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Ella Grace and our Other Southern Neighbors

Why do we love double names in the South?

By Cheryl WrayPublished 2 years ago 2 min read
Ella Grace and our Other Southern Neighbors
Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Anna Catherine. Mary Louise. Bobbie Jean.

If you live in the South, these are probably your neighbors.

Or your grandmothers.

Or the new baby in the family.

There is something special about names in the South. They are truly unlike names you find in New Jersey, or Maine, or--God forbid--the Yankee state of West Virginia.

Recent Social Security records for reveal the popularity of names by each state in the nation. While many of the names are popular throughout the country--Noah for boys, Emma for girls--some names are more prevalent in Southern states.

You find more Sadies and Scarletts in Alabama; more Masons and Levis in Mississippi; more Paisleys and Carters in Kentucky.

I just wish that such records told even more of the real story--that a bunch of those Masons were Mason Lees, and pretty much all of those Ellas are Ella Graces.

Because, you see, we LOVE double names down here.

Whether it's because we just have to include a grandparents' name or our mother's maiden name as part of the package--or we just want to have a longer name to fuss at our kids with ("Lilly Anne, stop pulling that cat's tail!")--the double name is as Southern as sprinklers on a Summer day.

The tradition apparently evolved from the practice of European families in the 18th century to give their children multiple names to showcase their upperclass status. (Members of royal families would often bestow seven or eight names on an heir.) When families from England, Scotland, and Ireland moved to the Southern United States a century later, the tradition of double names came with them.

And it's still going strong today.

When my youngest daughter was born, my mother was determined to call her Sydney Faith; she stuck with it as long as she could, or until we told her that despite her efforts we were just gonna call her Scout. (That's a whole different story to talk about later--ignoring a given name completely and going instead with a nickname based off a favorite Southern novel.)

When I became a grandmother for the first time two years ago, the new baby was christened Ramsey Cate--and was welcomed at our church alongside newborns Ruby Sue and Ellie Kay.

The fact that younger generations are clinging to this old tradition gives me a strange sense of pride.

We live in a world where everything is shorter--Twitter messages, texting with emojis, attention spans.

And where faster is better--faster Wi-fi, quicker service, drive-thru everything.

In such a world, it's nice to know that some things are worth being drawn out.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," after all. But, I'd like to add, "A Rose with a Margaret added to it is a little bit sweeter."


About the Creator

Cheryl Wray

I'm a trained journalist who now dreams of writing fiction.

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