Friday, May 15, 2009
Writers' Name Resources
I've just made my way through Clans and Families of Ireland: The Heritage and Heraldry of Irish Clans and Families by John Grenham, which, besides being a good, basic guide to Irish surnames, is also a "pretty" book: full of photos of the Isle and drawings of coats of arms. (I love coats of arms with strange things on them. A cross and a red hand: okay. A cross, a red hand, AND a gold hedgehog standing on a unicorn: perfection.)
This made me think of other name books I've read. When I was younger, I used to spend days going through Best Baby Name Book In The Whole World by Bruce Lansky (possibly still my favorite baby name book).
Then I'd have huge lists of characters with amazing, meaningful names, who I'd never write any stories about. (Plot wasn't my strong point.) When I started writing stories on a deadline, I'd tack "temporary" names onto my characters, hoping to come up with something more purposeful later. Eventually, I'd turn the stories in with the temporary names still in place.
But I'm easing my way back into name-meanings--not just the literal definitions of characters' names, but the cultural connotations too. (For example, in Susan Glaspell's play The Verge, the main character has relationships with three different men--Harry Archer, Richard Demming, and Tom Edgeworthy--they become "every Tom, Dick, and Harry," a sort of Greek chorus for the socially acceptable.)
Literal name definitions, however, still fascinate me, and I've collected a handful of baby name books. I thought I'd see if anyone had a favorite name book or website that he/she'd recommend. Suggestions?
(Images from BooksUlster.com and Mommie Books.)