Appalachian Dialect

Unusual Names in Appalachia

Granny Gazzie, Tina, Tipper

Tipper (with black shoes), Gazzie, Tina (my first cousin)

I’ve been thinking about unusual names in Appalachia. My Granny Gazzie’s name comes to mind immediately. Her full name has an unusual story to it too, but I’ll save that one for another day.

While I was thinking about names like Gazzie and even Tipper, I was also thinking about how we change some names in the same way we change certain words.

I know a Sarah that was instead often called Sar-ee and The Deer Hunter had a great aunt Cora that was called Cor-ee by the family. Another one that comes to mind is an Irene who is called Arlene.

A couple others: Iner for Ina and Zelmer for Zelma.

Several years back I did a post on unusual names I found while researching Lufty Baptist Church. You can see the post here. All these years later I’m still of a mind that I would have named the girls something from that list if I’d only known about it before we named them 🙂

Please share any unusual names you know from Appalachia or your family. I’m especially interested in the ones we change like Sarah and Cora.


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72 Comments

  • Reply
    Cindy
    October 8, 2021 at 11:10 am

    My husband’s family is from North Carolina. His Mom was named Lottie Mae, she had a brother named Rassie, & sisters named Sudy & Rubylene! These were their given names

  • Reply
    John Smith
    October 7, 2021 at 11:15 pm

    I’m on my wife’s page. My name is John Smith My wife’s name is JoAnn Helton Smith Her mothers name was Velda Caldwell Helton. JoAnn’s grandparents name was Saylor and Ollie Caldwell. My parents name is Cecil and AdaLee Smith. My Dads parents were named a George and Socia Smith. My Mothers parents were named John and Euphemia Deaton.

  • Reply
    Amanda Burts
    October 7, 2021 at 8:51 pm

    An unusual name (although not in Appalachia). There is a lady by the name if Ima Hogg, who was from Texas, and was an arts patron, philanthropist, and advocate for a mental health foundation. Texas folklore developed the idea of her having a sister named Ura Hogg.

    • Reply
      Robert Hutchins
      October 8, 2021 at 2:14 pm

      I’ve been to the Hogg Plantation. Ima’s father was Governor Jim Hogg, 1890-94. Ima was a beautiful young woman and quite the philanthropist. There never was a Ura or a Sheesa or a Harry or a Moore Hogg. They were playful jests. Ima was born in 1882 and died in 1975 (which might seem a long time ago to some of you but I was in my mid 30s at the time).

      Keep up the good work, Tipper. Bless you!

  • Reply
    JustAnOldGuy
    October 7, 2021 at 7:35 am

    My paternal grandmother’s name was Cordie. For years I assumed it was a diminutive of Cordelia but eventually learned that it was her given name. My maternal grandmother’s name was Eula. I have a granddaughter whose middle name is Danger and indications are she’ll live up to it.

  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    October 6, 2021 at 9:13 pm

    Seline was Aunt Slina (long i). Sabra Scotland. Lahoma. Buster. Aunt Pliny (probably Pauline). Brooksie.
    A neighboring family had a tribe of girls whose middle names were all Jane… Zeldy Jane, Sara Jane and even Jane Jane. My daughter;s middle name is a combination of my mother’s name and her great grandmother’s name : Emilijean.

  • Reply
    Robert Hutchins
    October 6, 2021 at 7:25 pm

    My mother’s given names were Healy Hettie Mauden (nee Baker). My paternal grandmother’s name was Mary Lyzinthe (Lie ZIN thee), from Swain County. My maternal grandmother’s name was Vielzie, from Harnett County. I have a sister, now deceased, who was named Elizabeth Lee but my oldest brother couldn’t say ‘Elizabeth’ and dubbed her “Baby Lee.” She was known by almost everyone by that name for her entire life. Those ladies, except my sister, were all born in the 19th Century.

    • Reply
      DonInKS
      October 13, 2021 at 9:34 am

      As I have written before, I’m from the Missouri Ozarks, and many of us have Appalachian roots (most of my people started out in TN, KY and NC). We have continued the tradition of unusual names. From people I grew up around: Onie, Essie, Effie, Swears, Pallie (my maternal grandma, Palmyra). My mom’s middle name was Kitory, pronounced Kit-tor-uh. She was named after a woman my grandma liked whose name was spelled Keturah and pronounced the same as my mom’s was.

  • Reply
    Yecedrah Beth Higman
    October 6, 2021 at 6:53 pm

    Well this has really helped me with my odd name and the trauma that it has brought to me!!! LOL. My name is Yecedrah. It is pronounced “Y” is silent, eeceedrah. My Papaw gave me this name!! Finally at thirty-five years of age I began to find out a little about it. My pawpa and his siblings were raised in a Methodist orphanage in Mississippi. They had friends in the same place that were of latino or hispanic background. I discovered my name is spelled incorrectly it should be Isidra. I never knew where the names came from until I figured it out. Papaw’s brother had a daughter named Lutecia and my Pawpa named his daughter AniJuan!! Then I am born, the next girl in the family, so I get the really weird one!!! While growing up, most people would not even attempt to pronounce it. But now, after this post, I sure don’t feel so bad about my name. I was called “seedy” as a little girl because my friends just couldn’t say the big name.

  • Reply
    Tim
    October 6, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    My grandfather (born around 1894) was from the mountains of western North Carolina; his name was Tivit. I cannot recall seeing that name anywhere else.

    Another name that came to mind was of a man I went to high school with. It was his father’s first name and his middle name: Verlie.

    • Reply
      Robert Hutchins
      October 8, 2021 at 2:16 pm

      Tim, your grandfather was born the year my father was born. I’ve never seen the name Tivit but have seen Verlie/Verla/Varley.

  • Reply
    Jo
    October 6, 2021 at 6:31 pm

    I had two Great Aunts. One named Phinnie (Fine ee). One named Fannie.
    A Great Uncle named Houston, but everyone called him Huce. They also spelled it Huce.
    My Grandmother’s name was Rosa (Raw see).
    Congratulations on 100,000 subscribers! We are so proud of you. But I think the secret is out, and we will gladly share you with the rest of the world.

  • Reply
    Joanne
    October 6, 2021 at 6:30 pm

    We are also familiar with unusual names. We live in southeast Texas, but originally our folks were from your area of Appalachia a few generations ago. Hubby has a great-aunt Siller (Silla or Celia). My daddy’s sister was called Emmer Lee for Emma Lee. Hubby’s mother’s name is Faye JennieVee but she was called Fimp by those that knew her. We’ve also noticed folks are called by their first and middle names like my aunt Emma. She was called Emmer Lee like it was just one name. I’ve heard it said calling someone by their first and middle name is name stacking. It’s quite common in our family as well as the area we live.

    My hubby’s family takes the cake for the most odd and unusual names they call each other. He has an Aunt Punkin, Uncle Fat, Aunt Let, Aunt Booker, Aunt Snookie. It wasn’t just family members that called them these names, but also community and church members. None of them ever took exception to the name they were called. It was just familiar. I wonder if some of them remembered what their real name was. We sometimes don’t recognize their real name either.

    The language used in Appalachia traveled with our ancestors to Texas. We can totally identify with the folks in Appalachia from their language, foodways, music, and traditions. It is alive and well here too in our particular area. Our folks settled in Texas in the late 1800s. I have done extensive family genealogy and know they came from Scotland, Ireland, England, and France by the way of Acadia. I am sure a lot of these ways followed them from over the sea. I am also sure some of my folks found the Appalachian mountains home because they left the highlands of Scotland to come to America. Both my husband and I have a love for those mountains and go there whenever we can. It just feels like home.

  • Reply
    Julie from Appalachian-Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley Living
    October 6, 2021 at 5:50 pm

    Oh goodness, there are a ton of different names in our family too. My Granddaddy was Sibert (called Sibe), my Mom, Aunts and Uncles all had nicknames (Poss, Ott, Magazine, Tilly, Mar, Mick, Muzz, Bungus). My Daddy was nicknamed Gizmo. Then us grandkids came along and our names were pretty modern but our nicknames were Bouga (me), Bumzy, Booter, Bear, Tonzie, Tootie, Slim, Jenzy, Muskrat, Kissy. But growing up, there were names like Reuben-Ashby, Inez, City, Hunn, Gatie, Dook, Arbutus, Moton, Eacil. We still use every one of those nicknames, too. I love that about my people 🙂

  • Reply
    PATSY MENDENHALL
    October 6, 2021 at 5:10 pm

    My great grandmother was named Mahala and my grandmother was Jincy. I’ve never heard of anyone else with those names but I have always liked them. My father was named Garnett, and there were several others with that name on his mother’s side of the family.
    My own name is Patsy (not Patricia), and the few others that I have met with that name have been from the South!

