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Expert: Unusual names a Southern tradition

NASHVILLE, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- A retired Tennessee sociology professor says the tendency of Southerners to sport nicknames and unusual monikers is tied to traditions of the region.

Ben Austin, a retired sociology professor at Middle Tennessee State University, said people whose families have lived in the South for several generations tend to buck formal names such as William in exchange for nicknames like Billy, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported Monday.

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"We are much more casual," he said.

He said the trend expands into the giving of more unusual names at birth, such as Ernestine, a feminized version of Ernest.

Austin said family bonds play a strong part in the "casual" approach to names as well as a number of other Southern traditions.

"So many generations of families have lived in the same place," he said. "It goes beyond names. We have church homecomings, cemetery decoration days, things that don't take place in other parts of the country."

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