I do think it's ridiculous UNLESS the name is already a common, or at least known, given name. I think character first names (Atticus, Scout, etc.) aren't as bad as surnames of characters or the author. For example: Naming your child Beatrix, after Beatrix Potter, or Jack, after Jack London, is a great way to honor the literature you love. Jay is a great name...Gatsby is not so much.
Naming your kid Tennyson or Chaucer seems much more pretentious to me.
I completely agree...and feel like a hypocrite for doing so, since it's important to me that every single one of my favorite names (for girls, at least) has a strong literary connection. I'm a grad student in lit, however, so this is also an inescapable part of my life; when you think in books, talk in books, and work in books, it's really hard not to name in books as well. I'll note that almost all of my favorite literary names were picked from my beloved children's books or my research in Renaissance literature and drama, not lit-fic favorites like Catcher in the Rye or Gravity's Rainbow or something. Does that make it better? Probably not. :/
Haha, I majored in English, work in publishing, love lit names...but sometimes I do feel that way. For me it isn't so much a matter of pretention as it is cliche, though.
I don't think most people are actively trying to exploit their children's names as a way to make themselves look more cultured, educated, etc. I don't even think they want to make their kids look better by giving them literary names, though I do think names from books carry an appealing well-read/intelligent literary vibe. I think celianne makes a lot of good points: not only do you read those impressive classics at a formative age, but you also spend so much time with them, digging in deep, analyzing them for essays and class discussions. Many people don't read much, particularly classics, after you get out of the education system. Even if you continue to buy books and read in your adult lives, you don't spend as much time or effort thinking through stories. The books from middle and high school naturally stand out as the most important, respected, often personally meaningful texts one reads. Sometimes it can seem a bit pretentious when people who don't read in their present day spare time name their kids after a character or author...but hey. I imagine they connected with the book (or just like the name) at some point.
I don't think all names from books included within the high school canon sound pretentious. Keats, Auden, Byron, Flannery, Zora, characters from Dracula, Fahrenheit 451, many Shakespearean plays--I don't find those pretentious or cliched. People don't use them that frequently. But certain texts become the Isabella, Sophia, Emma, Lily, or Madeline of the book world. (Notably those come in waves, too; the Shakespeare plays taught when our parents were in school are no longer [necessarily] the ones taught in schools now.) Anyway, Isabella, Sophia, etc. are beautiful, vintage names; To Kill A Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye are incredible, deserving books. If you really truly love and connect with the name/book, great. In a way, I see the value of naming a child after a character almost everyone loves and recognizes--instant positive connotation... But sometimes I do start feeling a little exasperated and think, "Gosh, didn't you read or love anything else? You know that's EVERYONE's favorite book, don't you? What have you personally read/connected with/felt changed by that wasn't included in a bulleted study guide from your teacher x years ago?"
Notably, I think that TKAM's names are the ones that feel the most cliched or pretentious or hipster or whatever. Multiple pps here have expressed frustration over them. To preface: I love TKAM; it was my grandmother's fave book; we read it aloud as a family growing up--it's great. I recognize its importance contextualized by the time in history when it came out. But it's also a book that feels like it's morally challenging and heavy-hitting and gritty when really it's pretty tidily laid out for the reader. As Wall Street Journal writer, Allen Barra, once argued: "In all great novels there is some quality of moral ambiguity, some potentially controversial element that keeps the book from being easily grasped or explained. One hundred years from now, critics will still be arguing about the real nature of the relationship between Tom and Huck, or why Gatsby gazed at that green light at the end of the dock across the harbor. There is no ambiguity in “To Kill a Mockingbird”; at the end of the book, we know exactly what we knew at the beginning: that Atticus Finch is a good man, that Tom Robinson was an innocent victim of racism, and that lynching is bad. As Thomas Mallon wrote in a 2006 story in The New Yorker, the book acts as “an ungainsayable endorser of the obvious.”" Sometimes I feel like that's why TKAM has skyrocketed in popularity: besides the nostalgia of having loved it in high school, the reader can pat him or herself on the back for coming down on Atticus's side, coming down against racism and intolerance, when there wasn't really a question of which side was right... I think that adds to the pretentious image that names from this book can carry.
Just some thoughts.
No, I don't. Anytime I recognize someone's name from a book or author, I'm charmed. Books are a huge part of my life; I'm not sure I would have survived childhood without them. They were my escape; the characters were my friends; the authors my heroes. All of my children's names will be inspired by books I love or authors I admire. If people find that pretentious, I don't give a flying f*ck. They can go live their own life and name their children whatever they like.
If I met a baby D'Artagnan and excitedly started talking about the novel with his parents and they couldn't follow along with the conversation, then yes, I'd think they were pretentious fools who picked the name because it was from a book (or in this case, probably the movie/s) rather than a true love of the book or character, but my first thought would not be a negative one.
I think I read the same article! As I remember, the author also points out that Atticus isn't exactly a tireless crusader against the forces of racism -- he's a good guy, but also smugly complacent in his upper-class white life. He also treats a victim of rape and incest extremely badly, voicing a misogynistic, dismissive attitude towards women's claims of sexual assault that was endemic during that time (and still is, I'd argue). Atticus was singing kumbayas while his neighbors were being lynched. That's hardly the kind of role model I would want for my sons. If you want to name your kid after a Civil Rights hero, how about Bayard Rustin or one of the lawyers who defended the Scottsboro Boys?
