Heroes’ names

Riffing on from the hero posts, I’d like to talk about names. I’m giving a talk on names at the Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta, you see.

(Anyone in the area, we have a huge booksale and signing in aid of literacy on the Wednesday. So that’s Wednesday, July 26th 5:30-8:30 p.m. in the Atlanta Marriott Marquis hotel. Click here for a list of authors. There’s no entry fee, but try to come early as the most popular books run out, and often the authors leave when they have no more books to sell.)

So among other things my talk is about the effect of names on the author, the reader, and the character themselves. I remember one book, though I can’t remember which, where the hero wasn’t shaping up. He was dull, even wimpy. He was one of my continuing characters so I couldn’t actually change his name, but I did it as a temporary move. I gave him a really over-the-top hero name like Jake Savage, and in a while he became stronger and more assertive. (Bear in mind that I don’t pre-plot my books but basically let the characters do their thing, so their character is important.)

So what names of heroes do you remember as being particularly strong, sexy, appealing, whatever?

What are some of the first names you think are good for heroes? I’m not mainstream on this. For example, I like the name Sebastian and many people seem to think it weak. I haven’t used it yet, but not for that reason. It’s just never been the name of one of my characters. Other reasonable names I’ve not used are John, Michael, and William.
Chessqueen

I tend to go for common or at least reasonable names and use nicknames if I want more variety, but I loaded all my Mallorens with Anglo-Saxon names because I was just out of Anglo-Saxon immersion for the writing of Lord of My Heart. On such whims are burdens made: Cynric, Arcenbryght, Elfled, Brand, Hilda, and of course, Beowulf. I had to come up with a reason, so I gave their father an obsession with Anglo-Saxon history, but really, with hindsight, I must have been crazy.
Kingchess

But aren’t we all? Writing fiction is the epitome of insanity.

The pics are from an early chess set found in Orkney.

I won’t be here next Wednesday, and I doubt I’ll be able to blog from the conference. But I’m sure those of us going will have lots to say when we return.

Cheers,

Jo 🙂

108 thoughts on “Heroes’ names”

  1. You know, those worked. It set them up as odd right out of the gate so the eccentricities weren’t disputed. I’m reading one right now with a Duke of Massengale. It’s a little too close to Massengill for me. Everytime I see it I think of hygenie ads.

    Reply
  2. You know, those worked. It set them up as odd right out of the gate so the eccentricities weren’t disputed. I’m reading one right now with a Duke of Massengale. It’s a little too close to Massengill for me. Everytime I see it I think of hygenie ads.

    Reply
  3. You know, those worked. It set them up as odd right out of the gate so the eccentricities weren’t disputed. I’m reading one right now with a Duke of Massengale. It’s a little too close to Massengill for me. Everytime I see it I think of hygenie ads.

    Reply
  4. Jo, I LOVED the crazy Anglo Saxon names (but then my hippie parents suck me with “Tonda” LOL!). And I’ve always thought Sebastian was a sexy name (but then it’s the name of my first boyfriend, and he was a sexy 6’4″ boy from Hamburg, so maybe I’ve just imprinted on the name as sexy *GRIN*).
    I like real names. Actual names. And there are some real doozies out there if you look through historic documents. And then there’s the British pronunciation (for years I didn’t get the joke in FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL about St. John/Sin-Jin).

    Reply
  5. Jo, I LOVED the crazy Anglo Saxon names (but then my hippie parents suck me with “Tonda” LOL!). And I’ve always thought Sebastian was a sexy name (but then it’s the name of my first boyfriend, and he was a sexy 6’4″ boy from Hamburg, so maybe I’ve just imprinted on the name as sexy *GRIN*).
    I like real names. Actual names. And there are some real doozies out there if you look through historic documents. And then there’s the British pronunciation (for years I didn’t get the joke in FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL about St. John/Sin-Jin).

    Reply
  6. Jo, I LOVED the crazy Anglo Saxon names (but then my hippie parents suck me with “Tonda” LOL!). And I’ve always thought Sebastian was a sexy name (but then it’s the name of my first boyfriend, and he was a sexy 6’4″ boy from Hamburg, so maybe I’ve just imprinted on the name as sexy *GRIN*).
    I like real names. Actual names. And there are some real doozies out there if you look through historic documents. And then there’s the British pronunciation (for years I didn’t get the joke in FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL about St. John/Sin-Jin).

    Reply
  7. I just finished Loretta’s Captives of the Night. The hero is Ismal Esmond – and he is to die for. So do not be afeared to pick Sebastien

    Reply
  8. I just finished Loretta’s Captives of the Night. The hero is Ismal Esmond – and he is to die for. So do not be afeared to pick Sebastien

    Reply
  9. I just finished Loretta’s Captives of the Night. The hero is Ismal Esmond – and he is to die for. So do not be afeared to pick Sebastien

    Reply
  10. Have to admit I’m partial to Adrian (makes me think of Adrian Paul *g*) as well as the more common ones like Thomas, Richard, etc.
    Unusual names don’t bother me as long as I can figure out how to pronounce them. And I’m not entirely certain how a hero named Nigel would strike me – but who knows?

    Reply
  11. Have to admit I’m partial to Adrian (makes me think of Adrian Paul *g*) as well as the more common ones like Thomas, Richard, etc.
    Unusual names don’t bother me as long as I can figure out how to pronounce them. And I’m not entirely certain how a hero named Nigel would strike me – but who knows?

    Reply
  12. Have to admit I’m partial to Adrian (makes me think of Adrian Paul *g*) as well as the more common ones like Thomas, Richard, etc.
    Unusual names don’t bother me as long as I can figure out how to pronounce them. And I’m not entirely certain how a hero named Nigel would strike me – but who knows?

    Reply
  13. Heroes (and heroines) names… VERY important to me. Most important, I need to be able to pronounce them so when I tell other people about the book, I can remember the names.
    I like it when the meaning of the hero’s name has something to do with his mission and or character. For example, Shannon. An old Irish name that means ‘Ancient God.’ To me, the name sounds tightly controlled yet soft and gentle. Mysterious yet inviting. It also has a male/female duality which, to me, suggests wholeness of spirit. A man who would tuck a freshly picked yellow daisy in the heroine braid while the blood of her enemies stilled dripped from the blade as his side.
    I also like names that can be shortened like MJ’s Dom in THE WILD CHILD and Rafe in PETALS IN THE STORM.
    For heroines, I prefer three syllable names the hero shortens into an intimate sobriquet and uses it only when he wants her attention.
    Lastly, I know this is really being picky, but I’ve put books down because I couldn’t stand the lack of imagination around the character’s name. Like John for a burly hunk of a man with molten blue eyes. Or Jeff for a tall, lean, powerful rake. I have been known to actually rename them in my head, but only if the story is good enough to hold my interest.
    Have fun in Atlanta. 🙂 Bring back lots of fun stories.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  14. Heroes (and heroines) names… VERY important to me. Most important, I need to be able to pronounce them so when I tell other people about the book, I can remember the names.
    I like it when the meaning of the hero’s name has something to do with his mission and or character. For example, Shannon. An old Irish name that means ‘Ancient God.’ To me, the name sounds tightly controlled yet soft and gentle. Mysterious yet inviting. It also has a male/female duality which, to me, suggests wholeness of spirit. A man who would tuck a freshly picked yellow daisy in the heroine braid while the blood of her enemies stilled dripped from the blade as his side.
    I also like names that can be shortened like MJ’s Dom in THE WILD CHILD and Rafe in PETALS IN THE STORM.
    For heroines, I prefer three syllable names the hero shortens into an intimate sobriquet and uses it only when he wants her attention.
    Lastly, I know this is really being picky, but I’ve put books down because I couldn’t stand the lack of imagination around the character’s name. Like John for a burly hunk of a man with molten blue eyes. Or Jeff for a tall, lean, powerful rake. I have been known to actually rename them in my head, but only if the story is good enough to hold my interest.
    Have fun in Atlanta. 🙂 Bring back lots of fun stories.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  15. Heroes (and heroines) names… VERY important to me. Most important, I need to be able to pronounce them so when I tell other people about the book, I can remember the names.
    I like it when the meaning of the hero’s name has something to do with his mission and or character. For example, Shannon. An old Irish name that means ‘Ancient God.’ To me, the name sounds tightly controlled yet soft and gentle. Mysterious yet inviting. It also has a male/female duality which, to me, suggests wholeness of spirit. A man who would tuck a freshly picked yellow daisy in the heroine braid while the blood of her enemies stilled dripped from the blade as his side.
    I also like names that can be shortened like MJ’s Dom in THE WILD CHILD and Rafe in PETALS IN THE STORM.
    For heroines, I prefer three syllable names the hero shortens into an intimate sobriquet and uses it only when he wants her attention.
    Lastly, I know this is really being picky, but I’ve put books down because I couldn’t stand the lack of imagination around the character’s name. Like John for a burly hunk of a man with molten blue eyes. Or Jeff for a tall, lean, powerful rake. I have been known to actually rename them in my head, but only if the story is good enough to hold my interest.
    Have fun in Atlanta. 🙂 Bring back lots of fun stories.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  16. A year or so ago I picked up a stack of holds from my local library, four of them Regency-set historicals, all with a 2004 or 2005 copyright. Fully three of the four had heroes named Sebastian.
    So far I’ve been giving all my heroes really ordinary names like James, Jack, Harry, and Will, because I like them and they seem like good fits for my characters, most of whom are military and several of whom are common/working class. But I’m not published yet, so who knows if those will still be their names if/when my books see print!
    I’d like to use more quirky 19th-century names for my characters of both genders, though one of my critique partners keeps trying to talk me down. I let her persuade me I really shouldn’t name my next heroine Jemima (such a beautiful name, and so completely ruined for use on actual children), but I’ve got a character named Arthur who’s begging for a story, and I’m convinced I can make readers think of the name’s heroic connotations rather than nebbishy accountants!
    Anyway, I don’t really have strong preferences for hero names in my reading, though I tend to roll my eyes over the prevalence of Sebastians and at titles or last names with really blatant macho and/or dark signifiers–all those BlackThis and RavenThats. They’ve just been done so much they’ve lost their symbolic impact for me.

