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What’s in a name?

1/15/2014

Words in Question Mark ShapeHave you ever watched the Bold and The Beautiful, you know the soap opera? Here is a list of the names of some of the main characters:

* Thorn,

* Brick

* Brooke

* Ridge

Have you ever met a 50 year old man called Brick? Thorn? No me either. I’ve long postulated that the show’s creators went away for the weekend, took some nice drugs and came up with the wackiest names they could, thought themselves hilarious and expected that the show would never be made or they would be told to change the names to Mike, Stacey and Alexander.

My point is ignoring the fact it’s a soap opera and is pure fantasy I think ridiculous names for characters take you out of the story. (“Make love to me Brick?” Sorry he can’t he’s an inanimate object…Ok I think the point is clear.)

It’s true that now people do have names that are unusual but most of those people are aged under twenty. Even people in their twenties tend to have more traditional names. They have family names or names that have been popular for years. You know they’re called Ben, Adam, Isabella, Chloe or something with Biblical origins like Noah or Mary or Jacob. That’s why in your class at school the teacher struggled to come up with so many nicknames for Elizabeth and why one got Beth, another Liz and another Lizzie and why there was a Mark A and Mark S in your math class.

It’s a fairly recent phenomenon to name your kid after a car part (Hi Axel), a pop star (Hi Marley, Hey Shakira), or another famous person (Hey Kennedy, Hey Regan), where they were conceived (Come on down Sienna) or a fruit (Apple). Although being named after other plants is a long tradition – Poppy, Fern, Rose, Sage – so I’m not sure why fruits were exempt for so long.

It isn’t that this isn’t a positive evolution but it is recent so having a thirty five year old male character from a conservative, suburban family called Pistol just doesn’t ring true.

I’m thinking about this as I start a new novella and am naming the characters. I don’t want to give them dull names that make them pedestrian but I also want the names to have resonance. It’s hard to find a balance between distinctive and just plain silly.

So here’s my question what are the silliest character names you’ve read in a book lately?

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