On Vowels and Apostrophes – What’s in a Name

Hey all. 85% of the time I am a “uniracial” writer meaning that the items I write are for the general consumption of the total reading public. What kind of short sighted author would I be if I set out to write for only one group of people? However, in some cases there are topics that sway so heavily in one ethnic direction until I have to excuse myself from being the universal writer I attain to be and speak directly to one group or the other. So to my White brothers and sisters that may happen upon this blog on, this, the first day of Black History Month, I ask you to bear with me as I speak to those of my ilk for a moment.

Recently I worked in a setting working with students that were interested in continuing their educational pursuits beyond high school. In most cases I didn’t see the student; they were only test scores and transcript information in a manila folder. And names.

Ridiculous, unpronounceable, vowel ridden, unneeded apostrophe laced names.

I give you a sampling of the names that hit my desk one day last week. Enjoy; given you have the ability to phonetically sound them out…







And my personal favorite…

De’Quan’Tavis (Ha! This name actually came up as a fragment in my spell check. LMAO)

And each time one of these gems got placed in my cubicle I silently asked myself the same question, “What in the world were their parents thinking?” Over a three month span I saw names that could only be pronounced by the mothers that came up with the monikers and the most adept of linguists.

Now, it goes without saying that all of these names belonged to Black students. (Really?) I thought back to a time when as a boy you really couldn’t get much Blacker than Malik or LeRoy; those names were like the epitome of Black like Shaniqua was for Black girls across America. Now, it seems like people are trying to out-Black one another when they get knocked up, it’s like a childhood game…

Okay…take a prefix like “La” or “De” then add your favorite car brand, throw in an apostrophe, then include two or three letters from the Daddy’s name. You get extra points if you use a “K” or a “Q”…and go!

…and there’s no apparent ending in sight judging by the constant barrage of consonants and vowels that I saw day after day.

I brought this up in general conversation while having some beers one night after work at a local watering hole after being brought to tears by too many names that I couldn’t pronounce after three attempts. Here’s a Cliff’s Notes version of that alcohol laced conversation.

Them: You just don’t understand being Black in the new Millennium.

Me: I’m plenty Black, the only thing I don’t understand is why people stopped using apostrophes to denote possession and started using them as designer imprints in their children’s names.

Them: Wait, I was on your Facebook page yesterday. You have a family member with an apostrophe in her name!

Me: You’re right, and she has a “Q” too. (Mom got extra points) but she was born in the 60s in the South to parents that were heavily discriminated against for the first 20 years of their lives. They had some angst built up. But even then they hid it in her MIDDLE name.

Them: Man, you sounding like a sellout…

Me: And you’re just selfish, think of someone other than yourself for a change. Think about the kid that has to go to Kindergarten and put all those letters on those lines, think of him crying when he runs out of room time after time on that sheet of paper. Think of the teacher that will look at that name on their role sheet year after year, frown, and then say their name with that upward inflection towards the end like they are asking a question. And for goodness sake think of the admissions advisor at a University in Georgia that will have to call and pray that he gets the pronunciation correct when he calls to follow up about the request for information on the school. Now buy me another beer…

Am I saying that you can’t be good people with 12 letters and 3 apostrophes in your name? Absolutely not! I know good and highly successful people with names that venture drastically from the norm. But, if you’re going to name your child something that looks like the cat fell asleep on the keyboard while Microsoft Word was still open I only ask that you start that child reading and writing at a young age, you stay on his/her ass in their schoolwork constantly, and you do everything you can to raise a good kid and citizen that excels because if you think people aren’t looking at those letters and apostrophes on resumes, in schools and on applications and forming their own opinions sight unseen you’re lying to yourself. It’s like Bruce Hornsby wrote years ago, “That’s Just The Way It Is”.

This has been Skrap’s Black History Message to the people for February 1, 2011.

~thanks for reading 🙂


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  1. This has been a problem for me since I was a teenager, it started with a girl named Quwana, pronounced kew-wana. I hear these names and wonder why? Many of these names sound like they were made up by someone with little or no education to me. Now there are some who will say the parents being creative, ummm yeah.

