Monday, January 19, 2015

The Depth of a Name



 
Names intrigue me.

They often spur a memory, reminding me of a person, place, or an event from the past.

Last names can reveal a bit about a person's heritage, such as nationality or the profession of their ancestors. First and middle names might reflect the decade in which one was born, a significant family name, a parent's interests or creative bent, or a meaning of historical or Biblical significance. A "Junior" or "The Third" might follow tradition, paying tribute to a relative. When choosing a name, some parents consider initials or potential nicknames.

My Mom told me that she and Dad wanted our first and middle names to complement our last name. Makes sense. She also said that she pictured my sisters and me at graduation, to "listen" to what our names would sound like when announced in public. Don't misunderstand, she was not so vain as to think her daughters would be all that. I guess you might say that she planned ahead to avoid burdening us with names that sounded awkward. 

Karen Lynne

That's what Mom and Dad gave me. I must admit, it did sound nice when I graduated. :) It also served a great purpose, for when I heard my full name, I knew I might be in trouble...

What can names do for our writing?

They can spark ideas and insight for articles, interviews, stories, poetry, and blog posts. Who hasn't heard a name that reminds us of a schoolmate or a funny or endearing event? We might associate a name with character strengths or weaknesses based on people we know.

These thoughts can grow into a story or humorous essay. We might use an interesting name to brainstorm and cluster ideas, or as a starting point for Hemingway's Challenge, those famous six word stories. They can take us on rabbit trails that reap delightful discoveries.

For additional insight through the etymology and history of first names, check out Behind the Name. Their Random Name Generator provides interesting possibilities; it explores masculine or feminine names from various nationalities and other categories. This just might help find that character name or bit of inspiration you are looking for.

Do names interest you? Care to share your first and middle name with us? Have names played a role in your writing?

Happy writing,

Karen


Photo credit: Stock Exchange

32 comments :

  1. Yes, I try to have the names of my characters reflect something. Often I look at the meaning of the name. I struggled a lot to come up with a good name for my daughter too to honor all the heritages she comes from. Thanks for the links.

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  2. I've heard we become what our names mean. I makes sense because we hear our name over and over.

    Mine comes from the name Alexander, which means helper of mankind. Hmm...there are probably a lot of Alexanders out there who are helpful. But I think of Alexander the Great who was more of a smasher-upper. Although, he helped his people. So there's that.

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  3. Natalie,
    I'm like you; I cannot just choose any name. There's more behind it that meets the eye! :)

    Sandi,
    I've heard that too, and I tend to think that it is true in many cases. I am however, glad that you are not like Alexander the Great. I prefer you just as you are! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  4. Interesting post. This may seem strange, but my parents chose not to use middle names for any of their children, but I had a great uncle who always called me Linda Lou. If I'm not mistaken that has something to do with Roy Rogers. (:

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  5. Hi Karen Lynne! (I'm not mad at you!) I think it's great to have a 'name generator' for characters in stories. I have often sat back to figure out an alias for someone, so this link will help!
    I was named Cecilia after my mother's middle name. 'Mary' is my middle name, which sounded like the usual default to me, but I have come to love it very much. When it came time to name my daughter, I gave her Cecilia as a middle name, just like my mom. It's a way to carry on the tradition.
    Monday blessings!
    Ceil

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  6. Whenever I heard my full name, I knew I was in trouble. If my mother took the time to say all if, she was mad.

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  7. I think choosing names with my writing is my weak point. I usually choose a name of someone I know so I can remember them.

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  8. Linda,
    I don't think it's odd; I know some families do not give middle names (and I forgot to mention that in the post!). That sounds like a Roy Rogers thing. :) My mom used to refer to him and some of their phrases and whatnot. Funny what we pick up and use over the years, isn't it?

    Ceil,
    I like your story! Like you, I wasn't terrifically impressed with my middle name at first. But I grew to like it more, and like it with an "e" instead of without. It's wonderful that you carried on a family tradition! :)

    Alex,
    Yeah, for real, right? Me too! Hopefully you didn't hear it too much. :)

    Terri,
    That's a good way to go if it helps you remember! I can see where you might get into the story and change it depending on how you think it fits a character, you know? :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  9. Name trends in a particular time period is something I consider also, relying on a search on the Social Security site to start, and then from there picking some possibilities to research further. In 2015 you won't typically find a little girl named Brenda, but her grandmother might have that name. It has been eye opening to look up specific birth years and see that "mom" names are things like Lisa and Stacy, while teen names are kind of century and a half throwbacks, like Emma, Olivia and Grace.

