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June 15, 2016 07:37 AM

I think I didn't explain myself well. I was trying to describe how the use of Brooklyn and Cohen by people who are potentially anti-Semitic and/or racist strikes me as cultural appropriation. I was trying to articulate how the use of the names feels to *me*. Writing from NYC as a non-religious person of Ashkenazi ancestry with experience being the subject of anti-Semitism and witness to racism in the South, I tend find the use of Cohen as a given name by people who are ignorant of Jewish tradition and/or actively anti-Semitic ironic and offensive, although can also be persuaded that it's just an unfortunate case of a homograph, with a creative and infelicitous spelling of Cowan coinciding with the transliteration of כֹּהֵן, .

The use of Brooklyn by people who are potentially anti-Semitic and/or racist is similarly, but also differenlty, offensive to me. It's like a vague echo of the same offensivness--to me, it contributes to that my culture is ripe for appropriation, while at the same time subject to bigotry. 

I would guess that most people naming their daughters Brooklyn are not referencing the Dutch place name. Instead, I assume that they're pointing to two cultural referents: 1. the hipness of the borough in recent years, a sort of hipsterish cool, and 2. the girls' names Brooke and Lyn. So it's a coincidence of a place name and a compound name. Very felicitous.

I would also guess that the use of the name is higher farther away from NYC, in places where ignorance and or anti-Semitism and racism against African Americans are highest. 


If I'm correct, then it's people who don't like the actual people of Brooklyn because of their ethnic background using the moniker because they want to borrow the mellifluous sound and the air of hipness. Which feels to me like cultural appropriation. Not on the same order as Cohen at all, and not the same in the specifics at all, but they both give me the same heebie jeebies. 

So, yes, this is what I was trying to get at:

"Or is it a matter of Brooklynites rolling their eyes at presumed bigots in the sticks who have ignorantly/unwittingly given their child a name which connotes everything these resumed bigots abhor?"

June 14, 2016 10:53 AM

A propos of Laura's recent post about Brooklyn and our discussion of Cohen, I thought about posting this as a response to her post, but realized it belonged here:


I'm not finding the Name Mapper function on the website right now, but I would assume that most of people naming their daughters Brooklyn are from the South or Plain and Mountain states, not from my fair borough.

It strikes me that I find the use of "Brooklyn" by people who are likely ignorant of NYC and quite possibly racist and anti-Semitic (Brooklyn having huge Afro-Caribbean and Hassidic populations despite its recent mostly white hipsterization, which I assume is the reputation the name is pointing to) strikes me as offensive in a similar way, although much less pointedly, as the use of "Cohen" as a first name.

June 14, 2016 10:50 AM

I hope that "Natalytynn" is a typo, and that it's Laura's and not the parents'. I assume that was supposed to read Natalynn (which strikes me as pretty bad without the additional syllable).

June 14, 2016 08:05 AM

Great article (I read the second one).

“Their names will make them special in this life.” -- a Venezuelan hot-dog vendor voicing a common aspiration of naming parents the world over.

June 9, 2016 08:55 AM

LOL, Miriam!


Along the lines of e Siouxsie and the Banshees (sorta), I was thinking a lot of parents of Gypsies might be Stevie Nicks fans. Given that the US doesn't have a large Romani population, and that anti-Romani bigotry isn't a huge phenomenon here, I think it makes sense that Nicks could sing, "You see your Gypsy that I was," without it sounding nearly as offensive as if she were to sing, say, "You see your N---r that I was." No, that would be inconceivable, apart perhaps from in a rap context. Or the case of Rolling Stones, who, in their heyday, got away with the song Brown Sugar. Have you all actually listened to those lyrics? Holy mother of crap are they offensive. 


June 9, 2016 08:30 AM

Ah, I see you two already hit on the plausible OC source of this phenomenon. I mentioned it just now, in a reply that's upthread.

June 9, 2016 08:23 AM

To gain some insight into why some people are naming their children Cohen, it's helpful to just check out the Babynamewizard entry on the name. One person who named her son Cohen describes why:

"We just named our 4th boy Cohen. I'm a labor and delivery nurse, which makes it sometimes hard when it comes to naming a baby, especially when we've already used so many good boy names! We were thinking of "Owen" this last time around, but it was just getting too popular for my liking. As we were considering it, someone asked us what we thought we might name it if it were a boy, told them "Owen", and they thought we said "Cohen". We loved it so much, and I hadn't heard of it being used in my experiences at the hospital as a baby name, so we went with that! We love it!"

Another person mentions a pop-cultural source of the name that might be contributing to the last name to first name crossover:

"on the Oc, the main characters family name is Cohen. Their teenage son, his friends called him Cohen."

