Thursday, August 25, 2005

What's In A Name?

Frederick Smith... Here.

Hi. My name is Frederick. I'm a Virgo. And because I'm also a Smith, my name was always near the end of the classroom roster. Just a little digression as most of us get ready to return to school, work at school, or sending a young relative off to school.

I'm fascinated by names. Mine -- Frederick -- is of German descent, though my parents probably weren't thinking of the origins when they named me. I'm named after my father. My name means "peaceful ruler." That, along with many attributes characteristic of Virgos, describes me most of the time. Of course, no label or description is absolute. No label, name, or list of characteristics can describe the complexities of a person.

I was almost named Martin. Kinda glad that didn't happen. Though it's a nice name. I can't picture myself as a Martin. Being called Freddie is enough... imagine Marty? Hmmm...

When creating fiction, you look for the right name to describe your characters and also that will read well on the page. You don't want too many names that start with the same consonant, or that sound alike, or whatever. It confuses readers. You might look for symbolism in a name, something that represents a certain theme or message you're trying to get across in your fiction. You also have to think about time periods, and names that were/are popular in certain eras. For example, you won't find too many kids named Bertha, Betty, Fannie, Theodore, Cephas, Ezekiel, or Hattie today. Maybe 40 or 50 years ago. And you also have to find the right rhythm with the last name you choose for characters. Does it read and sound right? I guess that's why soap opera names sound so magical and just roll off your tongue. Same with newscasters and reporters... most of them are playing journalists. I digress. My bad.

If I'm ever fortunate to have a family, and get to name my offspring, I have a few names that I've been saving. Names that I'm fond of. Names you can use, too. It's weird how some people get into feuds over "you stole the name I wanted for my baby..." as if no two people can be named the same. Anyway... The ambiguous, boy or girl names: Taylor, Kendall (yeah, I used those first two in Down For Whatever), Connor, Kaelan, Jaden, Dana/Dayna. The boy names: Victor, Derrick, Frederick, Dylan, Thomas, Corey. The girl names: Stella, Renessa, Alexandra, Monica, Brianna, Lauren.

Anyway, what does your name mean? How did you get it? What were you almost named? What do you want to name your children? How do you come up with character names for fiction?

How common is your name? (and yes, it includes some brown and black people names, too!) :-)
Last name dictionary.
First name dictionary.
Should black names be used to name Hurricanes? (hmmm, now that you mention it, I've never heard of Hurricane ShaQuataniqua... ok, that's bad...)
Black names and resumes...
Random name generator (for you all picking character names, not sure how culturally inclusive it is...)
Creating characters for fiction (a hodge podge of interesting articles)


Cherlyn Michaels said...

Interesting post! Thanks Marty.
Oops! I mean Frederick. :-)

CydneyR said...

Hi Fred,
I agree that when naming your characters, you should refrain from naming them with names that sound alike, or with names that all start with the same letter. I can vouch that the reader will get confused.

My name would have been Tyray if I would've been a boy. Hmmm, no comment about that name. :)

Jason B said...

I wrote the Random Name generator you linked to. I just used census and genealogy name files to do the names, so it's as culturally inclusive as those data sources are. Thanks for the link!