Black Names: Creativity Gone Wild?


Reflecting on an attempt to conduct roll call as a substitute teacher, Clutch magazine's Janelle Harris says she loves our people's inventiveness, but she wonders whether it's gone too far when it comes to naming kids.

… Taking attendance seemed like it would be the easiest part of my day. But I glanced at the list to discover that 65 percent of the names on it were a cryptic montage of dashes, accents marks and arbitrarily inserted capital letters. There was a La' Niaheesa. There was a Devaughntay. There was a Quaymar. There was a Knakeya and a Khaneeka. There were consonant clusters that would tangle a linguist up and combinations that looked like they should be pronounced one way, but in actuality sounded completely different …

It's not like every community doesn't have their own norms that pay homage to their culture. But creativity in African-American naming convention has gotten progressively bolder, now going beyond the old standards like relatives, leaders and biblical figures to include African words, luxury vehicles, fabrics, precious gems and various brands of liquor (because I'm almost certain there's a baby named Courvoisier running around out there) …

But is there such a thing as too over the top when a child's first name looks like a foreign language vocabulary word and they were, in fact, born to English-speaking parents? How creative is too creative in the pantheon of African-American nomenclature?


Read Janelle Harris' entire piece at Clutch magazine.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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