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Category: authors’ names

Lemony Snicket Names

lemony

We are honored to have as today’s guest bloggers Don and Alleen Nilsen, recent co-chairmen of the prestigious American Name Society, writing about the clever use of literary allusions in the thirteen Lemony Snicket books.

As long-distance grandparents, we are constantly on the lookout for books that we can enjoy listening to on CDs while we commute to work and can then forward to our children to enjoy with their children while they make their own commutes.  Daniel Handler’s thirteen Lemony Snicket books have been the all-time winners in this category, and one of the reasons is Handler’s skill in recycling the names of literary or pop culture figures to make playful allusions.

Humor scholars use the term Wabbit literacy (from “that wascally wabbit” in the Bugs Bunny cartoons) to describe the flip-flop process in which children become acquainted with the names of classical figures through pop culture allusions prior to meeting the  same names in “the original.”  The Lemony Snicket books are a superb illustration of this process as children meet Dr. Georgina Orwell, an eye doctor who hangs an ever-watchful eye over her door; Uncle Monty, who as a herpetologist cares for a huge python; a villainous couple named Esmé and Jerome Squalor who live at 667 Dark Avenue, c.f. J. D. Salinger‘s short story “To Esmé with Love and Squalor,” and Mr. Poe, who has a son named Edgar and is the appointed guardian of the children’s inheritance which is placed in the Mulctuary Money Management Bank.

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gwendolyn-brooks

This year in celebration of Black History Month we turn for naming inspiration to the cultural heroines of the Harlem Renaissance.  These women—novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors and musicians– all played significant roles in the movement that flourished from the end of World War I through the mid-1930s, during which a group of writers and other artists fostered an intellectual blossoming that was instrumental in forging a new black cultural identity.

The talented women listed below, some better known than others, would all provide great namesakes and role models for any child.

A’LELIA Walker—an African-American businesswoman who was an important patron of the artists of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.

ALICE Dunbar-Nelson — Journalist, poet, activist and prominent Harlem Renaissance figure.

ANGELINA Weld Grimké—Harlem Renaissance writer, one of the first black women to have a play performed in public.

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colette2

We looked at trailblazing women in Part One of this blog yesterday—bold and courageous achievers who would prove worthy namesakes for a daughter.  Now we turn to those with major accomplishments in the arts—a varied mix of writers, artists, and musicians of the far and fairly recent  past—many of whom seem to have appropriately creative names—whether they were born with them or not.

Again, remember that the name’s the thing here—so sorry, Mary Cassatt and Elizabeth Barrett Browning–not this time.

WRITERS

AGATHA Christie

ANAIS Nin

APHRA Behn (also seen on the trailblazer list)

AYN Rand

CARSON (born Lula) McCullers

CHARLOTTE Bronte

COLETTE (born Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette)

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