By Emily Cardoza
There is no play that illustrates the biting wit of Oscar Wilde better than The Importance of Being Earnest. And with a pun on names central to the plot, how could I miss the chance to make it my newest installment of Literary Names, in which I play the game of finding substitutes for the character names?
Since Jack is so popular, I decided that deriving from Ernest would be more of a challenge. Erno is the Finnish version of the name, with the trendy trait of ending-in-O. Erno is also the first name of Erno Rubik, inventor of the Rubik’s Cube, and I thought a play with so many twists and turns would make it a nice homage. Terach means “silly old fool,” which describes Jack‘s character perfectly. I also like the sound of a closed-end middle name with an open first.
This is quite a stretch, but it was hard to find names related to Algernon – “mustachioed man” – and Moncrieff – “hill covered by trees.” I decided that since both names relate to something hidden (a face and a hill), I’d choose a substitute that meant hidden – Zephaniah, “God has hidden.” Winslow means “friend’s hill,” which relates to both the original last name and the friendship between the two main characters.
With alternative spelling Gwendolyn rising up the charts (currently at #420), finding a unique version of this name wasn’t too difficult – I like the very Welsh version, Gwynna. Fairfax means “blond,” as does Finley. The double “in” sound of the name is a bit silly, but so is Gwendolen‘s character – ditzy, romantic and funny.
While Cecily is very appealing, I though going back to the long feminine version might be more fun for the naive young woman in Wilde’s play. Both names mean “blind,” another reference to the obliviousness of the character. Cardew and Darcy both mean “dark fortress,” and the peppy Darcy livens up the classic Cecilia. I think this name could actually be found on a birth certificate!
Lady Bracknell is a rich, rather pompous character, so I wanted a name that would fit both her age and relate to the original name. Bracknell means “where the ferns grow,” so I decided on Fernanda. The name also means “bold voyager”, and “bold” is spot-on. Grady means “noble,” and I like the “gray” sound in it to match her old age.
Immediately upon hearing the word prism, I think of rainbows. While Rainbow isn’t an unheard-of name, I wanted something a little more mature and conservative, but still feminine. Iris fits the bill – it means “rainbow” and is currently at #245. I wanted a middle name that defined more about her character, and I found Rin, a Japanese name that means “dignified, severe or cold.”
For a man whose name refers to the religious clothes he wears, I thought going full-religious might be fun. Prescott means “priest’s cottage” and Churchill means – you guessed it – “hill of the church.” I think the two names together are also a little stuffy, like the reverend himself.
Tell me what you think in the comments! Would you have made any different substitutes?