Engraved Silver Cup

Silver Baby Cup. Engraved with my original, but not official, name.

I think names very important; they are the first things I settle on when starting a story. I can spend a week or more searching for a true fit — is “Carly” appropriate for the time period and the personality I imagine? Is “Meghan” overused? “Star” too fancy? In one of my novels, the lead was named Anna by her parents. She hated the name – plain and ordinary – so in the fifth grade she added two “h”s. Voila – Hannah. Here’s a bit from that same novel; mother and daughter are talking about family:

“There were seven Lydia’s in that family. Thank heavens they didn’t name her Lydia.” Mother makes a sound that I recognize as a snort. “Miss Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound.”

Okay, my family is weird that way. Focused on names. Long discussions on what to call the baby. No one cares if Fleda was your favorite aunt; Phoebe sounds like a cat. Fierce squabbles over pet names. PacoBell’s pretty mild. Orbital. Mr. Spam Beauyardee. Spamby for short. Keep-off-the-Rug and You-Too, Daddy’s suggestion for a pair of kittens. Claire named her fish Hootenanny and Joshua’s snake was Pencil. Names made us laugh. Meant something. We kids once had a dentist who said that he knew how a child was going to behave based on his name. If I recall, “Brian” and “Carol” were best behaved; “Janet” was stoic; “Wesley” a whiner; “Ricky” and “Cassie” bound to be devilish.

My parents named me Teresa so they could call me Terry. Very confusing; am I official today or just myself? The “y” got changed to an “i” in 7th grade. There were 3 other Terry’s in my grade, all boys, so guess what gym class was listed on my schedule? And guess how loud the hooting when I showed up. After that I morphed into Terri, a girl, thank you very much! My middle name is Nan, which I always liked, despite my sister calling me Terri Nanny Goat! In any case, I think my parents found a name for me that is a true fit.

Comments

  1. Cat says:

    It’s astonishing how many people I’ve met who have altered their names to better fit their personalities at some point in their lives. My parents named me Catherine so that they could call me Cathy. Some of my earliest memories are of trying to get my teachers and friends to call me something else! Yet it wasn’t until college that I started going by Cat.

    Today, Cat is my “real” name, appearing on my bylines and business cards, even though my official ID still reads Catherine. Whenever I tell friends and colleagues I was once called Cathy, their reactions remind me of my own childhood squirms and grimaces. No – I’ve never been a Cathy!

  2. Hi Terri – I often use Google to research the baby names that are popular during a particular period of time. This might be for my own writing, or for client work where I need to protect the identity of the personm I’d interviewed.

    An interesting wrinkle that I saw recently was used by a successful novelist (sold a lot of books which may or may not make her successful by your standards). After she’d written several books, some of her friends asked her to please include their names (first names) in one of her books. She decided to do that, where appropriate, but the deal is that the person whose name is used must contribute a small amount to a particular charity. I thought that was interesting!

    • Terri says:

      That’s a really nice idea. So do you want me to use your name? I’m starting a new novel set in the medieval era and Barbara would be appropriate 🙂

  3. Hi Terri – I often use Google to research the baby names that are popular during a particular period of time. This might be for my own writing, or for client work where I need to protect the identity of the person I’d interviewed.

    An interesting wrinkle that I saw recently was used by a successful novelist (sold a lot of books which may or may not make her successful by your standards). After she’d written several books, some of her friends asked her to please include their names (first names) in one of her books. She decided to do that, where appropriate, but the deal is that the person whose name is used must contribute a small amount to a particular charity. I thought that was interesting!

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