April 25, 2024

Names and American ethnogenesis, from Dark Age revivals to purely New World creations

I still have plenty to cover in American architecture, but I hit on something pretty big that's worth exploring first. This is not exhaustive -- the big picture, with plenty of details, and as usual more to appear in the comments section.

I've covered names before on the blog, over 10 years ago, looking at trends over time, linking the rise of unique names with the status-striving cycle (vs. egalitarian times, when people feel compelled to give their kids the same names, so no one sticks out like a diva), and other matters.

But now we'll look at the role that given names play within the process of ethnogenesis. Strikingly, Americans began breaking from their British / European / Western / Olde Worlde roots right after landing in the New World -- *not* after the integrative civil war had wrapped up, which is when all other forms of cultural evolution take a distinctly, newly constructed American turn.

Already in the 17th-century, Puritans were giving their kids unique names by the standards of their cousins and ancestors back in Britain -- Prudence, Humility, Chastity, and other "virtue" names. Some of them have stuck, like Faith, Hope, Grace, and Felicity.

Benjamin Franklin, born in 1706, was given a name light-years ahead of its time, even in America, let alone back in Europe, where it was still distinctly Jewish -- 100 years after Franklin's birth, Benjamin Disraeli was the only Euro statesman with that name, and he was Jewish. And Franklin was not an outlier -- two other Benjamins signed the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Harrison V and Benjamin Rush.

A quick look over the other Founding Fathers (signers of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, or the Constitution), reveals all sorts of names that were unusual by contempo Euro standards -- Daniel (x3), Nathaniel (x2), Caesar, Titus, Abraham (x2), Josiah, Gunning, Jacob, Stephen (way ahead of its time), Richard (x5), Jared, Rufus, Arthur, etc.

As for US presidents, unusual names are already apparent with those born in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and it never stopped -- Zachary, Millard, Franklin, Abraham, Ulysses, Chester, Grover, Benjamin, Theodore, Woodrow, Warren, Calvin, Herbert, Franklin again, Dwight, Richard (more common in America by that time, but still not a typical Euro name), Gerald, Ronald, Donald, and Barack (Barry while growing up -- but even Barack, with its weak initial vowel, sounds more like a typically all-American 20th-century name like Brock, Rock, Doc, Spock, etc.)

Masculine names are far more conservative in their trends than feminine names, so the fact that this critical break with the Olde Worlde shows up in early male leaders is quite a testament to how eager we were to fashion a new identity for ourselves once we began adapting to a whole new environment in America.

Why do names defy the usual pattern of a new cultural identity being constructed only after the integrative civil war? Perhaps not as much cohesion is required to introduce new names into circulation via your own flesh-and-blood offspring. It's not like putting together Elizabethan stage plays, Viennese symphonies, or monumental architecture. Your children going to get a name no matter what it is, why not use the opportunity to make it a new one? It's cost-free and doesn't require much teamwork to make it happen, unlike the major cultural products like buildings, dramas, and paintings.

It seems like dialectal variation should behave the same way -- it costs you nothing to introduce a new sound pattern. But it does require lots of cohesion, since all the other members of your speech community must agree to the new sound pattern for it to catch on. Such cohesion only comes about from intense asabiya being born on a meta-ethnic frontier, and the outcome of an integrative civil war, when there is a strong sense of a new Us being fashioned, not just the old Us vs. Them -- but one Us vs. another Us, to determine who among the varied Us gets to set the new standard.

Names are not quite as demanding on cohesion -- not everyone has to give their kids the same new name, whereas everyone does have to pronounce the vowels in "cot" and "caught" the same, if that's to be a new sound pattern. Probably the other members of the community, when they hear a new name, think "Huh, that's a little odd-sounding... but all the other cues tell me it's a member of Team Us, so I guess that's just a new name that some of Us are giving Our kids, better make an exceptional note of it and put it on the safe-list."

Whereas if they hear a funny-sounding name, and all the other cues point to it being a member of Team Them, the strange name is just another aspect of Them-ness, and to blacklist the name as belonging to Outsiders. The other cues being grooming, clothing, subsistence mode, religion, language, totem symbols, folk customs, food traditions, music, dance, and the rest of it.

* * *

Within the general population, Americans have been even more eager to fashion a new cultural identity for themselves, separate from Olde Worlde roots (especially Euro / Western, with Ancient Saharo-Arabian being a possible exception). Right up through the end of the American Century, the top 50 names for baby girls in 1999 included purely American creations, chosen for sounding too exotic for Euro ears, like Samantha, Madison, Jessica, Alyssa, Kayla, Brianna, Grace, Destiny, Brittany, Amber, Savannah, Danielle, Brooke, and Sierra.

