When It Comes to Character Names in Fiction, These Monikers Have Meaning

A character name can be any name, but sometimes it’s a very significant name.

Take Christopher Newman in Henry James’ The American. He’s depicted as seemingly a new type of man — unlike the supposed old type of men in the Europe visited by U.S. citizen Christopher.

In a later novel, Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, we have 19th-century character Newland Archer — who lives in the “new land” of the U.S.

The idea for this blog post was suggested by my friend and National Society of Newspaper Columnists colleague Suzette Martinez Standring, who mentioned the Gogol character in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. Gogol’s father gave his son that name after the father’s life was saved in a train accident by a collection of Russian writer Nikolai Gogol’s short stories.

How about Roger Chillingworth of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter? That malevolent husband of Hester Prynne is…chilling.

On a more positive note, the first name of majestic attorney Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird just sounds so…majestic.

And Valancy Stirling of L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle has a character that’s…sterling.

Also, we have the “Plain Jane” trope, embodied by Jane Chapman before she undergoes a change in Liane Moriarty’s superb Big Little Lies (which I read this past week) and the iconic star of  Jane Eyre (though Charlotte Bronte’s novel predates that trope’s origins).

In Wuthering Heights by Charlotte’s sister Emily Bronte, the name Heathcliff has a raw, wild, earthy quality befitting that force-of-nature character.

Then there’s Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, of Walter Mosley’s mystery novels, whose first and last names juxtapose that character’s traits of having a prophetic, almost-biblical sense of justice combined with a relatively casual nature.

And the long-living Lazarus Long in a number of Robert A. Heinlein’s science-fiction works.

How about all the meaningful names in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series? Among them are the spacey/kindhearted Luna Lovegood, the tricky and weird Bellatrix Lestrange, the always-takes-umbrage Dolores Umbridge, the snake-like yet not-snake-like Severus Snape, and the mostly villainous Malfoy family — whose last name alludes to the French term for bad faith.

Then there’s the initials method of giving characters significant names. The semi-autobiographical protagonist in David Copperfield has the same-but-flipped initials of that novel’s author Charles Dickens — who of course also created many colorful/quirky characters with colorful/quirky names such as Ebenezer Scrooge, Uriah Heep, Wilkins Micawber, Martin Chuzzlewit, Betsey Trotwood, Cornelia Blimber, Kit Nubbles, Polly Toodle, Thomas Gradgrind, Fanny Squeers, and Newman Noggs.

Other initials-meaningful protagonists include Edith Wharton’s greedy/materialistic Undine Spragg (same opening letters as the United States) from The Custom of the Country; Jack London’s semi-autobiographical Martin Eden title character (“me,” i.e. London); and John Steinbeck’s righteous/injustice-fighting Jim Casy, the ex-preacher in The Grapes of Wrath with the same initials as Jesus Christ.

What names in literature strike you as being significant to the characters?

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece, which looks at the death of an historic movie theater and a very much alive development travesty near my local library, is here.

85 thoughts on “When It Comes to Character Names in Fiction, These Monikers Have Meaning

      • Indeed, and all part of the layers that make up the story.

        I have the annotated ‘Alice in wonderland’ to read, which I’m really looking forward to. I would find it a joy to have the time and be able to give each book a thorough ‘check under the bonnet’ (so to speak). The story of the story is so often (almost more) intriguing.

        Elena’s comments earlier in this thread about the Russians were really interesting, but I had such a lot of trouble trying to log in that I didn’t get a chance to ‘like’ them. They have been noted though!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I just reread Elena’s comment, and it was indeed fascinating and very informative!

