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On naming, real and fictional - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
On naming, real and fictional
I've been entertaining myself at Baby's Named A Bad, Bad Thing. I've been there before. Most of it's valid, though the sitekeeper seems to have considerably less tolerance than I have for names that are a little bit out there, but not horribly so. I mean, is "Orion" really so terribly wrong that it belongs on the same list as "Mykynzy" (pronounced "Mackenzie," but spelled to be much more interesting, you know) or Irelynd?

The truth is, I'm glad we're seeing some unusual names, or at least fresher sounding ones and in greater variety. I don't have a problem with people named "Sage" or some other noun or verb--virtue names have a perfectly legitimate history. Personally, I like a weird one from the family tree, Reconcile. I figured "Connie" could be a good nickname... until my cousin pointed out that it would take my uncle thirty seconds to start calling her "Wreck," and schoolmates even less time to come up with "Train-wreck." Er, anyway, I still like it, but I guess I wouldn't, you know... well. I still might. I don't know whether I should hope for a tolerant husband or one who will put the brakes on.

The point remains that a lot of those sorts of names, there's nothing inherently wrong with them. I know a girl named after a very famus Greek goddess who wears it pretty well. And oddball Biblical names? Why not? Go for it. Place names, I'd hope have some meaning, but go for it if they make sense. Again, with the long history. "Naming after" is fun as well, especially if it's done in an interesting way. Feminizing masculine ancestor-names is nice sometimes, and it could probably go the other way, and using a different part of a shared name for every day use--John Joseph used three times might have a John J., a J. John, and a J.J.--keeps a tradition without being confusing. I'm sanguine.

But the doofy spellings have to go. "Mykynzy" is not pronounced "Mackenzie," nay, not even if thou doth insist upon it. For one thing, the "y" is representing three totally separate vowel sounds in the same word! If you want to name your child Jennifer, be bold... ignore the slights on overused names and call her "Jennifer"! No one is going to be fooled by Djinyphur anyway... or well, at least no one who can be bothered to read it phonetically and make a guess. (Note, this doesn't apply to foreign versions of names, which are a whole 'nother ball of wax; this is about stupid, made-up spellings of perfectly normal names.)

Some names may be lovely, but saddling a kid with them... I adore the name Galadriel. Just adore it. But what if my daughter prefers Hemingway to Tolkien or wants to be President? It may not stop her, but it'd sure get in her way. Anakin's a great name, phonetically speaking, but giving it to a child puts him in as strict a social category as naming him Freedom Rainbow. It can be overcome (or changed) if the child wants to be elsewhere, but why not be sneakier about it? Name a daughter Anneke--you know what it means and where you got it, but other people will just think she's Scandinavian--and let your son be Ben or Luke or Owen (or Lars, if you want to stick with the Scandinavian names), if you want the theme.

And initials. Must watch the initials.

As to siblings with matching or pattern names, I'm neutral. If they're too obvious, no--my grandmother's third husband was a teacher, and he taught kids in a family where they had Italian numbers for names--Primo, Segundo, etc--and the last one was named Finale. That's a bit much. But I also knew two families with strict initial patterns where it didn't stick out, because they used normal names. Floral names can get cloying if there are too many, and you're reaching for, like, "Hyacinth" for a boy, but would it be that horrible to have a Lily and a Violet?

Blargh, I know, I have no children, I shouldn't spout on the subject. But I love names, and because I have no children, my LJ is the only place to indulge naming theories.

On fictional names, I'm a very big fan of patterns. It helps the reader. Again, you don't want it to be intrusive (unless you're writing the Black family, which lives to be intrusive), but if you have one family that really likes the virtue names, stick to them--it makes it easy for a reader to say, "Oh, this one's from the Whooziwhatsis family!" Fanfic-wise, it helps to make the names of invented children seem less random without having them share names with existing characters. I love Sirius as much as the next girl, but either Harry or Remus naming his son Sirius (or James, for that matter) would irk me in a subtle way. The story all exists at the same time in the mind--as opposed to real life, which happens in linear time--so I'm trying to juggle too many people with the same name. If they must name after someone, for the love of G-d, give them a nickname. But if you use floral names for Harry's daughters, bam, they're Lily's granddaughters, there's a connection, but they aren't "the new Lily." And the Blacks... that's where you can use all of your powers of absurdity in naming. Get out an astronomy book and have a blast. Yes, there are odd ones like Narcissa and Nymphadora as well, but those star names... those are fun. You can get a regular collection going.

