Given names, given with imagination

“…. In the South, according to Urban T. Holmes of the University of North Carolina, Negro parents ‘have, for the most part, kept to standard names.’ But  when they depart from the standard they sometimes go even further than their fellow Methodists and Baptists of the dominant race. In Rockingham County, North Carolina, Mr. Holmes unearthed Agenora, Alferita, Artice, Audrivalus, Earvila, Julina, Katel, Limmer, Louvenia, Ludie, Mareda, Margorilla, Matoka, Orcellia, Princilla, Reada, Roanza, Venton Orlaydo and Vertie Ven….

“Medical men making a survey of Northampton County, North Carolina, staggered back to civilization with the news that they had found male Aframericans named Handbag Johnson, Squirrel Bowes, Prophet Ransom, Bootjack Webb and Solicitor Ransom, and females named Alimenta, Iodine, Zooa, Negolia, Abolena, Arginta, and Dozine.

— From “The American Language” by H. L. Mencken (1919, later revised)

Urban T. Holmes (a name that might itself have raised eyebrows among his subjects in Rockingham County) began teaching at UNC in 1925 and later was named Kenan Professor of Romance Philology.

Here’s a modern-day look at “African-Americans’…  tendency to buck more common names.”