          Hope you enjoy the annotated “Alice,” if you have the time to get to it. (I loved seeing the phrase “check under the bonnet,” which wasn’t familiar to me. 🙂 )

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I couldn’t not comment (I can’t help myself!)….Daisy and Myrtle in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ have names very reflective of their characters.
    Also in Susan Hill’s ‘The Woman in Black’ she uses names to good effect in her exploration of the gothic genre.
    ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ of course….
    I often look into the names of characters funnily enough, as well as the pen names of authors, as they can reveal interesting details.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sarah! Glad you commented! Excellent observations — including about those two names in “The Great Gatsby.” And of course that novel’s title character changed his name somewhat to sound wealthier and more blue blood.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah names… names… a favorite thing of mine. ALl the Dickens’ names are amazing. He really knew how to do that. And when a name is plain like Nancy in Oliver Twist well it is absolutely right. He knew how to get that balance. I do think it is vital to name your characters with care. And I have found that changing the name can quite change either the character or indeed how the other characters react to that character. I remember reading how Scarlett O’Hara was going to be called Pansy. I always wonder just how big a success that book would have been had it not been changed. I also think for the same reason that house names or place names, if invented are just as important in terms of taking time and reflecting on the book, the themes, the characters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Shehanne! I agree about the names of Dickens’ characters — he created so many amazing monikers. And great point about the balance of some plain names in his novels.

      Yes, character names are so important. Scarlett being called Pansy would definitely have had a BIG effect on readers’ perception of that vivid protagonist.

      The names of made-up places are indeed important, too! One of my favorites is Shangri-La in James Hilton’s mesmerizing 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.”

      Liked by 1 person

          • I think you’re right. I am sure the edition I have, is from the 1970s film in terms of the cover and it says so on the front. And I remember my dad saying something about …’Oh that’s an old story,’ and how it was a best seller, maybe the first as in mass market paperback at the time. He was a great reader. BTO started your book. It is great. Nice and chatty, not too heavy as in blahing on for pages about their lives, so you think, oh look read the next one. And great shares and observations. Really enjoying it.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the earliest significant namings in fiction was self-conferred.

    In the Odyssey, Odysseus tells Polyphemus, the cyclops whom he blinds, that his name is “Noman”, so that later, when the wounded giant calls out to his fellows to come to his aid, and they ask who has hurt him, the cyclops answers, at least as his fellows hear it, ‘No man’. Therefore they do not attack the Greeks’ ship, and Odysseus and his crew escape unharmed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow — that’s fascinating, jhNY! (As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never read “The Odyssey.”)

      This is a big leap, but the Norman/No Man thing you described reminded me of “Not Me” — the ghost-like character who appears when the kids deny wrongdoing in Bil Keane’s “The Family Circus” comic… 🙂


      • That is a great connection to make– and probably the first time Keane has ever been connected to Homer anyplace! As you know, I have a good-sized love for the funny papers, and have even enjoyed Keane from time to time– his heart seems to be in the right place, even if the rest of him tends to clunkiness. Heck, I was even fond of the clumsy stylings of Bushmiller!

        Don’t know whose translation to recommend, but I’d bet you would enjoy The Odyssey, and it would go by as fascinating entertainment as opposed to the dull fulfillment of some cultural obligation.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, jhNY! “The Odyssey” and “The Family Circus” also have “The” in common… 🙂

          “The Family Circus” and “Nancy” were indeed pretty funny in their way, even as the drawing of those comics was not exactly “Calvin and Hobbes”-like in gracefulness. And, as I might have mentioned before, Bil Keane was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. When he’d speak at cartoonist gatherings and use adult/sarcastic humor rather than the kid-oriented humor he was known for in newspapers, he was absolutely hysterical.

          Maybe I should try “The Odyssey” one day, if my local library has a good, fairly modern translation. That’s how I finally enjoyed “The Canterbury Tales” a few years ago.


    • My original comment seems to have disappeared. I’ll try again.

      Several great examples mentioned here, and of course, one could spend pages on Dickens characters alone. I suspect he was influenced by what appeared to be a comic British tradition of giving characters appropriately humorous names. I know Shakespeare did that a lot in his comedies e.g. Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek, both from ‘Twelfth Night’.

      Henry James also put some effort into character names as well. In ‘Daisy Miller’, for example, the title character is a flower, a daisy, that dies in the frigid winter climate. The male protagonist who cannot liberate himself from a rigid value system is named Frederick Winterbourne.