For new people, you just want it to fit into the universe a little bit. I couldn't explain why Ravyn Skye doesn't fit in HP, but it just, you know, doesn't.

I guess that's it.
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author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: August 26th, 2005 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do think JKR was very cruel to Tonks by naming her "Nymphadora." Even as a joke. ;)

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm getting frighteningly accustomed to Nymphadora...
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: August 26th, 2005 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I suppose you could name a boy Snapdragon, but Jack (for Jack-in-the-Pulpit) might be less traumatic.

A child named Reconcile would practically be required to have either the sense of humor to deal with others playing with her name, or the force of personality to enforce whatever form of it she preferred. But it would be a very cool name.

...I have no idea what I'll name my children if I have them.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Lord. Harry takes the flower naming to extremes, and we welcome Snap Potter to the closed ward at St. Mungo's Quidditch World Cup!
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: August 26th, 2005 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you want to name your child Jennifer, be bold... ignore the slights on overused names and call her "Jennifer"! No one is going to be fooled by Djinyphur anyway...

Boy, is that ever the truth! I'm a Jennifer, and I just rolled my eyes way back in my head when we got a new client a couple weeks ago who spells her name Jehnifer. I mean, I can understand being saddled with this name: I spent all of elementary school being one of five Jennifers. But stupid spellings are just stupid.

I love Sirius as much as the next girl, but either Harry or Remus naming his son Sirius (or James, for that matter) would irk me in a subtle way.

I can see this, but I could also see one of them using Sirius or James as a middle name for a child, and that wouldn't be weird at all. Would that be more palatable?

(Hi, by the way. You don't know me. I've been lurking on your journal since HBP made me notice R/T, and you write the good stuff and know where the other good stuff is. Hope it's okay that I chime in with an opinion...)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 06:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can see this, but I could also see one of them using Sirius or James as a middle name for a child, and that wouldn't be weird at all. Would that be more palatable?i>
Oh, it's so in-character for Harry to name a son James that it hurts. It's just textually confusing. Any kind of solution that doesn't actually involve a second James Potter running around in my head is good.

(Hi, by the way. You don't know me. I've been lurking on your journal since HBP made me notice R/T, and you write the good stuff and know where the other good stuff is. Hope it's okay that I chime in with an opinion...)

No! You must never speak!!!! ;) Welcome aboard; glad to have you.
melyanna From: melyanna Date: August 26th, 2005 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have a cousin named Cassondra who's always worn the name very well — but that might be because her mother had really wanted to name her Marushka until her mother laughed at her for that.

My favorite name from that site, though, is Tierrainney. The commentator is right — if you're going to give your child a cool super-villain name like Tyranny, you might as well have the decency to spell it properly.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 06:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hell, I'm tempted to use Tyranny as a name. I never would have thought of it otherwise. Something really absurdist, maybe, like Tyranny Grace.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 06:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, the middle name solution is great. Heck, the use-a-nickname solution is worth a shot, as in, "Superfly Potter--his real name was James, but no one ever used it--was coming off the Quidditch pitch one day..."
doomandnachos From: doomandnachos Date: August 26th, 2005 05:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm a fan of names that are polysyllabic and elegant, but are still recognisable names. Like Alexander/dra, Anastasia, Gabriel, Madeline, etc. My rule of thumb is, if their kindergarten teacher looks at it and has to make a few sputtering attempts to pronounce it, it's a no-go. Also, I have some issue with the fake ethnic names - I think Esperanza is a lovely name, with a lovely meaning, but I'd feel weird giving a Spanish name to a kid without a whit of Latin ancestry.
Of course, my family wins at Worst Twin Names Ever. My grandmother was named Reba, her twin sister Reva (which is a cool, unusual name on its own, but that combination is simply wretched).

I couldn't explain why Ravyn Skye doesn't fit in HP, but it just, you know, doesn't.
I think it's because the HPverse has Sirius, Narcissa, Remus, and Nymphadora, but it also has Doris, Colin, Katie, and Peter, y'know?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah--there are lots of ethnic names I think are beautiful, but there is the question of inappropriate appropriation. Of course, a few generations down the road, it's all perfectly likely, so, hey, keep a list for your great grandchildren. ;)

