If you’ve read a book by the great Toni Morrison, chances are you’ll remember some of her characters’ names. From vivid nicknames to evocative biblical names, it’s easy to believe there’s a story behind each one.
Morrison’s novels tell of African-American communities, from the time of slavery to the present. One of the issues she explores is the loss of African Americans’ identities and heritage, and how to reclaim them. Names play a huge part in this, as you might expect.
Change a person’s name, as slave owners did, and you take away their identity and cut them off from their ancestors. Once that connection is lost, how do free African Americans get it back? Should they accept the names they have been given, or choose their own names and forge a new heritage?
By Rachel Lyon
I have long been interested in the origin and function of pen names. A pseudonym can be a mask to hide behind, or a tool by which to play a sort of game. It can be a political statement, an aesthetic declaration, or an alternate identity that is grown into over time. Pseudonyms can give writers the freedom to argue a position they don’t quite believe, or the courage to say the otherwise unspeakable. And they can carry hidden homages to other names of other notable men and women.
I’m a name nerd.
True story: In college, I spent hours compiling data for a study on the attractiveness of male and female names. Amanda? Very attractive. Mildred? Not so much. Ken was more attractive than Keith, while Liam was about as attractive as Levi. By the end of the study, I had an Iliad-length research paper and a major caramel-macchiato addiction.
Believe it or not, even after all of that research, I still get excited to dream up the perfect names for the characters in my books. Finding just the right character name actually helps a story start to take shape in my mind. Since I have a tendency to get stuck on finding the perfect name (Maura or Mara? Lila or Lily?), I try to break the process down into just three steps.
By Sophie Kihm
I’ve been thinking non-stop about dog names since we just recently got a puppy. When coming up with a name for the little guy, I was adamant about giving him a name that didn’t sound too “dog-like,” (aka, not Fido or Rover). I wanted him to have a real name. A person name. We ended up calling him Fisher, and it’s really the perfect name for him. It’s not too dog-like, and it’s not too common among animals or people (it ranked #799 last year). However, this whole situation got me wondering: if we like people names for pets, what about pet names for people? Are they off-limits or fair game?
By Kara Cavazos @ The Art of Naming
Changing your name can be tough. It requires that you really know yourself and what you want.
You would need to browse through name lists and pick out the ones that jump at you. Maybe you’ll find something that instantly speaks to you, but most likely it’ll take a while and names will need to grow on you. You’ll need to try them on and wear them to see if they’re a fit.
You could go about it in many different ways but it would depend on if you want to keep a connection to your old name or abandon it completely. Here are a few of the many possible methods for choosing a different name for yourself: