I worked in child support enforcement and the names I encountered were ridiculous and Exhibit 1 in legislation to not allow crackheads to name their children without help. We had Beautifull (yes 2 lls) with a half sister SoFine. There was Dwaynesha; Na’ausha (father Nathaniel); interestingly Na’ausha was a twin with a brother Nathaniel, Jr, which blood tests revealed to not be in fact Nathaniel Jr, so the twins had different fathers — CLASSY.
— Anonymous commenter, Stuff Black People Hate.
The polar opposite of Preppy Name
— but somehow, they're not that different...
Over the last 30 years of the USA's history, a trend has cropped up among the country's poor — many of whom are ethnically (west-)African. Many of the USA's poor now have weird and wonderful, nigh-Sue-ish
names. Many of said names are oddly and perhaps intentionally misspelled
, not to mention unusually pronounced
, and grandiose.
The media finds this endlessly amusing, and names like this are now firmly tied to the USA's stereotypes about its poor.
The USA has several rather exclusive subcultures separated by 'racial' distinctions so expect poor people of pan-European and generically-African descent to have rather different names (the USA's pan-Euro poor tend to have more plain, but no less strange and silly-sounding, names like "Cletus" and "Billy Bob"). If you see anyone with a name like "Sha'quayla Joniqua LeBrontayyy" in a comedy, she's almost automatically an Acceptable Target
— quite probably an obese Sassy Black Woman
with multiple kids who serves as an attempt at Plucky Comic Relief
— and sometimes not even that
This style of naming is a Truth in Television
, as a lot of Americans can attest — but it's not usually as exaggerated as seen in fiction. Different people have different standards — and to some people, a name may seem "ghetto" when really, it's just an unfamiliar name. Names that are explicitly drawn from, say, Arabic (e.g. Jamal, Kareem, Ayesha) or an African tongue (e.g. Kwame, Kwesi) would not count, for instance. But if it's something the parents clearly made up or saddled with an "inventive" spelling, it would. Much the same applies to actually European names (e.g. Schmidt, Ricci, Kerensky) versus customised European names (e.g. Shmitt, Ritchie, Krenzki) or names that merely sound European (e.g. Apple, Bookre, Faramir
For the USA's darker-skinned citizens, this trend has its origins in the civil rights movement of the '60s, which saw an attempt by some of the country's 'blacks' to 'reclaim' their African names and reject 'white' (European) names and surnames given to and adopted by their ancestors. It must be understood that virtually all of these names were from the (pre-'civil rights') days when 'black' citizens were second-class citizens compared to Anglo-Germanic and even Mediterranean-Slavic Europeans. Furthermore, many of their surnames came from an earlier time, when the vast majority of the country's ethnic-African people were legally-sanctioned slaves
. Though the result of many African-Americans consciously choosing non-European given names for their children is clear to see (as per this trope), the incidence of 'name reclamation' is harder to judge. It's worth noting that most of the USA's ethnic-Africans did not assume new family names - the admixture of the country's African, as with its European and Latin-American, people means that very few of the country's (African) folk can be said to come from any one place or be of any one people other than that of the USA.
A possible subtrope of Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?
and Unfortunate Names
and Unfortunate Implications
, if the name is outlandish enough.
- Angry Boys' awesomely named Lasquweesha, Shwayne and D'Anthony send this up brilliantly, whilst all still sounding (scarily) believable.
- Mad TV's Bon Qui Qui skits.
- Reality Television is notorious for these; the more ridiculous name the black contestant has, the grosser the stereotype she will be. Examples are Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth from The Apprentice and NaOnka Mixon from Survivor — and it turned out in the last episode that NaOnka's mother is named Zena.
- Saturday Night Live: Finesse Mitchell's character Starkisha. He has a whole bit about Ghetto Names here.
- Martin's crass neighbor Shanaenae.