Originally Posted by ellenelle
ALL of this! I am guilty of liking many, many things that many people would call pretentious or -gasp- even snobby. I have always shrugged it off. I've been a voracious reader and enthusiastic learner since I was four, so I'm naturally drawn to things that I've learned about. I love names that have some great story behind them, either from history or literature. Atticus is a particularly wonderful name because it has a pleasurable sound, literary AND ancient connections. How wonderful not only to set a good example for your child but also to be able to sit down with him or her some day and be able to explain the stories to them. The names are more meaningful when there's a story behind them, at least to me. I know not everyone sees it that way and wants a more down to earth name, but I'm not that way, so why would I want my kids' names to be? I just shrug at it.
Originally Posted by celianne
I completely feel the same. It's very pretentious and eye-roll worthy to me. Atticus is the one that grinds my gears like none other, that and Holden.
I'm of mixed feelings; I know people (3 separate couples) who have all named a daughter Scout without having read To Kill a Mockingbird. And I roll my eyes HARD at them all, because it seems so pretentious to me to be like "Her name is Scout, like To Kill a Mockingbird," when you don't even understand who Scout is or why she's the type of character you want your daughter to admire. I know people who consider famous book/author names simply to make themselves look more intellectual; an example of this is my cousin, who would genuinely name a child something like Tennyson or Salinger, but who hasn't voluntarily picked up a book in over a decade.
On the other hand, there are many people who truly love the literature and characters and authors they have encountered. I consider myself one of these people. I was that kid in elementary school who got in trouble for reading at recess instead of playing. I was bullied throughout Junior High and High School and can honestly say that there were times when my books were my only friends. Reading was my first true love, it's my escape, my favorite pastime. I also have an intense love of collecting books and have about 6 bookshelves' worth of books scattered throughout my house.
My future kids won't have any choice about whether they become book lovers; even the kids I nanny for have become voracious readers.
To Kill a Mockingbird is the one being discussed more here, and I think it is because we all read it so young and it stuck with us. I know, for myself, Atticus and Scout were my favorite characters. When it comes down to it, my kids probably won't have a literary first name, but i love the idea of giving them middle names from books that touched my life.
I think, perhaps, the reason people tend to gravitate towards the same literary names (like Atticus) is because those books are so familiar and loved; they're like the comfort food of literature. There does seem to be a bit of trying to seem intellectual in these names, I think, because there are a lot more Scouts than Hermiones.
This has been long and rambling, but my general point is that i like literary names but i do think it can be pretentious. As long as you don't name your kids with the intent of making yourself look better/smarter/more cultured, I think it's fine.
Exactly! I'd love to have name with a literary connect, at least a better one than my name's stereotype (Cecilia=rich, prissy, spoiled brat). The rest of my name has a correlation, but I wasn't named FOR it, so it's meaningless on that front. I'd want a much better story for my kids, personally, and why not a real STORY?
Originally Posted by alphabetdem
The literature clearly had an impact on the parents, and by saying it's pretentious you're saying that you don't appreciate the meaning behind that. Or that you're assuming they don't, which is just silly.
There's a lot of names I'm considering JUST because of their literary or cultural connections:
Atticus (To Kill a Mockingbird)
Paul (Dune, Frank Herbert)
Gerard (Lead singer of My Chemical Romance, my favorite band)
Calvin (& Hobbes)
Hugo (Les Miserables author)
Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird)
Valentine (Ender's Game)
Liesl (The Sound of Music)
Helena (A work of my own; Helena Bonham Carter)
Matilda (Both the movie and the book)
Coraline (The book)
I have absolutely sound and legitimate reasoning behind all of these for precisely WHY I would choose to name a child after them. Am I being pretentious because I love something and want to reflect that with my children? How is this so different from choosing nature names because you love nature? Or family names because you're close to your family? How is that any different from using a name because it has a good definition? A lot of names mean things like 'gift from god' or 'light' or 'beautiful' or 'strong' or 'warrior,' how is that not an expectation, how is that not pretentious?
Using names from To Kill a Mockingbird doesn't make you a pretentious prick. It makes you a literature nerd; To Kill a Mockingbird not only has a LOT of good, moral messages (ASIDE from racism, like acceptance and curiosity and integrity), it is a beautifully written book. There were times when I was reading it that I stopped and reread a sentence, because I wanted to feel the joy of reading something so perfect again. I can quote it all I want, but nothing makes a statement like bringing another person into this world and telling them that I love them as much as I love my work, my passion.
Yeah, okay, if they haven't read it and say that it's the REASON they used it for their child, that's kind of pretentious. But why should that be the assumption? Why jump to the conclusion that they just did it for appearances? Why not think, 'Wow, they must have really loved that book' instead of 'Oh, they're pretentious try-hards?'
Oh yes. That's what bugs me I think. But I am contradicting myself, I've got literary names on my list. But they're not that obvious I think. Besides, I am sick of meeting Atticus's and Holden's that are named for those characters (who wants to name their son after Holden anyway? Unless you're sixteen...). If you name your kid Atticus after Titus Pomponius Atticus I'd be much happier. But this might also be because I don't like To Kill a Mocking Bird, it's not that great (it might indeed be the most hyped book ever) and neither is the leading man (as was pointed out above). And the surname thing... Yes I find Salinger to be a very pretentious name. And I am saying this as a huge Salinger fan, Franny & Zooey is one of my favourites. If you choose the surname of such a famous writer it is because you want people to make that association immediately.
Originally Posted by poppy528