Category: names from children’s books
Since shortly after Nameberry hit the internet six years ago, my wife—who happens to be Linda Rosenkrantz—has been begging me to write a blog about how I got my name. Finally, after a long and stressful weekend of mattress shopping, I’ve given in.
Look at our bookshelves!
One, two three…
How many Seuss books
Do I see?
How can it be that our family owns only eight of his classics, not counting poetry within other children’s anthologies or the duplicate, dog-eared copies of The Cat in The Hat? He wrote 40+ books in his lifetime, and the work of Theodor Seuss Geisel is ingrained in the English lexicon. Still, we take Dr. Seuss’ contributions for granted ‘ever so muchly’ that most of us pronounce his name incorrectly. Geisel’s mother’s German maiden name Seuss actually rhymes with “voice”, not “use” (as in, “the Simplest Seuss for youngest use”). It’s rumored that he didn’t mind, due to the sound-alike quality of ‘Seuss’ to children’s author Mother Goose. In any case, the ultimate Seuss-ism could be naming one’s child in homage to him. Here is a nearly-exhaustive list of Seuss names…
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.