

    Thanks for your thoughtful piece.

    I read the first Freakenomics book that told the story about the down-side of your latter point. I guess I was showing a bias, in my own way, to the same point.


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