LINGUIST List 2.713

Fri 25 Oct 1991

Disc: Names

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Ron Smyth, Re: 2.703 Using last`names
  2. Jacques Guy, Using last names
  3. , Re: 2.696 Using Names
  4. Mark H Aronoff, Re: 2.703 Using last`names
  5. , Re: 2.703 Using last`names

Message 1: Re: 2.703 Using last`names

Date: Fri, 25 Oct 91 01:21:48 EDT
From: Ron Smyth <>
Subject: Re: 2.703 Using last`names
My experience is that last naming at school in the 1960's (Gr. 3 to 13) is
had two distinct functions. First, the military/gym class social distancing
of buddies (our gym teachers were ex-military) created a kind of camaraderie
without intimacy. Secondly, last-naming was used to ostracize members of a
loosely-knit group. Being called 'Smyth' in one context meant "Yeah, nice
shot". In another, it meant "you'll never be one of us". When professors
used it in the early 1970's, I felt that it meant neither of the above, and
I was happy to find that it was on the way out. By the end of my B.A. in 1975
it was completely gone. Did the disco era wipe it out?
Ron Smyth
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Message 2: Using last names

Date: Fri, 25 Oct 91 15:10:25 EST
From: Jacques Guy <>
Subject: Using last names
When I was a kid in primary school and high school our teachers always addressed
us by last names. The reason was probably very simple: in those days,
Christian names were not fashionable, so that you'd have half-a-dozen or a dozen
"Jacques" per classroom, closely followed by "Jean". We'd also call one another
by last names. Question, if anyone knows: how are school children called in Arab
countries, where most are likely to have Muhammad or Ali as first names?
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Message 3: Re: 2.696 Using Names

Date: Thu, 24 Oct 91 18:01 EST
From: <>
Subject: Re: 2.696 Using Names
Larry Hutchinson's experience with last names and intimacy among
men matches mine exactly. My high-school (1) and college friends
(1) and I use last names exclusively. The first name would be
unthinkable. Indeed, I introduced my college friend to his future wife;
she too has called him by his last name for more than 45 years. Hell,
his _children_ have called me 'Miller' since they could talk.
But. I've always been under the impression that this changed sometime
in the mid-60's. Am I mistaken? Certainly my sons don't follow that
practice with their friends.
Norman Miller
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Message 4: Re: 2.703 Using last`names

Date: Fri, 25 Oct 1991 11:13 EDT
From: Mark H Aronoff <>
Subject: Re: 2.703 Using last`names
 State University of New York at Stony Brook
 Stony Brook, NY 11794-4376
 Mark H Aronoff
 25-Oct-1991 11:05am EDT
TO: The Linguist List (
What about first-naming by strangers? Back when, the only people who
first-named strangers were police officers. They pull you (never me!) over for
speeding, ask for your licence, and then say: Well Mark, do you know that you
were doing 56 in a 55 mph zone?" That really put one in one's place.
But now, people I don't know from Adam call me up on the phone and first-name
me. It gets my goat (etymology please!) and my wife has also noticed it.
To me, it is an indicator of false intimacy. At the university, I associate it
with the department of human resources (formerly personnel). I suspect that it
is a factor in the first-naming practice of telephone sales-people, though I
agree that privacy is also strangely at work there. Note its use in
advertising, as in the celebrated old sexist airline ad: I'm Barbara, fly me.
I would like to blame it on California, or better on Ronald Reagan, but ...
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Message 5: Re: 2.703 Using last`names

Date: Fri, 25 Oct 1991 08:35 CST
From: <>
Subject: Re: 2.703 Using last`names
The aspect of using last names brought up by Susann Luperfoy is a very
important one, and one that seems not to have been addressed in this
long and very interesting exchange on the topic. The last names that
males have are the ones they are likely to have their whole lives. the
last names that women have may come an go--and indeed that fact is a source
of confusion and possibly shame for women. So in addition to other
differences between what it means to call a girl/woman by her last name and
what it means to call a boy/man by his, there's the aspect of hesitation (or
whatever it is) brought by the knowledge that this may not be her "real"
name anyway. This fact is exploited, at least unconsciously, I think,
by people (male gym teachers come to mind) who are trying to humiliate
girls by calling them by their last names. The confusion and humiliation
are not always intentional, though. I recall being called by my (then
married) last name in grad school in a hearty, comradely fashion by a
fellow (male, older) grad student. My interior response was confusion.
Here he was scooping me into the boys' club (I perceived it as a definitely
boys-y thing to do) as if I were a buddy and a peer by a name that wasn't
even mine. How can you be a buddy if you don't even know a person's name?
But what choice did he have? Very confusing!
By the way, is this linguistics? I find it very interesting, especially
since it's a topic that we seem to be pioneering in exploring, and
especially especially in the wake of the Thomas hearings. But is this
the sort of thing that "belongs" in this discussion group, apropos of
Helen and Anthony's comments about whether or not to slice up or somehow
streamline the volume of LINGUIST offerings?
My own response is something like yes and no. I'd hate to have the LINGUIST
list reserved for theoretical linguistics topics, but on the other hand,
the last-naming sort of discussion could go very far afield from linguistics.
Is it possible to do something like this: leave the LINGUIST list open
to any topic that comes up in the course of our linguistic discussions, and
then if the discussion starts to get more sociological or mathematical or
neurological, H or A could declare a cut-off and shunt the discussion to
another list (which would have to be established). I don't think we should
have a special list for each of these topics, because that contradicts the
purpose of the LINGUIST list, namely to be cross-disciplinary within
linguistics. But a single parallel list in which people could hash out
these issues to their hearts' content might help us keep the main list
both lean and diverse. What do you all/guys think?iO
Christine Kamprath
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