I tend to think of it as an alternative spelling of Cowan that, combined with the popularity of lastnames-as-first names and the name Owen, (and perhaps the OC character is added influence) has taken off in an unfortunate way. 



May 19, 2016 10:19 AM

Ha! Me too. And it occurrs to me that I'm only guessing the one boy's name was spelled Bodhi. It could have been Bode or Bowdie or some such. I wish I had been nosier!

May 19, 2016 07:59 AM

I much, much prefer Max, which I consider infinitely more classic, whereas Mason has only recently become popular. Admittedly, I don't tend to like occupation names (why name a child to be a bricklayer? I mean, I'm all for working class values and honest hard work, but this seems odd to me). I also tend to associate Mason with the Freemasons, which is an association I'm ambivlent-to-negative about.


But rather than go by the negative opinions of a random person on the internet, I suggest you think about what you like about each name, perhaps listing these qualities and deciding which list is longer or more compelling. 

May 17, 2016 06:56 PM
In Response to Thoughts on Lewis?

What's not to like? It's great. 

May 17, 2016 06:55 PM

I understand the last-minute doubt that can come when an arrival is near! First off, congratulations and good luck during this exciting time.

My thoughts are that you sound like you don't really like Penelope that much, and that it's just a placeholder for Pippa. I'd say that would be fine if it were a case like Elizabeth and Betty or William and Bill where the nickname was commonly associated with the formal name. But I've only heard of Pippa as a nickname for Phillipa. I may have missed this in the earlier discussion, but is there a reason you didn't choose that name? With a less-intuitive connection between Pippa and Penelope, I don't see a lot of motivation for using the latter, and would probably go with Pippa on the birth certificate. 

May 17, 2016 07:21 AM

I agree. This seems like a fluff piece that would fit on that-other-name-site-frequented-by-teenagers-that-starts-with-an-N-and-ends-with-an-erry. 

April 15, 2016 07:55 AM

Are you asking for the American pronunciation? I have only heard it on Greek speakers in the US, who pronounce it KAL-EE-O-pee (first syllable rhymes with pal, second with sea, third with snow, fourth with pea, empasis on the first two syllables with the second to last also sort of emphasized and the last almost swallowed up).

April 7, 2016 10:31 AM
In Response to Opinions on Brecon

I think it fits very well in the ends in -en trend for boy's names. The pronunciation issue might be annoying for the kid growing up. I think I would tend to confuse it with the word bracken. But it's a pleasant sound, and pleasant association.

Perhaps as a middle name?

April 7, 2016 07:22 AM

Just popping in as I do every so often to agree that this disucssion embodies what is so great about this little community of naming enthusiasts. 

March 31, 2016 09:38 AM
In Response to Author Names

To me, stylistically, the practice of authors using initials is very reminiscent of the South Indian naming practice in which a man (I think it's only men) uses the initial of the father's name as the first part of the given name, prior to the given name. I'm trying to think of a famous example, but am coming up empty. 

I also associate the practice in the West with British authors. This leads me to wonder whether this is a stylistic borrowing that originated in the colonial encounter in India. 

In other news, I've seen China Mieville give a reading. He is quite masculine, and very intelligent, as one might gather from his writing (not that it's not without its flaws. I mean if anyone read Embassytown... great premise, wonderful initial atmosphere, squandered). And extremely charismatic and attractive. 

March 20, 2016 08:22 PM
In Response to Name Opinion

I really love Rowan. In fact, I ran into identical twins boys named R0w@n and R1v3r the other day, and thought that was really a perfect pair: stylish but classy and strong, unisex or nearly -- sweet names for sweet boys.

Unfortunately I can't think about Maverick without thinking of Sarah Palin's descriptions of John MacCain. Or, rather, Tina Fey's impersonation of Palin describing McCain as "Mavericky." Sorry!

March 20, 2016 08:15 PM

Will, you might want to mention whether those interviewed would remain anonymous. I for one would be interested in answering your questions, but my interest in naming is a little embarrassing. Let us know if you're still looking for more respondants. 

February 29, 2016 07:44 AM
In Response to Intersex Baby

Oh, how odd. Sorry I responded to what appears to be a troll. 

February 29, 2016 07:42 AM
In Response to Intersex Baby

But I wonder if the feminine Julian is pronounced differently than the masculine. More like Julie-Ann vs. Jul-yun. 

I think the suggestions of Rowan and Rory are perfect. They are different than your Latinate syllbling set, but I think syb-set cohesiveness is over-rated.

I also know a female Tate, which you might consider. Or perhaps Kato--It reads as a male name, but with its similarity to Kate could also work on a girl. 

Big congratulations to you on your new child. They are very lucky to have you as a parent. I'm excited for you and for them.