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Barack Obama Makes All Names American

From those champions of the gorgeous mosaic at the Associated Press:

A president named Obama changes the name game

By DEEPTI HAJELA, Associated Press Writer

Sat Nov 29

NEW YORK – Zenas Ackah has heard it all his life: What kind of name is that? You must not be from here. You must be foreign.

Actually, no. Born in the United States, the 22-year-old college senior with the Greek first name and the Ghanian last name grew up in Philadelphia.

But Ackah is hopeful that change is coming, that the idea of an “American” name will expand beyond monikers like Tom and Harry and Sally and Jane and Smith and Jones. He figures he’s got a strong weapon on his side — for at least the next four years, when people look to the most powerful American in the country, the “uber-American” if you will, they’ll be looking at President Barack Hussein Obama.

“I think it will help people understand that people in America aren’t just John, Jack, Mary,” Ackah said. “They’re Zenas and Barack.”

Obama’s name gave him his share of trouble during the campaign. He acknowledged its unfamiliarity to most Americans, and there were times when supporters of his opponent made a point of using his middle name, which was seen as an attempt to cast doubt on his background and faith.

But the next four years will ensure that his name is no longer unfamiliar.

People have already named their infants after him.

The more people hear it, the more mainstream it becomes, said Don Nilsen, a professor of English linguistics at Arizona State University and co-president of the American Name Society.

“Who is more American than the president of the United States?” he said. “There’s no question it will have a ripple effect, because of the power of the position.”

Names traditionally considered “American” tend to be “British-sounding stuff,” said Cleveland Evans, professor of psychology at Bellevue University in Nebraska. “We are still basically an English-culture country. We really are still in many ways at our base an Anglo-Saxon culture.”

He and Nilsen pointed out that immigrants have long had a history of changing their names to fit in more with the United States, or have even had others change it for them.

Obama, born in Hawaii and named after his Kenyan father, went by Barry for some years before deciding to use his full first name.

Ackah can understand. He still finds the comments about his name irritating, along with the assumptions people make upon hearing a name they’re not familiar with.

“People start talking down to you because they think you’re foreign,” he said.

Electing someone named Barack Obama president reflects a shift in attitudes about names that’s been going on in American society for the past few decades, says Laura Wattenberg, a name expert and author who runs the blog The Baby Name Wizard.

“As a group, American parents are naming much more creatively and are striving to be distinctive with the names they pick,” she said, pointing out that shift started in the 1960s when Obama was born and has only accelerated in the last 25 years or so.

So while certain names may be more popular and prevalent than others, it’s not by much, she said. In 2007, Jacob was the most popular name for boys. But Wattenberg pointed out that only 1 percent of boys were given that name.

In contrast, a century ago, 7.5 percent of parents chose the top name, John.

A president named Obama could break down the perception “that there is such a thing as a ‘normal’ name,” said Wattenberg.

“It’s a powerful symbol of breaking down barriers where it wasn’t that long ago where kids with a non-English name would go to school and teachers would routinely change it. The president having a non-English name is a sign that we’re not squeezing everyone into that box,” she said.

My, aren’t we all terribly backward chauvinists for wanting our language and common names to be familiar or even pronounceable ones?

What a better country this will be when Deepti Hajela is as common a name as Jorge Hernandez.

And no one ever asks how to spell it.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, November 29th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

9 Responses to “Barack Obama Makes All Names American”

  1. Liberals Demise says:

    As American as baseball. apple pie and Barak Obama? I don’t THINK SO!!!!

  2. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    I agree. The ‘Anointed One’s’ name takes a bit of getting used to when you think of him being the next POTUS. But then again as the saying goes: Only in America. I think I’ll be struggling to accept this for the duration of his administration. Only time will reveal his true nature, not image he projected to the gullible lemming masses.

    “Still clinging bitterly to my guns and religion.”

  3. U NO HOO says:

    Let me just say this, a rose by any other name is still a rose and if Hershey was named after Mr. Stolzfus-Hossenpfeffer I would still eat the chocolate.

  4. wardmama4 says:

    Wait, wait doesn’t The One ™ et al – call themselves African-Americans? So they want the names to be American but not themselves/their identity?!?

    Another great hypocritical concept brought to you by Typical Liberal Persons.

    BTW – in the great migrations of the past – a lot of people changed their names, spellings and country of origin to get in – it used to be adapt/assimilate to be American not force America to become your ‘ideal’ of what you want America to be.

  5. proreason says:

    EVERY tradition this country has had….EVERY indication of European roots….EVERY signature of western culture….EVERY sign-post of Christianity….EVERY acknowledgement of freedom, hard-work and achievement……MUST BE ERADICATED.

    Only then will be 99% of the country slip into the swamp of third world culture, and only then will the ruling elite have complete control.

    This is what they want for you.

  6. VMAN says:

    Of course we all should change out names. All the girls could be rowisha, monisha, solisha, or anything with and isha on the end. Then we can all change our last name to a roman numeral like that Malcolm the tenth character oh wait I mean Malcolm X.
    As to Barack wasn’t there a fellow in the Bible by that name (spelled a bit different but I’m guessing from the same root) Who wouldn’t go into battle unless a woman (Deborah) went with him and later some other woman drove a tent peg through his head. Yea let’s name our sons after a weenie like that. Does the word assimilate mean anything to these people?

  7. Liberals Demise says:

    Lets see……Mfume Quasi Dontai Alphonso Jones? I guess the Welsh side has a lack luster finish to it.
    Just call me ……Liberals Demise. It has a ring to it!!!

  8. Steve says:

    I’ve bragged about this before, but the name Gilbert purportedly means “illustrious through hostage-taking.”

    (A detail of which I intend to remind my jihadist friends when they come for me.)

    Why can’t they settle for good wholesome names like that?

  9. Gladius et Scutum says:

    I must be developing liberal tendencies! Pronouncability is all I ask for. I have worked with a lot of people from West Africa, and however odd their names may seem, when the write down a letter, that is exactly how it is how it is pronounced.

    I hate to be “racist” about this, but I have also had to work with people from Thailand, and believe they should be required to change their names before entering the United States: “Phraya Phahol Phonphayuhasena” is one of the shorter ones!

    Europeans produce some real gems. I went to school with a guy named Pryzgockwi – pronounced “Shugutski”.

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