Literary Baby Names: What the Dickens! Part 1
By K. M. Sheard, Nook of Names
Charles Dickens is probably the greatest of all nineteenth century novelists — and a contender for the greatest novelist of all time. His works also provide a mine of wonderful names. Here is a selection of those which have fabulous potential for a baby born two hundred years on…
Abel — a name which features in more than one Dickens novel; there’s Abel Garland in The Old Curiosity Shop, and Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations. Abel is a biblical name still waiting in the wings somewhat, though he has been rising steadily for years and broke the US Top 1000 for the first time in 2010.
Arabella — buzzing round the baby name boards as a successor to Isabella, Dickens used Arabella in Pickwick Papers for Miss Arabella Allen. In the UK, a name which until recently was regarded as rather archetypical of the Upper Class.
Barnaby — eponymous hero of Barnaby Rudge. Barnaby is another name mostly heard in British public (i.e. very expensive fee-paying) schools. It has never reached the US top 1000, but 211th in England and Wales in 2013.
Caddy — pet-name of Caroline Jellyby in Bleak House.
Charles — how can I leave out Charles? Dickens used his own name a few times, including Charles Darnay in A Tale of Two Cities, and Charles Cheeryble in Nicholas Nickleby. Use of Charles is surprisingly consistent on both sides of the Pond; in 2013 it was ranked 57 in America, and 62 in England and Wales.
Dodger — once I would have said Oliver Twist’s “The Artful Dodger” fell firmly in cat name territory, but actually, in today’s climate, maybe the world might be ready for Dodger as a bona fide name? The Artful Dodger’s real name was Jack Dawkins.
Ebenezer — Ebenezer Scrooge is one of Dickens’s best-known characters, and although at the end of the tale he becomes a kind, happy and philanthropic old gentleman, his miserly former self has blighted Ebenezer ever since. But is that changing? With a number of great nickname options, such as Eben, Ben, Eb and Zer, and the meaning “stone of help,” it’s a great name.
Hominy — Mrs Hominy is a rather stereotyped “brash American” in Martin Chuzzlewit, her name no doubt a direct pluck of hominy, the dried kernels of corn (maize) used a lot in Southern, Latin American and Caribbean cooking.
Job — borne by Job Trotter in Pickwick Papers, Job is a suprisingly neglected biblical name (although it was 114th in Holland in 2013), presumably hindered so much by the fact it looks like the word “job,” even though the pronunciation is different (rhyming with “robe”). Roll it around a few times — I think it makes for a distinctly contemporary choice if you want a simple, one-syllable name with heritage. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the greatest of meanings (“persecuted”), but that’s not stopped many another name…
Kit — Kit Nubbles (Nubbles makes a great name for a cat) is a character in The Old Curiosity Shop. A classic, old short form of Christopher, Kit has been in quiet independent use in the UK for some time.
Lowten — a clerk in Pickwick Papers.
This is adapted from a blog on K. M. Sheard’s Nook of Names. Stay tuned for Part 2 on Friday.