Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tis but thy name that is my enemy

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague,
What’s Montague? It is nor hand nor foot,
Nor arm nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d

Romeo and Juliet; Act II by William Shakespeare

No, this isn't a post about Micah Keeps Vigil -- even though he is fond of quoting the Bard. This is about that one thing we all have. Even that artist formerly known as. Names. So…really…what is in a name? I’ve always been fascinated by names. Where parents get them. Why they spell them the way they do. All different reasons for names and all different names that people come up with.

During the course of working ‘the day job’ I frequently come across ‘different’ names. I like to make note of these, keeping them in a special folder on my computer just in case I ever get stuck for a character name. Of course I can't use the exact ones but it's always fun to see what names come through. Have you got some you love? In one half of Marilu's family tree, there is a gentleman by the name of Shepard. Not so bad until you learn that is first name is Germanicus. That's not even the worst. Have you ever researched your family tree to giggle over "those" names?

Some people today name their kids very different names – can you think of a few? What about:

  • Moon Unit
  • Fifi Trixibelle
  • Pilot Inspektor
  • Sage Moonblood

I also like to search for “the meaning” of some names – some of the websites I used to find character names are:


What draws you to a particular name? Are there some names you feel are overused in fiction? My publisher actually supplies a list of “overused” hero names and strongly suggests that authors find other names for their main characters. Do you think there are names that you never want to see in print again?

Are there names that make you picture a certain person? If I say, “George,” for instance, do you think Washington or Clooney? What about Sean? Connery or Penn? What does a Stanley look like to you? A Stella? Let's play the name game.

6 comments:

Nicola McKenna said...

Hi Marilu, Cai and Arwen,
thanks for the great post, and it couldn't come at a better time (am six months preggers with our first). I must say, the longer and more complicated the name, the less I like it. Having said that, I love Juliet but would happily leave Romeo!

I agree with your publisher about the frequency of the same names time and again in fiction, 'Jack' is the first culprit that springs to mind. But as a writer, it sure is hard to come up with a spunky-sounding and original name for either hero or heroine.

I love the wilder names like Bob Geldof's daughters Fifi Trixibelle or Heavenly Hiraani Tigerlily (can you imagine the husband's reaction if I suggested that for our new arrival?).

Joan Leacott said...

Good grief--those are some of the weirdest names I've ever come across. They make you wonder what the heck they were thinking. I'm tired of generic secondary or throw-away characters names such as Bob, Harry, Tom etc. Jake is getting worn around the edges too. And calling a heroine Sam or Alex is getting old and is still confusing. I do like to see characters with names that match their ethnicity --Italian, French, Scandinavian--to give a flavor to them. I'd love to see your editor's list.

L. A. Lopez said...

Names are so important to a character. It has to fit. So yes a certain name will bring up a vision of the person, such as eyes, features, even hair color. I'm always on the look out for a unique name. I do try to stay away from the Moonunits of the world, but I'm open to just about everything.

Sheila Tenold said...

I always picture people when naming characters. And, yes, certain names have yuck factors for me. In pre-Clooney days George reminded me of a guy I disliked in elementary school. But not now!
Meryl is certainly an old-fashioned name. Put Streep after it, and we conjure up a different image, one of a multi-talented woman.
I'd hate been pinned with the name Chastity. God Zooks, wouldn't your classmates have fun teasing you. What was Cher thinking? LOL

Mona Risk said...

I don't like names that are too different and too difficult to remember. What happened to the good old secular names? George is Handsome Clooney of course and Patrick is Dr. Mac Dreamy. And John can't be boring when you think of Depp!!!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Since I write historicals, I go through the family tree. One name that I won't use Mehitable.. :(