Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In the Name of...a Good Name

I put a lot of stock in names. When I use a certain spelling, it's done deliberately and because I have some kind of meaning or attachment to it. For me, names kind of set the tone for the character.

And no where have I had more fun with names than World Cup matches.

This is partly due to the way the British announcers enunciate the player names when they do something worth watching, and partly because twisting my tongue around wonderfully-pronounced names is extremely fun.

Take the German team, for example. One of the midfielders is named Bastian Schweinsteiger -- a mouthful any day, but he's a very good player and so they constantly call out his name: "SCHWEINStaaaaaaaaaaiger!" It's so much fun to say. All weekend in my house we've been calling things a Schweinsteiger. "Oh yes, I must go Schweinsteiger." "Now it is time to Schweinsteiger." To the whipsnap: "Come here, you little Schweinsteiger." We have also enjoyed yelling "Muller. Muller. Muller," in Ben Stein fashion after midfielder Thomas Muller.

It also must be noted that there is a goalkeeper on the German squad with the unfortunate name of Hans-Jorg Butt, which has provided endless fun in all the ways you might imagine. (Picture a happy dog bounding up to Hans-Jorg and licking him. Yes! The dog has just licked a Butt!)

On the Spanish team, there's the joy of screaming "VILLA" (pronounced via) in a high-pitched screachy voice. There's also the very talented midfielder Andres Iniesta. "Let's go Iniesta and get something to drink," I told the whipsnap just yesterday. And Gerard Pique, a defender, whose name is pronounced "pi-kay" and which is super cute to say. "I feel a little Pique, I'm going to lie down."

Quite apart from incorporating these lovely names into our everyday vocabulary, there is the fun of finding some amazing new names for my character repertoire--or not. For example, you can count on me not to use Iker (as in keeper Iker Casillas, a fabulous goalie) as a leading man's name, nor Maximiliano (Maximiliano Pareira, Uruguay). In fact, I have a whole list of names that are a definite NO for men in my stories (and these are not World Cup team names, either). Here are some on that list: Boris (why? why would you name an innocent baby boy Boris?),Walter, Eugene, and Seymour, Maurice.

For girls, there will never be any: Gertrude, Edith, Hepsibah, Ethel, Agnes, or Penelope.

What names do you particularly dislike and would never use in a story? I was going to ask your favorite names, but we're protective of good names, I know.


Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I tend to like single syllable names for my heroes, and my heroines' name kind of have no rhyme or reason except that "ooh this is cute/pretty/awesome".

As for names I don't like, I think what irritates me is when people use crazy or cute spellings for a name that has a perfectly normal spelling. I know people do this to their kids, and I, in fact, have a name that is spelled oddly. However, in books, it distracts me. Madyson, Stefanee, Xoe, whatever, stop it!

Suzi McGowen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzi McGowen said...

I'm answering the question you didn't ask :) If I ever write a romance, I'm going to name the male lead "Jakarsnook Bobo". (I had a customer with that name, or something very like it, 8 years ago.)

I love that name for a romantic male lead. It would offer opportunities for him to be embarrassed or funny. He'd get an instant leg up on being interesting, because he's had to deal with people's reactions to his name all of his life.

(And would the female lead hesitate to fall in love, because she wouldn't want to be "Mrs. Bobo"?)

It's kind of like Heinlein who said, "A Martian would never be named John Smith", and then went "hmm..." and promptly wrote his most famous book, "A Stranger in a Strange Land", about a Martian named John Smith.

Summer said...

I feel so strongly about names, and it's always comforting to be reminded that other writers are just as neurotic as I.

For males, I hate the names Craig, Greg (similar sounds), Nathan, Don, Robert.

For girls...it's pretty much easier to name the ones I DO like. Which change daily. But I really don't like the names Sarah, Caitlin (or any of its innumerable spellings), Megan, Melissa, Lisa, Jamie, or Laura. Some are bad associations, others are just...icky.

Lt. Cccyxx said...

I think the only names I would (99%) rule out off the bat are the names of my spouse, immediate family, and children. The name's got to match the character, and I can't a priori rule out that even for a name I hate there might be a perfect character to wear it.

Anne R. Allen said...

Hepsibah? That's a new one for me, but now you've got my imagination going. What if her last name was Katt? And your book was set in the 1950s? Hep Katt could be a pretty cool name.

Seriously, I've never ruled out a name, and I often give evil characters my own name, just for fun. But there are certain names that have been kind of trademarked and you can't use them without evoking a real person--like Elvis or Paris or Ringo. But if you want humor, there's nothing like naming the uptight bank manager Elvis.

Tahereh said...

hahaha this is an awesome post, mostly because it's so true. we make all of these random associations with names -- likely a conditioning of society -- and any character named Gertrude, Edith, Hepsibah, Ethel, Agnes would have me cringing on the first page.

it's so good to be aware of these things.

Linda G. said...

OMG! John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt--my Girl Scout Troop used to sing that song. Only my mom, who was the assistant leader, is Swedish, so we were the only troop who sang "Yohn Yacob Yingleheimer Schmidt."

As for names I'd never use...hmmm. Well, I'd never call a male character "Dick," for obvious reasons. I'd just laugh through every scene. And I don't think I could use "Serena" for girl--not that it isn't a perfectly nice name, but I knew a Serena once who was a perfect rhymes-with-witch, and I'd hate to spend the whole time I was writing the book thinking about her.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Roni, I'm with you on the strange spellings. I am anti-strange spellings, like Ciara, which makes me want to puke. When people ask me how my name is spelled, I confess I give them a look. There's only one way to spell it.

The exception is Siouxie Sioux.

Susie, if you can make Jakarsnook sound sexy, then I'll read it! LOL!

Summer-- I kind of like your girl names though :)

Lt -- agree! Although I see a handsome Lt. Ccyxx in a future book :)

Anne-- Hep Katt could actually work! So maybe the key is to use a gross name and turn it to cuteness.

Tahereh-- squeee!

Linda-- Dick is DEFINITELY out. Dick and Butt. Especially Dick Butt. Oh man.

Suzi McGowen said...

Oops! I just found a name I would never use. I would never name a major character "Candida".

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