Ledasha, legends and race: part three (of three)

Oct 11th 2009

Reader advisory: sensitive topics/vocabulary

In parts 1 and 2 on Ledasha, I talked about how fake names can convey real social cues. In most of these stories, though, the social cues go far beyond the names.

Consider the language of the Ledasha tale. Google counts 100,000 results for the punchline "dash don't be silent." (For the linguistically inclined, that's the "habitual be," a distinctive syntactic feature of African American Vernacular English.) You'll also find thousands of similar hits for "dash ain't silent." But when you search for the Standard English version "dash isn't silent" you mostly find explanations in the storyteller's voice, not quotes from Ledasha's mother. The mother's vernacular is intrinsic to the story.

For some perspective on this, let's take a trip back in time. Urban legend resource Snopes.com, in their excellent review of name tales, unearthed a relevant item from a 1917 book of humor. Please excuse the period vocabulary:

A young woman in Central Park overheard an old negress call to a pickaninny: "Come heah, Exy, Exy!"

"Excuse me, but that's a queer name for a baby, aunty?"

"Dat ain't her full name," explained the old woman with pride; "dat's jes' de pet name I calls for short. Dat child got a mighty grand name. Her ma picked it out in a medicine book — yessum, de child's full name is Eczema."


The blithe racism makes us cringe today, but every element of this joke is echoed in modern name tales. The proud, earnest ignorance, the desire to aggrandize, and the vernacular speech are all familiar. Even the misreading of medical jargon remains a popular touch; just swap out eczema for an STD to give it a more contemporary punch.

The big difference between the Eczema tale and today's is that the 1917 teller had no qualms about identifying the child's race as the central point. The many widely circulated versions of Ledasha, laden with racial signals as they may be, never come out and say it. Tellers rely on implicit cues so that the story, on the surface, is just about a funny name.

As is so often the case, what we tiptoe around is as revealing as what we say. The minute you inject adjectives like "black" and "poor" into a story, the ground shifts. You've lost your protective coating of mere humor; you're talking about society. That can be dangerous ground. A funny name tale is a safer way to poke fun, with plausible deniability. Indeed, some tellers may pass on the stories without a thought about their cultural underpinnings. Yet the real issues are still there just below the surface. You can tell, because in settings where people are not afraid to talk about race and class, the same stories still flower with full, explicit cultural context.

On many African-American messageboards you'll find people laughing over the familiar name tales, including Ledasha. In those forums, though, the racial and cultural setting isn't just alluded to, it's the whole point -- and the distinctions go far beyond black and white. Names are dissected as "ghetto" or "saditty," likely to get you rejected for a corporate job or likely to get you beaten up in the 'hood. "Ghetto names," including the standard urban legends, are a staple of black dj's and comics, as in this YouTube video. The names are used as explicit, exaggerated symbols of a specific social set, just as a caricatured "valley speak" might be used by whites.

At the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, you'll find the name tales repeated in white-supremacist publications and web forums. There, not only is the racial element of the stories explicit, but the most outrageous examples are presented as typical black names. Moreover, the truth of the stories is never questioned. In fact, the white supremacists often embellish the tales in ways that reinforce their supposed authenticity and typicality. One common approach is to interweave the absurd names with real, unremarkable African-American names. For example, in one article from a "racial realist" magazine an attorney offered "Some Names of Blacks Encountered in My Practice." Names like Lemonjello and Orangejello and even Godzilla Pimp were nestled among the likes of Ajeenah and Tywanna. The effect was to smoothly suggest that all were equally ridiculous.

In another case, a poster in a white supremacist forum acknowledged that some of the names he was talking about were cited as false urban legends on a well-known web site. He quickly found his own unique way to discredit that source, though, noting: "Of course they also say that it is false that Israeli workers stayed home from work at the WTC on 9-11-2001."