    Reply
  17. A year or so ago I picked up a stack of holds from my local library, four of them Regency-set historicals, all with a 2004 or 2005 copyright. Fully three of the four had heroes named Sebastian.
    So far I’ve been giving all my heroes really ordinary names like James, Jack, Harry, and Will, because I like them and they seem like good fits for my characters, most of whom are military and several of whom are common/working class. But I’m not published yet, so who knows if those will still be their names if/when my books see print!
    I’d like to use more quirky 19th-century names for my characters of both genders, though one of my critique partners keeps trying to talk me down. I let her persuade me I really shouldn’t name my next heroine Jemima (such a beautiful name, and so completely ruined for use on actual children), but I’ve got a character named Arthur who’s begging for a story, and I’m convinced I can make readers think of the name’s heroic connotations rather than nebbishy accountants!
    Anyway, I don’t really have strong preferences for hero names in my reading, though I tend to roll my eyes over the prevalence of Sebastians and at titles or last names with really blatant macho and/or dark signifiers–all those BlackThis and RavenThats. They’ve just been done so much they’ve lost their symbolic impact for me.

    Reply
  18. A year or so ago I picked up a stack of holds from my local library, four of them Regency-set historicals, all with a 2004 or 2005 copyright. Fully three of the four had heroes named Sebastian.
    So far I’ve been giving all my heroes really ordinary names like James, Jack, Harry, and Will, because I like them and they seem like good fits for my characters, most of whom are military and several of whom are common/working class. But I’m not published yet, so who knows if those will still be their names if/when my books see print!
    I’d like to use more quirky 19th-century names for my characters of both genders, though one of my critique partners keeps trying to talk me down. I let her persuade me I really shouldn’t name my next heroine Jemima (such a beautiful name, and so completely ruined for use on actual children), but I’ve got a character named Arthur who’s begging for a story, and I’m convinced I can make readers think of the name’s heroic connotations rather than nebbishy accountants!
    Anyway, I don’t really have strong preferences for hero names in my reading, though I tend to roll my eyes over the prevalence of Sebastians and at titles or last names with really blatant macho and/or dark signifiers–all those BlackThis and RavenThats. They’ve just been done so much they’ve lost their symbolic impact for me.

    Reply
  19. “Lastly, I know this is really being picky, but I’ve put books down because I couldn’t stand the lack of imagination around the character’s name. Like John for a burly hunk of a man with molten blue eyes.”
    I’d have the exact opposite reaction! I’d love a hero named John, because it’s a nice, straightforward, masculine name a Regency man (or a man of any era, really) might’ve actually had. To me, a lot of hero names feel like they’re trying too hard, making the heroic symbolism too obvious.
    But the only time a hero (or heroine) name takes me out of a book is if it’s just too blatantly anachronistic. I’m a bit of a name nerd, and it always throws me out of a story when a character born in 1790 has a name invented in 1990!

    Reply
  20. “Lastly, I know this is really being picky, but I’ve put books down because I couldn’t stand the lack of imagination around the character’s name. Like John for a burly hunk of a man with molten blue eyes.”
    I’d have the exact opposite reaction! I’d love a hero named John, because it’s a nice, straightforward, masculine name a Regency man (or a man of any era, really) might’ve actually had. To me, a lot of hero names feel like they’re trying too hard, making the heroic symbolism too obvious.
    But the only time a hero (or heroine) name takes me out of a book is if it’s just too blatantly anachronistic. I’m a bit of a name nerd, and it always throws me out of a story when a character born in 1790 has a name invented in 1990!

    Reply
  21. “Lastly, I know this is really being picky, but I’ve put books down because I couldn’t stand the lack of imagination around the character’s name. Like John for a burly hunk of a man with molten blue eyes.”
    I’d have the exact opposite reaction! I’d love a hero named John, because it’s a nice, straightforward, masculine name a Regency man (or a man of any era, really) might’ve actually had. To me, a lot of hero names feel like they’re trying too hard, making the heroic symbolism too obvious.
    But the only time a hero (or heroine) name takes me out of a book is if it’s just too blatantly anachronistic. I’m a bit of a name nerd, and it always throws me out of a story when a character born in 1790 has a name invented in 1990!

    Reply
  22. I am a name freak. Or just plain freaky, whatever. I think Sebastian is sexy. I “see” characters in names. I can’t remember names, so I need to see the character, and once the connection is made, I’m fine. A plain John or Mike is fine for a plain, simple sort of guy, especially if I’m contrasting him with some fancy one.
    And I liked your weird Malloren names because they stayed with me much better than a John or Mike.
    My current name problem is that I’m inventing an island of people descended from who-knows-what, so I can’t say “celt” or “Greek” or pull any rabbits out of the hat. But a whole island of weirdly named people will drive readers insane. It’s been entertaining tying them to character, to say the least.
    I wonder how many readers associate names with those they’ve read in other books? LIke Susan’s “Arthur” above, my first thought would be King Arthur, not an accountant!

    Reply
  23. I am a name freak. Or just plain freaky, whatever. I think Sebastian is sexy. I “see” characters in names. I can’t remember names, so I need to see the character, and once the connection is made, I’m fine. A plain John or Mike is fine for a plain, simple sort of guy, especially if I’m contrasting him with some fancy one.
    And I liked your weird Malloren names because they stayed with me much better than a John or Mike.
    My current name problem is that I’m inventing an island of people descended from who-knows-what, so I can’t say “celt” or “Greek” or pull any rabbits out of the hat. But a whole island of weirdly named people will drive readers insane. It’s been entertaining tying them to character, to say the least.
    I wonder how many readers associate names with those they’ve read in other books? LIke Susan’s “Arthur” above, my first thought would be King Arthur, not an accountant!

    Reply
  24. I am a name freak. Or just plain freaky, whatever. I think Sebastian is sexy. I “see” characters in names. I can’t remember names, so I need to see the character, and once the connection is made, I’m fine. A plain John or Mike is fine for a plain, simple sort of guy, especially if I’m contrasting him with some fancy one.
    And I liked your weird Malloren names because they stayed with me much better than a John or Mike.
    My current name problem is that I’m inventing an island of people descended from who-knows-what, so I can’t say “celt” or “Greek” or pull any rabbits out of the hat. But a whole island of weirdly named people will drive readers insane. It’s been entertaining tying them to character, to say the least.
    I wonder how many readers associate names with those they’ve read in other books? LIke Susan’s “Arthur” above, my first thought would be King Arthur, not an accountant!

    Reply
  25. Speaking as a reader, I certainly don’t want a Regency heroine named Bambi or a hero with a name so strange that it pulls me out of the story every time he is named. But for the most part, the character makes the name rather than the other way around. If any of you had asked my advice about naming some of your heroes, I would have said, “Oh, no! Reginald sounds sissy; Rupert sounds stuffy; Sax sounds silly.” But now Reginald, Rupert, and Sax are the names of some of my all-time favorite heroes, and their names seem perfect for their characters.

    Reply
  26. Speaking as a reader, I certainly don’t want a Regency heroine named Bambi or a hero with a name so strange that it pulls me out of the story every time he is named. But for the most part, the character makes the name rather than the other way around. If any of you had asked my advice about naming some of your heroes, I would have said, “Oh, no! Reginald sounds sissy; Rupert sounds stuffy; Sax sounds silly.” But now Reginald, Rupert, and Sax are the names of some of my all-time favorite heroes, and their names seem perfect for their characters.

    Reply
  27. Speaking as a reader, I certainly don’t want a Regency heroine named Bambi or a hero with a name so strange that it pulls me out of the story every time he is named. But for the most part, the character makes the name rather than the other way around. If any of you had asked my advice about naming some of your heroes, I would have said, “Oh, no! Reginald sounds sissy; Rupert sounds stuffy; Sax sounds silly.” But now Reginald, Rupert, and Sax are the names of some of my all-time favorite heroes, and their names seem perfect for their characters.

    Reply
  28. This topic is so timely. Just this morning I’ve stumbled across a real-life 17th century female who was hristened “Melody.”
    Were I to use it in a period novel, I’d probably get a lot of stick for being so “modern.”
    This certinaly isn’t the first time I’ve made a surprising discovery like this.
    I remember changing a hero’s name because it didn’t fit his character. Though it was a good change, a suitable one, it took me a long time to adjust my own brain about it.
    In general, I don’t favour names that wouldn’t have appeared within the period of the novel, unless with good justification to explain.
    Admittedly, before this morning, I’d have cringed at a “Melody” in the 17th, 18th or early 19th century. But there was at least one, I now know!

    Reply
  29. This topic is so timely. Just this morning I’ve stumbled across a real-life 17th century female who was hristened “Melody.”
    Were I to use it in a period novel, I’d probably get a lot of stick for being so “modern.”
    This certinaly isn’t the first time I’ve made a surprising discovery like this.
    I remember changing a hero’s name because it didn’t fit his character. Though it was a good change, a suitable one, it took me a long time to adjust my own brain about it.
    In general, I don’t favour names that wouldn’t have appeared within the period of the novel, unless with good justification to explain.
    Admittedly, before this morning, I’d have cringed at a “Melody” in the 17th, 18th or early 19th century. But there was at least one, I now know!

    Reply
  30. This topic is so timely. Just this morning I’ve stumbled across a real-life 17th century female who was hristened “Melody.”
    Were I to use it in a period novel, I’d probably get a lot of stick for being so “modern.”
    This certinaly isn’t the first time I’ve made a surprising discovery like this.
    I remember changing a hero’s name because it didn’t fit his character. Though it was a good change, a suitable one, it took me a long time to adjust my own brain about it.
    In general, I don’t favour names that wouldn’t have appeared within the period of the novel, unless with good justification to explain.
    Admittedly, before this morning, I’d have cringed at a “Melody” in the 17th, 18th or early 19th century. But there was at least one, I now know!

    Reply
  31. I always assumed Hilda was short for Brunhilde, but I guess not?
    Truthfully, the Malloren names kind of put me off, but I love the characters so much anyway, I live with it. 🙂

    Reply
  32. I always assumed Hilda was short for Brunhilde, but I guess not?
    Truthfully, the Malloren names kind of put me off, but I love the characters so much anyway, I live with it. 🙂

    Reply
  33. I always assumed Hilda was short for Brunhilde, but I guess not?
    Truthfully, the Malloren names kind of put me off, but I love the characters so much anyway, I live with it. 🙂

    Reply
  34. Not sure how to classify my likes and dislikes. Likes: John, William, Michael, Rafe or Rafael, Sax (sexy), and most of the characters in your novels. Dislikes: Rupert, Harry, Nigel, Arthur (my father’s name), Jack, and Reginald. But agree with the others that for a smooth flow of reading, the names need to be able to be pronounced, at least in my head. That’s why, though, I really like Aidan, it’s hard to know how to say it.

    Reply
  35. Not sure how to classify my likes and dislikes. Likes: John, William, Michael, Rafe or Rafael, Sax (sexy), and most of the characters in your novels. Dislikes: Rupert, Harry, Nigel, Arthur (my father’s name), Jack, and Reginald. But agree with the others that for a smooth flow of reading, the names need to be able to be pronounced, at least in my head. That’s why, though, I really like Aidan, it’s hard to know how to say it.

    Reply
  36. Not sure how to classify my likes and dislikes. Likes: John, William, Michael, Rafe or Rafael, Sax (sexy), and most of the characters in your novels. Dislikes: Rupert, Harry, Nigel, Arthur (my father’s name), Jack, and Reginald. But agree with the others that for a smooth flow of reading, the names need to be able to be pronounced, at least in my head. That’s why, though, I really like Aidan, it’s hard to know how to say it.

    Reply
  37. Character names are hard for me to remember. I can put a book down half-way through and forget their names by the time I pick it up again. I have to say Rothgar is the only title that has ever stuck in my head – must be all the hard consonants. I had to think a bit but I do remember his given name. Unusual names with justification and reinforcement tied into the storyline (like the Anglo-Saxon mania & similar sibling names) are easier for me to remember. I don’t like cutesy, though; and unusual names can be taken too far.

    Reply
  38. Character names are hard for me to remember. I can put a book down half-way through and forget their names by the time I pick it up again. I have to say Rothgar is the only title that has ever stuck in my head – must be all the hard consonants. I had to think a bit but I do remember his given name. Unusual names with justification and reinforcement tied into the storyline (like the Anglo-Saxon mania & similar sibling names) are easier for me to remember. I don’t like cutesy, though; and unusual names can be taken too far.

    Reply
  39. Character names are hard for me to remember. I can put a book down half-way through and forget their names by the time I pick it up again. I have to say Rothgar is the only title that has ever stuck in my head – must be all the hard consonants. I had to think a bit but I do remember his given name. Unusual names with justification and reinforcement tied into the storyline (like the Anglo-Saxon mania & similar sibling names) are easier for me to remember. I don’t like cutesy, though; and unusual names can be taken too far.

    Reply
  40. My only comment on names — I prefer those I can pronounce without tripping over them every time I come across them!For my money a hero is a hero his name notwithstanding!

    Reply
  41. My only comment on names — I prefer those I can pronounce without tripping over them every time I come across them!For my money a hero is a hero his name notwithstanding!

    Reply
  42. My only comment on names — I prefer those I can pronounce without tripping over them every time I come across them!For my money a hero is a hero his name notwithstanding!

    Reply
  43. Now see, I find Nigel VERY sexy. It’s just one of those names that makes me stop and quirk a brow (is this cause I know it’s John Taylor of Duran Duran’s real first name?). And I love all those posh, nancy-boy names (Cary, Ashley, Sydney, Vivian, etc.).
    What freaks me out is names that are too familiar. “Niall” (my brother’s name) or “Stephen” (my dad’s name). Can’t handle those. Thought I was totally safe on the Niall-front (I mean, outside of Ireland, how many Nialls do YOU know?), and then I picked up THE LOVER. *SHUDDER* I just couldn’t read it. Which is too bad, cause I hear it’s a great book.

    Reply
  44. Now see, I find Nigel VERY sexy. It’s just one of those names that makes me stop and quirk a brow (is this cause I know it’s John Taylor of Duran Duran’s real first name?). And I love all those posh, nancy-boy names (Cary, Ashley, Sydney, Vivian, etc.).
    What freaks me out is names that are too familiar. “Niall” (my brother’s name) or “Stephen” (my dad’s name). Can’t handle those. Thought I was totally safe on the Niall-front (I mean, outside of Ireland, how many Nialls do YOU know?), and then I picked up THE LOVER. *SHUDDER* I just couldn’t read it. Which is too bad, cause I hear it’s a great book.

    Reply
  45. Now see, I find Nigel VERY sexy. It’s just one of those names that makes me stop and quirk a brow (is this cause I know it’s John Taylor of Duran Duran’s real first name?). And I love all those posh, nancy-boy names (Cary, Ashley, Sydney, Vivian, etc.).
    What freaks me out is names that are too familiar. “Niall” (my brother’s name) or “Stephen” (my dad’s name). Can’t handle those. Thought I was totally safe on the Niall-front (I mean, outside of Ireland, how many Nialls do YOU know?), and then I picked up THE LOVER. *SHUDDER* I just couldn’t read it. Which is too bad, cause I hear it’s a great book.

    Reply
  46. Just a very tiny correction. The chess pieces are not from Orkney but from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. They were found in 1831, and the majority of them are in the British Museum. They are of 12th-century date and are made from walrus ivory, probably in Norway.
    For more information, go to http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk, then click on the link from the home page labelled ‘Compass’, and enter ‘Lewis’ in the search box.
    🙂

    Reply
  47. Just a very tiny correction. The chess pieces are not from Orkney but from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. They were found in 1831, and the majority of them are in the British Museum. They are of 12th-century date and are made from walrus ivory, probably in Norway.
    For more information, go to http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk, then click on the link from the home page labelled ‘Compass’, and enter ‘Lewis’ in the search box.
    🙂

    Reply
  48. Just a very tiny correction. The chess pieces are not from Orkney but from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. They were found in 1831, and the majority of them are in the British Museum. They are of 12th-century date and are made from walrus ivory, probably in Norway.
    For more information, go to http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk, then click on the link from the home page labelled ‘Compass’, and enter ‘Lewis’ in the search box.
    🙂

    Reply
  49. The only names that bother me are the ones I haven’t a clue about how to pronounce, especially the Welsh names. It throws me completely out of a book because every time I come across the name I have to stop and try to say it again, or else I have to have a conversation with myself about how to just skip over the name and just know who it is referring to (any one else resort to that?). I really appreciate pronunciation keys in the front of a book that has a lot of weird names or weird spellings.

