Do you remember the Bob Newhart Show? I don’t mean the one where he’s a psychologist in Chicago in the 1970s, but the one where he runs an inn in Vermont in the 1980s. He has those neighbors, “I’m Larry. This is my brother Daryl, and this is my other brother Daryl.” My dad loved that show, so of course I did too.
I’m in the process of naming (and renaming) some characters in my WIP, and I was thinking about names that come from certain eras. Like the name Daryl, for instance. I went to high school with a lot of guys named Daryl. Wrestlers, mathletes, band guys, cowboys, all manner of Daryls.
However, now that I’m easing out of the baby-naming years, I realized I don’t know anyone at all in my generation or younger who is naming a child Daryl. The ladies who wrote “Beyond Jennifer and Jason” would say it’s in “fashion limbo,” I imagine. It’s not being used for girls or for boys by anyone in my circles of acquaintance, despite the fact that there was that gorgeous actress from Splash named Daryl Hannah. The name didn’t seem to make that boy-name-to-girl-name crossover like so many other names (Taylor, Dakota, etc.)
Names sometimes have an era. Not all. Some are more timeless. But a lot of them have an era. So when I’m writing a story, I think it’s important for me to choose names for the characters that reflect the age or era in which they might have been born. I’ve often picked up a story with a historical setting but the character has a super-modern trendy name and it’s off-putting. Sometimes it bumps me out of the story so much I have to put the book down.
So, yeah. Back to work on the WIP, galley slave. Maybe I’ll name someone Larry…
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I noticed that issue with the Young Women manuals for church when I taught. I would read the stories to the girls, but think, “No one names their kids Karen and Susan anymore . . .”
Exactly, Wendy! They’re the same lessons my mom was teaching in 1971 to the Laurels. And sometimes the little boys in the primary manuals are named “Timmy.” Have you seen that? Still, I can’t help but think how many great-grandmas there will be named Jennifer in a few decades. It’ll be the quintessential granny name!
Call me crazy, but I think “Lisa” just rolls off the tongue in any era. 😉 So with you both on the YW manuals. I always changed the names so the girls didn’t conjure up their great aunt when I was telling them the stories.
Quick thinking, Lisa!
Can I put a plug in for using names we can pronounce? At least mostly? I don’t mind unusual names, but if my brain has to stop and reread the word a few times while I try to sound it out loud, I am definitely not in the story!! Thanks for the post, sorry for the rant. Good luck naming your characters…
Thank you, Tamara! I totally agreed. Uh, except in my last novel I had to throw in Japanese names because it was set in Japan, which pained me immensely because I knew they were going to be tricky for the reader. I TRIED so hard to go for names that were familiar to the American ear, but with the sumo stage names I just couldn’t always do that! Ugh! However, HENCEFORTH I shall comply with your rant, happily! (Good points. Seriously.)
I think names are huge! Some just come to me, but others I spend a lot of time on – looking for meanings, time periods, and just the sound.
Thanks, Teri. I think so too. Some of my favorite things are that baby naming book I mentioned, and the subsequent updates to it, as well as the Social Security dot gov website under baby names. It has lists of popular baby names by year for the past 10-20 years, and by decade before that. Very useful when I’m trying to get the period name right. (I hate it when I’m reading a so-called regency novel or something and the protagonist’s name is Kailee or Kaden! Pet peeve. Mini-rant.)
I have to laugh at all of the above! My pet peeve in the naming category are what I call “Utah names.” These are names that combine parts of two parents’ names–like Roydeen, or Davinda. Or, worse yet, the childhood “play” names. Like Laraya, or Marakinsia. Oh, and don’t even get me started on those poor people who get last names for all their names. My nephew just had a baby girl and named her Campbell Dooley Anderson. No kidding. Poor child.
Personally, I like “real” names. Names that come from ancestors, or history, or even the girl I went to high school with. I’ve noticed that old-fashioned names seem to be making a come-back. Names like Hazel and Margaret. Not my favorite names, but at least, they’re real names.
So, if Lassie is still rescuing Timmy from the well, and Susan is still roaming the YW manuals, so be it. Somehow, I still like that better than the angst Lasheena and Tashawnda may be experiencing.
Marakinisia? Tell me you don’t know anyone by that name really.
Did you ever read the Seriously So Blessed blog? Her (fake) kids were Alivyiah TreCole and Tridger Kaegrin. Classic.