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  10. Sometimes getting the right name for a character can be hard too. For all the reasons listed.

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  11. I take great care finding names for my characters. I scour baby names sites for the right sound and even look up the meanings of the names I've narrowed down.

    I don't have a middle name. My first name is an ancient Persian region.

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  12. Laurel,
    Now there is an excellent idea! I'd not thought about using the Social Security site. I've seen names trend, and then recycle too over the years but that would give a bigger and clearer picture. Thanks for sharing this with us. :)

    Holly,
    It isn't as easy as one might think all the time, is it? You figure the reader has these names through the whole book, and that can be a tall order! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  13. Karen: My name is Cecelia Lee. My dad liked the name Cecelia. I'm not surewhere the Lee came from but I do know my maternal grandfather's middle name was Lee. My mother was from the south. Down there EVERYBODY had middle names and they used them. I was in college with a Mary Alice, her grandmother had a very strong southern accent. When we named our son, we selected Hubby's middle name for his. My mother used my first and middles when I was in trouble, I picked up the habit of using Hubby's middle name to get his attention. The habit transferred to when I needed our son's attention (when I was upset with him).Son told me I used two different tones of voice when I call histwo names. He said I use one when I a mad at him and the softer one when I am trying to say something I want him to remember.

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  14. Medeia,
    It can be quite the process, can't it? I think it is almost like choosing a baby's name, for these characters are our children in a way. :) Middle names or not (or more than one middle name!) we all have our own personality and signature.

    Cecelia,
    We have a friend by the name of Mary Alice, and I forget if it is a family name. It might be. I too, used a different tone when I used my kids' middle names. Guess it comes with the territory! LOL Thanks for sharing your name's history!

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  15. Neat post! When naming my characters for The Moses Conspiracy, I chose Zimmerman for their last name because the husband was a carpenter. Zimmerman means - you guessed it - carpenter.

    I can relate to knowing I was in big trouble when Mom called me by my full name only she added a twist: Susannah Joyce instead of Susan Joyce. LOL! Talk about shaking in your boots.

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  16. I am reading Wally Lamb's, Wishin' and Hopin', A Christmas Story, and ma having the most delightful time with the characters' names. It's really making the story fun.

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  17. I have always found names fascinating. I love when I read books with names that bring back memories or that cause me to think. :) JK Rowling impressed me with her character names and all the research and name collection she did to make sure they were just right.

    I heard my first and middle name whenever I was in serious trouble. ;)

    Great post!
    ~Jess

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  18. The statement ' what's in a name?' doesn't gel with me. I think a lot can be learnt from a name as you wrote Karen.

    My parents had a wee hurdle to overcome when they didn't name their first son after the paternal grandfather ( he didn't mind but the grandmother did). Took them two months before they held their grandson in their arms. So sad..... The reason was practical - it was a regional ( Frisian) name and we didn't live in the province Friesland.

    We all have the name Mary as 3rd name which was a Catholic tradition- to dedicate your child to the mother Mary for added protection.

    My name originated from a curiosity and pleasant sound my parents had when they had a once in a lifetime trip to Paris. My second name is my mum's name.

    When choosing my children's names we looked at sound, how to mix family names and with how much ease the children could write their name at an early stage.

    Toni Anne ( daughter with bits of Johanna from my mum) Reece Jon ( my dad was Jan) and Steven Paul - ( second name my 'baby' brother)

    Anyway - I am proud of my Anita Johanna Maria and fill it in as small as possible on too small a spaces on forms.

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  19. Susan,
    I'd forgotten about the name Zimmerman - we've talked about that, haven't we? I like choosing names for characters; although it can be hard, it is satisfying once you make the choice. :)

    Linda,
    Oh I do like when that happens! You're right, it does make the story more fun! :)

    Jess,
    Hopefully you were not in serious trouble too often! You were probably a model child, right? :)

    Anita,
    What fun history! Well, except for the part about your grandparents. It's funny how traditions and whatnot hold such sway with our actions. Glad it smoothed out after a while. :) I bet you have had plenty of practice writing your name in small letters!