    Reply
  50. The only names that bother me are the ones I haven’t a clue about how to pronounce, especially the Welsh names. It throws me completely out of a book because every time I come across the name I have to stop and try to say it again, or else I have to have a conversation with myself about how to just skip over the name and just know who it is referring to (any one else resort to that?). I really appreciate pronunciation keys in the front of a book that has a lot of weird names or weird spellings.

    Reply
  51. The only names that bother me are the ones I haven’t a clue about how to pronounce, especially the Welsh names. It throws me completely out of a book because every time I come across the name I have to stop and try to say it again, or else I have to have a conversation with myself about how to just skip over the name and just know who it is referring to (any one else resort to that?). I really appreciate pronunciation keys in the front of a book that has a lot of weird names or weird spellings.

    Reply
  52. Hi Denise!
    I’m with you on the ‘just skip over the name and just know who it is referring to.’ I spent most of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA doing that. Never did finish the book.
    Nina

    Reply
  53. Hi Denise!
    I’m with you on the ‘just skip over the name and just know who it is referring to.’ I spent most of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA doing that. Never did finish the book.
    Nina

    Reply
  54. Hi Denise!
    I’m with you on the ‘just skip over the name and just know who it is referring to.’ I spent most of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA doing that. Never did finish the book.
    Nina

    Reply
  55. I have thought about names and found that I like names starting with K or that have a K-sound somewhere in them–especially for men. I find that it’s a strong sound somehow. It also makes a difference if I dislike somebody who has that name but it’s not too much of a problem. And you’re right, it does have to fit the time. I also like the common names as in the 12 disciples which are probably among the most common though there a couple that are hard to pronounce. I don’t think any name, at least in recent times, has really bothered me–unless it was really too anachronistic. Is there a name book that tells you about the first time names are mentioned either in literature or gravestones or elsewhere.
    The weirdest thing that I’ve come across in reality is the naming of one of my friend’s sons. She’s had 7 or 8. Her husband’s name is Fred and, of course, being the type of guy he is, his first son had to be named after him, Fred Jr. Then came 3 or 4 other boys. Fred Jr. got cancer of the liver and died when he was 10 or 11. They had some more boys and as you may have realized, I’ve lost track of how many. The last one was called Junior. I didn’t fully realize until I called her a few weeks ago that his name is actually Fred, Jr. so the same name as his deceased brother. I find that more than weird and I think that is why she only refers to him as Junior. To actually call him by her first child’s name would hurt too much. For the father, it was just important that one of his children would carry *his* name and I’m sure he didn’t consult her.

    Reply
  56. I have thought about names and found that I like names starting with K or that have a K-sound somewhere in them–especially for men. I find that it’s a strong sound somehow. It also makes a difference if I dislike somebody who has that name but it’s not too much of a problem. And you’re right, it does have to fit the time. I also like the common names as in the 12 disciples which are probably among the most common though there a couple that are hard to pronounce. I don’t think any name, at least in recent times, has really bothered me–unless it was really too anachronistic. Is there a name book that tells you about the first time names are mentioned either in literature or gravestones or elsewhere.
    The weirdest thing that I’ve come across in reality is the naming of one of my friend’s sons. She’s had 7 or 8. Her husband’s name is Fred and, of course, being the type of guy he is, his first son had to be named after him, Fred Jr. Then came 3 or 4 other boys. Fred Jr. got cancer of the liver and died when he was 10 or 11. They had some more boys and as you may have realized, I’ve lost track of how many. The last one was called Junior. I didn’t fully realize until I called her a few weeks ago that his name is actually Fred, Jr. so the same name as his deceased brother. I find that more than weird and I think that is why she only refers to him as Junior. To actually call him by her first child’s name would hurt too much. For the father, it was just important that one of his children would carry *his* name and I’m sure he didn’t consult her.

    Reply
  57. I have thought about names and found that I like names starting with K or that have a K-sound somewhere in them–especially for men. I find that it’s a strong sound somehow. It also makes a difference if I dislike somebody who has that name but it’s not too much of a problem. And you’re right, it does have to fit the time. I also like the common names as in the 12 disciples which are probably among the most common though there a couple that are hard to pronounce. I don’t think any name, at least in recent times, has really bothered me–unless it was really too anachronistic. Is there a name book that tells you about the first time names are mentioned either in literature or gravestones or elsewhere.
    The weirdest thing that I’ve come across in reality is the naming of one of my friend’s sons. She’s had 7 or 8. Her husband’s name is Fred and, of course, being the type of guy he is, his first son had to be named after him, Fred Jr. Then came 3 or 4 other boys. Fred Jr. got cancer of the liver and died when he was 10 or 11. They had some more boys and as you may have realized, I’ve lost track of how many. The last one was called Junior. I didn’t fully realize until I called her a few weeks ago that his name is actually Fred, Jr. so the same name as his deceased brother. I find that more than weird and I think that is why she only refers to him as Junior. To actually call him by her first child’s name would hurt too much. For the father, it was just important that one of his children would carry *his* name and I’m sure he didn’t consult her.

    Reply
  58. Names are a really important part of characterization for me. When I find the right name, the characters tends to crystalize. I remember wrestling with the hero in Dearly Beloved, my first historical, and as soon as I figured out his name was Gervase, he fell into place. Which was odd, because it was never a name I’d thought about one way or the other.
    I remember thinking that if I’d known I was going to turn a rakish fellow named Reggie into a hero, I would have chosen the name better. 🙂 Yet it did suit him. (He had more than a dash of lounge lizard in his character.)
    I’m not fond of unpronounceable names, either, but I adapt. There are names I don’t like and it doesn’t matter if I like the book. A classic example is the name Rupert, which I’ve always found somewhere between ugly and comic. Yet I totally LOVED Rupert in Loretta’s MR. IMPOSSIBLE. As always, it comes down the writing and storytelling.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  59. Names are a really important part of characterization for me. When I find the right name, the characters tends to crystalize. I remember wrestling with the hero in Dearly Beloved, my first historical, and as soon as I figured out his name was Gervase, he fell into place. Which was odd, because it was never a name I’d thought about one way or the other.
    I remember thinking that if I’d known I was going to turn a rakish fellow named Reggie into a hero, I would have chosen the name better. 🙂 Yet it did suit him. (He had more than a dash of lounge lizard in his character.)
    I’m not fond of unpronounceable names, either, but I adapt. There are names I don’t like and it doesn’t matter if I like the book. A classic example is the name Rupert, which I’ve always found somewhere between ugly and comic. Yet I totally LOVED Rupert in Loretta’s MR. IMPOSSIBLE. As always, it comes down the writing and storytelling.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  60. Names are a really important part of characterization for me. When I find the right name, the characters tends to crystalize. I remember wrestling with the hero in Dearly Beloved, my first historical, and as soon as I figured out his name was Gervase, he fell into place. Which was odd, because it was never a name I’d thought about one way or the other.
    I remember thinking that if I’d known I was going to turn a rakish fellow named Reggie into a hero, I would have chosen the name better. 🙂 Yet it did suit him. (He had more than a dash of lounge lizard in his character.)
    I’m not fond of unpronounceable names, either, but I adapt. There are names I don’t like and it doesn’t matter if I like the book. A classic example is the name Rupert, which I’ve always found somewhere between ugly and comic. Yet I totally LOVED Rupert in Loretta’s MR. IMPOSSIBLE. As always, it comes down the writing and storytelling.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  61. Jo–James Murray, the original editor of the OED, had a passion for Anglo-Saxon. He named his children Harold, Oswyn, Jowett, Ethelbert, Aelfric, Wilfrid, Hilda, Ethelwyn, Gwyneth, Elsie Mayflower, and Rosfrith. (You will surprised to find that in the book THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN, Murray was the professor.)
    I have a feeling the Murray kids became proficient at fisticuffs at an early age.
    Tonda, I always thought you were the real Tondelayo Breckinridge from George Carlin’s monologues!
    For me, it doesn’t usually matter if a character has a name I don’t care for; if I come to like the character, I’ll come to like the name. The exception is that I really don’t like the name “Margie,” because I was bullied by a Margie in my teen years. (There’s a “Susan” I wasn’t too fond of, either.)
    What matters most to me is that the name be appropriate, as in my “Tiffany the jarl’s daughter” example. One book bugged the hell out of me because the hero was called “Lesley;” the “Leslie” version can be male or female, as well as a surname, but the “-ey” spelling is as far as I know female only.
    I have similar problems with ancient pagan Vikings with Biblical names, Egyptian nobles with Latin names, and the like. I really admire the late Ellis Peters’s ability in her Brother Cadfael novels to handle a mix of correct Norman, Saxon, and Welsh names. Any name that I recognize as out of its correct ethnic context or as anachronistic annoys me.
    Denise, how deliciously ironic that your post appeared immediately under that of the Tigress, who spoke nothing but Welsh until she was about six years old!
    I have the most problems with alien names in SF/fantasy novels, as well as those that are too of the Earth, earthy. And again, consistency. I yield to no one in my fondness for Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe books, but I have yet to figure out the naming protocol.
    Ranurgis, I believe Vincent van Gogh was also given the same name as an older brother who died, and it was part of what screwed him up.

    Reply
  62. Jo–James Murray, the original editor of the OED, had a passion for Anglo-Saxon. He named his children Harold, Oswyn, Jowett, Ethelbert, Aelfric, Wilfrid, Hilda, Ethelwyn, Gwyneth, Elsie Mayflower, and Rosfrith. (You will surprised to find that in the book THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN, Murray was the professor.)
    I have a feeling the Murray kids became proficient at fisticuffs at an early age.
    Tonda, I always thought you were the real Tondelayo Breckinridge from George Carlin’s monologues!
    For me, it doesn’t usually matter if a character has a name I don’t care for; if I come to like the character, I’ll come to like the name. The exception is that I really don’t like the name “Margie,” because I was bullied by a Margie in my teen years. (There’s a “Susan” I wasn’t too fond of, either.)
    What matters most to me is that the name be appropriate, as in my “Tiffany the jarl’s daughter” example. One book bugged the hell out of me because the hero was called “Lesley;” the “Leslie” version can be male or female, as well as a surname, but the “-ey” spelling is as far as I know female only.
    I have similar problems with ancient pagan Vikings with Biblical names, Egyptian nobles with Latin names, and the like. I really admire the late Ellis Peters’s ability in her Brother Cadfael novels to handle a mix of correct Norman, Saxon, and Welsh names. Any name that I recognize as out of its correct ethnic context or as anachronistic annoys me.
    Denise, how deliciously ironic that your post appeared immediately under that of the Tigress, who spoke nothing but Welsh until she was about six years old!
    I have the most problems with alien names in SF/fantasy novels, as well as those that are too of the Earth, earthy. And again, consistency. I yield to no one in my fondness for Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe books, but I have yet to figure out the naming protocol.
    Ranurgis, I believe Vincent van Gogh was also given the same name as an older brother who died, and it was part of what screwed him up.

    Reply
  63. Jo–James Murray, the original editor of the OED, had a passion for Anglo-Saxon. He named his children Harold, Oswyn, Jowett, Ethelbert, Aelfric, Wilfrid, Hilda, Ethelwyn, Gwyneth, Elsie Mayflower, and Rosfrith. (You will surprised to find that in the book THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN, Murray was the professor.)
    I have a feeling the Murray kids became proficient at fisticuffs at an early age.
    Tonda, I always thought you were the real Tondelayo Breckinridge from George Carlin’s monologues!
    For me, it doesn’t usually matter if a character has a name I don’t care for; if I come to like the character, I’ll come to like the name. The exception is that I really don’t like the name “Margie,” because I was bullied by a Margie in my teen years. (There’s a “Susan” I wasn’t too fond of, either.)
    What matters most to me is that the name be appropriate, as in my “Tiffany the jarl’s daughter” example. One book bugged the hell out of me because the hero was called “Lesley;” the “Leslie” version can be male or female, as well as a surname, but the “-ey” spelling is as far as I know female only.
    I have similar problems with ancient pagan Vikings with Biblical names, Egyptian nobles with Latin names, and the like. I really admire the late Ellis Peters’s ability in her Brother Cadfael novels to handle a mix of correct Norman, Saxon, and Welsh names. Any name that I recognize as out of its correct ethnic context or as anachronistic annoys me.
    Denise, how deliciously ironic that your post appeared immediately under that of the Tigress, who spoke nothing but Welsh until she was about six years old!
    I have the most problems with alien names in SF/fantasy novels, as well as those that are too of the Earth, earthy. And again, consistency. I yield to no one in my fondness for Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe books, but I have yet to figure out the naming protocol.
    Ranurgis, I believe Vincent van Gogh was also given the same name as an older brother who died, and it was part of what screwed him up.

    Reply
  64. Interesting topic!
    (I tried posting earlier today, but it disappeared before I could post it, proving that the retrograde gremlin is still at large).
    Definitely, a name has to fit the character — I often find that a character that I’m writing doesn’t quite click until the name is right, whether it’s a hero, heroine, or secondary character. I keep changing the name until it feels right to me. A name is an essential part of creating the character, like finding the right appearance and background. The right name helps to conjure that hero or heroine and bring them off the page.
    Names in historical novels have to at least sound appropriate to the time and setting — one of my favorite examples of this (which I’ve used in talks about historical accuracy, so forgive me if you’ve heard this) is the name Tiffany, which Talpianna also brought up.
    It’s actually appropriate to a medieval, since it has recorded usage then. The origin is from Theophania, the Greek word for Easter. Names based on holidays were big back then….
    But it’s doubtful an author could get away with using it in a medieval setting, no matter how authentic. The name conjures a very modern image now…!
    When I use an odd name (which happens a lot, since I write Scottish settings and often have Gaelic or Highland characters), I try to either streamline the name, or find a way to teach the reader, early on, how to say it, through having one character correct another one’s pronunciation, or have the heroine think about how nicely the hero says her name (phonetically of course!), something like that, to give the struggling reader a break. I know those names are weird, but sometimes that can’t be helped! 😉
    ~Susan

    Reply
  65. Interesting topic!
    (I tried posting earlier today, but it disappeared before I could post it, proving that the retrograde gremlin is still at large).
    Definitely, a name has to fit the character — I often find that a character that I’m writing doesn’t quite click until the name is right, whether it’s a hero, heroine, or secondary character. I keep changing the name until it feels right to me. A name is an essential part of creating the character, like finding the right appearance and background. The right name helps to conjure that hero or heroine and bring them off the page.
    Names in historical novels have to at least sound appropriate to the time and setting — one of my favorite examples of this (which I’ve used in talks about historical accuracy, so forgive me if you’ve heard this) is the name Tiffany, which Talpianna also brought up.
    It’s actually appropriate to a medieval, since it has recorded usage then. The origin is from Theophania, the Greek word for Easter. Names based on holidays were big back then….
    But it’s doubtful an author could get away with using it in a medieval setting, no matter how authentic. The name conjures a very modern image now…!
    When I use an odd name (which happens a lot, since I write Scottish settings and often have Gaelic or Highland characters), I try to either streamline the name, or find a way to teach the reader, early on, how to say it, through having one character correct another one’s pronunciation, or have the heroine think about how nicely the hero says her name (phonetically of course!), something like that, to give the struggling reader a break. I know those names are weird, but sometimes that can’t be helped! 😉
    ~Susan

    Reply
  66. Interesting topic!
    (I tried posting earlier today, but it disappeared before I could post it, proving that the retrograde gremlin is still at large).
    Definitely, a name has to fit the character — I often find that a character that I’m writing doesn’t quite click until the name is right, whether it’s a hero, heroine, or secondary character. I keep changing the name until it feels right to me. A name is an essential part of creating the character, like finding the right appearance and background. The right name helps to conjure that hero or heroine and bring them off the page.
    Names in historical novels have to at least sound appropriate to the time and setting — one of my favorite examples of this (which I’ve used in talks about historical accuracy, so forgive me if you’ve heard this) is the name Tiffany, which Talpianna also brought up.
    It’s actually appropriate to a medieval, since it has recorded usage then. The origin is from Theophania, the Greek word for Easter. Names based on holidays were big back then….
    But it’s doubtful an author could get away with using it in a medieval setting, no matter how authentic. The name conjures a very modern image now…!
    When I use an odd name (which happens a lot, since I write Scottish settings and often have Gaelic or Highland characters), I try to either streamline the name, or find a way to teach the reader, early on, how to say it, through having one character correct another one’s pronunciation, or have the heroine think about how nicely the hero says her name (phonetically of course!), something like that, to give the struggling reader a break. I know those names are weird, but sometimes that can’t be helped! 😉
    ~Susan

    Reply
  67. Sorry to have neglected this today. I’ve been insanely busy. Got up late. Did OHP transparencies for my talk in Atlanta. Various important questions from people that needed to be answered. Afternoon doing my docent thing at Helmcken House (and I shouldn’t have agreed to sub for someone the week before National), which was really insanely busy. Groups of about 10 from grands to babies turning up, and it’s a small house, so the two of us doing tours were sort of shuffling around each other.
    But, Ag Tigress, you are completely correct about the chess pieces. I knew I should have checked, but I did the post at nearly midnight last night and I was just too tired. I tried to set it to post at just gone midnight and that didn’t work. Probably MercR.
    Margaret, interesting about Melody. I don’t think I’d think it was impossible for the 17th century, though. It was a time for inventive names. The cavalier set, at least, had a flowery joie de vivre about it.
    Which brings me to Rupert, who for me is a war between Rupert Bear and Rupert of the Rhine. It is quite heroic, but that u sound is trick. Can anyone think of good heroic names with the u sound?
    One of the names that I don’t like in a book is Caitlin, particularly if the book is set in Ireland because I don’t know if I’m supposed to read it as Katelyn or Kathleen. Irish is thoroughly weird for pronunciation. I heard a theory once that it was deliberately done that way to confuse the invading English. Don’t know if it’s true.
    It also bothers me when heroines — it’s usually heroines — have Celtic names like Rhiannon when they’re supposed to be Norman or Anglo-Saxon. Or a Norman knight called Wulfgar or Thor. Anyway, they were all called William or Roger.
    Roger, now there’s a name you don’t see often for a hero though it does, in fact, have quite a strong sound to it.
    Cheers,
    Jo