    • Reply
      Rita Speers
      October 7, 2021 at 7:52 am

      I was a teenager before I learned that my great Aunt Merky’s name was America. It had been shortened to Merky in usage.

    • Reply
      Becky Hale
      October 11, 2021 at 8:22 am

      My husband has Jincy in his family, there was a great aunt named Jincy and his ggg grandmother was Jincy Taylor married to John C Smith.

  • Reply
    Tammye R.
    October 6, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    I had a granny named Ocie ( o see) and a grandpa named Bemer ( beemer).

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 6, 2021 at 3:33 pm

    There are a lot of unusual names in my family tree but my favorite is “Happy”. Happy was my great great grandmother. Her real name was Happuch Matilda Gibson. Happuch was a probably a shortened version of the Bible name Keren-Happuch. Keren-Happuch was the youngest of Job’s three daughters. Happy married John Sadoc Smiley.
    There is another Keren-Happuch in my family tree but she wasn’t happy. She went by Karen.

    • Reply
      DonInKS
      October 13, 2021 at 9:39 am

      I once knew a elderly nun called Sister Corinne Happy, but no one ever called her anything but Sister Happy. She was also one of the happiest people I ever met.

  • Reply
    Hank Skewis
    October 6, 2021 at 1:43 pm

    My Grandma Cretie (Lucretia) was born and raised in backwoods W VA. she had a brother “Put,” (pronounced like the golf term) from Putnam.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    October 6, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    An aunt named Ella was called Eller; an aunt named Anna was called Anner; a cousin named Bertha was called Berthy; a cousin named Patricia was called Trishy; a cousin whose name I can’t remember was called Pug; a cousin named Mary Nell was called Mernell. Nicknames and variations of names were commonplace on both sides of my family.

  • Reply
    Lance Walker
    October 6, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    Had a Great Aunt named Mamie Fourthy Stanton. She was born in the Fourth of July.

  • Reply
    Dana
    October 6, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    Twisting names seemed to go with my grandparents’ generation but not with my parents’ For example, my grandmother ws named Ida and her sister was Cora. They were called Idy and Corey by their peers. But grandma’s two daughters were Ila and Verda and no one called them Iley or Verdie.

    Whenever Grandpa introduced his wife to someone, he said, “Meet the missus.”

  • Reply
    Debbie
    October 6, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    We have so many odd names in our family. Annas, Farbus, Buster Nile (real name of my daddy) Gilley, Winnie, Tatum, Pert, my Aunt Emma was called Emmer, Blanco, America and they called her Merkee, Delma and they called her Delmie, Elijah called Lije…the list goes on and on! I love all things Appalachian and many thanks and blessings to you for sharing our heritage!

  • Reply
    Gigi
    October 6, 2021 at 12:49 pm

    This is a great post. Well my Uncle on my daddy’s side, his name was Burlie Penley. My oldest daughter, I named her Sherina. Most time we call her Bina. And my youngest daughter, Well, it’s not much of her name. It’s the way we spell it, Eroica

  • Reply
    Gina Smith
    October 6, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    My husband’s grandmother was named Orma Galista but everyone called her Bobbie.

  • Reply
    Karen Mitchell
    October 6, 2021 at 11:58 am

    My Pappy‘s name was unusual. Oatey Burr was his first and middle name. My mother was named after him. I have never met another Oatey. Could be an offshoot of Otis?

  • Reply
    chirrl whatley
    October 6, 2021 at 11:48 am

    I just found this
    Oh what a joy
    I enjoy ya’ll so much keep up the good work

  • Reply
    Patricia A Small
    October 6, 2021 at 11:35 am

    I have an aunt named Anita who we call “Dede” and some other cousins call “Neet”… Better yet some cousins call her “Shieky”!

  • Reply
    Jeanne
    October 6, 2021 at 11:32 am

    It has always bothered me that women with the name Mary, Mary Caroline, Mary Elizabeth, Mary…..anything seemed to be changed to Polly. My mother’s Grandmother came to Wisconsin from Eastern Kentucky about 1904 and she was Mary Caroline. However, she was always called Polly. Also, my mother said that her Grandmother always put eeee on the end of everyone’s name, or so it seemed. My mother’s name was Ina and her Grandma would call her In-ee. My mother hated this. Also, sort of funny was that she gave her daughters two names, but always called them by their middle name. So, when her daughter, Jeannette Florence, (my grandmother) named her three daughter, she only gave them one name and said that they could use their maiden name as their middle name if they needed one. Strange how people get their name. I was named after both my grandmother and mother, I’m “Ina Jeanne” (after the Jeanne in Jeannette). As we already had an Ina in the household, I was always called Jeanne.

    • Reply
      Mary Lou McKillip
      October 6, 2021 at 8:32 pm

      Tipper I knew a Loadie and Linchie spelled as they were called

  • Reply
    Sarah
    October 6, 2021 at 11:28 am

    Hello Tipper, When I was a young girl we would visit relatives on Sundays in Northeast Ga. We made the rounds between two great Aunts on my father’s side of the family. They were his aunts, his dad’s sisters. I loved them so and it was always a great time for us kids. Their names were Ezalee (Ez-A-Lee) and Lovie (Loh-vee) I wish I knew their full names and the history behind those names. My grandfather’s name was Quitman. Not exactly common names for sure. My father’s mother was named Pernell, and I am named after her. (Sarah Pernell) I have never heard of anyone with those names. I love reading your blog and watching your YouTube channel. Congratulations on your 100,000 mark! Keep up the excellent work!

  • Reply
    Patricia Wilson
    October 6, 2021 at 11:10 am

    My great-great grandmother Ora Barnes Vick had a sister named Homer. Homer passed away shortly after her eighteenth birthday. My great-grandmother Vick, who died in 1979, just 6 weeks short of her hundredth birthday, never spoke of her – at least in my hearing. When I was bitten by the genealogy bug in 1999, I learned of Homer from the “cemetery books” produced by the sweet ladies of the county Homemakers Club (which seems to be a Kentucky thing as far as I know). These ladies risked copperheads and rattlers, chiggers, mosquito bites, bulls and poison ivy to painstakingly record every known grave in the county. Some of these cemeteries hadn’t been used or maintained for sixty years and could no longer be accessed by even a dirt road. A few, sadly, were small family burial grounds on “old home places” that had been used to pasture cattle for decades. Some were barely readable even in the early 1960s when the first two volumes were printed. I will be forever indebted to these women. It was my privilege to thank some of them in person and through notes to the county genealogical societies of the four Kentucky counties where the earthly remains of so many of my ancestors now rest. I started my family history after all who came before me were gone – not a practice I recommend. The two ladies who climbed a steep bluff to record Homer’s grave assumed it was the grave of a man. The inscription read “Homer Barnes dau. of Cornelia and Immanuel Barnes,” but it was so weathered that you could only decipher the abbreviation for “daughter” if you knew what it should say. A second cousin found a labeled portrait of Homer in her late mother’s things. She was most certainly a young woman.

    Lemma is another strange (to me) family name but there are several Lemmas in the cemetery book. I am a direct descendant of a “Lorenzo Dow Andrews.” Researching this name, I found that many southern families have a Lorenzo Dow [surname]. Lorenzo Dow (1777-1834) was a famous traveling evangelist. I also have a Horacio Gates Lane ancestor, named for one of the less successful Revolutionary War generals. One of my great grandmothers was named Tabitha – long before it became a popular girls name in the 1970s because of the TV sitcom “Bewitched.” She pronounced her name with the accent on the second syllable, unlike today’s Tabithas.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    October 6, 2021 at 11:02 am

    You really touched on something that is very noticeable even today. I do genealogy, and it is so common to read those old census’ and see names spelled just like they are pronounced by either the census taker or the family reporter. The last letters are dropped and replaced by y. My own dear grandmother Ida was always called Idy by Grandpa. Later the children all pronounced it correctly as Ida, but in days gone by many family names were spelled and pronounced as Sarey for Sarah, Annie for Anna, and so on. Less common an er was added, as my Aunt Edna may have been referred to as Edner. I love anything about Appalachia and their nicknames and changing pronunciation is just a part of what makes it unique. I had not thought of this for ages, but I once read many years ago that a very popular name in our area is supposed to be unique to the area. The name is Drema. I must have read this before Google, as a fast google makes no mention of this. I know many Dremas, and think it is a pretty name. I had never heard the name Tipper until Tipper Gore. I personally think you do the name Tipper proud!

