Category: alliteration in names
Alliterative names – first/middle/last names starting with the same letter/sound – is a subject that many people have strong feelings about. Some people love them, some hate them with a passion.
For those who hate them, there really only seems to be one argument against them. They are just too cutesy and “matchy-matchy” and make it too hard to take a person seriously. These people actively avoid giving this name configuration to their children.
Others love them for almost the same reason they are hated – because they are cute and snazzy sounding. This makes them fun, easier to remember and hence more memorable. Being more memorable makes them perfect for celebrities, superheroes, wrestlers and fictional characters. J.K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter is full of alliterative names. Just look at such examples as Luna Lovegood, Severus Snape, Dudley Dursley and Minerva McGonagall. And have you ever paid much attention to the founders of the four houses at Hogwarts? All four have alliterative names. HBO show Girls is another example that may have slipped most people’s notice. All four of the lead characters also have alliterative names.
Some of the most powerful and memorable names in popular culture are to be found in the pages of comic books. So could there be some tactics used by their creators that could be used to craft a strong, easily remembered baby name? Here are a few techniques you might apply:
1. ADOPT ALLITERATION!
One of the most common comic book tricks to making a name stick in your mind is alliteration, one that works because it inserts a repetitive element into the name, giving it a sing-song quality that makes it easier to remember. In fact, Stan Lee, the creator of classics like Spider-Man, often used alliteration to name his major human characters (Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Pepper Potts) so that he himself could better remember their names. Not only did he find it relatively easy to recall those characters’ names, but so did his loyal fan base and even people who knew little about comics. After all, even if you don’t know that Spider-Man gained his powers from a radioactive spider bite, chances are you recognize and remember his civilian name: Peter Parker. This is one adaptable technique that would be a way to make your baby’s name a memorable one — using a first name that begins with the same consonant or vowel sound as his last name.
2. DO DOUBLE FIRST NAMES!
Using two first names to make up a character’s name is another trick that comic book writers use to make a name stick—but obviously this is one that will only work if you happen to have an accommodating surname. Unlike first names, many last names are less familiar and therefore less memorable, but by using two names that are familiar as firsts, it’s easy to mash them together to create a full name that is easily recalled. This method is evidenced in many DC Comics characters such as Batman’s Bruce Wayne, the Green Lantern’s Alan Scott and Hal Jordan, and Superman’s Clark Kent. If your baby happen to have a last name that could also double as a first, you are in luck: he will end up with a memorable name as long as you give him a familiar first name.
3. KEEP THE NAMES SHORT!
This is another technique that will only work if your last name cooperates. Comic book character creators usually would keep the first and last names short, with each no longer than two syllables. There are exceptions to this rule, but many of the most memorable comic book names are no more than four syllables in total. This method keeps the name short and snappy, reducing the possibility of mispronunciation and recall error. If your baby will have a long last name, consider giving him or her a shorter first name in order to make the name more memorable. With a short last name, you have more options, depending on just how much you want to adhere to the comics four-syllable maximum method. (Note: Check the Nameberry message boards for some interesting discussions on ideal syllable rhythm and balance.)
They snap, crackle, and pop—which is one reason why alliterative names are so widely used for the characters in children’s stories—from nursery rhymes like ‘Wee Willie Winkie’ to picture books like Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel to Young Adult book characters like Harry Potter‘s Luna Lovegood.
Here, the distinguished name scholars Don and Alleen Nilsen present some of the many examples of alliteration, consonance, rhyming and other wordplay they have found in the names of kid-lit characters.
We were just pondering The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter, Peter Pan by James Barrie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and Maniac McGee by Jerry Spinelli and we were wondering how often authors repeat the sounds of their vowels and consonants in their character names.
We soon thought about Lewis Carroll’s Pig and Pepper, his Frog and the Footman, and his Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and this led our thoughts to The White Knight and Humpty Dumpty two more characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Then we thought of a set of characters in Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth that includes The Duke of Definition, the Minister of Meaning, the Earl of Essence, and the Count of Connotation.
The protagonist in Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi is Piscine Patel. His name is shortened to Pi Patel, and he has to explain to people that pi is 3.14 as he draws a large circle and slices it in two with a diameter to evoke a basic lesson of geometry.
In Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, there is a John–John. In Cynthia Kadohata’s Weedflower there is a Takao who goes by the nickname of “Tak-Tak.” In Robert Cormier’s After the First Death there is a General named Mark Marchand, and in his The Chocolate War, there is Larry LaSalle who changes his name to “Lieutenant Laurence LaSalle” when he becomes famous. In Polly Horvath’s The Canning Season, there is a character named Aunt Pen Pen, and one named Ratchet Ratchet Clark.
In Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, the only girl in the Salamander Army is named Petra Arkanian, but she is called Baby Butt and Petra the Poet by her friends and in the Lemony Snicket books, two of the guardians of the Baudelaire children are named Montgomery Montgomery, and Dewey Denouement.