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From:    Carsten Becker <[log in to unmask]>
On Mon, 17 Oct 2005, 20:01 CEST, Tom H. Chappell wrote

> > it is not Harry S. Truman, it is just Harry S Truman,
> > because the S does not stand for anything.
> 
> There's an episode of The Simpsons where Homer finds out
> that the "J" in his name stands for nothing.

Not so:  the "J." stands for "Jay", which is just as funny.
Perhaps you saw the German version, where the equivalent 
pun would make fun of it not being worth a "jot and tittle".

> > There was a person named Baxter Wilson Grant; upon hearing
> > of him, one person said "How many people is that?"
> 
> Forrest Gump, anyone? 

Actually, in that particular case, Forrest Gump was putatively
the descendent of the famous Southern Civil War general Nathan
Bedford Forrest, and thus it was actually not a nonce formation,
but rather a genuine family name.  According to the novel, it was 
given ironically, since Nathan Bedford Forrest went on to found the 
Ku Klux Klan and participated in its activities before it got too 
violent even for him, and his mother wanted Forrest to remember 
that even famous people can have dark sides to their character.

> Americans seem to be more liberal with
> first names than other Western countries.

But Liberal in what sense?  It is true that America does not have,
and never has had, laws proscribing which names are legal and
which are not -- unlike, say, the Danes and some other European
countries.  But precisely for that reason one cannot easily
generalize about American names; one can only talk about 
particular subcultures.  In my family, for example, every male,
with one exception*, in my patriline going back for almost 300 years 
has had the first name of "Thomas", and I only narrowly avoided
becoming "Thomas Percy Wier IV" (praise be, my mother vetoed 
this suggestion).  Many families in America, especially but not
exclusively in the South, have strong traditions like this that
informally constrain what names are possible.  Even that is only
a generalization; in Texas, the name "Travis" is a fairly common
name, since it honors the famous hero William Barret Travis 
who died in the Alamo. That Travis, however, had only one daughter
before he died, and so his progeny are not yet so numerous that 
everyone who has the name first name "Travis" can trace their 
ancestry to him.   

*(The one exception was a certain David Stuart Wier, and he was
born *200* years ago this year!)

> OBConlang: Are there special naming patterns in your
> conlangs? My Ayeri people go by happily with [family name]
> [first name(s)]. 

At one point I discussed this briefly on this list some years ago,
but I can't seem to find it in the archives.  At any rate, the 
Phaleran government in the conculture has two chief executives,
one hereditary and one elective, both serving for life.  But they
have *only one naming* line, and as a result they usually have 
at least three or four names apiece, and each of those can be 
receive a number, like "Elthani III Aiasa IV Worunti (I)"

Tristan McLeay wrote:
> Still, it brings me to a question I have. I have gathered Germany seems
> to still have some form of Royalty/aristocracy, but you're a Republic.
> How does this work? Do they have any formal role in (some level of) the
> Government? Any representative role? Is it just entirely titular? Do
> they get money from it? Do the media make a big deal out of it (in the
> same way that the tabloids here enjoy going on about "Our" Crown
> Princess Mary,* perhaps)?

No, they have no official role whatsoever.  However, when the Weimar
Republic was established, titles of nobility were not abolished as 
such, unlike neighboring Austria.  One member of the house of Hapsburg
took advantage of this by moving to Bavaria and resuming the use of "von"
in his family name.

> * Being the Crown Prince of Denmark's wife and not in any way related to
> our constitutional structure. Still, the amount they go on about it it
> wouldn't surprise me if the next Referendum we made Princess Mary Queen
> Elizabeth's heir in Australia... 

Indeed.  By the same measure, I could claim her as "my" Crown Princess,
since she actually lived in Houston for almost as long as she lived in
Australia.  She actually went to a school not far from where my parents
live, IIRC.

Mark Reed:
> I find the common European practice of restricting the set of names you can
> give your child utterly ridiculous. Many cultures find the idea of giving
> their child a reused name abhorrent; aside from not moving to those
> countries, they would seem to be out of luck.

This is true;  I am told (by Jewish friends) that Jews have specific 
superstitions against it.  I can see both sides of this:  on the one
hand, you don't want to define people by who their ancestors were,
but on the other, people aren't defined by who their ancestors were
anyways (in societies without titles of nobility that confer real 
advantages at least).  Personally, I like such traditions, and find 
that many people who don't like them usually do not do so because they 
have such traditions but choose to flout them, but rather because they
don't have such traditions to begin with.  That is, the very fact that
you can't trace your ancestry back 150 years means that you don't understand
people who (like me and many people) can trace it back 500 or 1000 years.
(FWIW, I am the 11th person out of 28 people in my patriline in the last 
1000 years with the name Thomas.)




 =========================================================================
Thomas Wier	       "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right 
University of Chicago   half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of 
1010 E. 59th Street     Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter.
Chicago, IL 60637