Friday, August 1, 2008

Bad Baby Names

While browsing the book kiosk at South Station, I came across this gem: Bad Baby Names by Michael Sherrod &Matthew Rayback. The authors work for Ancestry Publishing (affiliated with Ancestry.com) and all the names come out of the census records (1790-1930). More goodies can be found at their website.

For the most part, this book was chuckle-worthy, with the occasional lol entry. I'm a sucker for alliteration (Pickle Parker, November Nettles) and nouns (Cheese Ceasar, Oven Cook, Fedora Spurlock, Purgatory Stow, Curtain Sprankle). Much of the book consists of themed lists (month names, astrological signs, people with unfortunate last names preceded by "Wanna" or "Lotta," etc.). The authors also answer the question: What is the only state never used as a first name in any of the available census records? (Hint: The answer is not Rhode Island.)

The authors occasionally augmented their text with reproductions of the census entries, which I appreciated. I would have liked a little more information (DOB, state) for each name, but it's a novelty book, so what can you do?

There were a few questionable entries that I was not able to reproduce using Anscetry's databases. For example, the authors include Bart Simpson staples such as "Oliver Clothesoff," but the only example of that name I could find was in telephone directories from the 1990s. At other times, the census taker's handwriting is difficult to decipher, making it possible that "Goblin Fester" is really "Goldin Foster." Yes, the 1930 census has an entry for "Darth Wimbish," but I'm not so sure that it's not just an abbreviation for "Dorothy."

Still, it was the perfect book for me to read while waiting around in South Station.

I'm off to Maine for a few days, so I won't be posting til sometime next week. I leave you with a census entry I found while verifying some of the book's more outrageous examples:
Served Fish and his son, Preserved Fish
Whitehall, NY (1870)
note: there are at least two men named "Preserved Fish" in the 1790 census

(A: Massachusetts)

1 comment:

lookbooks said...

That's really unusual... I never thought that people gave their children odd names long ago.