Quibblers will claim that Jessica comes from Shakespeare, after the character in The Merchant of Venice. But that was not a real person's name, only a character's name in a stage play. And in the play, it's the name of a Venetian, not an English speaker. It never caught on after that -- and Shakespeare in general, and that play in particular, have always been popular. It was only used on rare occasion, by offbeat parents who wanted to show how cultured or unique they were.

The true reason for Jessica's rise in popularity is its sound similarity to already popular names -- the skyrocketing Jennifer, along with recently trendy names ending in "-ica" like Veronica and Monica, and the appeal of making a feminine form of the popular male name Jesse. Jennifer and/or Jessica also spun-off the name Jenna circa the 1970s and '80s, which is *not* from Shakespeare, but does sound like an already popular name, whether Jennifer or Jessica or both. Jenna then spawned rhyme-mates McKenna / Kenna and Sienna.

There's another character in The Merchant of Venice named Nerissa, and yet that name has never become popular -- outside of the same rare offbeat parents, and the cultured individual who chose the stage name for the Hololive vtuber Nerissa Ravencroft.

To the extent that Nerissa is appealing enough to become the stage name for a major entertainment brand like Hololive, it is due to being a member of a rhyming class of names -- Melissa, Alyssa, Kissa, etc. In fact, it's a minimal mutation of Melissa, changing the initial nasal to another nasal, and the medial liquid to another liquid. Phonology, not semantics and referents, are what drive the evolution in names.

Portia, another character from the same play, caught on somewhat better than Nerissa, but it's not clear that it's due to that character, instead of the prestigious car manufacturer's name, Porsche, pronounced the same in American English. In fact, the spelling variant Porsha is another trendy American name -- and as usual, the midwits who spin their BS folk etymologies behind names, claim that it's a German word meaning "offering". Nope -- it's just a typically American-sounding name, regardless of any false cognates it may have in the world's myriad languages or its literatures or its luxury brands.

No one behaves according to what a name "means" across the zillions of false cognates it may have somewhere out there -- it's how it *sounds* that drives our behavior.

This is because names are not a private affair -- they serve as shibboleths in a social context, identifying members of Us from members of Them. If you don't recognize anyone's names, you must be dealing with Them. If their names are already known, or familiar-sounding enough, you must be dealing with Us. Shibboleths are about pronunciation and sound, not meaning or substance. I don't care what your name alludes to -- it sounds totally weird to my ears, so you must be an outsider, to be treated like one.

As America separated itself from its British, Euro, Western, and Olde Worlde roots, the names belonging to the latter groups became contaminated-sounding -- too Them, not sufficiently Us. Hence the present situation, where the top 50 baby girls names for 2023 include not only many of those from 1999 listed above -- but wait, there's more!, like Ava, Mia, Chloe, Avery, Addison (rhymed from Madison), Zoe (rhyming with Chloe), Layla (rhymed from the already popular Kayla, not descended from or alluding to its false cognate in Arabic), Brooklyn, and Maya (with lower-ranking but still popular rhyme-mates Kaia, Gaia, probably Raya, Vaya, and who knows what else next).

Gotta love the absolutely desperate cluelessness of the semantic-focused spin-meisters at thebump.com (as in, baby bump), who claim that the name Kaia has Scandinavian, Estonian, Greek, Japanese, Hawaiian, and Hebrew roots -- a post hoc rationalization for everybody! Nope -- it simply rhymes with the already popular Maya, and doesn't sound Euro, so it's suitably American.

I got a pleasant chuckle from hearing Dasha on Red Scare saying she was eager to have a baby boy so she could name him Honor, with the usual wahmen's rationalization about it being semantic -- a latter-day virtue name. But nope, it's simply a rhyming variant of the already popular Connor. She was so eager and bubbly while spinning the rationalization, though, that I hate to "decode" what was really guiding her decision -- typical male-brain always trying to analyze things, just let a girl feel her feelings, sheesh! ^_^

BTW, we can probably add McKenzie to the pure American creation list -- it's tempting to think of it as adopting a surname to a given name, but it also comes in the non-surname form of Kenzie, without the Celtic patronymic prefix "Mc / Mac". The same goes for McKenna, which comes in the non-surname form of Kenna.

