Category: Names from the Arts & Pop Culture

By Kathleen McIntosh

With two new Harry Potter extensions, A History of Magic and Harry Potter: A Journey Through a History of Magic, set for release on October 20, this is a good time to revisit some of J.K. Rowling’s most cleverly-named characters.

Many names are references or wordplay that, had we been aware as children, reveal that character’s role or personality. Take note, writers: you can really pack a punch with your characters’ names. It’s the kind of clever detail that makes you say “aha!” as a teenager or adult, that engages you, and surprises you years after the fact.

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Baby Name News: Stormy and Sweet

By Clare Bristow

There are lots of sweet, friendly names in the news this week, plus inspiration from French pet-owners and a whole alphabet of storm names.

Winter storm names from A-Z

Have you seen The Weather Channel’s list of winter storm names for this year? It’s not an official list like the tropical cyclone names decided by the World Meteorological Organization, but The Weather Channel says that naming a storm helps to communicate information about it. And it’s always fun to look at a list of names.

At a glance, it could almost be a nursery register. There’s Noah, Liam, Riley, Chloe (not Colbert)… in fact, 16 letters of the alphabet have names in the US Top 100. Of the others, 3 are in the Top 1000: Frankie, Toby, and high climber Kalani. The rest are outliers below the Top 1000, some of them way below: Benji, Inga, Polly, Uma, Wilbur, Xanto and Yvonne.

All those popular names and diminutives give the list of storms a rather cuddly feel, which I’m not sure is the desired effect – but maybe using well-loved favorites will help the public engage more with messages about the storms?

If you’re looking for a more obviously weather-related name, there are lots of ideas on this list.

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Celebrity Baby Names: Gunner and Lux

By Clare Bristow

This week’s news includes celebrity baby names with impact, inspiration from real-life birth announcements, and how sports fans name their kids.

Long-expected starbaby names

The Hills alums Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt dropped hints months in advance about what they wanted to name their baby. Spencer said it had to be a flashy, flashy name that isn’t even in a Google search” and that wasn’t taken on social media. This week they welcomed their son, Gunner Stone.

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Character Names: Finding the perfect one

By Kathleen McIntosh

Just as parents exhaust name books and websites searching for the name for their wee ones, so do we writers comb them too for not one or even just a handful of appellations. The prospect of naming an entire cast of characters can be overwhelming, and if perusing the SSA Top 1000 and countless other name lists isn’t your thing, here are a few methods to find the perfect character name. and  hopefully minimizing the madness!

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By Rebecca Renner

If you’re searching for a classy, smart name for your new little one, look no further than modern classic novels. The term “modern classic” refers to a novel that has been deemed–by literary critics, readers, or, more often than not, both–to be noteworthy in that it defines the time in which it was written, often elevating the mundane, the struggles of the common person, into the realm of myth. In other words, they’re meaningful, profound stories. What better place could there be to find inspiration for a meaningful baby name?

Despite using the word classic, I have tried to shy away from more classic or well-known names in making this list. So these names are more poetic and unusual and also strive for something a little different, so that some of the novels you may consider major modern classics have been omitted from this list, because their characters have more common, traditional names.

Estha– This exotic unisex name is short for Esthappen, the twin of Rahel Yuko in Arunhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. Though some pretty earth-shaking and dark things happen to Estha in Roy’s novel, he grows to become a protective and rounded character. This would be a very unusual and distinctive name for a brother.

Theo – A more common diminutive for Theodore, Theo takes on new life when associated with Theo Dekker, the hero in Donna Tartt’s coming-of-age novel, The Goldfinch. Though you may be reluctant to name a child after this accidental art thief, keep in mind the depth and growth his character shows in this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Internationally popular, Theo now ranks at #354 in the US, 33 in England and Wales, and 19 in France.

Pelagia – This beautiful name belongs to the eponymous Corelli’s lover in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernière. Also the name of several early Christian saints, including the patron saint of actresses, Pelagia is a poetic name that is begging for new life. (In the film version, Penelope Cruz plays Pelagia as shown).

Orleanna – With its origin in the place name Orléans, a city in France that the American New Orleans inherited its name from, this elegant name belongs to the heroine of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. Changed by the events of the novel, Orleanna becomes a Civil Rights activist, making her a worthy namesake.

Calliope This name represents one of the most unique characters on this list. Calliope (aka Cal) Stephanides is the intersex protagonist of Jeffrey Eugenides’s groundbreaking novel Middlesex. Cal goes through a lot in the novel, but in the end, she truly lives up to her namesake, the Greek muse of epic poetry, by being able to find beauty and meaning in life’s hardships. Calliope debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2016.

Werner & MarieLaure – The young Nazi who changes to become a hero and the blind daughter of a Parisian locksmith respectively, Werner and MarieLaure are the hero and heroine of Anthony Doerr’s much-celebrated Pulitzer-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See. Tied to the poetic imagery of a cursed jewel and an elaborate locking mechanism built to look like a miniature city, these names bring with them a wonderful lyricism that makes them stand out.

Willem & Jude – Another couple with a star-crossed fate, Willem and Jude bring a note of poetic tragedy with their classical sound. Two of the main characters of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, Willem and Jude fall in love after years of friendship, and they finally find happiness in each other’s’ arms. Jude is becoming a popular middle name for girls.

Kellen – This main love interest from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood isn’t your traditional knight in shining armor. He’s a tattooed biker, and he’s been on the wrong side of the law. And yet, he’s one of the most sincere, kind suitors I’ve read in a recent book. Though his love story is complicated and fraught, Kellen would make an excellent namesake for a rebellious but sweet boy.

Florens– In Toni Morrison’s novella A Mercy, the girl with the unusual but beautiful name Florens experiences heartache from the start. Bartered into servitude by her mother to pay their domineering owner’s debt, but years later, she experiences both love and loss, and she grows enough to become the narrator of the story.

Of course there are many other lovely and poetic names from modern literature– these only represent a few of my favorites. What would you add? Leave a comment with your favorite name from a contemporary novel.

Rebecca Renner, an MFA candidate at Stetson University, teaches American literature and creative writing in a chill Florida beach town. While not reading, writing fiction, or blogging on beckyrenner.com, Rebecca frolics with her dog Daisy Buchanan and travels.

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