Common Urban Legends About Names

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 Does your aunt swear that she once had twins in her class named Oranjello and Lemonjello?

Urban myths are a common feature of our society. With the rise of the internet, urban legends get passed along faster than ever!

Urban legend names are popular. People swear by them. Unlike jokes and anecdotes, you really only need to remember the name in question, not the context or a punchline. They often begin "My cousin is a nurse, and she gets some of the weirdest patients!" or "My uncle is a teacher, and he had a _____ in his class." So if you've heard someone swear they know someone by these names, I wouldn't believe it unless you've met that person yourself! 

The darker side of these urban legend names is that 9 times out of 10, they are racist/classist in nature-- they almost always involve a less-educated (often poor/black/rural) woman who "doesn't know any better" and thus saddles her innocent child with some weird name. People "in the know" are then invited to laugh at the unfortunate name.

Be sure to check out our More Unusual Names page for more odd names in this vein!

La-a, Le-a
Pronounced "la dash a" (sometimes reported as Ka-a or Sha-a). The punchline is, the mother supposedly says “the dash don’t be silent.” There is no evidence that such a person has ever existed.

Oranjello & Lemonjello
This is a perennial favorite. Usually, the parents of these fruity twins is either Creole or from Louisiana. Their mother thought that Oran (or Orange or Oranjello depending on the telling) were nice sounding names, and being unaccustomed to the English language, bestowed them upon her twins.

Brexit's parents are usually Mexican, or from some other non-English speaking place. The legend originated with Mexican people, but I've also heard it with Middle Easterners. The original Mexican story came with a photo of a birth certificate, which has since been proven to have been Photoshopped. No, no babies accidentally got named Brexit in 2017.

Male and Female
This is probably the second most prolific urban legend around. The story goes: An uneducated or non-English speaking mother gives birth to boy/girl twins. The hospital labels them "Male" and "female". Thinking the hospital has assigned the babies names, the woman officially calls her children Male and Female, only pronounced like Molly and Femolly. 

Nosmo King
The mother of little Nosmo King was supposedly inspired by a "No Smoking" sign in the lobby of the hospital where the baby was born. 

Ima Hogg
Unlike the other names above, Ima Hogg actually does exist. She was the daughter of a early 20th century Texan politician. She was also a philanthropist. However, nobody has verified variations like Ima Pigg and Ura Hogg.

Porcelain Latrine
I think I'm the only one who's heard this one, thus making not so much of an urban legend. If anyone else has heard about Porcelain Latrine, fact or fiction, please let me know! The story goes that Porcelain's mom, and uneducated rural African-American woman saw a van deliver a box marked "porcelain latrine." not knowing what it was, she thought the name was beautiful, and gave the name to her daughter. Sounds fishy to me! I mean, how many people (and especially delivery companies and furniture manufacturers) actually use the word "latrine"? You'd probably be more likely to see "toilet".

Long Dong
Long Dong is quite a legend, particularly in towns with high Asian populations. Long Dong is the ever-elusive Chinese immigrant (male, of course) with a name that is funny in English. After someone finishes telling a Long Dong story, he usually ends with something like "well, Bob Smith probably means, like, 'screw you' in Chinese or something!" I went to the Chinese Surnames page (click here for more info) and I couldn't find any surname that approximates Dong. If Dong was actually the forename (as Chinese tradition puts the family name first) then Long does exist as a surname. However, most Chinese immigrants adopt the system used by Americans, and put their family name 2nd.

Urine, Eczema, Vagina
Another variation on the non-English speaking/undereducated mother theme, a woman in a hospital saw a vial marked Urine, and bestowed this name upon her daughter, with the pronunciation you-reen. Eczema was from a book in the waiting room, and pronounced /ek ZEE ma/. Vagina has an even more unfortunate back story, dating back from the early 20th century-- Vagina /va JEE na/'s mother, when told what a "vagina" is, says "that ain't a 'gina, it's a coochie!" or words to that effect.

This unfortunate child's parents pronounced his or her name /shih TEED/, /SHEETH edd/ or /SHY thed/.

Innocent Bystander
Here's an e-mail I received--"Okay, I have no proof of this, but my Aunt swears that she has a distant cousin somewhere in the USA (we're in Melbourne, Australia) who has the name Innocent Bystander. Bystander being the surname." Have you ever heard the last name "Bystander?" I haven't.

**UPDATE!!** this just in from an alert reader:
Hey, I saw the "urban legends" page and wanted to throw in some information.  There is in fact the last name Bystander (Innocent Bystander) Originally it was Bisthander, but I have seen Bystander in the genealogy files @ the library. I've also seen Porrie Latrine (in the old city lists). Pretty close to Porcelaine.

Atheist Evolution
From another e-mail I received: "I read a blip under news of the weird in a newspaper once saying that someone named their daughter Atheist Evolution. Don't know if that's true or not."

Other Unfounded Urban Legend Names

(if anyone personally has met anyone with one of these names, and I mean KNOWS them- not just has heard about them or knows someone who knows them, please e-mail me!): We received so many e-mails about these, they now have their own page!
  • Viagra
  • Scarlatina, Influenza, Rubella
  • Sandy Castle, Sandy Beaches
  • Candy Kane
  • Crystal Shanda Leer- There is a Shanda Lear, however, of Lear Jet fame.
  • April Mae June- there is an April May, though, from Portland, ME.
  • Jay Walker
  • Paige Turner

Myths of Meaning

There's also a rumor around the the name Damian means "devil" or "devil's child" or something like that.
This idea shows the power of movies! The possessed tyke in "the Omen" and some of its sequels was named Damian. It also didn't hurt that the priest in "The Exorcist" was also named Damian. With all of this association with 70s possession flicks, no wonder people have attached the meaning to it! This illustrates the importance of the cultural meaning as opposed to the etymological meaning. While Damian actually comes from a Greek word meaning "watcher", how many people will know this when they see your son? Will they always think of him as the "devil's child?"

Many People also believe that the name Rhiannon means "witch."
It was that Fleetwood Mac song of the 1970s that spread this idea. Rhiannon probably means something closer to "divine queen." in Welsh.

I think it may have started with the book The Thorn Birds, by Australian novelist Colleen McCullough--many people of Irish descent swear up and down that Megan is an Irish name. It's actually a Welsh pet form of Margaret. You can spell it Meghan, Meeghan, Meagan, Meaghan and any other spelling you can think of, but Megan will never be Irish!

for more on name books and meaning, see Why Your Baby Name Book Sucks.

We have some more unusual names in this vein on this page: Other Unusual Names. Check them out!