Name's "Odonna?" Must be from Utah

by Brooke Adams (Deseret News Staff Writer)

("Today" section, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah - 30 September 1996)

It all started with "Odonna."

That was the name of the spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C., grocery store commercial that Cari and Wesley Clark had just seen on television.

Hmmm; they said. Sounds like a Utah name. They'd heard plenty of names just like it while they were students at Brigham Young University.

So began their quest to catalog as many unusual Utah names as possible, which has culminated in the clever Web site "The Utah Baby Namer" (http:/

Cari and Wesley spent about a decade in Utah, while she worked on a degree in broadcast journalism and he finished studies in electrical engineering.

But it wasn't until they moved to Washington that they recognized the uniqueness of some Utah names they'd heard - as well as how the names came about.

"It was more remarkable when we weren't immersed in the culture," Cari Clark said.

"Earldene" is a good example. The typical story is that Grandpa Earl had nine children, each of whom wanted to honor him by bestowing his name on one of his grandchildren. So begin the permutations: EarlDawn, DeEarl, BeEarl and so on.

"Usually a Utah name is one someone made up, usually by combining a couple names or more," Cari Clark said. She had a friend, for instance, who named a daughter "TruAnn" for parents named Truman and Ann.

A lot of Utahns seek a distinctive firrst name to go with an ordinary last name - like Clark, Smith or Johnson. "They compensate for that," she said.

Though some Utahns have contacted them to object, most have joined in the fun by contributing names. The site now has about1,500 names, many sent to the Clarks by Utahns with a sense of humor.

The criteria: the name must be real and can't be common elsewhere. They rejected the name "Velda" recently for that reason.

The names they've compiled are a hoot: Acel, Burtis, Cree-L, DuWeine, DeLaun and so on. So is their de-construction of the Utahn naming process.

Cari Clark said the site also serves as a warning about the dangers of getting too creative with names.

"You condemn a child to a lifetime of spelling his or her name and explaining why it isn't something else," she said. Not to mention explaining where the name comes from.

Her own name, which her mother invented, is problematic enough, Cari said. People often mistake it for "Carl" and think she is a man.