Sunday, January 15, 2006

Racial-Spatial Profiling

If you happen to carry around one of Britain's top 25,000 surnames, head over to the Surname Profiler—a new database that shows the origins of names, and maps their frequency and geographical distribution in the U.K., U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. If your name isn't included, try again later: they'll be adding another 250,000 in the future.

Searching for my own surname, I find that "Dunham" is very popular in Tasmania, which explains why my mail always end up there. In the U.S., the state with the highest rate of Dunhamhood is Maine—which happens to be the state where I keep my toothbrush. The rate of Dunhamhood in my bedroom on any given night is dizzyingly high.

The website also tells me that 22% of people have "a more rural name," while only 16% have "a more high-status name." I think that means that I'm more likely to be condescending than condescended to.

The best part of using the website was discovering that we Dunhams are a multiethnic family. Sure, 98.72% of us are classified as "English or unknown," but 0.12% are Greek or Greek Cypriot, 0.06% are Hispanic, 0.17% are Black African, 0.06% are Indian, and 0.23% are Muslims of some sort. We're almost as multiethnic as the U.S. Senate!

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