AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum
Re: Tosspot in KY
In Response To: Re: Tosspot in KY ()
Thanks for information and speculation about the African-American Tosspot family. Much of your explanation seems plausible. However, I can’t help wondering, if it’s not just the surname that’s pejorative, but also the complete name or nickname “Timothy Tosspot,” should we assume that someone, either a slaveholder or a parent, would have no problem naming a newborn child “Timothy Tosspot”? Your note suggests that the surname was given originally to an enslaved ancestor of Sarah’s husband Timothy in Winchester, VA—a slave who might have had a drinking problem. I could see a family inheriting the surname and holding onto it as a badge of distinction, particularly if the family was employed by a tavern keeper. It’s harder to imagine them giving their child a name that seems more insulting than “John Barleycorn.” (Without knowing the actual meaning, I figured it had to be pejorative if not a misspelling of some other name. Before I looked up the word “tosspot” and learned that it meant drunkard, I had imagined it referred to the slave or servant whose job was to empty the master’s chamber pots.) Yet there seemed to be at least two members of this family named Timothy: the father in VA and the son who moved to Cincinnati, OH and then to Buffalo, NY. It seems it was not only the surname, but also the possibly more insulting nickname or eponym that the family ultimately accepted and even passed down. Or maybe the original, possibly alcoholic, ancestor was the first to be called “Timothy Tosspot” and the name became traditional because it appealed to the slaveholder’s or patron’s sense of humor and gave the family some sense of distinction, however perverse. It does bring to mind examples such as dentists called Dr. Payne or physicians and chiropractors with surnames such as Bonebrake. Certainly the usual surname made the Tosspot family somewhat easier to trace, although I have found that the name has several variant spellings in public records.
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