As you might imagine, most of the name stories in the white-supremacist forums are laced with filthy racial epithets. Tellingly, though, I found the story of Ledasha cut and pasted directly from widely circluated mainstream versions, without any mention of race. No added commentary was needed when the "mainstream" versions included lines like this:

"SO, if you see something come across your desk like this please remember to pronounce the dash. If they axe you why, tell them the dash don't be silent."

Or, to quote another common version of the tale: "And we let these people vote."

"These people." It's a loaded phrase, eh?  Ostensibly "these people" are just people who choose silly names, so it's safe to make fun of them...right?

Comments

1
By Anna (not verified)
October 11, 2009 11:33 AM

At first I found the name part of the Le-a story mildly entertaining. Now I just feel icky.

2
By Kristen R. (not verified)
October 11, 2009 12:23 PM

This is nauseating. I completely agree with all your points.

3
By Ms. Claire (not verified)
October 11, 2009 12:28 PM

Oh Laura, how I love thee! For further background on this subject, check out Joe Feagin's work on backstage and front stage racism. Thanks for covering this topic!!

4
By Joni
October 11, 2009 12:31 PM

Laura, I love it when your blogs make me smarter - by teaching me something new. I could almost feel my brain becoming more 'squiggly' 'cause I had to look up "habitual be" and "saditty".

Thanks for such a challenging and intelligent set of posts. Who knew reading the BNW would make me a better person by illuminating social things which I'd never considered?

5
By Finais (not verified)
October 11, 2009 1:50 PM

Wonderful analysis, Laura.

6
By Lizzy (not verified)
October 11, 2009 2:28 PM

THIS is why I read this blog. I love it when you analyze how names (and our opinions about names) reflect the society we live in. Fascinating, thought-provoking stuff. I admit to believing and laughing similar jokes in the past (although this is the first I've heard of Le-a specifically) without realizing the racist/classit undertones. Now, like Anna, I feel icky - and kind of ashamed of myself.

Oh, and you're completely right about the different tones taken by different communities in discussing these urban legends. I once saw a black female comic do a routine about how she was auditioning for a part in a movie - one of two sisters named Oranjello and Lemonjello. And the joke there wasn't that these were real names - it was that idiotic movie producers were talking down to their black audiences. Did anyone else see that? It was on Comedy Central. I don't remember the comic's name.

7
October 11, 2009 2:38 PM

Laura- thank you. And I admire your impeccability in being willing to research this topic widely, although it can't have been fun being exposed to some of those websites.

8
October 11, 2009 3:13 PM

I just want to thank you all for the kind comments. I was nervous about posting this, and I really appreciate your responses. I'm certain that most people who repeat name tales do so with innocent intentions; I didn't set out to make anyone feel bad. But after I'd been sent the "we let these people vote" version once too often, it seemed time to say my piece.

Spending time on the white supremacist websites was truly harrowing. It wasn't just the loathsome and frightening opinions that got to me -- it was the intensity, the passion behind the hatred. I can't imagine walking around seething with that much hate. It felt hard to breathe just reading it.

So again, thanks for your support on a really tough subject.

9
October 11, 2009 3:59 PM

I really enjoyed this post and the thoughtful research into the racial undertones of such urban legend names. I hate it when people tell me those stories, swearing that they're true, and I have several times emailed people the link to the snopes.com article that include the "Exy" story, after they've told me that they "knew someone who met someone named..." but I now have a new go-to link to email the next time someone repeats one to me! :)

10
October 11, 2009 4:03 PM

On a lighter note: I'd still appreciate any opinions as to your preference on Vaughn Douglas v. Graham Douglas. I'm being super ambivalent!

And today was baby dedication Sunday at my church: 5 kids age 1 or less:

Eden(g)
Easton(b)
Mackenzie(g)
Colby(g) [she has an older bro named Brodie]
Peighton(g) [has an older sis named Addison]

Looks like our church is right on trend... :)

11
October 11, 2009 4:09 PM

Oh Laura, I'm so sorry you had to go on those sites. A white supremacist group came to protest at my school a few weeks ago and it was pretty horrible, I knew kids who went on their website to see when they'd be there, and they told me how horrible it was.