  • Reply
    Christine
    October 6, 2021 at 10:55 am

    I don’t really know any names in my family that were unusual, a lot of repeats of family names. I had several family members with different nicknames, some having two or more. I have no clue why and to be honest, growing up it was extremely confusing, because different family members would call them by different nicknames. I learned some of the real names after they passed, but sadly not the story behind the nicknames. It will be interesting to learn some unusual family names others have and hopefully the stories behind them. I’m going to read your earlier post to learn more. I don’t know if you’ve done a post about family nicknames, but that would be interesting. As always, thank you, Tipper for sharing with us!

  • Reply
    Chad Wilson
    October 6, 2021 at 10:49 am

    Tipper,
    My Daddy is from Canton, NC and my Great Grandmother’s name was Julia, but she was affectionately known as Liley Mama. Not sure if that was a child’s pronuncation of her married name which was Lytle (which is my middle name). Funny how Southerners and Mountain Folk use those family names as middle names. I’ll be 50 next week and that seems to be a dying tradition. Thank you for all you do to preserve our Mountain/Appalachian heritage.

  • Reply
    dee
    October 6, 2021 at 10:46 am

    I’ve heard Velma called Velmer or Velmar, Elva to Elvie, and in 1961 my good friend Donna had returned from her first year at college and wanted to go down south to my Grandparents with me for two weeks. My Grandmother knew her name was Donna but she called her Diner even though she heard me calling my friend Donna. We never thought to ask her why? On my Father’s side he had an Aunt Swepter who was the oldest child of his Grandfather and I had never heard that name before.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    October 6, 2021 at 10:29 am

    One of my great grandmothers was named Sophronia. They called her Fronie. My husband’s grandmother was named Buena, and she was called Bewnie.

  • Reply
    Marilyn
    October 6, 2021 at 10:17 am

    My mom was always intrigued by locals who pronounced people’s names that ended in an “a”as “ee”. Her name was Rita and some people pronounced it as Ree-tee. Both my grandmother’s name was Anna, pronounced Annie. A neighbor’s name was Matilda, called Tillie. We also had a Cora (Cor-ee), Barbara (Barb-ree) and Agatha (Aga-thee) in town. My aunt’s name was Valeria, pronounced Va-laer-ra.

  • Reply
    Greg Church
    October 6, 2021 at 10:04 am

    My grandmothers name was Rachel but everyone called Rachie or Rissie. My father’s mother didn’t want to be called mamaw, or granny but grandmother. Of course, kids couldn’t quite say that and we called her Nannie which she accepted fine.I had a ancestor named Lucinda who everyone refers to as Loucindy. ( Oral history sometimes makes genealogy difficult when you have that aha moment of enlightenment).

  • Reply
    Betsy Wilson
    October 6, 2021 at 10:01 am

    After finding and enjoying your blog so much, I now realize where so many of my family’s sayings originated. Raised by my Grandparents (Maternal) whom both came from N. W. Alabama, but met and married in Oklahoma in 1911. I recognize most of the ones you have mentioned. We were raised on the same kind of good homegrown garden vegetables, fresh milk and eggs. Not so much on venison…They raised and butchered a hog every year. Later they butchered a calf annually after we got a freezer. Wonderful carefree childhood in the country. One of the funniest memories I have about names: My Grandmother had a visitor and my cousin were in the next room playing when we heard the woman telling Mama about her daughter. She said,’ “Yes, Marthee had twins and she named them Eller and Steller. We cracked up with the giggles, but as you can imagine, it was not so pretty nor funny after Mama’s company left. I am 80 years young, and our family has been having an annual family reunion for the past 56 years at an organized camp ground at the lake up home. Aunts, Uncles, cousins, in-laws and probably some outlaws have met every year up until the pandemic stepped in and made us cancel this last couple of Easter week-ends. We gather on Friday night for a big fish fry followed by picking and grinning around the campfire; Saturday morning most of the men go to the Lodge to play golf. Saturday night is Mexican pot-luck (yummy), and again followed up with music into the night. Sunday noon is when we have the HUGE FEAST! This is followed by a very large Easter egg hunt for the little ones. We now number to more than 100 people. We come from everywhere across the nation. My husband and our peers are now the oldest generation (Seems impossible). We are the third generation of senior members. Of course, every year we have a new crop of babies added. The campground has individual cabins, bathhouses, and the main meeting hall/kitchen where we all meet to visit, play dominoes, work jigsaw puzzles, play music, etc. The kids have a huge area to play out of doors. It is a most wonderful tradition that I think our children will continue to carry on.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    October 6, 2021 at 9:56 am