    Reply
  68. Sorry to have neglected this today. I’ve been insanely busy. Got up late. Did OHP transparencies for my talk in Atlanta. Various important questions from people that needed to be answered. Afternoon doing my docent thing at Helmcken House (and I shouldn’t have agreed to sub for someone the week before National), which was really insanely busy. Groups of about 10 from grands to babies turning up, and it’s a small house, so the two of us doing tours were sort of shuffling around each other.
    But, Ag Tigress, you are completely correct about the chess pieces. I knew I should have checked, but I did the post at nearly midnight last night and I was just too tired. I tried to set it to post at just gone midnight and that didn’t work. Probably MercR.
    Margaret, interesting about Melody. I don’t think I’d think it was impossible for the 17th century, though. It was a time for inventive names. The cavalier set, at least, had a flowery joie de vivre about it.
    Which brings me to Rupert, who for me is a war between Rupert Bear and Rupert of the Rhine. It is quite heroic, but that u sound is trick. Can anyone think of good heroic names with the u sound?
    One of the names that I don’t like in a book is Caitlin, particularly if the book is set in Ireland because I don’t know if I’m supposed to read it as Katelyn or Kathleen. Irish is thoroughly weird for pronunciation. I heard a theory once that it was deliberately done that way to confuse the invading English. Don’t know if it’s true.
    It also bothers me when heroines — it’s usually heroines — have Celtic names like Rhiannon when they’re supposed to be Norman or Anglo-Saxon. Or a Norman knight called Wulfgar or Thor. Anyway, they were all called William or Roger.
    Roger, now there’s a name you don’t see often for a hero though it does, in fact, have quite a strong sound to it.
    Cheers,
    Jo

    Reply
  69. Sorry to have neglected this today. I’ve been insanely busy. Got up late. Did OHP transparencies for my talk in Atlanta. Various important questions from people that needed to be answered. Afternoon doing my docent thing at Helmcken House (and I shouldn’t have agreed to sub for someone the week before National), which was really insanely busy. Groups of about 10 from grands to babies turning up, and it’s a small house, so the two of us doing tours were sort of shuffling around each other.
    But, Ag Tigress, you are completely correct about the chess pieces. I knew I should have checked, but I did the post at nearly midnight last night and I was just too tired. I tried to set it to post at just gone midnight and that didn’t work. Probably MercR.
    Margaret, interesting about Melody. I don’t think I’d think it was impossible for the 17th century, though. It was a time for inventive names. The cavalier set, at least, had a flowery joie de vivre about it.
    Which brings me to Rupert, who for me is a war between Rupert Bear and Rupert of the Rhine. It is quite heroic, but that u sound is trick. Can anyone think of good heroic names with the u sound?
    One of the names that I don’t like in a book is Caitlin, particularly if the book is set in Ireland because I don’t know if I’m supposed to read it as Katelyn or Kathleen. Irish is thoroughly weird for pronunciation. I heard a theory once that it was deliberately done that way to confuse the invading English. Don’t know if it’s true.
    It also bothers me when heroines — it’s usually heroines — have Celtic names like Rhiannon when they’re supposed to be Norman or Anglo-Saxon. Or a Norman knight called Wulfgar or Thor. Anyway, they were all called William or Roger.
    Roger, now there’s a name you don’t see often for a hero though it does, in fact, have quite a strong sound to it.
    Cheers,
    Jo

    Reply
  70. There are so many interesting names. I am a member of a genealogical listserv and I frequently hear name which are just as unusual as name people make up today. Examples: Malkijah, also spelled Malkyah and referred to as “Lige”
    Alambee, Malcijah Benjamin(Kige), Alembe, Cythe, Alumbee, Allambee. These are all members in different generations of a family that was established in Texas in the late 1700s. Of course they were interspersed with ordinary names like Teresa, Samuel, Job, Lula, and John. So there are many unusual names. What worked for me in the Malloren series was that the names were singular enough to help me remember who they were and where they belonged in the family.

    Reply
  71. There are so many interesting names. I am a member of a genealogical listserv and I frequently hear name which are just as unusual as name people make up today. Examples: Malkijah, also spelled Malkyah and referred to as “Lige”
    Alambee, Malcijah Benjamin(Kige), Alembe, Cythe, Alumbee, Allambee. These are all members in different generations of a family that was established in Texas in the late 1700s. Of course they were interspersed with ordinary names like Teresa, Samuel, Job, Lula, and John. So there are many unusual names. What worked for me in the Malloren series was that the names were singular enough to help me remember who they were and where they belonged in the family.

    Reply
  72. There are so many interesting names. I am a member of a genealogical listserv and I frequently hear name which are just as unusual as name people make up today. Examples: Malkijah, also spelled Malkyah and referred to as “Lige”
    Alambee, Malcijah Benjamin(Kige), Alembe, Cythe, Alumbee, Allambee. These are all members in different generations of a family that was established in Texas in the late 1700s. Of course they were interspersed with ordinary names like Teresa, Samuel, Job, Lula, and John. So there are many unusual names. What worked for me in the Malloren series was that the names were singular enough to help me remember who they were and where they belonged in the family.

    Reply
  73. I am sure that all the writers here are familiar with the website http://www.behindthename.com , which I have found pretty full and accurate. I mention it again for the benefit of readers, because, if faced with a name that seems difficult to pronounce, looking it up there will give you a reasonably good pronunciation guide (as well as the meaning and history of the name).
    We all have our personal likes and dislikes. Like Tal, I cannot bear names that are anachronistic or otherwise inappropriate. In historical works, this often comes from the author trying too hard to find an ‘unusual’ name for an important character.
    People didn’t normally HAVE unusual names at most periods of history: indeed, up until very recent times in many European countries, there were certain legal controls about the names that could be registered, restricting them, basically, to Biblical and Classical names, and to those traditional in the prevailing language/culture.
    The urge to find unusual, or even unique, names is quite recent, and results maddening things like modern Americans, with no Welsh connections, who bear Welsh names that they cannot even spell and pronounce correctly.

    Reply
  74. I am sure that all the writers here are familiar with the website http://www.behindthename.com , which I have found pretty full and accurate. I mention it again for the benefit of readers, because, if faced with a name that seems difficult to pronounce, looking it up there will give you a reasonably good pronunciation guide (as well as the meaning and history of the name).
    We all have our personal likes and dislikes. Like Tal, I cannot bear names that are anachronistic or otherwise inappropriate. In historical works, this often comes from the author trying too hard to find an ‘unusual’ name for an important character.
    People didn’t normally HAVE unusual names at most periods of history: indeed, up until very recent times in many European countries, there were certain legal controls about the names that could be registered, restricting them, basically, to Biblical and Classical names, and to those traditional in the prevailing language/culture.
    The urge to find unusual, or even unique, names is quite recent, and results maddening things like modern Americans, with no Welsh connections, who bear Welsh names that they cannot even spell and pronounce correctly.

    Reply
  75. I am sure that all the writers here are familiar with the website http://www.behindthename.com , which I have found pretty full and accurate. I mention it again for the benefit of readers, because, if faced with a name that seems difficult to pronounce, looking it up there will give you a reasonably good pronunciation guide (as well as the meaning and history of the name).
    We all have our personal likes and dislikes. Like Tal, I cannot bear names that are anachronistic or otherwise inappropriate. In historical works, this often comes from the author trying too hard to find an ‘unusual’ name for an important character.
    People didn’t normally HAVE unusual names at most periods of history: indeed, up until very recent times in many European countries, there were certain legal controls about the names that could be registered, restricting them, basically, to Biblical and Classical names, and to those traditional in the prevailing language/culture.
    The urge to find unusual, or even unique, names is quite recent, and results maddening things like modern Americans, with no Welsh connections, who bear Welsh names that they cannot even spell and pronounce correctly.

    Reply
  76. “When I use an odd name (which happens a lot, since I write Scottish settings and often have Gaelic or Highland characters), I try to either streamline the name, or find a way to teach the reader, early on, how to say it”
    This is so my family’s life. My little sister is Siobhan. It gets pronounced all kinds of crazy ways(Sigh-o-ba-hon is most common). Her kindergarten teacher taught her to spell it “Chevron” (like the gas station) and told her my parents were wrong when she objected cause she already knew how to spell it correctly. Grrrrrrr. Can you say my mother went ballistic? My brother always says, “It’s Niall, like the river, but spelled different.” Telemarketers can’t even deal with our last name (Hughes). When someone asks if Mr. HUG-HAYS is home, we KNOW the caller is someone we don’t want to talk to. LOL!