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  20. Names intrigue me as well. I love learning the history behind them. Middle names, however, usually always meant I was about to get in some BIG trouble :)

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  21. I love naming my book characters and what people choose for their babies is always interesting. And I also like alliteration in names. Hokey, I know. Interesting thought provoking, Karen!

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  22. Keith,
    Oh yes, if the middle name made an appearance, you knew you were in hot water! LOL Well, we have to use them for something, right? :)

    Susan,
    I don't think that's hokey. I too, think it is interesting, and I enjoy hearing the selection process behind someone's name. Adds to one's history, I think. :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  23. To give a thing a name is to define it. At least, that's my take on it. I've always liked my name, but my parents didn't give me a middle name. They figured one day I'd be married and dealing with the extra name was a pain to my mom. Sadly, I felt like maybe I was less in some way because of it. So, not only do my kids get long names, but ones with plenty of nickname options.

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  24. You know I'm going to be playing with that name generator forever. Sounds like fun. My middle name is Melanie. When I got married I dropped the Melanie and kept my maiden name, Ricard, as my middle name. When I started being published I opted to use my full name to honor my dad. The surname was important to him, and I knew he'd be pleased. The unfortunate thing is that adding the Ricard makes my author name that much harder to remember, and people invariably add an "h" after the "c" which changes it to the man's name Richard. lol

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  25. Yes, I love playing around with names. I usually choose something because of a nickname I can use, or something that means something important to me in the book. For my own kids, I wanted tradition. So we went with easy to say, easy to spell, names that came from our heritage for them.

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  26. Crystal,
    I think you are right. Another good reason to be selective when choosing a child's name. Middle name or not, I think you are awesome! I can see your parents' side, and can understand yours too. Now I am wondering, what name will you bestow on your sweet new little one? :)

    Lisa,
    Hope you have fun with the name generator. Such a great idea, isn't it? I too, used my maiden name after I got married, for my mom said that was the right thing to do. Now I kind of regret having done so (on important documents and stuff). Oh well, 34 years later and it really hasn't made any difference. :)

    Elana,
    I was just thinking about you the other day! Glad you stopped by. It's nice to have that power - naming characters - isn't it? Although it can come with its own pressure too, I suppose. I think your theory for naming your kids is a good one. :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  27. My middle name was a mistake. It was supposed to be Evelyn after my mother's sister but when the nurse presented the paperwork to my mom the hospital, I was Linda Diane. They swore that's the name she gave them (while she was still under anesthetic). Mom wanted it changed but she was very young and easily cowed and they told her it was too late. She hardly ever called me Linda Diane - even when I was in trouble. Probably because it wasn't supposed to be my name.

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  28. My name has started many, many conversations, and my parents made it up. However, I have discovered that there are others with my same first name out in the world - in Ireland and the United States. I'm not sure how many people say it the same way, but I like the fact that it's rare because it used to make me feel unique. :)

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  29. I love Alex's name and think his mother had his future in mind. Of course, my name is never on any of these lists. Why? Don't matter. My characters' are, and that's more important. Like Brendell Kisipism Meshango. What a kewl, I must say even if I invented it. Great post, Karen. Thanks for the lists. I love your name. My first favourite Karen was Karen Carpenter.

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  30. Linda Diane,
    Well, even if it isn't what your name was supposed to be, it sounds nice! My Mom's name was Linda Rae, so I've always liked the name Linda for that reason. :)

    Tyrean,
    I can imagine it would be a conversation starter since it is unique. It has a nice ring to it, and of course it suits you! :)

    Joylene,
    Yours is another name you don't hear, but it sure is nice too! :) I like your character's name. Isn't it fun to be in charge of choosing names for our little story kingdoms? Thanks for the kind words!

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  31. I love to study the meaning of names. For instance, Karen Lynne means "pure one from the waterfall." That is definitely you--you always want to help others with your pure heart, and you are full of living water from Jesus!

    My name, Jeanette Eileen, means "God's is gracious" and "light-bearer." I hope I exemplify those in my life.

    Fun post, Karen!
    Jen

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  32. Jen,
    I'd forgotten about the meaning of my name (in all the busyness of doing the post)! Thank you for the refresher and kind words. :) I would say your name suits you, for it is true. Indeed it is!
    Happy writing,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!