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What’s In A (Southern) Name?
by Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson

What’s in a name, you ask?

Well, I’m here to tell you that only a Southerner can truly understand the question. For years we saddled our children with names that only a mother could love, and not many mothers at that. But we persisted because those names represented our ancestors who would roll over in their graves if somebody in the family did not name a poor little child after them. Or at the very least, we chose an ancestral name that could be shortened into something that resembles normal. No matter where the name comes from (and my mama swore she heard my name on the Art Linkletter radio show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” several months before my birth), it usually suits the recipient just fine.

Hmmm, Lonnye Sue…let’s see…my daddy’s name is Lonnie and my mama’s name was Sue, but they got the idea for my name from a radio program?

I guarantee that you know at least ten people on my first list. They are the ones who are named for more than one parent or grandparent or great-grandparent -- the ones with the double names.

Let’s see, there’s Anna Margaret, Barbara Ellen, Barbara Jean, Brenda Sue, Betty Sue, Carla Ruth, Carol Ann, Cathy Lynn, Gloria Ann, Gloria Jean, Grace Ann, Lady Ann, Laura Beth, Leigh Ann, Linda Gail, Linda Sue, Martha Ann, Martha Ellen, Martha Lou, Mary Ann, Mary Elizabeth, Mary Ellen, Mary Frances, Mary Jane, Mary Lee, Mary Lou, Mary Louise, Mary Margaret, Mary Nell, Mary Rose, Nina Margaret, Peggy Sue, Rose Marie, Sally Ann, Sara Ann, Sara Beth, Sara Nell, or Verna Ruth.

And most of these names have been used in my family alone.

The next list is very similar but with just a little twist: Girls’ double names with one of the names usually reserved for a male or a surname. Recognize any of these?

Annie Earl, Betty Jo, Billie Jean, Bobbie Jo, Bobbie Sue, Cathy Jo, Donna Jo, Edna Earl, Jeri Lynn, JoDonna, Jo Willa, Lonnye Sue, Mary Clyde, Mary Frank, Mary George, Mary James, Mary Jo, Mary Street, Robert Ann, Sammie Jo, Tommie Jean, or Willie Ruth. I know every one of them!

And in the South, double names are not reserved for girls only. See if these ring a bell: Billy Ray, Charlie Ed, Charles Edward, Charles Hubert, Charles Ray, James Donald, James Edward, James Russell, Jerry Lee, Joe Earl, Joe Frank, Joe Hunter, John Allen, John David, John Michael, John Raymond, Lewis Paul, Robert Earl, Ronald Glenn, Ronnie Gayle, Roy Junior, T. George, or Tommy Lee.

But I guess my favorites are the nicknames.

Everybody in the South has a nickname at one time or another. Do you remember any of these? Bear, Bebe, Bep, Bo, Boog, Bubba, Buddy, Buster, Corky, Dinks, Dinky, Frog, Goober, Goose, Jimbo, Jinx, Junior, Kip, Mack, Mo, Moose, Pitty Pat, Prissy, Pug, Punky, Rabbit, Red, Rocky, Shorty, Sissy, Slick, Slim, Snake, Sonny, Squirrel, Tiny.

And don’t forget all those bigs and littles: Big Daddy, Big Mama, Big David and Little David, Big Frank and Little Frank, Big Jimmy and Little Jimmy, Big John and Little John, to name just a few.

Are Yankees this creative? I don’t think so!


Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson grew up in the Mississippi Delta, but now calls North Carolina home. She’s an English teacher (one of THOSE), and she loves to share her stories.

Write Lonnye Sue at Deltamiss2002

To read more of Lonnye Sue’s tales at USADS, visit these links:
The Last Train
Elvis Forever . . . And Ever

Looking for more unusual Southern names? CLICK HERE

Here's a list of grandparent names and nicknames

Another list, Southern Style: Double Names

Click here for another story about Southern Names: This Name's For You by Beth Boswell Jacks

And another: Names -- A Guide to Choosing Wisely by Lonnye Sue Pearson

Read many more great stories listed on our USADS Articles pages.


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or write Ye Editor at bethjacks@hotmail.com.

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