Skip to main content Accessibility help

Naming as social practice: The case of Little Creeper from Diamond Street

  • Betsy Rymes (a1)

Proper names have often been discussed by philosophers of language without the benefit of anthropological insights. This article combines research from these two fields in order to move toward a theory of naming as social practice – emphasizing the nature of naming and nicknaming as it is crucially attached to cultural history, social context, and individual experience. To exemplify this notion, the article outlines naming and its various functions as described by and used in the narratives of one young man from the “Diamond Street” gang who goes by the nickname “Little Creeper.” A discussion of outsiders' interpretations of gang names indicates how the meaning of a name can be transformed in different social contexts without losing its association with the initial referent. (Naming practices, proper names, ideology and language, at-risk youth)

Hide All
Barnes, Robert (1980). Hidatsa personal names: An interpretation. Plains Anthropologist 25:311–31.
Basso, Keith (1984). Stalking with stories: Names, places, and moral narratives among the Western Apache. In Bruner, Edward M. (ed.), Text, play, and story, 1955. Washington, DC: American Ethnological Society.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1985). The market of symbolic goods. Poetics 14:1344.
Carroll, James (1983). Toward a functional theory of names and naming. Linguistics 21: 341–71.
Conquergood, Dwight (1992). On reppin’ and rhetoric: Gang representations. Paper presented at the Philosophy and Rhetoric of lnquiry Seminar, University of lowa.
Conquergood, Dwight (1996). Homeboys and hoods: Gang communication in cultural space. In Frey, Lawrence (ed.), Group communication in context. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, to appear.
Davis, Mike (1992). City of quartz: Excavating the future in Los Angeles. New York: Random House.
Dozier, Edward P. (1954). The Hopi-Tewa of Arizona. (University of California publications in American archaeology and ethnology, 44:3.) Berkeley.
Evans-Pritchard, Edward E. (1948). Nuer modes of address. Uganda Journal 12:2. 166–71. [Reprinted in Dell Hymes (ed.), Language in culture and society, 21–27. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.]
Frege, Gottlob (1892). Über Sinn und Bedeutung. Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Philosophische Kritik, vol. 100. [Translation: On sense and nomination. In Herbert Feigl & Wilfred Sellars (eds.), Readings in philosophical analysis, 89–102. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1949]
Goodenough, Ward (1965). Personal names and modes of address in two Oceanic societies. In Spiro, Melford (ed.), Context and meaning in cultural anthropology, 265–76. New York: Free Press.
Hanks, William (1992). The indexical ground of deictic reference. In Duranti, Alessandro & Goodwin, Charles (eds.), Rethinking context: Language as an interactive phenomenon, 4376. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.
Jankowski, Martin S. (1991). Islands in the street: Gangs and American urban society. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Keenan, Elinor Ochs (1976). The universality of conversational postulates. Language in Society 5:6780.
Kripke, Saul (1977). Speaker reference and semantic reference. In Patrick Martinich, Aloysius (ed.), The philosophy of language, 248–66. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.
Kroskrity, Paul (1993). Language, history, and identity: Ethnolinguistic studies of the Arizona Tewa. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Lauter, David (1992). Political leaders' analysis of crisis varies. Los Angeles Times, May 1, A:4.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude (1966). The savage mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lindstrom, Lamont (1985). Personal names and social reproduction on Tanna, Vanuatu. Journal of the Polynesian Society 94:2745.
Lyons, John (1977). Semantics. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.
Mill, John Stuart (1843). A system of logic. New York: Longman.
Monti, Daniel J. (1994). Wannabe: Gangs in suburbs and schools. Oxford: Black well.
Putnam, Hilary (1975). Mind, language, and reality, vol. 2. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.
Russell, Bertrand (1950). An inquiry into meaning and truth. London: Unwin.
Searle, John R. (1958). Proper names. Mind 67:166–73.
Searle, John R. (1970). Speech acts: An essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.
Silverstein, Michael (1987). Cognitive implications of the referential hierarchy. In Hickman, Maya (ed.), Social and functional approaches to language and thought, 125–64. New York: Academic Press.
Silverstein, Michael (1992). The uses and utility of linguistic ideology. Pragmatics 2:311–24.
Silverstein, Michael (1993). Metapragmatic discourse and metapragmatic function. In Lucy, John A. (ed.), Reported speech and metapragmatics, 33–58. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.
Vigil, James Diego (1993). The established gang. In Cummings, Scott & Monti, Daniel J. (eds.), Gangs: The origin and impact of contemporary youth gangs in the United States, 95112. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Vigil, James Diego, & Long, John M. (1990). Emic and etic perspectives on gang culture: The Chicano case. In Huff, C. Ronald (ed.), Gangs in America, 5568. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Whitely, Philip (1992). Hopitutungwni: Hopi names as literature. In Swann, Brian (ed.), On the translation of Native American literatures, 208–27. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Language in Society
  • ISSN: 0047-4045
  • EISSN: 1469-8013
  • URL: /core/journals/language-in-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed