Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Gibside Woods

Are names important in fiction, or just a character label? If you were choosing a label for a young magician who was going to have amazing powers, wouldn’t it be tempting to call him something special? But J K Rowling chose Harry Potter, something so ordinary we barely notice it.

Arthur gives out only a faint chime of recognition until it is linked with Merlin, and then it takes on a whole new significance. One of the most feared English kings was the eighth Henry, a name that today rings with total insignificance. How many kids are named Henry today? One thing I have noticed in Real Life is that its no longer possible to tell a child's heritage by name alone. Names that once belonged to a certain nation are now used by any parents who decide they like the name. Therefore we have lots of Scots, Irish and Welsh names filtering down into English households when there seems no link back to the roots those names might suggest.
Reading the cast lists of tv and films is entertaining, and not for the quirky spellings alone. Summer and Breeze are no longer unique, and I swear I have seen Field and Lane listed. I kept waiting for Hedge coming up, but then we veered off to the Peach Blossom tangent beloved of pop stars. Cute children with cute names are one thing, but when that child is in its forties, I wonder if it will be heading down the name-changing route?
Romance novelists scour the lists and come up with names like Blane, Dare, Noble, and Amaury. It seems the name has to be different, sharp-sounding and if possible have only one syllable. What does this say, if anything, about current naming fashions among  authors? and how do readers feel about it?

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