Category: literary baby names
With a spot atop Amazon’s bestseller list and Hulu’s faithful adaptation of the novel recently hitting the small screen, Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale is all anyone can talk about in 2017, so now is the perfect time to think about all the great baby names we can glean from this speculative-fiction masterpiece. Check out the literary baby names from The Handmaid’s Tale I’ve selected for you below.
April showers us with poetry. It’s National Poetry Month, for one thing, and on April 23 we observe the birthday of the most celebrated poet and playwright of the English language: William Shakespeare. While the Bard would have been 453 years old this April, many of the names of his characters are still strutting on the stage. So, if you’re looking for some inspired names, these twelve characters may be just the muse you’re looking for:
By Emma Jolly
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with names.
Growing up in the English countryside, I entertained myself by making lists of names from all my favourite books. Each of my toys was named only after due consideration. I also used to write stories, usually spending more time on my characters’ names than on plots. Thinking ahead, I had full names planned for each of the nine children I intended to have. After having two real, noisy, hungry children, I decided that nine might be too many, and had to return to naming imaginary people in my fiction writing.
In my day job as a professional genealogist, I come across many interesting names. Some are useful in that they fit into a naming pattern or contain an ancestral surname that can provide clues to their family history. Others indicate a religious family, or perhaps one that is socially ambitious. Many parents in the 19th and early 20th centuries named children after family members or used fashionable options. In 1911, for example, parents opted for contemporary choices: the most popular girls names in England and Wales were Edith, Doris, Florence, Elsie and Gladys.
Those that most trigger my curiosity, however, are the names that suggest a passion of the parents for something literary, artistic, musical, or political.
Victor Hugo, the nineteenth-century French writer best known for Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, was a keen observer of people and society. I’d wager he was something of a name enthusiast, too.
His books contain not just memorably-named characters, but also a lot of comments on names.
If someone has an unusual name, it usually has a back story. For example, Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, was named after the first word in the liturgy on the day he was found as an infant.
Hugo’s characters talk about names, their own and others, just like we do in real life. In Notre-Dame, a group of women laugh at Esmeralda’s outlandish name (although they can hardly talk, with names like Amelotte, Colombe, Mahiette and Oudarde). Elsewhere, a man called Félix complains that his name is a lie because he is not happy.
Wharton was one of the first authors to write about this period, and she knew it well, having grown up in it. Her books are about not only high society – the parties, the travel, the social deals – but also the private life that went on behind it. Love affairs, secret debts, scandalous behavior, it’s all there.