- Parodied on Mind of Mencia where the concept of Immigrant/Minority baby names are mostly based on Line of Sight Names such as "TopRamenisha," "USNavy"note , and "Shi-thead"note .
- On 30 Rock in the episodes "Queen of Jordan" and "Queen of Jordan 2: The Mystery of the Phantom Pooper", Angie has a Gay Best Friend named D'Fwan. This proves that the 30 Rock writers are geniuses, because this name manages to sound both ghetto and incredibly Camp (which D'Fwan is).
- This is used for puns when he makes his own wine, D'Fwine that you should d'fwink responsibly.
- Jocelyn Jee Esien's sketch show Little Miss Jocelyn featured "Sharonisha", a lower-class "chav" London schoolgirl.
- Key & Peele's East/West College Bowl skit. And its sequel. The names start out as the normal version of this trope, becoming more and more exaggerated as they go on until they're the most ridiculous names imaginable. Also note D'Jasper Probincrux III, who manages to blend this with Preppy Name.
- The sketches are an exaggeration of a somewhat recent trend in the names of black football players — many NFL pros, such as Knowshon Moreno, Marshawn Lynch, and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, wouldn't be out of place in those lineups.
- Inverted in the duo's "Substitute Teacher" sketch where the title character, a Stern Teachernote straight from 20 years at inner-city schools is so used to this trope that, with a classroom full of bored suburban white kids, he pronounces names like "Jacqueline" and "Blake"(with three syllables) as if they were examples of it, then gets confrontational with the kids when they gently correct him.
- Verquonica, the second machine in the SNL sketch parodying Starbucks' ads for its Verismo machines.
- LaFawnduh from Napoleon Dynamite.
- Groans and eye-rolls were to be had when Loretta Divine's character in Crash, whose only trait was being a Sassy Black Woman, said her name is Shaniqua Johnson. Not only was the character annoying, but "Shaniqua" is usually the default stereotypical name when someone invokes this trope.
- Probably deliberate, as she's introduced talking on the phone to an angry customer who feels her name justifies his negative opinion of her.
- Dissected and analysed in Freakonomics. A surprising inversion was of two brothers, Winner and Loser Lane. Loser, who now answers to 'Lou', grew up to become a successful police sergeant. His brother Winner, on the other hand, wound up behind bars.
- Yonica Babyyeah, a Middle Eastern pop idol in War, Inc. Subverted in that she turned out to be not only Caucasian, but the long-lost daughter of John Cusack's character.
- Bebe's Kids has Jamika, Kahlil, LaShawn, Pee Wee and Dorthea. Lampshaded in the scene where Leon, Kahlil and LaShawn are looking for novelty license plates with their names.
Leon: Found mine!
Kahill: How come we can't ever find our names?
LaShawn: Yeah, I know four girls named LaShawn. How come we don't have a license plate?
- Rare male examples: main characters Durell (pronounced Darrel) and LeeJohn in First Sunday. The latter was named because his mother was seeing two men, Lee and John, and since she didn't know who the biological father was, called him LeeJohn.
- Evoked by Upgrayedd and names like Judge Hank BMW in Idiocracy.
- In Ted, when John is trying to guess Ted's new girlfriend's name, he runs through a list of stereotypical white trash names with hilarious speed. When he exhausts the list, he asks if it was any of the previous names on the list with Lynn at the end.
Stand Up Comedy
- The Onion once put together a chart (that was Actually Pretty Funny) of the most popular baby names by ethnicity. Among the "black" entries: "Propecia and Sinutab"
- Finesse Mitchell has a bit about this, with hypothetical names such as Escalade (pronounced Es-ca-LA-day), Vaseline (VAZ-lin) and Gonorrhea (Go-NOR-ia). In another bit he actually discusses how Finesse is not his stage name, his mom was either going to name him that or Hairdresser.