Anyway, I too feel sort of ashamed for laughing the first time I heard the Le-a story (although I heard it as Je-a) although I never passed that on, I have passed other urban legend names and I feel really bad about it. I am glad, however that I learned so many new things and made myself a better and more aware person by this.

12
October 11, 2009 4:09 PM

Laura, this is the second time I've checked out your new blog entry and screamed, "Gah! I commented that last time!" Great minds think alike, I guess! You don't happen to be looking for an unpaid intern/assistant/research bitch, do you? Because I'm your gal! haha.

13
October 11, 2009 4:09 PM

Laura

Thank you for these posts. With a 6 mo. old, I don't often get to the end of comments on this blog anymore. This one I have been reading rabidly. It is so hard to talk about race without getting ridiculous and/or nasty.

I am facinated by what makes a name seem African American or White or poor or other.

But as someone who wanted classic boys names that was a bit (but not far) off the beaten track, I'm intrigued to find out that most boys names are 2 syllables. (My guys have 1 and 3, though I find they get given 2 syl. nicknames....)

14
October 11, 2009 4:10 PM

@ Anne with an E: I sort of think Vaughn Douglas flows better, but love both!

15
October 11, 2009 4:57 PM

I vote for Graham. I really dislike Vaughn, although I'm not quite sure why.

16
October 11, 2009 5:07 PM

This has been a wonderful blog, even before this series. I realize now that the opening of my mind to the myriad possibilities of naming through this blog has helped me embrace lots of cultures and ideas. Perhaps I may have chuckled at something like Le-a in the past, but now... it's just liberating.

So, when I see a comment like "we let these people vote" I think, "First, why are people generalizing the actions of a single person to a group as a whole, and second, why should anyone limit the rights of someone who demonstrates out-of-the-box thinking like this?"

I can no longer see a name, no matter how not my style, as "stupid." Certainly, there are names that may lead to questions and I want to know more about them. There are also plenty of names that don't appeal to me personally for divers reasons. However, thanks to the discussions I've had here, and the blog, I no longer wish to see names as a shibboleth for exclusion.

Thank you, Laura.

17
October 11, 2009 5:09 PM

Love the comparison between the 1917 and present day story. Really shows how the same views are still here just covered over. We've just become more sophisticated in spreading these views while covering our behinds.

18
By Jacki (not verified)
October 11, 2009 5:25 PM

We had a conversation at our church's craft day yesterday about the orangejello and lemonjello names, with people swearing they worked at the university's administration office and saw it in print. Only this conversation wasn't laden with race- it was self deprecating humor about how weird us Mormons are with our creative names. Apparently these stories can be about many types of "those people"- even if it is ourselves.

19
By Demetria (not verified)
October 11, 2009 5:42 PM

Anne with an E, I know this isn't helpful, but I really like both names. I'm a big fan of making a final naming decision after a child arrives (when DD1 was born, we nixed our name choice, she just didn't look like a Caroline), maybe once you take a look at you DS, the choice will be clear.

20
October 11, 2009 5:45 PM

Following up from the question in the last thread I am not entirely sure what urban legends would translate in Australia. Now, I have never heard the Ledasha (or any version of it) legend before reading it here. I haven't heard the Male/Female one either. Nor, Orangejello/Lemonjello. I have seen them all repeated on here a few times though so am aware of them. The jello ones are easy to explain as we call jello, jelly. I'm not saying they aren't going around here just that I haven't personally heard them. I do recall having heard urban legends but can't for the life of me think of what they are. I think they were along the lines of the usual 'silly names' but not necessarily anything racial.

I did vaguely pick up the race connotation in Ledasha at first but that is only because I watch a lot of American TV and know what some typical African American names may be. I totally didn't understand the 'dash don't be silent comment.'

With regards to what legends would work well here, I guess it would have to be something to do with 'lower class' names. By that I mean very creatively spelled extremely weird names. Or alternatively, where there are significant immigrant populations some play on their naming styles. The Indigenous population (Aboriginies) tend to use quite unique names, but I have never heard any derision of these names. That said, where I live their isn't a huge Aboriginal population.

