That Which We Call a Rose

When I started the Not The Same River project, there were no websites to help me find interesting names. It was the year Eastenders arrived on the telly. The year Roger Moore stopped pretending to be James Bond. The year the wreck of the Titanic was found. The year of Live Aid. The year we said hello to Keira Knightley, Lewis Hamilton and Wayne Rooney.

There were no websites at all.

There was no internet.

NO INTERNET!

If I wanted to play a computer game, I had to plug a cartridge into the back of the keyboard or use a tape recorder. If, as a writer, I wanted to find names for my characters, I watched the telly, listened to the radio, or read magazines. So, as you’ve probably worked out by now, the year was 1985 (thanks Wikipedia).

rose-889572

My character sketches were simple, and some of the names I came up with were pretty bonkers. Or at least they were back then. Having checked the Nameberry lists of popular names, I was surprised to find so many of my character names there (not just the bonkers ones). Even the car’s name is on there. Yes, cars can have names too.

So, here’s where the names I chose rate in 2017 and where I got them from in 1985.

7. Silas – Silas Marner by George Eliot

18. My MC, Violet – named after one of my great aunts

20. Elizabeth – the childhood friend who inspired Violet

25. Caleb – from stories my grandad used to tell me in his Northern Irish accent (not from a book)

32. Elijah – a holy book

43. Soren – boy from infant school whose name I thought was Sorry for ages (I have never met another Soren, for which I am sorry)

51. Ezra – a holy book (nobody was called this in real life)

55. Archer – BBC Radio show, The Archers (nobody was called this in 1985)

57. Daniel – childhood friend’s brother

61. Adam – biblical first man

62. Luke – Star Wars

76. Magnus – Magnus Magnusson

78. Serafina – childhood friend’s cat

79. Wesley – boy from school

87. Gabriel – archangel

101. Harvey – childhood friend’s massive dog (think it was a Boxer)

125. Noah – guy with the ark

154. Amos – Seth’s sidekick on Emmerdale (nobody under the age of 70 was called this)

180. Eden – a holy book

186. Arlo – I was convinced I’d made this name up because everyone, EVERYONE, told me it wasn’t a real name in 1985, but I guess I must’ve heard it somewhere.

322. Albert – German royal family (only old men were called this)

325. Piper (female only) – my Piper is male – Pied Piper of Hamlin story (simply was not a name in the UK)

341. Mara – Irish folklore

388. Seth – ITV show, Emmerdale (or as it was known back then, Emmerdale Farm)

404. Benedict – an order of monks who made a herbal liquer (Cumberbatch was still in short trousers)

419. Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac song

461. Leia – Star Wars

760. Goldie – included because it’s the car’s name – a gold Ford Capri, named after Goldie Hawn

807. Jed – The Beverly Hillbillies (old man name)

Other character names not on Nameberry (some for good reason)…

Kite – type of bird from the Osiris myth (Egypt)

Jess – Postman Pat’s cat

Boxer – because he’s a pugilist

Old Bones – because he’s an augur

War – because he’s the son of the angel of peace – 32 year old irony at work

Cedar – tree

Maggie – Maggie Philbin (who had terrible hair for at least a decade)

It’s great that there are so many resources out there to help us find interesting or authentic names for our characters. It’s greater still when you discover later that the names you chose have greater significance for the characters and their arcs than you first realised. I love those discoveries.

Nameberry

that which we call a rose

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