- After observing, regarding Our Gang, how he's never run into a black person named Buckwheat, Eddie Murphy riffed on what siblings and cousins might be in that branch of the family, all following the breakfast-cereal theme, down to Trix, who's a prostitute, and the gay brother Lucky Charms.
- The video sharing website Vine has a video with ghetto names that are actually brand names, like Degree (pronounced De-gree-ay), Polynesian and Lifesavers (pronounced Lifaysaviars).
- Dijonay from The Proud Family. She and her siblings are named after spices.
- P-Bo (Peebo?) from the same series
- Leshawna from Total Drama Island, although her cousin has the more over-the-top name "Leshaniqua."
- Actually analyzed here. Girls with such names tend to do poorly—not because of the names themselves, but because they are associated with the poor and uneducated.
- The urban legend of "Le-a", pronounced "Ledasha". The dash don't be silent.
- Snopes explores this trope a bit in an article dealing with urban legends from less enlightened times, claiming that black mothers would give their daughters names like Chlamydia, Vagina (pronounced "Va-GEE-na"), etc.
- The popular book Freakonomics has a chapter on this–basically, these names are most likely to be borne by the daughter of a teenage mother who was herself adventurously named. It begins with an account of a sentencing of one such woman for some misdemeanor. She was named Temptress, because her mother had been a big fan of The Cosby Show but hadn't quite known how to spell Tempestt Bledsoe's name correctly.
- In hispanic Latin America, the equivalent of this trope is either English names and words misspelled (i.e., boys named Jhon Jairo or Wilian [sic], girls named Leydis or Usnavi), or names beginning with the letter Y, albeit the latter trend is decreasing in popularity in some countries. Part of the humor from the infamous Panamian meme "Yasuri Yamileth's song" was that the author chose that name because it was the most stereotypically ghetto name that came to her at the time.
- Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez named her blog "Generation Y" because of the "names with Y" trend, being herself a live example.
- The Spanish equivalent are names of English origin, like Jennifer (known to her schoolmates as "La Yenni"), Jessica ("La Jessi") Vanessa ("La Vane"), Jonatán ("Er Yonni"), Richard ("Er Richal") and so on.
- Compared to other Latin-American countries, this trend appeared rather late in Chile, beginning in the early 1990s (Chilean law has always forbidden names that might be insulting or degrading, but NOT names in foreign languages; this was enforced by the Registro Civil until the return to democracy in 1990, where many strict regulations were loosened, some justifiably so, others... not so much); it became a trend in lower-class people to give English names (often, but not always, misspelled) to their children, so names like "Jon", "Brayan", "Yeison", "Kevin" and others became common. People with these kinds of names now often face discrimination in the same way as the "black girl" names studied above, to the point that some of these people actually go through the trouble of getting a name change to the "proper" Spanish form (however, this is a rather expensive judicial process AND Chilean law states that someone can change his name only once in his/her lifetime, so it's not such a simple decision to make).
- The ultimate Ghetto Name, in that sporting it makes you instantly an Acceptable Target for derision and discrimination, is "Bráyatan". It was invented note in 1995 for a TV advertising campaign (!) as a parody of ghetto names. Then some women used it on their newborn boys...
- To complicate the issue even further, there are some femalenote English names that are generally accepted as proper, as long as they're not misspelled. No one will bat an eye if a girl is called "Jennifer", "Cynthia", "Ruth" or "Evelyn" (or any of a select few other possibilities); the integration of these names to the "acceptable" pool happened decades before the '90s, so they're not counted at all as ghetto names.
- Now, at least in Venezuela, the pseudo-Italian sounding names.
- The German equivalent are, surprisingly, American names (Mandy, Kevin, Jason) or French names (Chantal, Renee, Jacqueline). Those names are usually associated with the poor and uneducated, while educated middle-class children stereotypically have names that are of German/Scandinavian (stuff like Erich, Wilhelm, Gertrud), Biblical (Paul, Johann, Maria, Anna), or classical (Maximilian, Alexander, Angela) origin.
