Would you name your child after Hitler?

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Names say a lot about not only who we are but who we hope to be. In January, at the American Name Society’s annual meeting, in Portland, Ore., people who study names presented research reflecting that. A talk called "Velvet Elvis at the Mary Mart" examined the burgeoning names in the marijuana industry, like Bong Appetit, for a new cannabis cooking show on Vice Media. "How the Internet Has Changed Baby Naming" explained how prospective parents choose names they think unusual, and how those names may, surprisingly, boom so much in popularity that the most common baby names can now be predicted. Think of all the Owens and Madelyns you know.

Iman M. Nick, an American sociolinguist at the University of Cologne, studies Nazi-era names. She has analyzed the names of children in the Lebensborn homes, elite programs set up to educate the blond, blue-eyed youngsters designated to carry on the Aryan "master" race. The names of those children (some were kidnapped from occupied countries) were changed from, for example, Aloiszy to Alfred. That research, commissioned as a book by Rowman & Littlefield, also examines, among other topics, the "hiding names" Jews used to obscure their identities from the Gestapo.

In Portland, Nick talked about her study of present-day German attitudes toward names in use during the Third Reich. She asked German respondents to rate the degree of importance the Nazi period had for the names they might select for their children. Then she asked them whether they would name their daughters a variety of Aryan- and Jewish-sounding names; the respondents could answer "yes," "no," or "maybe" to each name. Her talk in Portland focused on four of them: Adolfine, Hitlerike ("-ike," pronounced "ee-keh," is a feminine ending in German), Yehudit, and Sulamith.

Read entire article at The Chronicle of Higher Education

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