    My grandmother and her sisters were named after states. My grandmother was Virginia (Ginny) her sisters, Maine (Mainey) Nebraska (Braskey), Kansas (Kanny).
    I used to think it was weird the parents did that but now I think it’s cool that they dared to be different.

  • Reply
    Randy
    October 6, 2021 at 9:54 am

    I remember three ladies in my community named Eula, Ziller, and Zola. The spelling of the names may not be correct especially Ziller but it was pronounced Zill ur. The last lady was not called Zola but went by her other name of Gladys.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    October 6, 2021 at 9:29 am

    My maternal grandma died before I was born. Her name was always pronounced as …LOU I ZY. . When I was a teenager, my mom decided we should go visit the OLD graveyard up on the high mountain where new owners of the land had paused their decade long strip mining. We took a picnic and brush clearing tools and we kids climbed in the pickup truck bed. After a rocky ride , the road leveled out at what mom once knew as her homeplace. We all took a hoe or a rake and she directed us toward a far corner where Graves were mostly marked by a big rock for a headstone, with a smaller one as a foot stone. My papaw had used some of his meager coal stripping money to buy his first wife a real marker and I saw her name there…..LOUISA

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    October 6, 2021 at 9:22 am

    Verner for Verna….Murry for Mary….my Gndma Mauney’s name was “Theodocia” and was known as “Doesh”….my Grt-gndpa Cebrum Byers was known as “Cebe”…..Roe for Monroe…

  • Reply
    Betty W. Blalock
    October 6, 2021 at 9:20 am

    My maternal grandmother and her twin sister were named Toka and Noka Scaggs. Pronounced Tokee and Nokee. They were from Sumner, GA.
    I enjoy your blog and YouTube channel very much. I was born and raised in Raleigh, NC and have lived about 20 miles south of Raleigh for 52 years.

  • Reply
    Carol Blackwell
    October 6, 2021 at 9:17 am

    Hey Tipper. My mother’s name was Leona. Her family always pronounced it Le-o-nee.

  • Reply
    Brynne
    October 6, 2021 at 9:13 am

    Good morning. Two names in my family always seemed odd. My grandfather’s name was Wheeler, which I’ve never heard elsewhere; he was born about 1916, I think. And he had an older woman cousin (or some relation), named Vermin (!). Both were raised in or around Campbell County, in East TN. My own name was uncommon to the point of weirdness when I was growing up in the early 1960’s, but not an Appalachian name that I know of. Thankfully it’s a lot more common now.

  • Reply
    Rosamary Christiansen
    October 6, 2021 at 9:12 am

    My mother’s namr was Elnora, she was called Norrie. Her mother got the name from a book she was reading, The Girl of the Limberlost.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 6, 2021 at 9:07 am

    You are on to something. I’m just not sure what. Maybe it is at least partly about how people invent language. I do understand that people will add, subtract or even use a complete substitute for sounds in speaking to make words easier to say. That is especially true of words from a foreign language. I can think of Appalachian examples but those examples are not people names.

    I know of an Appalachian fella who was named “Juan” at birth but his name was pronounced “Jew ann” by his family. My great-uncle’s name was “Harrison” but he was called “Harris”. further back in his family line there was a “Sol” which was probably short for “Solomon”. My wife’s aunt is named “Corinne” but she has always been called “Core reen a”. No idea how an “e” became an “a”. At least some of those kinds of changes are knowingly adopted in families. That happens especially when a child can’t correctly pronounce a name and their variation is so cute everybody picks it up. Some hand-me-down names may even have originated in Colonial phonetic spellings when somebody saw their name written such as on a militia muster roll and just took it as being the correct way. An example might be “Hew” for “Hugh”. (Those writers were awful bad to use creative abbreviations to!)

