Ask the Name Lady

Ask Now

Is This Sibling Name Pair Unbearable?

My son is named Amos, and I am now pregnant with a daughter. My husband and I both love the name Annie, and would be ready to commit to it except for one problem. When you say "Amos and Annie" together, it sounds an awful lot like the old radio show "Amos 'n' Andy." That show was blatantly racist and is now considered outrageous and offensive. Would it be in bad taste to name our kids something so reminiscent of the show's title? Or are we overthinking it and it's really no big deal?

–Claire

I do think it's a problem. A cultural connotation that links a pair of names is hard to shake, even decades after the fact. "Amos 'n' Andy" went off the air in 1960—likely well before you were born—yet you know about it, and it comes to mind right away when you hear the similar-sounding combo of Amos and Annie. Each name is just fine on its own, but put them together and you have an issue.

Yes, you could name your daughter Anna or Annika or Anneliese and call her Annie at home to try to avoid the association, but I think it would be difficult. Perhaps you'd like one of those names, or another Ann relative, on its own, although you would have to be diligent about avoiding Annie as a nickname. And that's tricky, especially once your daughter is old enough to have her own opinion on the matter.

Instead, I suggest you choose another name that can't be shortened to or confused with Annie or Andy. That's the problem with second-born and later children. Sometimes your firstborn's name just knocks another otherwise lovely name out of the running. All you can do is mourn it a bit and move on.

Comments

Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

January 9, 2017 11:06 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

While I have heard of Amos n Andy, I had no idea that there was a racist tone. (I really know nothing about it beyond its existence.) To be honest, my first connection to those two names was my friend who had dogs named Amos and Abby.

Unless you're planning for them to be some kind of performing act, I wouldn't worry about it. And to separate your kids a bit further from the old show, take the "ladies first" approach and get in the habit of saying Annie and Amos. That's easier to say anyway, as you skip the "an" sound two syllables in a row.

January 9, 2017 12:06 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree. I suspect most people your age, and certainly most people your children's age, will not associate your children's names with the radio show.

January 9, 2017 1:52 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Listen, I'm seventeen, and I have never heard of that show in my life. Your daughter's peers certainly wouldn't have, and I think most people in their twenties even wouldn't have. I think you'll probably be okay. That show is pretty obscure by now.

January 9, 2017 2:09 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

All I know of the radio show is that it once existed. Couldn't tell you anything else about it. Your kids are not going to be referred as a set their entire lives and like the anon above said, you can simply say Annie and Amos when needed.

January 9, 2017 3:51 PM
By Kelly (not verified)

Like others have said the association with the show has dwindled over the generations, and I don't see a problem with your children's peers.

January 9, 2017 5:49 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm 29 and have never heard of this radio show. Unless it has a particularly dedicated following in your area, I think you're totally overthinking it.

January 9, 2017 7:54 PM
By Kathleen Jones (not verified)

I am 27 and I have heard of the show and just hearing the names together made me wince slightly. Though it did take me a second to figure out why I winced. II guess my subconscious related the sound of the names to racism before I was able to attribute why it has that connotation.

January 9, 2017 9:04 PM
By Sasha (not verified)

The problem is that the association is to something really bad. So even if a lot of people haven't heard of it, the ones that have could be really taken aback or offended. Why take the chance?

January 9, 2017 11:07 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

if the name was actially Andy I'd say yes, find something else. But it's not. I know of the show and would not have made the connection. You are overthinking it.

January 10, 2017 9:47 AM
By anonymous (not verified)

I agree with Sasha above. Why take the chance? The association is not benign. People who DO know about the show may well make assumptions about you, and not in a good way. They'll either attribute racist attitudes to you or assume that you're ignorant. Neither is something I'd want. Use Annie as the middle name if you love it that much.

January 10, 2017 10:24 AM
By Ehhh (not verified)

Yeah, I think you're running the risk of people thinking you chose those names to go together on purpose... because you liked the show so much. I agree that MOST people probably won't make the connection — but I still wouldn't do it.

