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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    east of the sun, west of the moon

    Ruined names: Tamerlane?

    At what point do you consider a name too tainted to use? I'll use Tamerlane as a current example only because it's the name that got me thinking about it. I have a pretty major character in a finished novel currently going through the second editing process named Tamerlane. He's part of an extreme religious order that practices acts of (magical) terror on innocent people in a high fantasy novel. Fantasy or not, it's a little unfortunate.

    When I heard the name of the Boston bomber that died last week, I have to admit my very first thought was, "Well, shit, is that all people are going to think if they ever read this stupid book?!"

    His name was Tamerlan, not Tamerlane, but it's the first place my head went and I'm sure others would as well.

    Obviously, historically Tamerlane has been around a lot longer than the most recent one, but I don't have a lot of faith in people's historical knowledge.

    So what ruins a name? The scope of the atrocities committed by someone of the same name? Ex: Adolf

    The rarity of their name? Ex: Timothy McVeigh didn't ruin Timothy, did Tamerlan Tsarnaev ruin Tamerlan/e?

    Something else? Why are some names taboo and other names somehow survive the crimes committed by those with the name?

    FWIW, I won't be changing my character's name, but I can't help but feel that it's... well, spoiled, at least for the next 30 (?) or so years.
    Last edited by redwoodfey; April 25th, 2013 at 05:09 AM. Reason: I need to go to bed!
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  2. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    London, England
    I actually find this rather intriguing. Some names become unusable (like Adolf) while others don't. I've seen Roman being discussed on nameberry many time, people are wondering if they can use it due to the Polanski association (a man who is a great artist and did one wrong thins) but I've never seen anyone have trouble with Charles (although Charles Manson did some of the most horrible evil things ever). Ivan is too common only to be associated with Ivan the Terrible... and Joseph as well (Stalin). I think it's a mix, obviously a very common name will never be associated with only someone who did something very bad, but in the case of Adolf, that was not a rare name. After world war two the name Vidkun was banned in Norway because of a traitor (and that was a rare name).

    I honestly didn't know the bomber was called Tamerlan, and people do forget these things rather quickly (not to diminish what happened).

    I was quite curious to see the Norwegian name statistics from 2012 to see if the name Anders had gone down in popularity after the shootings in 2011, but I haven't found anything. And the name is probably too established anyway.
    My darling Marian Illyria Aphrodite, March 2013 & Little Bunny (a girl!) due 9th of February 2014

  3. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    I think it depends how common or established the name is in the country/countries most directly affected by it, and how much attention the media gives to the perpetrators. For example, Charles and Timothy are perennially popular, so the Manson/McVeigh associations are only minor ones compared to all the other famous Charles and Timothys - Prince Charles, for example. I think with Adolf it was more the scale of the atrocity and the fact that in English speaking countries at least, it wasn't that well known or popuar, a bit like Saddam Hussein, where it's a much more popular first name in Islamic countries than in the US or UK. So for an English/American kid to be named Adolf or Saddam, where the general population only have the one, negative, association with the name, it will be much worse than Joseph or Ivan, who both did equally bad things.

    With Tamerlan, it's interesting, because it's the sort of name that could have become more accessible in English speaking countries - it has a surname vibe, which is trendy right now, is easy to say and spell and is also uncommon - things a lot of parents might want. His brother has a much more difficult name which I don't think will ever be usable - from memory it's something like Dzokhar pronounced Jo-kar. How badly Tamerlan will be affected I honestly don't know. He's the dead brother, so I'd imagine subsequent media focus will be on the living brother, especially if or when it goes to trial.

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  4. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    I see I'm not alone in noticing the names too, I felt rather guilty to be noticing stuff like that. Tamerlan seemed to have potential too, with Tam as a nickname, etc.

    I do think Tamerlan will be ruined, because it wasn't well known in the US when the bombings happened. I think how common the name is really plays a role. Now will it be usable in Europe ? Probably more so because people will forget faster, and also we are closer to countries where it is used more often.

    I agree with essjay's analysis that for Adolf, the name wasn't that common in English speaking countries which is why it easily became taboo.

  5. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    New Jersey
    So good to know I'm not alone in my mania!

    When I first saw the name, Tamerlan, I thought - What a cool name! Can't wait to share with the Berries - then, OMG! WHAT am I thinking? There was a bombing!

    So we are a little obsessed!

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