...it's spelled Ta-Nehisi, but pronounced Tah-Nuh-Hah-See. But seriously, following up on that convo we had a few weeks back on how names and class work amongst white people, I got this e-mail from physician:

The real reason I wrote, was to educate you in a very small way about names in white culture.  You wrote recently about how certain white names signify a lower socioeconomic status, a nuance that had until recently been lost on you.

As a pediatrician, and one who is having a spasm of ire right about now, there is nothing like a name as class signifier.  In particular, I would like to share two with you.  Nevaeh is a very popular name right now, and I have several in my practice.  Its origin?  "Heaven," spelled backwards.  Not a name you'll be seeing on the Upper East Side or Martha's Vinyard. 

Ditto any "creatively" spelled Biblical names.  Being named "Eyezaya" (you figure it out) only really tells people that your parents were too lazy to look up the correct spelling in a handy Gideon Bible.  This also applies to names with extra Hs, Ss or vowels.


I thought that this was pretty funny. But also pointed to something about the whole "black pathology" piece. We are always quick to assume that the black poor are somehow particularly dysfunctional, and not simply poor. I read and enjoyed Freakonomics and liked that chapter on "black names." But one wonders why folks don't study the impact of "white working class" names, or the difference in naming traditions amongst the black working class and the black middle class

I've been banging this point home over and over, but I think the fact that the major centers of study, theorizing and writing (Manhattan and D.C.) just so happen to be in areas with large amounts of poor black people, almost no poor white (or even working class) white people, really colors the conversation. I want to add that as someone who named his son Samori (when its pronounced Sah-Mar-Ree) and who came up around girls literally named Shenikwa and boys named Travon, this idea that naming your kid something different--color aside--justifies your socio-economic status holds zero truck with me. Of course unintentionally misspelling a kid's name, well...

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