On a side note, I've known (worked with) two Leticia's, so to me that is a very 'white' name but I could see that in the US it would probably be seen as a black name based on what people have said about the 'La' and 'Le' beginnings. I guess things translate differently in different countries.

21
October 11, 2009 6:19 PM

@ Chimu: I think of Leticia as a name that could be for any race. I see where you might think that, but I feel like Leticia is older than the La- names (which, I believe are from the 70s or so, but can't look it up at the moment) although I'm not 100% sure about that.

22
October 11, 2009 7:00 PM

Leticia/Letitia/Laetitia is a name deriving from the Latin word for joy. It's been around for centuries.

23
By Anna (not verified)
October 11, 2009 7:38 PM

Laura, in response to your doubts about these posts - you have thoroughly dissected the Ledasha legend and identified the racial undertones with remarkable precision. The result is both a mind-opening and thought-provoking. I am grateful that you share your research with us, even when it exposes some of the most ugly sides of society.

24
By Anna (not verified)
October 11, 2009 8:18 PM

On a lighter note, I may have found a name-related urban legend from Denmark:

"I know someone who knows someone who knew a mother who was expecting twin boys. She wanted to name them Dan and Mark, but when one turned out to be a girl, the boy got both names and became Dan-Mark." (Danmark is Danish for Denmark).

Sometimes the story is about brothers, sometimes the mother is living abroad and intentionally names the children Dan and Mark, but the point is always Dan + Mark = Danmark.

There are also many jokes about "someone with the last name X" who gives his/her child the first name Y - where the full name Y X then sounds ridiculous. Similar to Chanda Lear, Jenny Talia etc.

I've only found one "category" of name jokes that take stabs at one particular demographic group, and there aren't even that many of them. They involve wordplays between the Danish and Greenlandic languages where a silly phrase in Danish is made into a Greenlandic-sounding name. This is part of a way larger story about the relationship between Denmark and Greenland, and it probably makes no sense to repeat it here. An equivalent example is a name like Amina Ross said with an Indian accent to sound like "I'm in a rush".

25
October 11, 2009 8:55 PM

Thanks, Laura! One thing I love about this blog is the way you (and the posters) use names as a lens to look at all sorts of different things--culture, history, sociology, class, religion, etc. It's fascinating and thought-provoking.

And thanks to Chimu and Anna for responding to my question about naming urban legends in Australia and Denmark. So interesting.

26
By Esther (not verified)
October 11, 2009 9:28 PM

Brilliant post. You addressed this issue with sensitivity and eloquence and I appreciate how you didn't skirt around or excuse the classist and racist jokes behind naming. In school I had a classmate named Ashul. Guess what his nickname was. Just last week I was at a dinner party and a friend told that "Ima Hogg, Ura Hogg" joke, which is a variant on all these others. I remember shirts from Abercrombie and Fitch when I was in high school with Chinese ethnic caricatures and puns. And lastly, there was a children's book that was popular went I was a child called Tikki Tikki Tembo that suggests that Chinese names are nonsense syllables and the story mistreats Chinese language and history.

27
By Qwen
October 11, 2009 10:03 PM

Oh my gosh! I actually got this e-mail TODAY. Only mine was BLATANTLY bigoted as it had a picture of an adorable little African American girl and ended with the sentence "They live among us, they vote, they dominate the welfare rolls, they contribute nothing ..... And they breed."

I fumed and hit delete, wondering yet again if I should block the e-mail addresses of certain members of my family.

Ugh. Thank you for your insightful and honest analysis of the subject, Laura. I appreciate that someone had the nerve to do the research and confront the not-so-subtle racism that still permeates our nation.

28
By Qwen
October 11, 2009 10:05 PM

@Anne with an E - I vote Vaughn Douglas, I really like the name Vaughn.

