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while a woman goes to live with her husband at about the age of thirteen a man is lucky to get his first wife under the age of thirty-five. It follows that in the great majority of cases the father of children dies long before the mother. Therefore as a woman without a husband is unknown amongst the Tiwi, a woman passes through the possession of quite a number of different men during her lifetime and does not remain in an unmarried state for more than a day or two. . . . When a man marries a widow he becomes to the tribe not the foster father of her children but the actual father. It cannot be pointed out too often that the Australian blackfellow does not distinguish physiological and social fatherhood. The new husband is married to the widow, he therefore must be the father of her children. Her children change their position in the tribe, and the function of the changing of their names is to show this change and the new social relationships that have been imposed upon them by it. It will be remembered in this connection that the husband changes the names of all the woman’s children whether of her last husband or not. . . .

[Certain other relatives have also the right to confer names on children as a sign of their relationship and claims.] The father may always bestow names upon his own children, and the father’s brothers, who are of course the classificatory fathers of the child, have the same power. The mother’s brothers may also bestow names upon a child, should they so desire, and less frequently children will be found bearing names given to them by the older men of their own totem clan. . . . By the time that a child reaches puberty he is the possessor of several names since by then some at least of the people entitled to bestow names upon him will have exercised that privilege. . . .

It must also be understood that it is impossible for any two people to have the same name. Should a father inadvertently bestow upon his child a name already in use he is guilty of a gross breach of etiquette, and to prevent such a possibility a man will refrain for a long time from coining a name until he is fairly certain that the one he decides upon is neither already in use nor was held by any person recently dead. Although the Tiwi number nearly eleven hundred people at the present time, and each one of these has on an average three names, a careful study of these three thousand three hundred names fails to reveal any two as being identical.1

The only self-determination in naming among the Tiwi is where a youth whose father is dead and who has been renamed by his mother’s new husband assumes his father’s name after a sufficient time has passed to remove the tabu from it. He does this of his own accord, or the older men, contemporaries of his father, begin to address him by his father’s name, thus indicating that they approve his use of it.

1Hart, C.W. M.n/an/an/an/a, "Personal Names among the Tiwi," , 1: 280–289, passim (rearranged).


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Chicago: "Oceania," Oceania in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=VUYUFNSKJL28X36.

MLA: . "Oceania." Oceania, Vol. 1, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=VUYUFNSKJL28X36.

Harvard: , 'Oceania' in Oceania. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=VUYUFNSKJL28X36.