Ultimately these all trace back to the earlier popular name Mikayla, which may be a purely new creation, or a novel feminine form of the male name Michael -- but in any case, where the initial sounds of "mik" are not a patronymic prefix at all. Mikayla comes in a rhyming pair with Kayla, and that supposed shortening does not involve dropping a patronymic prefix -- so we don't need to assume that process is happening either with McKenna to Kenna, or McKenzie to Kenzie.

Also, the supposed Celtic surnames are tightly constrained by phonotactics -- there are a zillion Celtic surnames that begin with Mc / Mac, and yet the three most popular ones belong to popular rhyming classes. Mikayla, Kayla, Layla, Shayla, Jayla, etc. And Kenna, Jenna, Sienna, etc. (Kenna may also be a novel feminine form of the recently popular male name Ken.) And even Kenzie is a close rhyme for the popular late-20th-C girl's name Lindsey.

The stressed vowel is produced a little higher in the mouth for Lindsey, but given the tendency for Western American dialects to lower front vowels (e.g., Valley Girls pronouncing "bitch" as "betch"), maybe they were already pronouncing Lindsey as "Lendsey", making Kenzie a perfect rhyme for it after all.

I'll only briefly reiterate Stanley Lieberson's important finding that naming trends do not follow appearances in popular culture, but rather the opposite -- some name is already climbing from obscurity into prominence, and the culture creators sense that just as well as their everyman audience does, so they choose it for their cultural work. They're two sides of the same coin, not one causing the other.

There are a few exceptions, IIRC, but in general it is pure post hoc rationalization to point to some pop culture character that came out before a name became super-popular and say, that figure made the name popular. It was already becoming popular before the character, and the character's creator was jumping on the bandwagon just as much as real-life mothers were.

Just as one example, Wikipedia, citing one of those dumdum baby name sites, claims that Kayla's popularity was due to a character by that name who debuted in 1982 on Days of Our Lives, a popular American soap opera TV show. In reality, Kayla's popularity was already shooting through the roof before 1982 -- it ranked #578 in '81, up from #594 in '80, way up from #678 in '79 and #677 in '78, up from #694 in '77, way up from #854 at the start of the '70s.

It did shoot up big-time during '82, when it ranked #132, but this is just how exponential growth and decay works -- it builds slow, then goes really fast, then slows down / tapers off, then gently declines, then crashes, then mellows out. That is a completely endogenous process, it doesn't get some external injection of oomph just before entering its steep-climb phase. And Kayla's growth was already well under way before a soap opera writer jumped on the bandwagon at the right time.

Good culture creators do not influence the everyday lives of millions of people -- they have an intuitive knack for spotting what is already in demand, and delivering it to the audience. Someone senses that the name Kayla is building steam among real-life mothers -- well, if that's what they want, then that's what they'll get, a new (fictional) person in their lives named Kayla.

* * *

That brings us to regional variation within America. As usual, the main source of cultural innovation is along the meta-ethnic frontier with the Indians, Mexicans, and somewhat the Japanese -- out West. Back-East names are more conservative, notwithstanding the Puritans' novel virtue names. Back then, Puritans *were* on the meta-ethnic frontier with Indians -- but over time, that frontier shifted further and further out West, leaving East Coasters to favor Euro-LARP-ing names more than West Coast Americans do.

Here is a data visualization from over 10 years ago, demonstrating the pattern that everyone always finds with names in America. The distinctive, new, all-American, non-Euro names are born from the Midwest to the Pacific Coast. Even within the Deep South, Louisiana or Mississippi is more likely to spawn a new popular name than Georgia or South Carolina.

Take just one salient example, the quintessentially American name Brittany. It was rhymed from the already popular Whitney, not the false cognate from the name of a region in Northwestern France, which pronounces the "a" vowel, unlike the American girl's name, which is pronounced BRIT-nee, where the "a" is silent, and where the stressed syllable is first rather than last, just like Whitney. The spelling variant Britney, as in Britney Spears, makes this clear.

At its peak of popularity, circa 1980, it was most distinctive of Utah and a broad swath of states from the Plains and Rocky Mountains region, and only somewhat distinctive of states east of the Mississippi River (Britney Spears was an outlier for being born in Mississippi).

This geographic gradient reflects the general pattern -- constructing a new identity is done by those closest to the meta-ethnic frontier, where they are being shaped into a whole new people by their conflict with the meta-ethnic nemesis, and must cohere very intensely into a new Us in order to fend off and perhaps even conquer Them.