29
By jt (not verified)
October 11, 2009 10:58 PM

@Esther: I think that there was a Texas governor named Hogg who named his daughter Ima. I don't think there was a Ura Hogg, however. I'm going to research this further so I'm not unknowingly perpetuating any stereotypes or being one of those people who is SO SURE that a person with this name existed. Should be pretty easy to do, since Gov. Hogg was a prominent historical figure in the state.

30
October 12, 2009 12:38 AM

Anna and Chimu-I thought of another urban legend "group" we haven't touched on yet-Native American. I have heard jokes about how the lady gives birth and the described custom is to name after the first thing one sees after giving birth. Hence the punch line is the kid gets named "Two Dogs (making love)".

Maybe we could have some columns touching on Native American naming practices Laura.

31
By guest (not verified)
October 12, 2009 3:13 AM

Hi all, I have enjoyed this blog for a long time but usually find that by the time I want to comment on a thread, the discussion has moved along and someone else has already made my point for me: that time difference!
I read a story in the Weekend Australian a few months ago and wanted to raise it in this forum, but didn't get around to it- it was about how Indigenous Australians are looking to African American names for their children and not using 'traditional' names of their language group. From memory, the names cited were exactly the Le/La names that have been raised earlier.
Susan in Sydney

32
By AJ (not verified)
October 12, 2009 7:42 AM

Laura, as an African-American reader originally from Detroit, let me say Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you! Just as I was moved by the efforts of your NameBerry rivals? sisters in name enthusiasm? ;-) to write about the true history of African-American names and naming conventions, now I can point to this series of posts as a beacon of truth and enlightenment. Thank you for "getting it." The use of coded language, the depth of research, including on those odious sites, and the thoughtful, careful analysis have all made my day brighter. Thank you.

33
By Amy3
October 12, 2009 9:24 AM

Bravo, Laura! You did a wonderful, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and sensitive analysis of an incredibly charged topic. Comparing today's urban name legends with those of almost 100 years ago is an excellent way to make your point. No one "misses" the racism inherent in the 1917 example, even if they can skate around it more easily in the contemporary legends.

Thanks for shedding light on this subject and providing a forum for discussing it civilly and respectfully. As others have said, if I'm the recipient of any of these rumors in the future, I'll point people here.

34
By jennifer h (not verified)
October 12, 2009 10:09 AM

Laura I am very impressed at this series of posts. Very insightful and well thought out, with the research to back it up. I haven't seen any of these naming stories lately and hopefully won't.

@Anne with an E: I love both Vaughn and Graham. Vaughn was in the running for our first but didn't flow well with the mn. In fact, I am writing a novel and am trying to decide if I want to use Vaughn or save it for a possible second boy. Best of luck deciding but I don't think you can go wrong.

35
By Amy3
October 12, 2009 10:15 AM

@Anne with an E, I ever so slightly prefer Vaughn for you, but Graham is also good so you can't lose!

36
October 12, 2009 10:24 AM

Amy3-I agree that it is hard to "miss" the racism in the 1917 example. However, in that example I look at the words and tone as a historically accurate representation of the times. As such I believe it is necessary NOT to step over the "offensive" parts. I'm one of those people who does not believe in banning books and all because of a few words or thoughts. They should be treated as a portrayal of the time period and the fabric of the thoughts the author was trying to convey. If you change the wording or censor the thoughts to something more pleasing, you are destroying the original fabric that was so delicately woven.

37
By Jillc (not verified)
October 12, 2009 10:54 AM

Thanks for the interesting series of posts, Laura. Very enlightening.

In naming news from the upper midwest, new babies this week:

Isaac Bri@n
Isaac J@ames
Elizabeth Marie

And, name of a boy overheard on our Christian homeschooling field trip: Damascus.

38
By Amy3
October 12, 2009 11:31 AM

@zoerhenne, I agree with you. I definitely wasn't suggesting we should expurgate works from the past to make them more "acceptable" to us today. The very fact of their difference provides a jumping off point for discussion and allows us to begin looking at how we do the same thing today. That is, some (many?) people in 1917 wouldn't have seen the harm in a story like that, in the same way that some (many?) people today don't see the harm in "the dash don't be silent."