Reba and Reva? How confusing! And I thought my great-grandmother's brothers, Noel and Leon, were cringeworthy!
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eir_de_scania From: eir_de_scania Date: August 26th, 2005 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I wouldn't be surprised if Harry named his son -if he gets one - "James"! Perhaps his second son would have "Sirius" for a middle name. But I suppose Remus & Tonks have names from their own families to choose from.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, it's perfectly in character, and in a RL scenario, someone like Harry would absolutely have a son named James, and quite probably a daughter named Lily. But in fiction, it's confusing, since they're all existing in the same mental space. If Harry has a son named James in fiction, nicknames are the best solution. Or, you know, middle names.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 06:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
See, it's the daughter thing that fixes it. A son named Anakin would get his lunch money stolen, but it takes mundane bullies just one step more than they usually take to think, "Anika"... "Hmmm... Anakin." Unless your last name is Skywalker, probably no need to worry. ;)
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story645 From: story645 Date: August 26th, 2005 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Some names may be lovely, but saddling a kid with them...
I have that issue. My favorite biblical character is Rahab, but giving a daughter, or even son, that name is probably cruel. Middle names are the traditional place for strange names. (Though when I was born, my middle name was more common than my first.) I think someone on my f-list might actually have a son named Anakin. I don't know, I think it's cute.
story645 From: story645 Date: August 26th, 2005 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Forgot to add, you can probably throw the whole nickname debate in somewhere. Seen alot of complaints about them, (something about them being American) but grown up with them cause everyone I know uses them instead of yiddish or biblical names. (Like a cute two year old called Kuzi cause Yekuzial is a bit big for him.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 26th, 2005 06:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Baby names

My husband and I just started trying to start a family, and I already feel the madness coming! So I'm going to take advantage of the fact that you put this up to see what you or anyone thinks: Zoe for girl (named after my husband's grandmother, and is already decided; my husband insisted on it), or who knows what for boy. I like Henry, or Edward, and I really have a secret love for the name Atticus (which was on that Site!) You know, I've actually really come to like the name Fern, but it's not an option.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 06:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Baby names

Zoe's actually kind of trendy in some circles, so your Zoe would have a good chance of being seen as chic and artistic. Henry and Edward are good, classic names, and Edward has several nickname variations for kid to choose from (Ed, Ted, Eddie... Ward, if he feels creative, I guess; Henry's pretty much stuck with the real name or Hank, but the real name is nice). Atticus is a great name, but it's always going to get To Kill A Mockingbird jokes, plus, not many nickname options. But "Edward Atticus" isn't a bad combination, if you wanted to use it as a middle name.
gentlespirit From: gentlespirit Date: August 26th, 2005 06:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just spent an unhealthy amount of time reading that website. While I appreciate that people are trying to branch out a little more in naming children, I wish they would think about it more.

I suffered both from a too-common name and people spelling it incorrectly. As a child I went by "Jenni" instead of "Jennifer" and my uncle died before he learned not to spell it "Jenny" or "Jennie." I started going by "Jen" partially because I hate my name being misspelled. Then in highschool I played Rebecca Nurse in The Crucible. You can only spend so much time rehearsing scenes where someone would rather die than lie and ruin their name and not grasp the importance of it.

Then working in K/pre-K classes....the names you see. "Anass"? LEt me tell you...he was or the child that won't listen to authority? Maybe his parent's shouldn't name him "Majesty!" The board seemed to hate Destiny, but I recently worked with a Destiny...and for her, it seemed a perfect name.

I think I ought to stop writing so much in your journal now.
rabidfangurl From: rabidfangurl Date: August 26th, 2005 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Please don't tell me in was pronounced "A-noss". Because if it was, I'm going to have to go after that child's parents with my lantern.

The Anass is the Bryn Mawr school chant, and it can only be started by seniors or graduates. It is kind of important to us, and should never, ever be used as a child's name, especially a *male* child. ::grumbles dark things about that::
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lilac_bearry From: lilac_bearry Date: August 26th, 2005 07:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know this applies mostly to fan-fic, but that was just too funny reading those names! Those are a teacher's nightmare, as well as a child's. Cruel, just cruel. That's why I named my own children good, solid names without irregular spellings, unneeded appostrophes, and other such foolishness. I don't hold with such nonsense. :D
rabidfangurl From: rabidfangurl Date: August 26th, 2005 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, at least I'm found a new source of names for Star Wars characters.
erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: August 26th, 2005 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
i' mthinkgin this isnt' real opinions. it osunds like universal thought to me. except for some particualr parents adn writers )fic or nt_ wo want to be 'different 'with thei character naming.
whic hbasical traslates into 'if you naemd yo ukdi lie kthsi ou're probalb yan abnormal alien' now that I thn kabout it more.I guess I shoud lahve jsut siad' word'. Oh well...
lannamichaels From: lannamichaels Date: August 26th, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm with you on that. I have no problem with original names. But I think that if you're going to go with a name that has a set spelling, stick to that spelling. It's one thing to have Elizabeth/Elisabeth/Elysabeth. Those are all valid spellings. But don't start spelling it Ehlyeszebett just to look different. I know a family that decided to name their kids after the hebrew months. Poor Nissan. He gets so much shit about the car.