The standard dialect in American and Canadian English is Western -- East Coast dialects sound the most harshly non-standard, whether Yankee or Confederate. And so the pattern goes with names, a linguistic element that is also strongly based on sound / phonology for determining how standard it is. It's a shibboleth.

* * *

I'll wrap up with a discussion of a very broad and in-depth discovery I made in the comments to the previous post, about America being a Dark Age culture out of sync with the Old World timeline, which left the Dark Ages behind circa 1300 -- but was part of a previous Dark Age before circa 700 BC, with Classical eras from 700 BC to 300 AD and from 1300 AD to present.

I explained this cycle by referring to the relative dominance of nomadism vs. sedentarism, with much of Eurasia being united by the Steppe as a source of nomadism, putting them all on the same timeline and cycle. Nomadic dominance leads to weak central states, and other aspects of Dark Purity cultures. Sedentary dominance leads to strong central states, and other aspects of Enlightened Perversion cultures.

But there are notable exceptions that spun off from the Eurasian landmass -- America and Japan, which remained a Dark Age / feudal culture until very recently, and arguably remains one, just like America.

(As a timely reminder of America's weak central state, look at who is sent to deal with all the anti-Zionist protests on college campuses right now -- not a federal organization like the US Army, FBI, etc., but city-level forces like the NYPD or state-level ones like the Texas National Guard, under the authority of mayors or governors, who are like regional counts, dukes, or barons from the feudal Dark Ages, not the president or any other federal official, who are like the king and central royal court from the Dark Ages. In Europe, where central states are stronger, they would send in a national-level gendarmerie like Spain's Guardia Civil for protests erupting around the nation.)

Looking over the names of American presidents, and having delved into the European Dark Ages so much recently, I can't help but be struck by three presidents having names that end in "-ald", as though they were a Frankish or Viking chieftain named Theobald or Grimwald.

This is one domain of naming trends where substance, meaning, and allusion do come into play -- not at the level of individual names, which are tightly constrained by sound patterns, but broad sources of inspiration to draw from, while obeying the all-important sound patterns. Not every name can be a totally original coinage.

In the 19th century, in the Old World itself, there was a general backlash against the centuries-long consolidation of central states and their overly rigid and dehumanizing / domesticating cultures. The Romantic movement, the Gothic novel, the Grimm brothers collecting and publishing fairytales, a Gothic revival in architecture (technically part of the civilizing phase of the cycle, but the earliest stage of it, and so feeling more thankfully barbarian in comparison to Neoclassical), Wagnerian operas about the Dark Ages and Bronze Age mythologies of Germanic peoples, and so on and so forth.

This didn't last very long in Europe as a major cultural phenomenon, not making it out of the 19th century, but it does still linger as a minority tendency. It was more of a temporary pressure relief valve for all that stultifying order and domestication that had been building up since 1300 -- not an endless new trail they were going to blaze.

Heavy metal bands that tap into Britain's Stonehenge era will always be more popular in America, a bona fide Dark Age feudal society. And as the Old World empires all bit the dust in the early 20th C, most of them fell under American vassalage (except for China), and so they adopted some degree of our very eager indulging in the Dark Age cultures of the Olde Worlde.

In names, this backlash and Dark Age revival showed up in old Germanic names making a comeback within Europe itself -- in Britain, Albert, Herbert, and other -berts, along with Robert, which never fell totally out of fashion after the Dark Ages. The first and only British prime minister to have such a neo-bert name, other than Robert, was H. H. Asquith -- Herbert Henry -- born in 1852. Among royalty, Prince Albert (husband to Queen Victoria) was born in 1819, and several generations of his male descendants were named Albert as well.

America would take that revival and make it permanent, with Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump.

Elsewhere in Europe, Engelbert made a 19th-C comeback in the eastern German-speaking lands, including places in their sphere like Slovenia. Oswald made a brief comeback in Eastern Europe as well.

But in America, not only did we elevate the popularity of Robert to all-time heights during the early-mid 20th century, and maintain other lesser ones such as Albert, Herbert, Norbert, and Gilbert, we enshrined this Dark Age suffix as a full name unto itself -- Bert / Burt. For real people like Burt Lancaster and Burt Reynolds, this may have been a nickname for Burton, but that's still a nickname that no British Burtons had used before. And in the case of Bert from Sesame Street's Bert & Ernie duo, it was spelled like the suffix and was not a shortened form of Burton / Berton / Bertram / etc.

