Unusual names declare, "Iím a Utah Mormon"

by Kirsten Sorenson

(Culture Column, The Herald Journal, Logan, Utah - 30 June 1997)


OGDEN (AP) Do you have a name like DaNeen or Arverd or Jonette or Merlin?

If you live anywhere else in the United States, you might get some funny looks and major mispronunciations. But in Utah, it's a name like any other.

Still, the rest of the world is getting a peek at just how peculiar some of those names can be, thanks to a computer web page developed by a Virginia couple - transplanted from Utah, of course.

Cari and Wesley Clark, who met and married while going to school at Brigham Young University [Wrong! We met while working in Los Angeles - Wes] and now live in Springfield, Va., were watching television one day when they saw a commercial narrated by a spokeswoman named Odonna.

Has to be a Utah name, they joked.

That led the Clarks to reason that Utah residents have some strange names. So they started a list.

One friend who worked at a bank in Utah had access to hundreds of names and sent in some. Other friends living in the Beehive State would send them names of people they met.

The couple subscribe to a few Utah publications and collect obituaries, which show that bizarre names are not a recent fad, Cari Clark said.

Now, a few years later, they have hundreds of names, both male and female, on their website "The Utah Baby Namer." (www.geocities.com/Heartland). [It's actually now http://www.wesclark.com/ubn - Wes]

"An online help for parents looking for that distinctive name that says "I'm a Utah Mormon!" the web page warns, er, informs.

The most obvious Utah names come from the churchís volume of scriptures, the Book of Mormon: Nephi, Mahonri, Liahona and Alma.

Many others have a French sounding prefix, Cari Clark said, such as La, Le, Ne and Va: LaPriel, LaVerd, LeMoyn and Latrina - to name a few.

Common are combinations of parent names. Blend John and Janet to get Jonette. Combine Merle and Lynn to get Merlin. Or combine any two names of either gender to get such monikers as Brandilynn and Caroldean.

Some handles are so idiosyncratic they have to be Utah Mormon: Welcome Exile, Justa Cowgirl and Tabernacle. Another child was named after an obscure fantasy movie character: Alura Dannen.

One popular practice is to feminize the father's name: change Bob into Bobette, Rex into Rexanne, or Maurice into Mauricette.

A few parents take a surname and transform it into a first name: Bartell, Burns, Gren, Houser and Slaughter.

Many names have apostrophes, and Cari Clark wonders how these people fill out test or government forms: D'Elise, D'Bora, M'Lu and J'net.

While naming a child after a state is common, Dakota, Arizona, Nevada, and even Utah, more fascinating are the deviations: Idahana, Utahna and Wyoma.

Utah may also corner the mar-ket on odd names for towns. Just look at this top 10 list of town names that could be mistaken for breakfast cereals: Kanosh, Genola, Neola, Aneth, Clover, Goshen, Koosharem, Manila, Scipio and Tabiona.

Oh, and remember Odonna, whose name inspired the list?

Later the Clarks found out where she was from. You guessed it - Utah.