    Reply
  77. “When I use an odd name (which happens a lot, since I write Scottish settings and often have Gaelic or Highland characters), I try to either streamline the name, or find a way to teach the reader, early on, how to say it”
    This is so my family’s life. My little sister is Siobhan. It gets pronounced all kinds of crazy ways(Sigh-o-ba-hon is most common). Her kindergarten teacher taught her to spell it “Chevron” (like the gas station) and told her my parents were wrong when she objected cause she already knew how to spell it correctly. Grrrrrrr. Can you say my mother went ballistic? My brother always says, “It’s Niall, like the river, but spelled different.” Telemarketers can’t even deal with our last name (Hughes). When someone asks if Mr. HUG-HAYS is home, we KNOW the caller is someone we don’t want to talk to. LOL!

    Reply
  78. “When I use an odd name (which happens a lot, since I write Scottish settings and often have Gaelic or Highland characters), I try to either streamline the name, or find a way to teach the reader, early on, how to say it”
    This is so my family’s life. My little sister is Siobhan. It gets pronounced all kinds of crazy ways(Sigh-o-ba-hon is most common). Her kindergarten teacher taught her to spell it “Chevron” (like the gas station) and told her my parents were wrong when she objected cause she already knew how to spell it correctly. Grrrrrrr. Can you say my mother went ballistic? My brother always says, “It’s Niall, like the river, but spelled different.” Telemarketers can’t even deal with our last name (Hughes). When someone asks if Mr. HUG-HAYS is home, we KNOW the caller is someone we don’t want to talk to. LOL!

    Reply
  79. HUG-HAYS? That’s amazing. Of course, we still run into people who pronounce my husband’s name, Dylan, as DIE-lan, and I occasionally meet people who see my name written down and call me Suzanne.

    Reply
  80. HUG-HAYS? That’s amazing. Of course, we still run into people who pronounce my husband’s name, Dylan, as DIE-lan, and I occasionally meet people who see my name written down and call me Suzanne.

    Reply
  81. HUG-HAYS? That’s amazing. Of course, we still run into people who pronounce my husband’s name, Dylan, as DIE-lan, and I occasionally meet people who see my name written down and call me Suzanne.

    Reply
  82. “When I use an odd name (which happens a lot, since I write Scottish settings and often have Gaelic or Highland characters), I try to either streamline the name, or find a way to teach the reader, early on, how to say it”
    As a reader, I greatly appreciate when an author does this (and I should have changed my own wording from “weird” to “unusual”). And I have nothing against the Welsh names, they just seem to be the most difficult to pronounce, apart from Oriental ones.
    One thing that really bugs me is when people just give up trying to pronounce someones name correctly and just say it however they like. It just seems rude to not care enough to pronounce someone’s name as they say it themselves. We have that problem in that our last name, being Mobley, is usually pronounce by others with a long “o”, but our family uses as short “o”. Very few people pay attention to that fact and it gets irritating to be introduced incorrectly.

    Reply
  83. “When I use an odd name (which happens a lot, since I write Scottish settings and often have Gaelic or Highland characters), I try to either streamline the name, or find a way to teach the reader, early on, how to say it”
    As a reader, I greatly appreciate when an author does this (and I should have changed my own wording from “weird” to “unusual”). And I have nothing against the Welsh names, they just seem to be the most difficult to pronounce, apart from Oriental ones.
    One thing that really bugs me is when people just give up trying to pronounce someones name correctly and just say it however they like. It just seems rude to not care enough to pronounce someone’s name as they say it themselves. We have that problem in that our last name, being Mobley, is usually pronounce by others with a long “o”, but our family uses as short “o”. Very few people pay attention to that fact and it gets irritating to be introduced incorrectly.

    Reply
  84. “When I use an odd name (which happens a lot, since I write Scottish settings and often have Gaelic or Highland characters), I try to either streamline the name, or find a way to teach the reader, early on, how to say it”
    As a reader, I greatly appreciate when an author does this (and I should have changed my own wording from “weird” to “unusual”). And I have nothing against the Welsh names, they just seem to be the most difficult to pronounce, apart from Oriental ones.
    One thing that really bugs me is when people just give up trying to pronounce someones name correctly and just say it however they like. It just seems rude to not care enough to pronounce someone’s name as they say it themselves. We have that problem in that our last name, being Mobley, is usually pronounce by others with a long “o”, but our family uses as short “o”. Very few people pay attention to that fact and it gets irritating to be introduced incorrectly.

    Reply
  85. Lisa, yes, genealogy is a great way to find old names.
    For fairly recent history, there are censuses. The Mormons have a great site with some free censuses for 1881.
    http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/http://tinyurl.com/25pq
    (If you don’t know tinyurl.com, it’s a lovely free place that codes long URLs into tiny ones.)
    I like to play on these, peeping into people’s lives. For example, I put in the first name Raven, and got 23 hits on the UK census and 8 on the British.
    I couldn’t resist Raven Dixon, young son of Thomasina and John Dixon (he’s a mason) who has a sister called Isabella, and both children were born in Pity Me, Durham.
    27 Tiffanys,lots of Winters (seems to be particularly popular on the island of Jersey,) lots of Summers, but few Autumns. Some Tawnys. Quite a lot of Luciens.
    No Beowulfs. Ah well, I knew Rothgar was one of a kind.
    And what about Lucien Francis De La Marlallies WRIGHT, son of a wealthy JP in Derbyshire who had 10 servants. But why is he called that, when his older brother is Richard Beresford WRIGHT? Rich relative, no doubt. Can’t find anything about the lad, but the 84 room house became decrepit by the 1950s and was demolished.
    Must…stop… playing…..now!
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  86. Lisa, yes, genealogy is a great way to find old names.
    For fairly recent history, there are censuses. The Mormons have a great site with some free censuses for 1881.
    http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/http://tinyurl.com/25pq
    (If you don’t know tinyurl.com, it’s a lovely free place that codes long URLs into tiny ones.)
    I like to play on these, peeping into people’s lives. For example, I put in the first name Raven, and got 23 hits on the UK census and 8 on the British.
    I couldn’t resist Raven Dixon, young son of Thomasina and John Dixon (he’s a mason) who has a sister called Isabella, and both children were born in Pity Me, Durham.
    27 Tiffanys,lots of Winters (seems to be particularly popular on the island of Jersey,) lots of Summers, but few Autumns. Some Tawnys. Quite a lot of Luciens.
    No Beowulfs. Ah well, I knew Rothgar was one of a kind.
    And what about Lucien Francis De La Marlallies WRIGHT, son of a wealthy JP in Derbyshire who had 10 servants. But why is he called that, when his older brother is Richard Beresford WRIGHT? Rich relative, no doubt. Can’t find anything about the lad, but the 84 room house became decrepit by the 1950s and was demolished.
    Must…stop… playing…..now!
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  87. Lisa, yes, genealogy is a great way to find old names.
    For fairly recent history, there are censuses. The Mormons have a great site with some free censuses for 1881.
    http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/http://tinyurl.com/25pq
    (If you don’t know tinyurl.com, it’s a lovely free place that codes long URLs into tiny ones.)
    I like to play on these, peeping into people’s lives. For example, I put in the first name Raven, and got 23 hits on the UK census and 8 on the British.
    I couldn’t resist Raven Dixon, young son of Thomasina and John Dixon (he’s a mason) who has a sister called Isabella, and both children were born in Pity Me, Durham.
    27 Tiffanys,lots of Winters (seems to be particularly popular on the island of Jersey,) lots of Summers, but few Autumns. Some Tawnys. Quite a lot of Luciens.
    No Beowulfs. Ah well, I knew Rothgar was one of a kind.
    And what about Lucien Francis De La Marlallies WRIGHT, son of a wealthy JP in Derbyshire who had 10 servants. But why is he called that, when his older brother is Richard Beresford WRIGHT? Rich relative, no doubt. Can’t find anything about the lad, but the 84 room house became decrepit by the 1950s and was demolished.
    Must…stop… playing…..now!
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  88. I never thought a Rupert could be heroic or sexy until BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. But Rupert Giles, the apparently dithery librarian, turned out to be Dangerous. That changed my thinking. And I do spend a lot of time trying to find the Right Names. Sometimes I end up changing names halfway through the book because the character didn’t turn out to be who I thought he/she was.

    Reply
  89. I never thought a Rupert could be heroic or sexy until BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. But Rupert Giles, the apparently dithery librarian, turned out to be Dangerous. That changed my thinking. And I do spend a lot of time trying to find the Right Names. Sometimes I end up changing names halfway through the book because the character didn’t turn out to be who I thought he/she was.

    Reply
  90. I never thought a Rupert could be heroic or sexy until BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. But Rupert Giles, the apparently dithery librarian, turned out to be Dangerous. That changed my thinking. And I do spend a lot of time trying to find the Right Names. Sometimes I end up changing names halfway through the book because the character didn’t turn out to be who I thought he/she was.