  • Reply
    Joe F.
    October 6, 2021 at 9:07 am

    My paternal grandfather’s name was Ira. Talking with an elderly gentleman whose family was friends with my dad’s family, couple years ago, I kept referring to Ira, pronouncing it correctly, of course (EYE-rah). He finally asked, “Who? Who you talking about?”
    “My papaw.”
    “Oh, you mean Ary (AR-ee).”
    Thinking back to my youth (I was only 10 when my papaw passed), I recalled that that was indeed what he was called by the adults.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    October 6, 2021 at 8:58 am

    Mammy, Mom’s mother, had ten girls and named eight of them with names ending with an a. They were names like Lola, Dora, Vesta and etc that were seldom ever pronounced the way they were spelled. Mom’s name was Emiline. I thought that was an unusual name but never asked Mammy how she came up with it. Mammy’s name was Thursa and was known as Thurs. Her mother was a full blooded Cherokee Indian. I have often wondered if the name was derived from Thursday.
    My mother-in-laws name was Zeda. Her husband and others called her Zeddie. They had a daughter named Betty who was trying to impress a certain boy in school. The boy called one evening and asked for her. Betty’s dad thought the call was for Zeddie and said she was down there slopping the hogs. I’m not sure Betty ever forgave him.

    • Reply
      Betty Jo Eason Benedict
      October 7, 2021 at 7:19 am

      Love it! Same story with my Uncle Ira ……. (AR-ee) 🙂

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes Moreno
    October 6, 2021 at 8:54 am

    My Granny’s name was Martha Watsie. They called her Wats for short.

  • Reply
    Frances Jackson
    October 6, 2021 at 8:51 am

    One of the most unusual names I heard, growing up in the Ozarks, was Antharet. A friend of my parents had a daughter with that name. I never thought about it much as a child, but time and distance have sharpened my curiosity about this name. I think it’s probably a family name that got its spelling changed a few times. I just wonder if anyone has heard this name or anything remotely similar.
    Also, I’m familiar with the custom of changing Martha to Marthy, Iva to Ivy, and so on.

  • Reply
    Christine
    October 6, 2021 at 8:49 am

    “You say ‘po-tA-to’ – but I say ‘po-ta-to.
    You say ‘to-mA-to’ – but I say to-ma-to…”

  • Reply
    AWGRIFF
    October 6, 2021 at 8:47 am

    I didn’t get the chance to comment on yesterday’s post and you got me again. I thought everybody knew what count meant like he is no count.

    Some of the family names I’ve thought of here in E.KY. A great aunt Deliah-Liahlee, Paulina-Pliny, Sarah-Serre, and an aunt Thelma-Thelmee, Lucille-Lucee, A mamaw Bertha-Berthee. I’m not sure this fits but had an uncle named Emerson we called Sam. I thought of two aunts in my wife’s family. An aunt Cora-Coree, and an aunt Dorothy called Dood.

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    Margie G (for great cornbread nowadays)
    October 6, 2021 at 8:37 am

    The picture of you, Gazzie and Tina is just adorable! I had an aunt named MELSTER. I had an an aunt named HARDESS. I had and uncle named HARDEN. A granny named CORA was also called CORY ETHEL. My sister is named PEARL after Granny Pearl (and some late ‘60s song about a girl called Pearl…) I’d not trade our hillbilly lives and all the stories for a million dollars and half the land!!!! You might say I cannot be bought period. Have a good day, Tipper. I want you to know it was only last evening when Murray bragged about my cornbread and said “ I don’t know who taught you, but YOUR cornbread is now great!” And he had another piece. You’re the apple of my eye, Miss Appalachian steward and all around wonderful lady and friend!!! You’ve done wonders in preserving and sharing hillbilly heritage to the world!!!

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    Joey
    October 6, 2021 at 8:27 am

    I had a 2nd great grandfather named Pinkney, a great aunt named Della they called deller, and a great grandfather whose name was Staples, which I have always wondered where it came from because I’ve never heard that one anywhere else.

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    Becky Hale
    October 6, 2021 at 8:20 am

    well my gg gramma was Orpha or Orphy and she had a granddaughter (my granny’s sister which is how i know they called her Orphy) named Orphy…
    One i run across in my husband’s line is Jincy and another one is Amner…Her name was Marianne but i’ve found her in records as Ammer, Annie, Anner, but most commonly as Amner…never have figured that one out!!!