39
By Coll
October 12, 2009 12:16 PM

Laura, I only wish these posts would get picked up and circulated by the AP or Reuters. It's great that we're so interested as a country in tracking the top baby names (I love those lists, too!) but this is something that needs to be repeated and repeated every time someone tells one of these "innocent" jokes.

Thankfully, I don't hear many of them anymore now that I'm out of junior high :)

40
By hyz
October 12, 2009 12:23 PM

Anne with an E--LOVE Graham! Vaughn makes me think immediately of Vince Vaughn, which I guess is neither good or bad, but definitely makes me prefer Graham.

Laura, great series, thank you. I had only heard of Le-a through this site, and (of course) nobody here used the "dash don't be silent" part of the story--when that's included, I think this story is nearly indistinguishable in character from the 1917 version. My first thought on hearing Le-a was the same as Anna's--wouldn't that be Lehyphena?? My DH has a hyphen in his name (which IS silent), and I'm very used to spelling it out for people "that's a-b-hyphen-c-d-e"--so that was always the weirdest part fo the Le-a story for me. The "voting" comments do put the story in a new light for me, since Le-a actually comes across as a lot more creative and truly "smarter" to me than a lot of the "creatively" spelled names more associated with certain white parents. I guess I'd like to see some of the names of the people who attach that tagline to their comments so we can judge whether they're qualified to be voting?? I'm being facetious, of course, but those comments (to me) really show that the story is *truly* being told as a vehicle for racism, and not just an innocent NE commenting on a possibly interesting new name trend.

41
October 12, 2009 5:24 PM

True Amy3, I didn't think you were. Forgive me if I sound racist as I am just playing devils advocate, but I was just wondering if maybe those "many" people out there are simply not seeing the harm in the way they are telling the story because they think they are being (historically or otherwise) representative of how the group actually talks? Maybe todays "joke/stories" will come off horribly offensive both today and in 100 years. However, this is how people talk. Not everyone- but some. It seems that we are handing down history to retell stories such as this. Even if you change the story around and use a Valley girl name and drizzle the story with "like, oh my gosh" and "totally" it would be the same story. I guess what makes it not right is the fact that we KNOW it is not a real person, rather than an account of someone down the street that we actually do know.

42
By hyz
October 12, 2009 5:53 PM

zoerhenne, I think the issue with the "dash don't be silent" part of the story becomes more clear when you ask why that plausibly accurate detail (accent/vernacular) was included in the story. There are lot of true details in every story that storytellers leave out--you only include the things you think are important for some reason--and the details the storyteller DOES include can tell a lot about that person. For instance, a man I know used to include a physical description of nearly every woman in his anecdotes, whether it was relevant to the story in any way or not (i.e. "I just asked a woman in the post office for directions--she was really beautiful, brunette, nice figure, really, she could be a model--and she said we should turn left at the next light.")--and he did not include the same such descriptions for men. It drove me crazy, and I used to give him a hard time about it--he finally came around to seeing that his constant remarking upon women's physical attributes was objectifying, and he has toned it down a lot.

Similarly with accents--when do we include them in a story? Generally not if they are the same as our own, so often we are remarking upon a difference. It may be complimentary (like if we are saying an accent sounded attractive, elegant, whatever), or for humor/flavoring (funny/interesting remarks sometimes lose a bit of punch if said without their original accents), for explanation (like if the accent created a miscommunication, etc.), etc.... But a lot of times, and in this case, I think the detail is really intended to make fun of the person with the different accent--to accentuate that they are uneducated and to make a negative racial comment. I think the imitation of this accent (AAVE?) becomes negative when it is portrayed by the speaker as though this is how "black people" talk, considering that many black people don't speak this way, and actually themselves consider it to be "ghetto" vernacular. It's like when Brits (or others) imitate an "American accent" by copying the most stereotypical "redneck" ways of speaking, or put on a very flat/dull/clumsy sounding accent, kind of like a cross between John Wayne and Forrest Gump. It can be funny, but I bet it leads most American listeners to think on some level "hey, I don't talk like that. I hope they realize that's not how we all speak."