    Reply
  91. Susan/Sarah, was the name “Theophania” actually in use in WESTERN Europe in the Middle Ages? I could understand it in the Byzantine Empire where Greek survived; but I can’t otherwise recall any Greek names used in the West unless they’d already been incorporated into Latin. And I doubt if the “Tiffany” spelling was around then!
    Jo, for U sounds, how about Ulric, Uther (though he wasn’t very heroic!), Utah (one of EL’s Blackthorn brothers)? Rupert of the Rhine appears as the hero of Poul Anderson’s alternate-history fantasy A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST.
    Are you Roger Mortimer? If not, have you got him?
    I believe there is still a list of “acceptable” names which can be registered in France, and Breton names are not permitted.
    Some of my favorite names include Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the 19th- century engineering genius who built the Great Western Railway; oceanographer Columbus O’Donnell Iselin; and classical and literary scholar Eustace Mandeville Wetenhall Tillyard (I’ve always wanted to name four cats after him), author of THE ELIZABETHAN WORLD PICTURE.
    Speaking of cats, I think one of mine is dead–she’s stretched out flat on top of the filing cabinet in the closet. If it wasn’t for the occasional ear twitch…

    Reply
  92. Susan/Sarah, was the name “Theophania” actually in use in WESTERN Europe in the Middle Ages? I could understand it in the Byzantine Empire where Greek survived; but I can’t otherwise recall any Greek names used in the West unless they’d already been incorporated into Latin. And I doubt if the “Tiffany” spelling was around then!
    Jo, for U sounds, how about Ulric, Uther (though he wasn’t very heroic!), Utah (one of EL’s Blackthorn brothers)? Rupert of the Rhine appears as the hero of Poul Anderson’s alternate-history fantasy A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST.
    Are you Roger Mortimer? If not, have you got him?
    I believe there is still a list of “acceptable” names which can be registered in France, and Breton names are not permitted.
    Some of my favorite names include Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the 19th- century engineering genius who built the Great Western Railway; oceanographer Columbus O’Donnell Iselin; and classical and literary scholar Eustace Mandeville Wetenhall Tillyard (I’ve always wanted to name four cats after him), author of THE ELIZABETHAN WORLD PICTURE.
    Speaking of cats, I think one of mine is dead–she’s stretched out flat on top of the filing cabinet in the closet. If it wasn’t for the occasional ear twitch…

    Reply
  93. Susan/Sarah, was the name “Theophania” actually in use in WESTERN Europe in the Middle Ages? I could understand it in the Byzantine Empire where Greek survived; but I can’t otherwise recall any Greek names used in the West unless they’d already been incorporated into Latin. And I doubt if the “Tiffany” spelling was around then!
    Jo, for U sounds, how about Ulric, Uther (though he wasn’t very heroic!), Utah (one of EL’s Blackthorn brothers)? Rupert of the Rhine appears as the hero of Poul Anderson’s alternate-history fantasy A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST.
    Are you Roger Mortimer? If not, have you got him?
    I believe there is still a list of “acceptable” names which can be registered in France, and Breton names are not permitted.
    Some of my favorite names include Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the 19th- century engineering genius who built the Great Western Railway; oceanographer Columbus O’Donnell Iselin; and classical and literary scholar Eustace Mandeville Wetenhall Tillyard (I’ve always wanted to name four cats after him), author of THE ELIZABETHAN WORLD PICTURE.
    Speaking of cats, I think one of mine is dead–she’s stretched out flat on top of the filing cabinet in the closet. If it wasn’t for the occasional ear twitch…

    Reply
  94. I know the blog has moved on, but I thought I would post this comment on Welsh names anyway.
    The main reasons why Welsh ‘looks’ hard to pronounce are that there seem, to an English-speaker, to be too many consonants and too few vowels. But Welsh has several phonemes that are expressed by PAIRS of consonants (like ‘th’ and ‘sh’ in English – two letters, expressing a single sound). It has th, ch, dd, ff, ng and the notorious ll, for example (the latter notorious because it is the one foreigners find hardest to pronounce).
    The other thing is that the vowels are a, e, i, o, u, w and y. You will find that just knowing that W is a vowel helps a lot: a word like ‘cwm’ no longer looks strange when you know that ‘w’ there is pronounced ‘oo’ as in ‘book’, not like an English w-consonant.
    Don’t know if anyone will read this, as this thread has probably run its course.

    Reply
  95. I know the blog has moved on, but I thought I would post this comment on Welsh names anyway.
    The main reasons why Welsh ‘looks’ hard to pronounce are that there seem, to an English-speaker, to be too many consonants and too few vowels. But Welsh has several phonemes that are expressed by PAIRS of consonants (like ‘th’ and ‘sh’ in English – two letters, expressing a single sound). It has th, ch, dd, ff, ng and the notorious ll, for example (the latter notorious because it is the one foreigners find hardest to pronounce).
    The other thing is that the vowels are a, e, i, o, u, w and y. You will find that just knowing that W is a vowel helps a lot: a word like ‘cwm’ no longer looks strange when you know that ‘w’ there is pronounced ‘oo’ as in ‘book’, not like an English w-consonant.
    Don’t know if anyone will read this, as this thread has probably run its course.

    Reply
  96. I know the blog has moved on, but I thought I would post this comment on Welsh names anyway.
    The main reasons why Welsh ‘looks’ hard to pronounce are that there seem, to an English-speaker, to be too many consonants and too few vowels. But Welsh has several phonemes that are expressed by PAIRS of consonants (like ‘th’ and ‘sh’ in English – two letters, expressing a single sound). It has th, ch, dd, ff, ng and the notorious ll, for example (the latter notorious because it is the one foreigners find hardest to pronounce).
    The other thing is that the vowels are a, e, i, o, u, w and y. You will find that just knowing that W is a vowel helps a lot: a word like ‘cwm’ no longer looks strange when you know that ‘w’ there is pronounced ‘oo’ as in ‘book’, not like an English w-consonant.
    Don’t know if anyone will read this, as this thread has probably run its course.

    Reply
  97. Lots of people will read it, AgTigress, because people with a feed will get it, I believe, and we Wenches receive alerts if anyone replies to our posts.
    Pronunciation is very interesting, and also a challenge in writing, because it’s sometimes really hard to slip in a pronunciation for the readers who don’t know, and a pronunciation guide at the beginning is daunting.
    Jo

    Reply
  98. Lots of people will read it, AgTigress, because people with a feed will get it, I believe, and we Wenches receive alerts if anyone replies to our posts.
    Pronunciation is very interesting, and also a challenge in writing, because it’s sometimes really hard to slip in a pronunciation for the readers who don’t know, and a pronunciation guide at the beginning is daunting.
    Jo

    Reply
  99. Lots of people will read it, AgTigress, because people with a feed will get it, I believe, and we Wenches receive alerts if anyone replies to our posts.
    Pronunciation is very interesting, and also a challenge in writing, because it’s sometimes really hard to slip in a pronunciation for the readers who don’t know, and a pronunciation guide at the beginning is daunting.
    Jo

    Reply
  100. “…it’s sometimes really hard to slip in a pronunciation for the readers who don’t know, and a pronunciation guide at the beginning is daunting.”
    Yes, I can imagine that it isn’t easy to slip that information in in a natural way. Personally, I am all for pronunciation guides at the beginning or end of the book – but then, I love to have a list of dramatis personae, such as Ngaio Marsh used to provide.
    It’s also difficult to know, when so many non-native speakers of English read novels in English, which names they will actually find baffling. One may assume that non-English names, like Siobhan, Ngaio and Eiluned, might well pose problems, as they do for native English-speakers, but I can imagine that many perfectly conventional English names are far from obvious unless one has grown up with them: from outside anglophone culture, would one necessarily know that ‘Geoffrey’ is pronounced in the same way as ‘Jeffrey’?
    🙂

    Reply
  101. “…it’s sometimes really hard to slip in a pronunciation for the readers who don’t know, and a pronunciation guide at the beginning is daunting.”
    Yes, I can imagine that it isn’t easy to slip that information in in a natural way. Personally, I am all for pronunciation guides at the beginning or end of the book – but then, I love to have a list of dramatis personae, such as Ngaio Marsh used to provide.
    It’s also difficult to know, when so many non-native speakers of English read novels in English, which names they will actually find baffling. One may assume that non-English names, like Siobhan, Ngaio and Eiluned, might well pose problems, as they do for native English-speakers, but I can imagine that many perfectly conventional English names are far from obvious unless one has grown up with them: from outside anglophone culture, would one necessarily know that ‘Geoffrey’ is pronounced in the same way as ‘Jeffrey’?
    🙂

    Reply
  102. “…it’s sometimes really hard to slip in a pronunciation for the readers who don’t know, and a pronunciation guide at the beginning is daunting.”
    Yes, I can imagine that it isn’t easy to slip that information in in a natural way. Personally, I am all for pronunciation guides at the beginning or end of the book – but then, I love to have a list of dramatis personae, such as Ngaio Marsh used to provide.
    It’s also difficult to know, when so many non-native speakers of English read novels in English, which names they will actually find baffling. One may assume that non-English names, like Siobhan, Ngaio and Eiluned, might well pose problems, as they do for native English-speakers, but I can imagine that many perfectly conventional English names are far from obvious unless one has grown up with them: from outside anglophone culture, would one necessarily know that ‘Geoffrey’ is pronounced in the same way as ‘Jeffrey’?
    🙂

    Reply

Leave a Comment