Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sweet 16: Dragonwagon Regional

We love it when the highest-brow media discover NOTY. We flash back three decades, picture Baskerville Holmes or Herman Veal or Darryl Derryberry scrawled on a piece of lined yellow paper and taped to a dorm-room door. And then we imagine our reaction had some sophomore walked by and told us that The Economist would be writing about our onomastic obsession one day.

But here we are on that august British magazine's delightfully named language blog, Johnson (after the 18th century English lexicographer Samuel Johnson). The magazine's Johnson shows us some love, lists the Sweet 16 and asserts that "many such names belong to black Americans." Blogger R.L.G. (no names at The Economist!) continues:

It's not hard to understand why those cut off for centuries from full American citizenship and human dignity might not choose Dennis or Steve for their children. Many blacks have reached for Swahili influences in choosing names, though most black Americans' ancestors came from western Africa, not Swahili's heartland on the other side of the continent. But many names are either borrowed from unusual sources (brand names like Courvoisier) or made up (Chuntania)—nothing African about either. And I can verify that I have seen an African-American checkout clerk in New Orleans whose name-tag read "Bellowney", and in the same store, a Sayonara.

This is a subject we've tackled ourselves, as have people who, unlike us, actually study names. The Economist's analysis might not be airtight, but we'll agree with its key conclusion: "There's nothing racist at having a smile upon finding a Monsterville or a Chuntania."

Which segues right into the Dragonwagon and the sadly premature throwdown between Monsterville himself and Taco. May the biggest smile win.

No. 2 Taco B.M. Monster: Dutch pharmacoepidemiologist.
No. 11 Monsterville Horton IV: Houston wine salesman.

No. 8 RexAchilles Imperial: Texas swimmer.

No. 5 Vernon Lee Bad Marriage Jr.: Beat his girlfriend.