Vol. 50 No. 2 (2002)
Research Article

The Names of Chicago's Churches: A Tale of at Least Two Cultures

Published 2002-06-01



This is a study of the generic and specific terms appearing in the English-language names of all the houses of worship/congregations in Cook County, Illinois (Chicago and its immediate suburban periphery) it was feasible to observe during the period 1999l–2001. The central question posed was what these linguistic patterns can disclose about the similarities and differences between the religious cultures of the Black and the Non- Black (largely Euro-American) communities. Relying upon two commercial mailing-list compendia and other documentary sources, but mostly on direct fieldwork to locate and document the places in question, I analyze the nomenclature of some 4,466 sites with their 3,407 and 9,481 usages of generic and specific terms, respectively. The major finding is how markedly the Black naming pattern deviates from that of the dominant population, particularly in terms of its two overarching, overlapping themes: uninhibited emotional and verbal exuberance, and an expansive, thrusting drive toward higher and broader realms of spirituality.


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