What’s In A Name?

Posted: March 2, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

My cousin’s wife recently gave birth to their son, and in the months prior to that joyous occasion one of the biggest topics of conversation was what they planned to name their future bundle of joy. The original deal agreed upon was that my cousin was in charge of naming any male children and his wife would name any female children. This agreement was then amended when they found out they would be having a son and my cousin’s wife suddenly had a wide variety of opinions about the name. Nothing too common. Nothing too strange. Maybe something traditional. No, I don’t like that name. How about you pick the middle name and I’ll pick the first? Eventually they settled on a name that they were both happy with and now little Harvey Paul has made his appearance in this world. Harvey Paul is who he is. As he grows up people will make associations between his name and character traits he possesses. Eventually his name will become synonymous with everything he is.

The “What should we name our child” discussion is not an isolated incident to people expecting a child. I’ve heard the topic randomly discussed by married and engaged friends of mine who are not even expecting. “So we were talking and decided if we have twins we’re naming them Luke and Leia. We’ll let you name your kid Han.” “I think the name Lilith would be awesome and my wife liked it until she found out what it means and now she says there’s no way we could name our kid that.”

As an author you have hundreds of children. Each character unique in physical description and personality. Sometimes the names just come to you and it’s kismet. Of course their name is Ivy. Why wouldn’t it be? Other times it isn’t nearly so easy. You put down a name as a placeholder, knowing it isn’t right but needing to put something down. Something down is better than just a blank space with a line, right? After all, there has to be some way to differentiate who you’re talking about, and it seems bad parenting to call them Man #3 and Woman #5.

If naming people seemed hard there’s the even more difficult task of naming  towns, bars and restaurants. There’s a lot of pressure to make something that seems plausible but not cliche. Not to mention, the name has to sound correct. It has to fit the personality of what you’re talking about.

I hate naming things. People or places it doesn’t matter. Sometimes I know the name like some spirit came down and told me. Other times I stare at the paper and agonize over what to call something. And once in awhile I am faced with needing to draw a fill-in-the-blank line because I can’t handle making that kind of decision and everything I think of sounds so stupid.

This is the point where I feel I should have an answer to the question of “How do you name things?” but I don’t. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person who struggles this much. I want the name to sound right. I don’t want to write a character with a name and know that isn’t who they are. It’s like when my dad calls me by my sister’s name. Right gender. Wrong person. My sister may look similar but we behave quite differently. When I can’t decide on a character’s name I feel it’s very much like that. I can just see them rolling their eyes at me and sighing as I botch it again.

Show of hands: Who else has this same problem?



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