Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Name Game-is it accurate?

There are a lot of sites out there dedicated to finding a name. My favorite is this one, but this one is pretty good too. I use them. It isn't so much for the reason of finding a particular meaning to name my characters, but in finding unusual names that aren't so different as to be difficult on the reader.

I get tired of Bobby, Mark, and Fred but I don't want a name that is so out there the reader has to wonder how it's pronounced. I look for ideas in my neighbors too. For example, Captive Heart which comes out in January has an Ora. One of my recent neighbors had this name and though it sounds feminine, it isn't. I gave it to a cameo appearing farmer guy with a shotgun.

In a collaboration, a friend wanted all her werewolves to have one type of name and all her vampires to have another. Her solution was to look up names that mean death or eternity for her vampires and warrior for her werewolves. I thought it was a pretty clever solution. And though I don't think she'll make the reasoning evident in the finished product, she argued that she will know and therefore it matters.

But here's a thought. Back when, parents named their children after something. And Biblically, names were a foretelling of the personality to come. So looking at my children, I have one who's named after a river. She is strong, stubborn, unchangeable, willful, and delighting. Um, yep just like the river. The other daughter was named after a character in a book I read when I was a young teen. However, I always liked the light, playful, cheerful, engaging quality of the instrument and yep, sure enough, that daughter is all those things. One has an old soul with mood fluctuations and depths which seem to contradict what you see on the surface. The other skips and runs instead of walking, she laughs in a high musical tone, she's funny and is rarely down. I couldn't have named them better.

My name means green and warrior. Now I don't think this is a reference to sick fighters but it does conger up thoughts of spring and strength or resilience. I'd like to think I am those things but I leave it for those who know me to decide if it's accurate. Then there's the other side of that. My husband's name is Scott. The meaning is that he is Scottish. No, he isn't. He is German, Norwegian, and Swedish. He's not kilt-wearing either.

I took a class in college which talked about names and the impact they have on us. He wrote a book on the subject in fact (sorry all I remember is he was Dr. Carter and the cover was pale). He noted that every location was given a name for a reason. Like Hell, Minnesota which freezes over every year. He taught us to look at names of streets, parks, cities, and towns. Then he noted that all retirement homes and cemeteries are given serene names like, Hollowed Meadows, Whispering Pines and the like. It game me a whole new perspective on the names we choose to surround ourselves with as humans. I mean, it's not like you're going to see Tortured Souls Resting Home or Muddy Swallow Cemetery, right?

Look around and pop off some names. What is the name of your local cemetery? Your street?What's in your name? What does it mean and does it reflect you? Is it a contradiction to who you are? Speak up. Let's hear what you have to say.


  1. My name is Mona, Simply Mona!

    It is an Italian name that means 'solitary'! It also means 'noble'

    Well solitary I am, Noble... dunno...

    Indeed we have streets & locations here in India that are named after their essence. Specially the markets. We have a Hing ki mandi ( asafoetida street) Loha mandi ( Iron street) Shehzadi mandi ( The princess's street ( during the reign of the Mughals, the Princesses used to have a separate market for them to shop in))

    But Every city has an MG road ( Mahatma Gandhi Road, to keep an icon alive)!

  2. According to my parents, my name means "beautiful gift from God", but none of the name-meaning books or sites concur with that. Go figure. I won't comment on whether it suits me or not. My parents think it does.

    Regarding place names: I grew up in California, Kentucky. Yes, the town is named California. It's on the Ohio River, and was the place where you got on the flat boat if you were going to California. If you were going to Oregon, you got on at Oregon Landing.

    Where I live now, there's a village named Lynbrook. It's Brooklyn, with the syllables reversed--a more-or-less planned community for all the people from Brooklyn who had made enough money to move out to the burbs. No brooks anywhere, that I know of. It's a name chosen to market the town.

  3. My "real" name means bitter and sorrowful... one reason that I'm not crazy about my name.

  4. when i was in college i spent a lot of time with the foreign students. i noticed so many of them came from cultures where coming up with a name for a child was giving them a legacy or like the biblical practice a personality. i decided when i had children i'd give them names that expressed the hope i had for each of them, a prayer for their character. my oldest has a name which means "gentleness" because i truly hoped she'd exhibit that quality since i feel it is somewhat lacking in my own life. in the process i proved that god has a great sense of humor because this child of mine is nearly incapable of expressing her opinion in any way other than bludgeoning you with it. she is quite the antithesis of gentle.

  5. Great post, Kelly. As for my name... it's not just a name, it' a way of life. :D

  6. James, I'm going to have to go look up the meaning of it now.

    Names are so important to self-definition. No we don't always know their meanings, but we do intimately attach ourselves to our names. I think that's why, as writers, if we don't find the right pen name, it doesn't sit well. "I don't feel like a Mandy Sugarpool" kind of philosophy. I never felt like a Katie Blu, but I wanted that because it's very easy to disassociate myself from her. See, even now I refer in third person to Ms. Blu.

    I live in Tullahoma. It's an indian word for Red Earth. Lotsa clay here. I came from Apple Valley in Minnesota and there were neither apples nor valleys but I suspect the serenity of the name had the sticking point.

  7. For fun I used to look up names. My daughters name means Queen of the Elves...which is really cool and my son's name means First Born Son. Hmm. Well, he is but I didn't plan it that way when I named him.

    Great post

  8. lol, I meant Goodman as in I try to live my life as a good man. :D

  9. as far as James goes, I believe it means he who supplants...

  10. Kelly,
    I have no idea what my name means, but I enjoyed your post.

    Sandy, nickname for Sandra

  11. I believe Donna means 'lady' in Italian. I was named after my father's ex-girlfriend. No idea how he talked my mom into that one...LOL

    Great blog, Kelly!

  12. When I named my children, in particular the boys, I gave them names I thought would sound professional if they decided to become a doctor, lawyer, or something similar. But I also wanted a name that either in its current version, or with a common nickname for it, would sound friendly as an every day name. For instance: William Lukas (we call him "Luke"), Keith David (fine as "Keith), and Stephen Edward (I intended Steve but he prefers Stephen or Ed). In Cincinnati, at least when I was growing up, most people went by nicknames such as "Mike" for "Michael" and "Cindy" for "Cynthia". When I enlisted in the Air Force and met people from all over the US I thought it very strange, even snobby, that people suddenly went by "David" instead of "Dave" for instance. (Nothing against "David" as it's a beautiful name, but where I grew up, all the David's went by "Dave" including my hubby). He only got called "David" by his mom when he was in big trouble.

  13. When we named my oldest son, the first name had to be after my hubby (per him - hubby goes by his middle name) but I'd get to help pick the middle name and the name we'd call him every day. HOWEVER, we went to see one of the Star Wars movies while I was pregnant with him and hubby fell in love with the name "Luke" and decided that would be our son's name (if he was a boy - back then ultra sounds weren't good so we didn't know boy or girl yet - I'd chosen "Lindsay" if a girl). I honestly wasn't thrilled with the name "Luke" for my son. It sounded too old for a baby - and my friends thought "Luke" would be so popular because of the movie it'd be overused in no time. Luckily that didn't happen. Now that Luke's an adult, I am so happy we named him that. It suits him so well and it's not heard too often. In fact, Luke worked at my day job for a few years a few years back, and although there's 250 people employed there, no one else before or since there has been named Luke. He's still an original. My youngest likes to dress up as Darth Vader for Halloween and he gets the biggest kick out of saying to his big brother, "Luke, I'm your father." Steve thinks that's so hilarious. Luke's really laid back so he doesn't care.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.