Names in Canada

One more (quite brief) posting from the gigantic backlog, this time from a report by Peruvian linguist Ernesto Cuba on Facebook back in May. From EC, a report from an Edmonton Journal article by Joseph Brean on 5/31/23, about three papers from the Society for the Study of Names meeting in Toronto (at which EC gave a paper): about hockey nicknames, heavy metal band names, and Chinese restaurant names (in English and in Chinese characters) in Toronto’s Chinatown.

You might think that all this is hopelessly trivial — because it’s just about names and not about, say syntax — and parochial — because it’s Canadian, while we all know that the US is the real fount of linguistic and lexicographic research, with the rest of the world slumbering in some sort of benighted backwater. If so, you would be dead wrong, and I say this as (among other things) a syntactician and as an American.

On the triviality of name research. Just a big pile of words, you say. But the selection of names (both names bestowed by others and self-chosen names) provides an extraordinary window into social attitudes and social organization: why these names and not others? What do we convey by choosing these particular names or bestowing them on others?

On the parochiality of Canadian research. And more generally, non-American research. This is just absurd. Amazing linguistic and lexicographic work is done all over the world, and has been for (literally) centuries. The US is the big dog in the yard these days, and Americans have done some wonderful work, but the perception of US primacy is a matter of political clout, not some ability peculiar to Americans.

Here ends my rant.


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