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Basketball player onomastics
Posted: 25 January 2010 12:52 AM   [ Ignore ]
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So, I was wondering if anyone here notices some of the odd names basketball (and other sports) players have, and if you have ever pursued their origins.

My favorite of these is a woman named “Holdsclaw,” who plays for Atlanta. Since I speak some German, as I was saying it aloud and wondering about it, it came to me that in German, you might get “holds” from “holz” or wood, and “claw” from “kohle” which is carbon. So the two words together make “charcoal,” or could, and the young woman in question is African-American. Is this even remotely possible, that a German slave-owner thought it might be funny and the slaves, not speaking German, not only didn’t get it, but thought of it as something a raptor does, and took it as a name?

There’s an NFL player whose last name is “Loadholt” and I’ve been busting my brain over that one, too.

[ Edited: 25 January 2010 09:48 AM by wordbird ]
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Posted: 25 January 2010 05:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Welcome wordbird. You’re probably on the right track, but I think that the German family name ‘Holzklau’ would be a better candidate. This site gives detailed information on that name.

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Posted: 25 January 2010 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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An entry on Ancestry.com says that Loadholt (a name which seems to be concentrated in South Carolina) is an Americanized spelling of the German Leuthold (Swiss German: from a Germanic personal name formed with the elements leud, liut ‘people’, ‘tribe’ + walt ‘rule’, ‘reign’.")

Edit: that second German word “walt” sounded suspicious to me but Duden enters it as a verb “walten” and participle/noun “Gewalt.” And why “leud” as the root when “Leut[en]” is obvious? Leud may be an older form, but I’ve forgotten how to get to Grimm’s dictionary.

[ Edited: 25 January 2010 06:36 AM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 25 January 2010 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I don’t understand why your focus is on basketball players; they don’t have names any odder than anyone else.  I’ve seen similar remarks made about NPR reporters.  It’s all just confirmation bias.

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Posted: 25 January 2010 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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languagehat - 25 January 2010 07:03 AM

I don’t understand why your focus is on basketball players; they don’t have names any odder than anyone else.  I’ve seen similar remarks made about NPR reporters.  It’s all just confirmation bias.

It’s just where I see these odd names. I simply haven’t come across them elsewhere.

And the first names are extremely curious as well. A couple are “Shaunzinsky” and “Aquoniesha.” Both female.

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Posted: 25 January 2010 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dutchtoo - 25 January 2010 05:04 AM

Welcome wordbird. You’re probably on the right track, but I think that the German family name ‘Holzklau’ would be a better candidate. This site gives detailed information on that name.

Aha. So it’s probably a place name, but the “wood” part is right. Thanks!

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Posted: 25 January 2010 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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And the first names are extremely curious as well. A couple are “Shaunzinsky” and “Aquoniesha.” Both female.

There’s lots of scholarly work on African-American female first names. I’m not up on it myself, but I know it’s out there. Aquoniesha seems like a pretty typical name (around 2,000 ghits for the Aquanisha spelling), especially the -iesha ending. Shaunzinsky seems somewhat unusual to me (5,000+ ghits for Shawnzinki, but almost all references to Shawnzinki Gortman), but as I say, I’m no expert on the subject.

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Posted: 25 January 2010 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Dave Wilton - 25 January 2010 10:16 AM

And the first names are extremely curious as well. A couple are “Shaunzinsky” and “Aquoniesha.” Both female.

There’s lots of scholarly work on African-American female first names. I’m not up on it myself, but I know it’s out there. Aquoniesha seems like a pretty typical name (around 2,000 ghits for the Aquanisha spelling), especially the -iesha ending. Shaunzinsky seems somewhat unusual to me (5,000+ ghits for Shawnzinki, but almost all references to Shawnzinki Gortman), but as I say, I’m no expert on the subject.

It would be so cool to find some of this stuff. I have access to academic databases, but I wouldn’t know where to start. Can you give me a clue or two?

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Posted: 25 January 2010 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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You might try googling “African-American names”. I did and found an article, What’s up with black names, anyway?, on Slate (link). There are plenty of references in the article, most of which are online.

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Posted: 25 January 2010 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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jheem - 25 January 2010 10:29 AM

You might try googling “African-American names”. I did and found an article, What’s up with black names, anyway?, on Slate (link). There are plenty of references in the article, most of which are online.

I’ve seen that article, but not the references, which I’ll pursue next.

I’m wondering if anyone here has a particular interest in onomastics. I especially like to try to figure out last names. Although the unusual first names are interesting, I find they are mostly too individualized (as in “Shaunzinsky” whose name was made up by her aunt, although I don’t know if there’s a further explanation for it). And as I said before, I see a lot of unusual or interesting last names in sports. Surely they exist in other venues, but they can usually be explained ethnically, such as the financial analyst of Middle Eastern-sounding origin I see on TV all the time. I’ll try to find it. It’s unusual, but no mystery.

ETA: I found it: Lakshman Achuthan

[ Edited: 25 January 2010 11:54 AM by wordbird ]
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Posted: 25 January 2010 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Yes, I am quite interested in onomastics.

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Posted: 25 January 2010 01:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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languagehat - 25 January 2010 01:43 PM

Yes, I am quite interested in onomastics.

Do you know any sites other than “Baby’s Named a Bad, Bad Thing”? They are more into other issues than names, although they do have some good material.

In fact, if there’s an onomastics thread or forum in here, I probably ought to take this over there.

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Posted: 26 January 2010 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I’m afraid I depend on old-fashioned books, not websites.

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Posted: 26 January 2010 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I wouldn’t know where to start. Can you give me a clue or two?

Names is the journal of the American Name Society. They’ve probably got something; you probably want to check their annual indexes.

Also, a search of JSTOR or similar academic databases for “African-American names” should turn up relevant articles.

In fact, if there’s an onomastics thread or forum in here, I probably ought to take this over there.

Just for the record, since it’s been a long time since this came up...I haven’t subdivided the forums into special topics. I don’t think the amount of traffic here warrants multiple substantive forums. But if we do get overrun (in a good way) with discussion of onomastics (or any other subject), I will happily consider setting up another forum--it’s an easy thing to do.

Anyone can start a new thread. If you feel one is needed, go ahead. Onomastics isn’t really my thing (other than some interest in place names), but it is a perfectly legitimate topic for this board and such discussion is most welcome.

(Further discussion of how the forums should be organized should be in the metadiscussion forum, however.)

[ Edited: 26 January 2010 07:09 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 26 January 2010 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I remember hearing Jonathan Ross on his BBC radio show years ago saying that a black American couple had tried to name their child LaTreen (or LaTrine?) conforming to the LaToya Jackson model. They were warned off. As it was on the radio I couldn’t determine the spelling. Anyone else heard this or is it an urban legend?

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Posted: 26 January 2010 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I’d be willing to bet large amounts of money that it’s an urban legend (and a racist one at that).

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