The open-ended productive use of -bert continues outside of existing -bert names, into American novelty names in pop culture. There's icons like the Dilbert comic strip, the Q*bert video game character (a very rare American-created, rather than Japanese, arcade game from the Golden Age), the name Goobert that the most popular English vtuber, Gawr Gura (alias Gooba), gives to some of the characters she plays as in video games, as well as fellow Hololive EN vtuber Fauna naming her sourdough starter culture Doughbert. All part of her love for fantastical fairytale forest culture. Back when men had real names like Dagobert, Rigobert, and Humbert. ^_^

(The protag from Lolita, Humbert Humbert, is supposed to be stereotypically Euro, and a fish out of water in America, and yet he has a very American name -- a Dark Age Germanic -bert name. The only finishing touch to Americanize it would be shortening it to a monosyllabic nickname like Hum.)

Born around the same time as the first -bert prime minister was the first -ald, Archibald Primrose. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, two separate Harold prime ministers were born, Macmillan and Wilson. (Harold was Harald in the Dark Ages.)

Sidenote: Boris Johnson has a Dark Age name, after the greatest of the Bulgarian emperors, from the 9th century, who is responsible for Christianizing Eastern Europe, bringing literacy to them, and establishing the foundation for Slavic liturgies.

I think the -ald ending is not as productive in American English cuz it's not such a well-formed syllable, lacking an initial consonant. Maybe just -bald or -wald would work, but -bald has a false cognate with negative associations. And we're familiar enough with German toponyms that -wald sounds too much like the name of a place, not a person. IDK.

Aside from these Germanic names from the Dark Age, there are several others originally from Greek -- meaning Byzantine, not Hellenic. We're Dark Age, so must our Greek inspirations -- either Byzantine or Bronze Age.

Christopher and Stephen were only common during the Dark Ages in Europe, going into decline during the Renaissance and falling into total oblivion after then. But in the 20th C., there can be no more all-American names than Chris and Steve (the most ubiquitous Boomer name). As pointed out earlier, America was *really* early on the Stephen trend, with a signer of the Declaration of Independence being a Stephen. In fact, although he went by Grover in adulthood, the late 19th-century president Cleveland was born and raised as Stephen.

The last and only British ruler named Stephen was king during the 12th century, during their empire's integrative civil war (the Anarchy), as the English were consolidating their initial victory over their meta-ethnic nemesis (the Vikings / Danelaw, who were expelled by the Norman Conquest).

Then there are Bronze Age Greek names like Jason, that were never that popular even during Hellenic Greece. Nor was it popular during the Dark Ages. There's one Italian born in the 1400s named Giasone (del Maino), and another born in the 1500s (De Nores). Otherwise, almost all Jasons of any note are Americans born in the 1800s and after. It's so iconically American that it has been chosen as a rhyming inspiration -- for Mason, Payson, Grayson, Chayson, Kayson, Brayson, etc.

There are so many Greek names from the Classical era that we are famililar with -- Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Archimedes, Euclid, and the list goes on and on -- yet we have decided to entirely ignore them, preferring instead the monster-battling heroes of the pre-Classical era, or the heroic Christian martyrs of the Byzantine / Dark Age era. Nothing could be less appealing to American honor-culture sensibilities than "being good at math and philosophy" or "being a theater kid".

Speaking of "monster-battling" -- Bronze Age epithets like Homer's "swift-footed Achilles" fell into disfavor during the Classical era. Too concrete, and therefore animalistic or barbaric. The Romans did include a descriptive term like "august" within their 17 other elements of a full name, but that dilutes its power. And like "august," they weren't so concretely physical.

It just doesn't pack a punch like Charles the Bald, a 9th-century Carolingian emperor, whose own father was the emperor Louis the Pious. Or the 12th-century Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa / Rotbart -- Redbeard. Or the 10th-century Viking king, Harald Bluetooth. Or the 7th-century Byzantine emperor Justinian II the Slit-nosed. Or the 12th-century British king, Richard the Lionheart. Or back to Boris of the 9th-century Bulgarian Empire -- known as The Baptizer. And on and on and on...

Well, leave it to a neo-Dark Age culture like America, where our politicians are now known as Crooked Hillary Clinton, Lyin' Ted Cruz, Sleepy Joe Biden, etc. During Trump's first primary campaign, I pointed out that he descended from literal Vikings -- the clan MacLeod, whose namesake was a Viking ruler named Ljotr. At least that's the tradition, it could be a case of legitimizing one's group by means of an illustrious legendary foreign founder, much like the Rurikid dynasty in Russia claiming descent from a non-existent, legendary Viking ancestor.

