Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Black Names

There is an interesting article in Salon.com about the history of African-American names, and I suggest you read it, especially before making fun of any black people's names. Which many people do. Now, while I have known some interesting names through my time at school (when Special is in special ed, that's just a cruel twist of fate); names that sound suspiciously like "tequila," or that don't follow basic rules of phonics (Samantha being spelled with an "r" in it: Simmorntha or something like that), there have been some really beautiful names too. There is a throwback to some old fashioned names recently: for girls, gems and other precious substances such as Ruby, Jade, Diamond, Pearl, Emerald (and Esmeralda; I knew one class with three Esmeraldas in it. Imagine having to go by "Esmeralda G." because there were three of you!), Ebony, and Ivory. Virtues, such as Patience, Justice, Faith (Imani in Swahili, I think), Hope, and Charity. Precious, not in the Lord of the Rings way, but in the good way. Cherish. For boys, old standards such as Frank and Malcolm. Marquise is a popular one, as is DeVaunte (various spellings). Jamal and Jamar, of course, Lamar and Lamont, and many Tajaes.

Many people make fun of the apostrophes in La'Shay and Ja'Quon and say that black people are trying to sound too French or too African, or just making names up. If you've thought that, here's something else for you to think of. I can find out the name of the French knight that was my ancestor from 1096. Imagine not being able to trace more than 150 years of your family; sometimes less. Can you blame anyone for wanting to recapture their heritage by choosing names that sound like what they imagine their heritage is?

Anyway, when you're around them every day, you see obvious patterns. Not patterns I can explain, but ones I just know. For example, can you pick out the one boys' name among these? Keante, Chianti, Shonte, Javonte, and Leontae? Let me know if you have any guesses.

A funny story: we were doing a practice test (which is why I can talk about it; I can't talk about the REAL test) one year, and the kids had to infer from a diary selection whether Tad, the narrator, was a "brother, sister, father, or mother." I think the writer was assuming that since Tad was talking about a sister, and Tad was a boy's name, the kids would figure out that he was a brother. Well, half of them put sister, because they had never heard the name Tad and didn't know if it belonged to a boy or a girl. "Teacher, what kind of crazy name is this?"

Monday, August 25, 2008

Three Things to Remember...

... when taking a class to the Hall of Health in Berkeley for a field trip.

1. They will call it the Hall of Hell and aren't trying to be funny, they just didn't hear the "th" at the end.

2. Make sure the staff -- who are really quite wonderful -- cover up the reproductive system display. Third graders are not mature enough for that display. Neither are their chaperones.

3. When a kid says -- looking at the picture of an exploded meth lab for the display on how drugs hurt your body -- that that's his uncle's apartment, believe him. He's right.