What’s In A Name?

This is so random, but does anyone else think that Markus Zusak has a seriously cool name? I haven’t read or watched The Book Thief, but it’s gathering a heap of social media attention at the moment – and every time I see his name, all I can think is how awesome it sounds. Do you agree? Or am I just weird?

I’ve always been fascinated by names. They can tell us so much about a person – especially in fiction. Take ‘Voldemort’, for example. No hero is going to be named Voldemort. It doesn’t say ‘good guy’, instead it practically screams ‘harbinger-of-death’. You know it’s true!

‘Maleficent’ is another one. It’s a totally awesome evil name, but it’s (hopefully) not something you would name your innocent newborn baby. (My apologies if anyone reading this is named Maleficent – I mean absolutely no offense! But seriously, if this is you, then you should probably have a stern chat with your parents…).

There’s also ‘Cruella de Vil’ – aka, ‘Cruel Devil’ – don’t even get me started on this one! The name says it all!

‘Hannibal Lecter’, ‘Count Dracula’, ‘Frankenstein’… None of these are names you would give a character who you want mentally stable people to fall in love with. Because they honestly sound like evil names!

But then you have characters like ‘Isabella Swan’, which translates into a beautiful (‘Bella’), graceful bird (‘Swan’). I’ve read a few criticisms regarding Stephenie Meyer’s ‘pretty’ name choice, but there’s no denying the fact that we would probably all imagine the protagonist differently if she was named something like… umm… let’s go with ‘Fanny Duck’. (Again, I mean absolutely no offense if this is your name! Eek!). Fanny Duck just doesn’t sound as pretty as Bella Swan. And I can’t imagine the Cullen crew (particularly Emmett) not having a bit of a laugh at her expense if she was named this. You can’t tell me you don’t agree!

‘Harry Potter’ is also an interesting one, because it’s such a nothing name. Harry. Potter. Both extremely common, everyday names, and together they’re about as normal and unassuming as ‘John Smith’ (who just happens to be the lead guy in Pocahontas, BTW).

And what about ‘Huckleberry Finn’? No one’s going to be afraid of a guy called Huckleberry. It’s just not a scary name! The same is true for ‘Pippi Longstocking’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables’. In fact, I don’t even know what’s Anne’s surname is – unless it’s actually ‘Of Green Gables’ (which I doubt).

… *Runs off to check Google* …

It’s Anne Shirley, for future reference. But you know what? I probably won’t remember that because as soon as I’ve finished this post I’ll continue only knowing her as ‘Anne of Green Gables’. That’s just more evidence showing how much subliminal power names can have!

Wow. What am I writing about here? I’ve totally gone off on a super-weird tangent…

Umm… Names. Yeah, they’re interesting, huh? I always enjoy naming characters for my stories. I can get really attached to some names, or I can be halfway through a manuscript and decide to change ‘such-and-such’ to ‘so-and-so’. I’ll also sometimes do a heap of research scouring translation websites for relevant descriptions and meanings, but other times I might just pick names that I think sound cool. Case in point, the protagonist in my soon-to-be-published novel, Akarnae, is named ‘Alexandra’, which means ‘defender of mankind’ or ‘protector of mankind’. I also have another character who’s name translates to mean ‘upholder of good’. And as for my bad guy, his first name means ‘wickedness’ and his surname means ‘deceitful’.

So, clearly I did some brainstorming for the main characters in Akarnae. But then there’s another manuscript I’ve written and I did absolutely no name-related-research at all. I just went with names that I liked the sound of (like Markus Zusak!).

I’m going to wrap this up now since I could probably keep talking about this for ages. But let’s just end with this: names can be funny; they can also be interesting, weird, pretty, ugly, descriptive, bland… The list goes on. They just have so much potential! Do you agree, or am I just geeking out a little bit?

90 thoughts on “What’s In A Name?

  1. No, you are so right about this. Names to me help give meaning to a person, like it adds on to a character some how if that makes sense. Names add to the appearance to the character like you mention with Voldemort being such a bad guy name. It takes me along time to come up with names because I like to be creative and its fun, too. I like my names to have meanings even if I am the only one to know the meaning behind it which tends to happen a lot.

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