43
By Anna (not verified)
October 12, 2009 6:39 PM

Hyz - very well stated.

If we strip the story of everything that has connotations to race, we'll end up with something like this:

"Guess how Le-a is pronounced?!"

Is it then still offensive? Is it still funny? Does this mock a typical "black" name? (I don't know if Ledasha is a typical "black" name, I'm just thinking out loud).

By any chance, when you mentioned "Brits mocking American accents", were you thinking of Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear)?

44
By desh
October 12, 2009 7:26 PM

Ima Hogg (1882-1975) was a real person, and a wonderful "philanthropist and patron of the arts, ..... Ima was named for the heroine of a Civil War poem written by her uncle Thomas Elisha and was affectionately known as Miss Ima for most of her long life."

http://www.famoustexans.com/imahogg.htm

45
October 12, 2009 8:29 PM

for what it's worth, i was told two urban legends (true? both people claimed so, but i have no proof and both fit the perameters of typical ubran legends) with no (i don't think...?) race connotations. my grandfather told me he knew two sisters growing up called ima and ura hogg (chuckle, chuckle, end of story). and the other was la-a; my friend said that her friend who worked with high school youth came across a student named la-a ("isn't that crazy!", end of story). as anna said, i'm not sure if that's still offensive, once the context is gone.

46
By MaeC (not verified)
October 12, 2009 8:02 PM

@Esther
You mentioned the book Tikki Tikki Tembo as an example of a racist story about names, but, I would say, the point of the story is not that they are Chinese. Not only is the story set far back in the past (and in the story we are even informed that they don't name that way anymore), but the story, at least according to the author, is based on a traditional story. There are plenty of racist children's books (the 5 chinese brothers comes to mind) but I would say that Tikki tikki tembo is not one of the worst offenders.

47
By hyz
October 12, 2009 10:52 PM

Anna, thanks. I actually wasn't referring to any specific Brit--I seem to see that sort of thing so often that it's its own stereotype in my head, lol. Off the top of my head, lately I've seen it from the guy who plays House, "Daphne" on Frasier, and Craig Ferguson. To your and emilyrae's point, I tend to agree that if Le-a is told with no racial indicators, it can be basically inoffensive. That was the way I took it when it was mentioned earlier here--we all (obviously) like to discuss names, and as I recall, it was basically, "I heard a new name, spelled Le-a, can you guess how it's pronounced?" It's just interesting, in the same way as Ily or anything apparently unfamiliar or innovative. In that case, whether it's "racist" or not depends on how the listener responds to it, not that someone chose to share the story thinking it was true.

48
October 12, 2009 11:19 PM

i do have to admit: even though i was told the ladasha with no racial indicators, the name ladasha did make me think of a black child, and i did mock the name. however, i equally mocked the name m@, which makes me think of a white child (though i realize these are both stereotypes as well: i'm sure there are many, many people of all races named matthew or some form of it).

perhaps i'm just a little too quick to mock in general.

49
October 13, 2009 12:18 AM

the ima hogg story may not be about race, but maybe about class?

50
By melissar (not verified)
October 13, 2009 4:14 AM

What a wonderful series on a tough subject. I saw this legend on a baby name discussion board and immediately thought it was in bad taste. However I had already read the Snopes articles about names, so I might have viewed it differently. I read the whole series to my African-American boyfriend and he really liked it, even though he HATES when I talk about names for our hypothetical children so it was a very compelling read. I'm going to make sure this series makes its rounds to show people the other side of their "funny" stories and the prevalence of racism in our society. What a great point you made about all the elements being there, the only difference is we don't come out and say it anymore, but the feelings are still there.

Please, the next time you have reservations, post away! It will probably be very enlightening :)