Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Would You Name Your Child After a Literary Character?


Hi guys,

Sorry for the radio silence. I've been busy, busy and also had to fit in another hasty trip to South Africa.

I thought I'd share with you this piece in The Guardian newspaper about Twilight loving parents naming their offspring after characters in Stephenie Meyers' books. I was wondering how many other authors can command this kind of loyalty of their readers.

Twilight Baby Names - Stephenie Meyer

My name too, was literary inspired. During her pregnancy my mother read War and Peace and loved it. I was named after Countess Natasha Rostova, a beautiful woman who is also a delightful dancer and singer. My mother was an opera singer herself and I'm guessing she was hoping I would be blessed with the same silver vocal chords as my namesake. Sadly, no. The fictional Natasha also has men driven to teeth-gnashing distraction by her beauty and falling in love with her left and right. No wonder my mother succumbed to wishful thinking.

When I was in my twenties I tackled Tolstoy's massive tome and was amazed on two accounts. First, I was greatly impressed by my mother's stamina. In the first volume of Tolstoy's massive tome, Natasha is only a thirteen year old girl but then goes through many -- and I mean many -- trials and tribulations before - gasp -- finally ending up happily married to the novel's main hero. I know this novel is considered a work of towering literary genius, but I have to be honest: if it weren't for the fact that I was reading the book that inspired my name, I doubt I would have made it past the Battle of Borodino.

Second: I realized my mother has a weird penchant for desperately tragic tales set in Russia. We're talking revolution. Societies imploding. Armies perishing in the snow. After finishing War and Peace my Mum moved on to Boris Pasternak's doomed Dr. Zhivago and it became a toss-up whether I would be named Lara or Natasha. In the end Natasha prevailed because it means "nativity" and as it turned out I was born on Christmas Day (six days late). It was obviously meant. Aaw.

One of the lovely things about being a writer is that you have the freedom to name your characters. Well, most of the time. In Keeper of Light and Dust I wanted to call my heroine Katrina and nickname her Cricket. My American editor approved but my British editor most emphatically did not. She complained that there were too many creepy crawlies in the book already: a) my villain's alter ego is "Dragonfly" and b) my heroine keeps a chameleon as a pet. I like Katrina and wanted to stick with this name, but in the end decided to opt for the name Mia instead. Katrina without Cricket would have turned into Kat and we'd still have a problem.

The greatest fun I had with names was in Season of the Witch. Minnaloushe and Morrighan Monk: don't you just love the alliteration? I've adored the name Minnaloushe ever since I read Yates's wonderful poem, "The Cat and the Moon" and had long waited for an opportunity to use it in one of my books. But I had a problem: "Black Minnaloushe" is a tom not a tabby. Minnaloushe is a man’s name.

I finally decided to simply ignore this awkward fact. To my mind Minnaloushe sounds utterly feminine, gorgeous and voluptuous. In fact, wouldn't it be a lovely name for a little red-haired baby girl somewhere? (Hint.) She'll hate you for it, of course, and will have to endure cruel taunting on the playground but it will be worth it once she's all grown. What guy won't fall for a woman with a delicious name like that?

So let me know if any of you has succumbed to the temptation of naming your little one after Harry (Potter), James (Bond) or Anita (Blake). BTW the other name my mother liked was Amber, after the busty, ambitious courtesan in Kathleen Winsor's Restoration novel Forever Amber who starts out as a village girl and becomes a Duchess. More wishful thinking.


  1. Hi Natalie,
    Great read as a woman without children I haven't had this opportunity, however i definetly would name an off spring after a literary character.

    I love the idea of a son called Heathcliffe or a daughter called Tess, however I have named my cats after characters or people.

    A friend of mine also named her daughter Amber after the very same book.Minnaloushe is a wonderful name might use it for a future cat lol.


  2. Hi Karen,

    Heathcliffe would be fantastic - one of my favourite characters in one of my favourite novels. But what if your son is short, blond and happy instead of tall, dark and brooding :-)

  3. Can someone explain to this guy why women go gaga over Heathcliffe? Not exactly a guy who gave his girl poetry and flowers!

    I wanted to name my son Revere after the Longfellow poem about Paul Revere so Revere Jackson. My wife put her foot down and he is named after my father-in-law. Real life and literature do not unfortunately always overlap!

  4. I had a list of names when my little girl was born and sescond on the list was Lara. But my wife also put her foot down. I think she knew I wasn't thinking of Dr. Zhivago but of Lara Croft. The fact that my first choice was Angelina probably tipped her off...

  5. Electricwitch: I was also thinking that Minaloushe would a great name for a cat but it must be a Persion not a short-haired breed.

    If I ever have a daughter I will call her Severn. There is a legend that Severn comes from the name Sabrina, which was the name of a nymph who drowned in this river. A bit sad maybe but I always liked this legend and on top of it I am Welsh!

  6. @ Nick: True, no poetry and flowers but when Cathy dies, he bashes his forehead to a pulp against a tree trunk outsider her window. Now that's passion for you.

    @ Kelly: I have a friend who calls his car Angelina. His girlfriend was not amused and called hers, Brad. Problem is, his car is Porsche and hers is a Mini. Takes some of the punch away from her tit for tat.

    @ Buffy: the best legends are always the sad ones :-) Have never heard of this one before. Very cool...

  7. Well, my parents named me because they liked the name, but, when i was a child my mother told me about a poem of Edgar allan poe i think. The poem was named Annabel Lee. I dont think she named me because of that poem but i was glad i had a poem with my first name;D
    Anyway, i would name a child of mine with a character´s name if i really liked the name and the character. It already happened to me too, to love a name and suddenly a character that i came to dislike a lot, had that name. I like unique and rare names more than the overrated ones.
    As for Minnaloushe, its an AMAZING name. i cant think in that name as a male name, it sounds so feminine and graceful. Absolutely unique;D

  8. If I was to have anymore children then I would love to name them after a character from a book I've read & I love unique names & I love the name Isidore from season of the witch Dimitri Esme . As for Minnaloushe or Morrighan I'm not sure maybe I'm not pronouncing them right but they are very unique & Minnaloushe doesn't sound like a male name to me. Sound maybe Irish or Gaelic.

  9. My husband and I are both avid readers, and most of the names I've added to "The List" came from books.

    I had both Morrighan and Minnaloushe on the list... until a friend of our friend stole Morrighan. I'm still hoping for Minnaloushe (maybe nickname her Meena when she's young). But we have a steadfast rule: You can't name a baby until you meet it.

  10. I am in the last few pages of,"Season of the Witch". I highly recommend it to anyone who likes an intriguing spinetingling read. I would like to know the pronunciation of Minnaloushe please. Thanks!!

  11. I named my long-haired, male black cat Minnaloushe. It's a name that begs for a nickname--for a female human or pet I'd probably go with Meena, as suggested above. I call my cat Moushe, which I don't think would work for a human, but is great for him.

  12. If I had a daughter today, I would name her Emma, after the Jane Austen character. When I had a real daughter, I named her after Nicole Kidman, who I had a crush on at the time (PS, didn't tell Nicole's mom).