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alliteration

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.

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Twilight Baby Names: Beyond Bella & Edward

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Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight series has been one of the biggest influencers of baby name trends in recent times, propelling Bella, Edward, Cullen, Esme, and a host of other names up the charts.  Here, nameberry intern DANIELLE MIKSZA, a Twilight fan, analyzes the Twilight baby names.

There’s been a vampire epidemic going on ever since Twilight hit theatres. Everywhere you look there’s Rob Pattinson’s face or Taylor Lautner’s abs, not that I’m complaining. But what’s even more interesting are the names author Stephenie Meyer chose for all the characters.

Although Bella is a klutzy, plain, and moody teenager, Stephenie Meyer chose a name for her heroine that means beautiful. Also, she gave her the elegant surname, Swan. It’s difficult to see why a powerful and handsome vampire like Edward would fall in love with a boring human when he’s surrounded by immortal beauties like Rosalie and Tanya.  I guess aside from the floral scent of her blood, Edward sees something lovable in Bella that no one else sees.

The name Edward is suitable for Meyer’s other main character because it is an old-fashioned name that means “wealthy guardian.” Edward, Bella’s immortal love, is so protective of her that it becomes annoying. He sneaks into her room at night and once followed her all the way to the bookstore to make sure she was safe. He sees himself as a dark version of her guardian angel and tries to buy her lavish gifts like a new car. I guess being over a century old and never having to worry about buying groceries, he has a few bucks stocked away.

Esme is another name that seems to be from a more elegant age. It means “beloved,” which is perfect when paired with Edward’s sweet and charming foster mother.

Bella’s mother, Renee, became fed up with her mundane life and left in search of a more exciting one. Renee left her husband, Charlie, and took off to Phoenix, where she married a young baseball player man named Phil. The name Renee fits the character’s personality because it has a young and spunky feel to it. Bella’s mother may have a few laugh lines here and there, but her spirit is anything but ancient.

Jacob Black is my all time favorite Twilight character. The only thing I wasn’t too fond of was his name: too good boy for a motorcycle rider whose sole purpose is to kill vampires. But after learning that the Jacob means “supplanter,” I once again applaud Stephenie Meyer for choosing an appropriate name. A supplanter is something that takes the place of something else, fitting for a human who changes into a wolf.

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