January 10, 2017 3:38 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I don't know the show (not in the US), but I would never assume that someone had named their children after a radio show, unless the names were identical and fairly uncommon, like brothers named Bert and Ernie. Andy/Annie are different names, different genders, and both are common names with many associations. People might be reminded of the radio show, but I doubt anyone will assume that you are a huge fan or make assumptions about your views on race.
(I just googled the show, and it doesn't seem to be outrageously controversial, but I'm sure that depends on where you live and your social circle)

January 10, 2017 3:41 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

(I guess, to add to my comment above at 3.38, it seems especially unlikely that you'd name your baby daughter after a show about two grown men.)

January 10, 2017 7:32 PM
By Debbie S. (not verified)

As soon as I saw the name Amos I immediately thought "and Andy" before I read the rest of the question! It's just that distinct of a name (my other association is with the Famous Amos cookies). I'm 33 and made that connection immediately, however I didn't actually know anything about the show or it's racist undertones (or, probably, overtones).

January 10, 2017 10:55 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

As the last poster said, the name Amos, on its own, brings up "Amos & Andy" and Famous Amos cookies. But it IS on its own, and it is a great name. Glad it's coming back. That said, best not to use it with anything at all that sounds like Andy. There are lots of great options that have the same vibe as Annie, so good luck!

January 11, 2017 2:49 PM
By M (not verified)

I'm 30 and have heard of the show - but I took a few African-American studies classes in college, and I don't think most people will think of "Amos 'n' Andy," especially not people your children's age. Even the people who think of it probably won't bring it up, and I really doubt any sensible person is going to assume that you named your children Amos and Annie in order to evoke a controversial old show. (If that were the case, wouldn't you have named her Andrea and called her "Andi"?)

These things are not usually as big a deal as people think, unless they're really obvious. For example, I know a couple named Ben and Elaine, and I'm the only person who's ever mentioned to them that Ben and Elaine are also the couple in "The Graduate" - which, seeing as it was released in 1967, is even a little more recent than "Amos 'n' Andy."

January 13, 2017 1:04 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

No, don't use a girl's name too similar to Andy. Just don't.

January 13, 2017 1:33 PM
By anonymous (not verified)

Ironically, part of the reason you may be drawn to Annie is because you've heard the pairing Amos and Andy. Those two names just go together, much in the way that Cain and Abel or Bonnie and Clyde do. This doesn't mean that you're drawn to the message of the show, it just means that your ear is attuned to hear the end of the pair when you hear the first part.

January 15, 2017 10:26 AM
By Frances (not verified)

No, don't use Annie with Amos. It will be unbearable for your children, I know from personal experience. Back in the 1930s and '40s there was a series of films called Francis the Talking Mule. Even though I was born in the 1970s, and those movies were old and almost unknown then, I still spent many days being bullied by my classmates as "the talking mule," and to this day, almost 80 years after those movies were made, strangers will bring up the connection to me. And it's never been funny or easy for me to shake off, and I physically wince when it happens because it makes it harder for me to be taken seriously. If you love your children even an ounce you will stay as far away from Annie as you possibly can.

January 21, 2017 11:29 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

What??? Am I the only person who hasn't heard of Amos and Andy? How about you take a poll! And even then they might say, ooooh yeah, that was a long time ago, I barely remember it.

January 29, 2017 4:48 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm 42 and have certainly heard of Amos and Andy and associate it with racism. Let's say conservatively that 10% of people have heard of it. Some of them might think you're racist, but the rest of them would probably just think you're clueless. If you love Annie and don't care what people think, then go for it. But since you're worried about it enough to ask the Name Lady, then I would avoid it. If I heard the pairing in real life, I would never say anything to the parents, but would feel a little sorry for the kids and would think the parents were not very culturally savvy. Were it not for the Amos & Andy similarity, I think Amos & Annie make a very nice sibling set.

March 11, 2017 10:34 AM
By Sabby (not verified)

I would not do it. Sure if you are white and live in mostly white area there's a good chance no one will notice. However, what happens if you meet people outside of your local area? What if you meet Black people (who will have a higher chance of knowing about it) or other people who are knowledgable about the past? It's not worth it. Sure maybe their friends won't know about it, but their teachers and friend's parents might. I am 39 and I know about the show.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.