  • Reply
    Sherry Case
    October 6, 2021 at 8:13 am

    Tipper,
    I was so happy to see your post today! I Love the names from our region! Also, over the years, I have thought about how some names are butchered by us. In our community of Guntown, Hawkins County, TN. we had many ladies with beautiful names that were not known to the public until they passed on. For instance, Ollie for Olivia, Lyd (long I sound) for Lydia. One lady that lived near us was Tinnie. Her given name was Tennessee. In my husband’s family, there were sisters named Texas and Italy. Italy was pronounced It-ly. Aunt Texas had two sons named Huston and Dallas. Then there was Aunt Alafair. On my side there was my cousin, Douglas MacArthur Forgety and my great Aunt Melissa Sudee Kate. That is just a few from my neck of the woods.
    Thank you for your blog, it makes me remember sweet things from my past!

    Sherry Case

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    George Pettie
    October 6, 2021 at 8:02 am

    Many unusual given names are middle names used when the first name is very common and the community has many people with the same surname. Ex: James Jefferson Jones would go by Jefferson.

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    Larry Paul Eddings
    October 6, 2021 at 8:01 am

    My paternal grandmother was named Anna Mae and my paternal grandmother was named Essie. Both were women of remarkable character. I’ve never known another woman with either of those names.

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    Carol
    October 6, 2021 at 8:01 am

    My Granny changed her name from Oga Bernice to Ogarette and changed my Grandpa’s name from D’Arcy to Dorsey.

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    Ava Abbott
    October 6, 2021 at 7:50 am

    Changing an A ending sound in a name to ER was very common in my family. So Iva would become Iver, Cora would be Corie, etc. Also Sarah was changed to Surrie, pronounced like the buggy with fringe. In my family on both sides, there are lots of names that end in dell. I would love to know more about that.

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    Edward Karshner
    October 6, 2021 at 7:48 am

    My grandpa’s brothers and sisters all had nicknames that stuck so hard, that for my great-aunts, I don’t even know their real names. My great-uncld Russell was called Runt. I called him Uncle Runt until I was a teenager. His two boys are called Doodle and Speedy. But, my great aunts were Winkle and Sap.

    I think k growing up a lot of people had nicknames that were used more than the real ones.

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    Betty Jo Eason Benedict
    October 6, 2021 at 7:35 am

    I love this post! Saw many of the name variations in the old census pages when I was researching my families. My grandma was Cora “Corrie” and one of her sisters was Zelma “Aunt Zel”. My other Granny had a sister Irene, I remember so well hearing Granny call her “Reener”. Many great names you rarely if at all hear these days. Does it seem like the variations like “y and ie” endings are more noticeable in the women of the family? Oh and grandpa was the original “Logan” that has been used a lot just recently……..I do recall hearing grandma call him “Loggie” (long o). A fun post…….Thanks Tipper!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 6, 2021 at 7:18 am

    That should have said “I had a cousin named Anita Lynn, but she was called Zoolie….” Sorry for the omission!

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    GoodGriefLouise
    October 6, 2021 at 7:17 am

    Here’s one for someone to answer. In doing research on my family I often came across a nickname for Mary. One I have yet to figure out how it came about or even why. It just makes no sense. My family hails as far back as I can trace it so far to North Carolina. My third great grandfather was raised in Rowan County and they lived in and around Salisbury. Eventually he married and moved his rather large family to Tennessee for a short period and then finally to Alabama. But I digress. Back to the nicknames. The one that pops up all the time back in the 18th and 19th century for Mary is Polly. Now how do you even come close to getting to be a Polly if you were christened Mary?

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      October 6, 2021 at 5:18 pm

      Polly was a very common nickname for Mary in earlier times. Sarah became Sally and Margaret became Peggy.

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    Miss Cindy
    October 6, 2021 at 6:59 am

    I had a cousin named but she was called Zoolie all her her life and I was called Tilly from Tilly the Toiler for a while because I was always busy.
    Then there is my son Matt, your husband who is called the Deer Hunter, for obvious reasons!
    That’s all I can think of at the moment but I reserve the right to add more later in the day as I remember them!

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