I couldn't explain why Ravyn Skye doesn't fit in HP, but it just, you know, doesn't.

Maybe because it's too fantasy? And in Harry Potter, if you wantd to name a kid Ravyn, the parents probably would have named hir Raven and been done with it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I knew a Nissan in college. I was never sure whether or not that was an odd name, culturally speaking--he never complained, but then again, he grew up going to Orthodox day schools, I think, so it may not have come up.
kelleypen From: kelleypen Date: August 26th, 2005 08:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have some neighbors with a large family: Jory, Lori, Glory, Story, Cory, Dori, Mauri, Rori, Torry---and no signs of quitting soon. It's actually quite amusing to try to think of what they have left to name the next ones.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: August 26th, 2005 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Sorry" would be my suggestion, but something tells me it wouldn't go over too well :).
sonetka From: sonetka Date: August 26th, 2005 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love that website - but I have to admit, it scared the hell out of me when my husband and I were trying to figure out a boy's name; all the little girls named Michael and Owen and Emerson and so forth made me want to beat my head against the wall and scream "Could we leave some boys' names for the actual BOYS, please?" (We ended up with Daniel Benedict - I don't *think* the girls will get those any time soon. I hope). The tryndy names I've noticed popping up in Salt Lake all the time are Caden for boys and Mackenzie for girls - no idea how they're spelled since I usually just hear mothers yelling them at the train station and so forth.

Hands down for worst name on that site has to be poor little "Aryan Justice", though. Yes, her parents were white supremacists. I'm seeing a lot of therapy in her future no matter how that scenario plays out, poor kid.

Oh, and I like Reconcile a lot, but if you were worried about nicknames, maybe it would be a good middle name? That way your daughter could still have the name, but she wouldn't have to be fending off comments 24/7 either.
affabletoaster From: affabletoaster Date: August 26th, 2005 09:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wasn't one of King's David's wives (Saul's daughter?) named Michal? But yeah, so many boys names being used on girls now...we babysat a "Kennedy" and I just could not help but think of a certain senator and former president. Talk about a rep preceding you!
mafdet From: mafdet Date: August 26th, 2005 08:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
When I'm naming OC's or character's kids, I try to keep the names at least plausible for canon. And my namesaking trick is this: The mother's family comes first. That way my characters can name their kids after someone yet not have the same first or last name.

And speaking of this, I'm always flummoxed by fic authors who insist that all namesakes follow the paternal line. Wouldn't Ginny want to have a say in naming her and Harry's kids - so they could as well be "Arthur and Molly" as Lily and James. Besides, it appears that witches, in canon, choose their kids' names. "Abraxas" is Draco's paternal grandfather, yet he has a constellation name in the Black family tradition. "Nymphadora" was blatantly Andromeda's choice; I doubt Muggle-born Ted had such a person in his family tree. I also wonder at the look on his face when Andromeda tells him what their daughter is going to be named.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 27th, 2005 03:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, but Draco is also the name of a Roman emperor just like Lucius.
It probably means Narcissa and Lucius came to a good compromis. :D
stephantom From: stephantom Date: August 26th, 2005 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ridiculous spellings can be very annoying, however, I think sometimes people can make too big a deal out of it. So your parents named you "Aalyx" instead of "Alex" - I can handle it. (I did know a girl named Aalyx, in fact.)

A kid once told me that he thought it was really pretentious when people spelled "Stephanie" with an "ie" on the end (which is my name.) Of course, my reaction was ".... that's... how it's spelled." He apparently thought it should be Stephany, while another boy piped in with, "Isn't it Stephani?" No, no, no! I never realized that there was any confusion about the end of Stephanie. I mean, there are several "Stefanies" out there (which I deplore) but Stephany?! ...But, what I meant to say was that it's kind of silly to get upset about it. I mean, say I did spell my name Stephany and he actually said that he thought it was pretentious to not use the normal "ie," I probably would have been offended.

Still, cheasy spellings can be irritating. So can family themes. I mean, in my family we tend to recycle old names and stuff (I plan on naming one of my kids Tobias, a name which has been used several times in the family, but not for the past couple generations). But twins and stuff... people can get really silly.