Whether he has authentic Norse DNA in his veins or not, Trump surely is a Dark Age feudal leader of a weak central state, and he knows what buttons to push to resonate with its cultural values. And weak central state people love nothing more than blunt epithets. See also the once-common Italian-American practice of blunt epithets like Fat Tony, Danny No-Shoes, Jimmy Too-Short, etc. Or African-American rappers and gang members using epithets like Fat Joe, Megan Thee Stallion, etc.

Europeans haven't named leading figures "fat" since the days of Louis the Fat (also, the Fighter), a 12th-century king of the Franks. Maybe there are a few straggler examples into the 13th or 14th centuries, but once the proto-Renaissance showed up during the 1300s, it was all over for blunt epithets.

I'll bet that's a very broad phenomenon, but I don't have time to look into Dark Age Middle Eastern, South Asian, Central Asian, or Chinese cultures right now.

I'll bet Japan loved blunt and concrete epithets from about 1200 or 1300 onward, perhaps right up to the present day. The most popular vtuber in Japan, Marine, has a family name Houshou, meaning "treasure bell/chime", which seems to function more like a concrete descriptive epithet, and not a family name indicating who her parents are. Likewise, Korone is known by the epithet in place of a family name, Inugami, meaning "dog(gy)-god".

So when translating their full names into English, instead of Marine Houshou, it's Marine the Treasure-bell. And instead of Korone Inugami, it's Korone the Doggy-god, like good ol' Dark Age epithets. ^_^

Although the English Hololive girls don't have this format for their names, as members of Dark Age America and Canada, some of them do make epithets of their own, like Gura referring to herself as the Shark, Mumei as the Owl, Bae as the Rat, etc.

Without getting further into the Dark Age weeds, I'll just note that Geoffrey (later, Jeffrey) and Richard were common Dark Age Germanic names that were resurrected and made super-common in America during the 20th century.

Also, Arthurian legendary names. Not just Arthur, but Morgan, Guinevere / Jennifer (and similar-sounding names like Gwendolyn, Gwen, and Gwyneth, which most Americans pronounce as Gweneth, all of which also hint at the character Gawain), Elaine, Lynnette, Taliesin (Frank Lloyd Wright's headquarters), and perhaps not Lancelot -- but Lance! That has to be the connection. Monosyllabic shortening -- of what other possible longer name? Gotta be from Lancelot, given how much we're obsessed with Camelot. Some of these, but not all, were part of the limited 19th-century Romantic backlash in Europe, but we made them permanent, or are entirely responsible for (like Lance).

Speaking of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Franks, that given name was confined to the Dark Ages until resurrected in America during the 19th century, including the birth of the Father of Modern and American architecture himself. Post-Dark Age Euros only used variations like Francis, Francisco, Francois, Francesco, etc. -- not Frank itself, or even the related Franklin, which was also resurrected in America during the 19th century, including the greatest president in our history, the New Deal trailblazer himself, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The name Frank just sounds too, well, frank, to domesticated sophisticates, so they could only preserve it in the frilly-and-gay embellishment Francis, Francois, etc. In America, nothing could sound more embarrassingly prissy than the name Francis, in place of the honorable alternative Frank. I think San Francisco would sound -- and then become -- less gay if it were renamed San Franco!

I have no idea if there's a case of convergent evolution between American names and Euro Dark Age names, in the same way that our similar environments have produced similar architectural styles (closed-solid-heavy slabs and caves and fortresses). There may be something there, but I haven't looked into it yet. Maybe later, in the comments. That would require cross-cultural confirmation as well, and I really doubt I'll get into the evolution of popular name sound patterns all across Eurasia, from the Bronze Age to present.

But just based on how Frank went to Francis / Francois / etc., then back to Frank in America, there could be something to how prissy-and-sissy names sound during the 1000 years of the cycle when sedentarism is dominant over nomadism. Francis has changed the hard "k" into a sibilant "s", then added a high-front vowel (connoting things that are small, weak), and another "s" after it.

I mean, you can totally make up a barbarian name -- and yet instantly recognize it as barbarian. Conan, Thundarr, Krull, Chewbacca, etc. Only some of that is semantic association with known, existing barbarian names. Some of that has to be purely an effect of sound symbolism, e.g. the absence of high-front vowels and sibilants (at least voiceless ones like "s" and "sh" -- "z" is "zh" are OK).

Alfred, Dagobert, Harald, Arthur -- no high-front vowels, no sibilants (especially voiceless ones). Just a brief impression, without a systematic survey, but may be something there...