April 8, 2015

What's In a Name?


What is your name?

What do people call you?


I go by Barbara, Mom, and my grandchildren call me Babbie.  FYI, never call me Barb.  I really hate that name.

Many soon-to-be parents look up the meanings of names as they decide what people will call their child.  They try to get the name right.  To give the child something that will provide them strength in their life and, hopefully, won't cause them distress.

Writers do this, too, for our characters.   On my writing reference bookshelf is the book, 60,000 Baby Names.  Why?  I need ideas.  Not every character comes to me with a name.  OR, sometimes, they come to me with only a name.  I need to know the origin and meaning of that name to help me with the character's nature and development.

My name, Barbara, means a stranger in a foreign land.  It comes from the term barbarian.  I like it now, but as a kid, I hated the meaning.  Who wanted to be a stranger in a foreign land?  Not me.  Now? It has so many allegorical implications.

Several years ago, an agent looked at the beginning of my work in progress and questioned the protagonist's name, Adrianna.  Her comment?  "You might as well called her Tiffany."  What was her point?  I created a fantasy world similar to the African plains at the edge of a desert and gave my character a twenty-first century American girl's name.  She suggested I rethink some of my names.

Out came my trusty name book, and I started looking up names of African origin.  Now, my characters have names that fit their world...even if some of the people in my writing group complain about the unfamiliar words.  They fit the world.

What got me thinking about names today?  I saw a recent interview where they asked an author  to list their favorite names.  That question surprised me.  I don't know that I can answer that one.  I'm curious can you?

What's your favorite name?

2 comments:

JAVS said...

I think names are particularly important for women, particularly because the first name is the name we keep when we marry, and our identity is really tied into that name. Men are more identified by their family name, which represents their lineage, and by which they tend to be addressed as an adult.
I've written a piece on names from a woman's perspective, which was recently published in the online magazine, Persimmon Tree. The link is: http://www.persimmontree.org/v2/spring-2015/whats-in-a-name/

Barbara V. Evers said...

Your post about changing our names hit home with me. When I divorced I took back my maiden name even though I did have children. I didn't want his name and knew I would eventually remarry anyway.. When I did remarry,I'm did change my name, but my husband told me I didn't have to.