For instance, I know this family with a boy and a girl named Timmy and Tara. Their mother's name is Jan. Jan is a twin and her twin's name is Joyce. Joyce has two kids too, a boy and a girl: Vinny and Valerie.

Tell me that's not a bit absurd.

I have twin sisters and their names are Elizabeth and Caroline. *shrug*

However, I do like weird names... I have cousins in one family named Kamilla, Gabriella and Mathais. Their father, Zoltan, is Hungarian. (He actually wanted to name Mathais... Atilla... but that would have been going to far, I say.)
stephantom From: stephantom Date: August 26th, 2005 09:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
By the way, the kid who told me "Stephanie" was pretentious was named Krosby. Like, not a nickname - that was his actual first name.
danaedark From: danaedark Date: August 26th, 2005 09:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
No one is going to be fooled by Djinyphur...

Oh, I love that! And I say, go for Reconcile, it's a great name! Teach her to be proud of it and she won't have any problem putting up with the teasing. After all, my grandfather (American) did manage to survive the name "LaVerne".
danaedark From: danaedark Date: August 26th, 2005 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Also, I would like to have a word with the mother of the poor girl I saw working the checkout line at the grocery store, named "Avarice."
jetamors From: jetamors Date: August 26th, 2005 09:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think my favorite old-family name is Fortune. My grandmother's name was Pinky, which is kind of cool in an abstract sense, but I don't think I'd ever name a daughter that.

I don't think the name-calling thing is necessarily predetermined. In my experience, it has more to do with the child's personality and the playground atmosphere than anything else. I've known (first- and second-hand) of kids with absolutely horrible names that came off unscathed, and kids with names that were twisted around bizarrely and counter-intuitively to make them insulting.
alkari From: alkari Date: August 26th, 2005 11:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I could see Harry and Ginny happily agreeing that their respective fathers' names would form the middle names for their sons (we assume they will have a large Weasley-style family!!). So you might get an Stephen James or David Arthur, or things like that. As for naming a child "Sirius" as a first name ... again, I tend to think that Harry mightn't want that, because 'Sirius' to him will always mean his godfather, and he would not want to use it as a first name for a child. I could see he and Ginny agreeing to honour Sirius by using it as a middle name though.
From: ex_theatrica309 Date: August 27th, 2005 12:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Here via...God, I don't know. The Snitch? Someplace. *shrug*

I've always been a fan of names that are pretty and slightly odd or old-fashioned, but not so much that people will have trouble pronouncing them or the kid will need expensive therapy later on. I don't plan on having children, but I love the idea of naming them.

My parents decided to give all us kids themed names, but subtly--all our middle names are nature-themed (Aster, Sage, Rose, and Rowan). It's kind of cool, but not weird enough to attract any negative attention (except by people who need me to explain repeatedly that no, my middle name is not Esther).

As for people who try to create Cool New Spellings for names...don't they realize how annoying that is? How many people will misspell their kid's name? Neither my first nor my last name are particularly weird, but both have several variants, and it is a rare occasion when I find my full name spelled correctly on a form/program/list. I can't imagine how much worse it must be for a Khrystinn or a Bryttni.
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: August 27th, 2005 12:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Heheh. I have Ben, Annie, and Owen, none of whom were named for fannish reasons, yet the SW fanboys among our friends tend to point and laugh. (and I'll admit I laughed when Anakin got labelled 'Annie' in the books)

And I agree with you about Galadriel - it is a beautiful sounding name; very musical. But it would undoubtedly be shortened to Gala or Drie or Elle. ;~P
dalf From: dalf Date: August 27th, 2005 02:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Did you see Where have all the Lisas Gone? It was a NY Times article on baby names from a year or two ago. Very intresting, it is about trends in baby names. Naming babies after locations (Madison, Dakota, Paris) or constellations (Elara, Orion) etc. Its a fun article and the one that originally poitned me to the Social security page that has the top 1000 names by year. Very cool.

Incidently I supported "Orion" as a possible name for one of my nephews in an attempt to protect them form their fathers desire to name onf of them Jed. They ended up with the rather ok "Carter" and "Carson".

As for bad/strange names I went to school with Hezakaya Blue (spelling? its biblical) he went by kaiya or (some such I cant spell), his sister was Solara Flame. My sister went to school with Teddy Bayre, (prounced just like the stuffed animal) a girl who's twin was Josie.
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