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What's in a Name?

“What’s in a name?

That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare

Have you ever thought about this well-known passage from Shakespeare? To be honest, I'm not a big Shakespeare fan (guess I remember it too well from struggling through high school literature exams). Well, I never understood the meaning of it until today. Apparently it means that it doesn't matter what your name is, you will still be the same person. Or something like that.

But is it true?

I think that sometimes your name defines you. Look for example if you have family names, firstborns especially. Doesn't it say something about you, where you belong, for example? Doesn't it define your position in the pecking order? Social scientists believe that names produce a Dorian Gray effect, influencing personality, how we’re perceived, and even physical appearance, according to this post:

The website further stated that "Say your name is Rose. Social coding may direct you to act feminine, smile demurely, wear dresses, grow your hair long. This is perhaps unconsciously expected more of a woman named for a flower than an Alexandra who goes by Alex, a name that in the US is common for males and females. Alex may feel freer to bend gender stereotypes because of her name and how people see her and vice versa and she’ll likely be less floral somehow than Rose."

It is this kind of statements that made me careful to choose names for my characters. I go through a whole process of choosing names these days, but my first characters in the Playing for Glory series just had their names. I don't know how it happened. It was just Jakes in Eye on the Ball I wasn't sure about. He was a bit secretive, to begin with, and I only knew him by his initials, JJ. It was only when he wanted to tell his story that I found out what his names were family names and it really suited him.

Usually, when I think about a story, I first thought of my characters nationality, where the story is set and how they look like, etcetera. As soon as I know how they look like, I can combine my other information to start looking for names. It had to be authentic so if it is an Italian-Scot, he had to have the looks and the name to fit. If he is a pure Scot like Iain, he had to have the name to go with it. But saying that, I hate choosing names that people can't pronounce. Do you know how long it took me to know that the name Siobhian is not pronounced Si-o-bi-han but Shi-von? Or Catriona is not pronounced Ca-tri-ou-na but Ca-tre-na (if it is a Gaelic speaker like my father-in-law was) or Ca-tri-na? Yeah, we've heard it all in our house, especially with names like Calum and Catriona and living in South Africa.

Now, where do I get the names for my characters? Bryn Donovan has an awesome list of romance heroes names. I also hunt baby names sites of which I'll list some below.

Some of these sites are great and give the meaning of a name. But then you can get some additional info, some not as serious as others, but which will give you an indication whether a person with that name is popular or not.

Of course, the name not only should fit the character and the society to which he belongs but also his or her surname. And if it is a female, and she gets married to the male, will her name still sounds "right"?

I hope this will give you things to consider when choosing your next character name.

Until next time


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