    I happen to know when resumes with names like this come across the desk of some (not all) Human Resources offices they get tossed without further consideration.

    I hope someone reads this and reconsiders naming their child something “Uneek”.

  2. GMAO @ “Quantavious”. My youngest daugter’s name is Atinuke (ah-ti-new-kay, accent on the 3rd syllable). Her Nigerian dad had filled out the birth certificate documents while I was under the influence of morphine after an emergency c section. He managed to get two even more “exotic” middle names on there. *__*.

    I say this to say that drom the time she could speak, she was taught what each of thos names meant. She was also raised to pursue excellence and instilled with he drive and deteemination to create her own opportunities if those in power did not see fit to grant them to her. Cause I knew my baby wasn’t going to have an easy time w/ all that name!

    Great blog!

    • In the cases of children with direct links to “the Motherland” I give a pass but there’s a distinct difference between Atinuke and De’Quan’Tavis. One is a link to one’s heritage, the other is prolly because the daddy could have been one of three dudes so she combined them all in one name.

  3. Be careful, you dont want to offend. Moms are serious about their kids and their names. I am about my Jac’ques. LOL, you would have had a special name also, but you put me in intensive care after birth and your daddy got to you before I did. LOL, but I have to give it to you, you are very funny with your thoughts on things.
    Love Mom

    • Thanks Mom…and I know that several among us are sensitive about their names. This isn’t a shot, only an attempt to assist in keeping ridiculous names off the record.

  4. Well said Skrap.. I have worked for a company that I will leave unmentioned, and I had to fight to get the person hired. They were definitely qualified, and ended up move up in the company and on to be very successful, but always had a hard time when it came to her name. I understand wanting to give a child a name with meaning, a name that is unique, but parents have to look at what the future could hold for that child and their ability to be taken seriously on a job. AA people are already discriminated against for loans, and etc. due to their names; I hope they understand the pressure that will be placed on that child to make a place in this world.

    • I think that someone can tell the difference between a name with meaning and a name that is just a hodgepodge. Even so, and shame as it is, people are shallow and it can be difficult to overcome in some important circumstances. Hell, I have a classic but plain name and have a hard enough time…

  5. I love it! Here I grew up hating my plan name, dreaming of a dash, an added a or q and wondering why the apostrophe gods didn’t bless me with one! As I got older the picture became clearer, the parental units had a master plan, and it worked! Thank you for sharing, now you got to write about the nicknames that are thrown on these kids cause Granma, lil sis or bro can’t pronouce it so they just decide to call them Pookie, and it sticks!!!! Love ya!

  6. My personal favorites: A woman once told me about two clients from different families whose children were named Abcde (ab-si-dee). That one has even made it to http://www.babynames.com.

    And then there was the woman with whom I shared a hospital room after my daughter was born. She wanted to name her daughter after a local Chinese restaurant, except for changing the first letter from a B to an R (from Beijing to Reijing). It actually wasn’t that bad of a name, except that it was the name she chose for her child and she had to ask my mother how to spell it.

      • Yeah. It was … interesting. I felt bad for that woman, though. I think she was pretty poor and in a sad situation. But still!

        Her daughter was born the same day as mine, which makes her 16 now. I wonder if I could find out what happened to her …

  7. Thank you for saying it so well Skrap! I totally agree. (And I have a friend named Atinuke, whose father is Nigerian, and her last name matches! lol.)

  8. Well said. I was born in 75 and growing up in the 80’s, my name, Lynitia (Lyn-nee-tee-ya) was probably as unique as it got. I hated my name growing up, but I now appreciate its beauty and uniqueness. I also appreciate my dad for wanting to give me a different name, but not taking it to the extreme. Also, as a teacher of 12 years, I have seen some of the ridiculous names that you talk about and I shake my head at it every time and just scream to myself “WHY!” LOL!

    • Hey Lynitia! Thank you for stopping by and reading! Can’t tell you how many times I looked at one of those names and just put my head down on my desk; I’m guessing that it’s similar to the number of times that you have done the same thing. 🙂

  9. A kid in my son’s class was named Black Power Morgan and his baby sister was named Black I Am. When I saw the mother with yet another child I didn’t dare ask….

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