- Norway is similar: Middle-class folk will most often have Scandinavian names, with the occasional Biblical, German or Classical name. Lower class may have dissonant double names ("Kurt-Are"), pretentious French names ("Simone" or "Jeanette") or short forms of English names used as their full names ("Johnny", "Ronny", "Harry"). In fact, "harry" has for decades been used as an adjective meaning something like tasteless, vulgar or uncultered due to the association with lower class people and their behaviour.
- France is also similar in this regard to Germany. "Normal" French names are often Biblical (Marie, Luc) or just classically French (Charles, Albert). Often the French equivalent of white trash have very stereotypical American names, like Kevin or Jason. Another trend is using the English version of names that already exist in French (such as William rather than Guillaume), with the implication that the parent was unaware it was just the English-language version of the same name.
- In the UK, the equivalent is basically anything that isn't traditionally British or names that are overly "American" — it's an obvious lower-class, chav-indicator if boys are named Wayne/Dwayne, Jaden, Tyrone, Tyler, Darren, Troy etc, or girls are called Chanel (or after any supposedly "classy" brand) or, like in Germany above, anything pretentiously French — Rochelle, Chantelle etc. Bonus points for extra ghastliness if an already (socially suspect) normal name is spelt "trendily" - Tracee for example. Best stick to traditional (e.g Arthur), biblical (e.g Jonathan) or classical (e.g Alexander) for fear of sniggering and snarky disapproval. Essentially, you can't be called something like "Troy" or "Chad" in England without raising eyebrows, or at worst, sounding like a bit of a prick.
- This newspaper article is about a man who accidentally killed his girlfriend's 19-month-old son, named Semaj: named after his father James.
- Here is the website cataloguing the Japanese equivalent. They are called "Kira-kira names" or, more negatively, "DQN names". "DQN" roughly means "stupid/ghetto/uncultured". The website have divided the names into nine different categories:
- "Too clever", for names the equivalent of the English "Le-a";
- "It's important to be knowledgeable", where parents accidentally name their kids "jellyfish" or "suicide";
- "Sexual-pitiful", a variant of the above and equivalent of "Chlamydia" and "Vagina";
- "Hooray Foreign Languages", where parents attempt to name their kids foreign names (if you know Japanese, you know how hard it is to do this, at least with English names);
- "Forcing their tastes", for names that clearly come from things their parents like, e.g. "Pooh" and "Dumbo";
- "Presumptuous", names like "God" and "Emperor";
- "Things (food/animals)" for, well, names that are words for food and animals;
- "Gender-Blender Name";
- and the last one, "夜露死苦", is names that look like they were named by gangs, who were famous for using complicated kanji to write even simple words.
- Many Mormon parents will try to give their children unique names. Many such names take the form of "cleverly" misspelled common names, while some are blatantly made up. Among larger families (seven kids or more), it is common for all the kids to be named according to a theme, such as all names starting with the same letter.
- A similar phenomenon existed in Imperial Russia in Jewish last names; many Russian and Polish Jews were only assigned last names in the XIX century by a centralized effort of the Tsarist government. Some of them tried to imitate or mock the upper class of either Russia or historical Poland, picking up something with the "sky" ending affixed to the name of their Pale of Settlement town (like "Zhmerinsky"). Some picked up something shiny-sounding in Yiddish, like "Goldfarb" (Color of Gold) or "Rozenblatt" (Rose Leaf).
- Right now, a major fraction of The New Russia's upper class is descendants of those same Jews with those same names, which now sound genuinely "oligarchic".
- Those names can become a problem when those persons decide to travel abroad, especially to non-Western countries. A better example of this is the NBA player LeBron James. His name in Chinese is written as 勒布朗·瑞蒙·詹姆斯 (pronounced as Le Bu Lang Zhan Mu Si, when the Bu Lang part of his name is normally used in Chinese for the name Brown).