As I was growing up, it was clear to me that many of my male friends were named after their father. It was custom to know many as “junior” or as the sillier “trey” (which was a ridiculous play on the french “tres” for third). Everyone wanted a way to be someone different in the eyes of their own family, where they would always be known as the second, third, fourth, etc. But why exactly was this all a commonality in my time growing up in the South?
Now, I know for a fact that growing up in the South meant I would be learning things about Succession and the wars that followed suit. I knew that I would learn about how a woman still seems to need to be a lady, wear nice dresses, and oh honey, never speak in church. The pastor has all the words we need to hear (Southern Baptists are a little behind in this regard). But what I did not know about was where all these ideals of Southerness seemed to stem from. However, it was quickly explained in this Huffington Post article about a study conducted on where fathers are more likely to name their male children after themselves. If you haven’t yet guessed, it is more likely in the South.
What was most interesting about this however was the ideal of the honor culture, which I had never heard of in terms of a name given. This culture strives on the reputation of the man before to truly pass on a name to a son who will be worthy of continuing that reputation. And with a man like Dale Earnhardt (a spectacular NASCAR driver who died during a race) passing his name onto his son, it was clear that the family reputation of superior NASCAR competitiveness would pass on loud and clear. Just thinking about that name and how it resonates in my own household enforces the rule.
The honor culture comes from the Scotch-Irish who “hailed from a region long on economic insecurity and short on the authority of law. As a result, self-sufficiency, aggression against intruders and strong kin networks became the norm” (Pappas HuffPost). This transcends toward a patriarchal demand for masculinity to display itself in full swing. Once these norms set in, the culture was stuck, thus showing a problematic damaging of the Southern states (and much of the West) through the crisis attributed to masculinity. Aggression just for the sake of maintaining a masculine role, and competitiveness shows that these states not only depend on a reputation being passed on, but also the strive to protect that name no matter what.
Perhaps it’s an ego problem that makes many men think it is okay to name their boys after themselves. Maybe I am missing that. I wish to strive to pass on my wisdom to the possibility of future children, but I want them to be themselves instead of riding the coattails of my own accomplishments (whatever those may end up being). I wish for a reputation to be created by someone’s inner greatness, and a name does not seem to make someone better. Perhaps uniqueness will someday be all that matters. What do you think about the need for a man to name their child after themselves? Do you believe it is truly for reputation?