Category: Caroline Leavitt novelist

Secrets of a Professional Namer

Novelist Caroline Leavitt, author of the New York Times bestselling Pictures of You, has had not one dream job but two.  Before she became a full-time writer, she was a professional namer, naming not books or characters but everything from phones to bras.  Her story:

I was writing high fashion copy at Macy’s when my boss asked me to come up with names for a new cosmetic shop. “Five hundred of them,“ she told me.

She wanted names that sounded Italian. (Plissamo. Glissatto.) Names that were Italian. (Fellini.) Names that sounded like Edenic places. (Bliss.) Names that were Edenic places (Roma, Paris, or yup, Eden.)

I sat down with a thesaurus and a dictionary and began making lists of names. Sometimes I rifled through magazines for inspiration, or sat there dreaming as one word seemed to flow into another. It took me about three days to come up with a list, but even then I wasn’t finished. Next the names had to go through legal to make sure no one else had already used the name, and if it was a good one, they usually had. This winnowed my list down quite a bit. Then they had to run it through a language test, because you didn’t want a name being chosen that meant “likes to sleep with goats” in Swahili.

But alas, as it often happens, none of my names were chosen because the shop was never built.

Still, I named kids’ dressing rooms (Presto Chango!) I named a bra (Barely There). I found to my surprise that I was good at it, and boy, was it fun.

Read More