Sunday, October 31, 2010

Name game

Let’s talk about names again. Names, like titles, are important. Who are the most memorable characters you’ve encountered in literature? Do their names say something about the characters? I wanted to name a geologist “Rockford,” and call him Rocky. Too much? Too coincidental?

Psychologists say that some people are attracted to professions because of their names. Dr. Cleaver is a surgeon. Dr. See is an ophthalmologist, Dr. Fish is an oceanographer. Using literal character names can “say” something about someone, although the connotations of names can be a hit or miss.

I like V names. Evelyn, Sylvia, Victoria. Strong names for strong women. Do initials spell anything? Does the spelling of a name mean anything. Does Sylvia Bragg brag about her children incessantly? You can play around with names for a while to see what you can come up with. Jennifer Lutz sounds different from Jenny Masterson.

Do you have a baby name book? Or do you look up the meaning of a name when you name a character? If I have a name in mind, then there’s no problem because sometimes the name just jumps out at me. But when I have difficulty naming a character, then I go to lists that help me with meanings, popularity and unique names for unique characters. By the way, a student recently told me he knew someone named “Unique.” 

Quiz time!

Can you tell the approximate ages of these characters just by their names?
Ethel, Esther, Dorothy vs. Shannon, Tiffany, Brittany. Which of these two groups of women carry AARP cards in their wallets?

Loretta, Lorraine, Louise vs. Katie, Caitlin, Kristin. Which of these two groups of women run track in high school or college? Who would have had a hip replacement?

Jack, Bob and Bill vs. Aiden, Connor and Ethan. Which of these two groups are entered in a diaper derby? Which group knows how to repair your lawn mower?

Remember, popular names come and go. Names, like all language can date a piece of writing, or tell something about a character. Don’t overlook the implications and connotations of names.

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