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A Name is a Name is a Name…or is it?

March 4-10 is Celebrate Your Name Week

Established in 1997 by American onomatology hobbyist Jerry Hill, Celebrate Your Name Week (CYNW) is a week for embracing and celebrating your name. Participants are encouraged to take part in name-related events such Name Tag Day, Namesake Day, Name Fun Facts Day, Unique Names Day, Learn What Your Name Means Day, Middle Name Pride Day, and Genealogy Day.

As writers names are important to our stories, our characters, and even our own personas. When we are creating our book characters we don’t just slap a name on them. If you’re like me, you labor over those names hoping to find the right one. In fact, I wrote an entire book inserting the name Mother 2 into the pages because I couldn’t think of the right name for that antagonist character. My critique partners thought it was a real hoot, but when I finally came up with Mother 2’s name—Tiberia—they all agreed it fit her perfectly.

Think about it—how heroic does the name Adolph or Jezebel sound to you? Those names bring up automatic responses from us because of their association with historical persons. Which names seem more villainous— Chauncey and Mitzy or Axe and Egberta?   If you want your hero to have a bit of a dark side, yet exude a side of comfort, would you name him Bram, Busby or Bowie? I vote for Bowie as in Jim Bowie and his famous knife. A hint of danger in a man who could definitely protect you. Bram reminds me of the Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, and Busby is the name I’d give a character like Barney Fife.

Today we often chose childrens’ names based on how the first and middle names sound with their surnames, because the name is popular or really unusual, or because we are naming them after someone who is important to us. Biblical era parents chose names to match some important quality of the child or event in the child’s life. Jacob’s name means “He who supplants”, which is what he did to his older brother Esau. Leah named her first son Reuben which means “Behold a son” because she hoped the son would cause Jacob to love her. On her deathbed Rachel named her son Benoni, “Son of my sorrow”, because she died giving birth to him. His father changed his name to “Son of my right hand” because he was a favored child.

Our pen names or pseudonyms are as important as our given names. Not everyone has a name that suits his or her professional needs. Check out these actors’ nom de plumes. I think we’d all agree with their decisions to create stage names.

  • Alan Alda—Alphonso D’Abruzzo
  • Bela Lugosi—Be’la Ferenc Dezso Blasko
  • Boris Karloff—William Henry Pratt
  • Cary Grant—Archibald Alexander Leach
  • Kirk Douglas—Issur Danielovitch Demsky

The question remains: How are you going to celebrate your name, given or chosen? Start by finding out what your name means.  Check out your family history to see if your name has importance. If you’re named after Mom or Dad or great-granny you might want to consider keeping your name and celebrating what it means to you historically. And if you love your name as a professional name, wear it proudly.

If your name is too hard to remember, spell, or just doesn’t work for you as a pseudonym, consider choosing several that have a nice ring to them; google the names to see how many hits you get on it; choose the ones that don’t come up, because it will make you easier to find on the internet; then spend some time pretending you’re signing all your published books, real or hoped for, with your final choices to see which name flows better.

If you don’t know where to find new names check the telephone book, the credits at the end of movies, genealogy records, and baby books or websites. And don’t forget to visit the Celebrate Your Name website for a week’s worth of name activities, fun facts about names, and a whole lot of name resource info.

You all know what my new name is…Catherine Castle. Have you changed your name? I’d love to hear why and what new name you’ve chosen.