      In another great James novella, ‘The Beast in the Jungle’, the main character is named John Marcher, a man who feels he is predestined in a sense to “march” to a spectacular fate that will descend on him unsuspected, like a ‘beast in the jungle’. He spends several years of his life in these self-absorbed discussions with his female friend, May Bartram. May is quite intelligent and (to me) extraordinarily patient to listen to Marcher’s speculations. Marcher never develops a closer intimacy with May, keeping a protective wall around himself, either completely oblivious or willfully neglectful of the hints that May gives him that SHE is the spectacular fate he could have if he could accept her. May is a very springlike name, similar to Daisy, but she, like other Jamesian tragic heroines, dies of an undisclosed fatal disease. Visiting her gravestone, Marcher FINALLY has the realization that had eluded him for so long, when it is too late. Marcher also evokes the month of March, when winter is coming to an end and the possibilities of Spring begin to be apparent, whereas in May everything has blossomed to full fruition.

      James’s friend Edith Wharton was influenced by him in several respects including his naming conventions. Her male protagonist in ‘The Age of Innocence’ is Newland Archer. ‘Newland’ evokes James’ Christopher Newman, whereas ‘Archer’, of course, comes from Isabel Archer. There are several other examples if I took the time and thought but this is enough for now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very sorry about the posting problems, Brian. Wish I knew what was causing them.

        Yes, Dickens did not invent the comic-character-name thing, though he took it to an amazing level. Plenty of humorous monikers in Shakespeare, as you noted, as well as in 18th-century novels such as “Joseph Andrews.” And I’m sure in writing long before Henry Fielding and Shakespeare.

        GREAT examples of significant names in various Henry James works. And though I knew James’ character names had some influence on Edith Wharton’s character names, I hadn’t made the Archer connection you mentioned. Wow!


  4. Hello to all: I just wanted to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving! I must admit to having a problem with this holiday in that there are many who don’t have nice families or friends to spend the day with. So here go my favorite thanks for today:
    1) Thanks to all of the authors who have enriched my life with their books, poetry and plays;
    2) Thanks to all the musicians who have been the soundtrack of my life;
    3) Thanks to all of the medical personnel who have literally saved my life at least 3 times;
    4) Thanks to those in my family who have stood by me through thick and thin;
    5) Thanks to all of my friends from grade school through high school that I reconnected with a few years ago and are now amongst my staunchest supporters;
    6) A special thanks to you, Dave, as the one who brought me together with you, all the commenters here, and to those I’ve established email friendships with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your wonderful comment! 🙂 🙂 Beautifully written, with beautiful sentiments. Your generous list says it all.

      A Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Kat Lib, and to everyone else who reads — and comments in — this blog. I am very grateful to know all of you — virtually and/or in real life — and admire your knowledge of literature, your insights on current events, your friendliness, your humor, and more!


  5. “Then there’s Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, of Walter Mosley’s mystery novels..”

    There’s also Mosley’s later Leonid McGill, who got his first name from his commie dad– but I don’t know which Party stalwart (Brezhnev?) was inspiration…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, here’s a name I always hoped had absolutely no significance or reference: Dick Diver, protagonist of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night”. I have always idly wondered about this one– slang terms being surprisingly durable and old– how could the author not have noticed? Or worse, how could he, if having noticed, saddle his character with such an off-putting moniker? How did Maxwell Perkins allow it to pass? Fitzgerald, had, in my opinion, a weakness when it came to names, from time to time– see the party scene at Gatsby’s– and arrived at low humor more than once, whatever he thought he was aiming for.

    Then there’s Natty Bumppo…

    On an unrelated note, I was recently in Philadelphia, and found myself with more time to kill before departure than I had anticipated, occasioning a visit to the train station’s bookstand. There, a certain writer (whose wife had once suggested, should he ever need to find new work, that he might, given his size, hire out as a ‘reacher’ in shops so as to as aid the height-challenged by retrieving items for them on the high shelves) could have seen, as I did, another portion of his authorial master plan on full display: all the Lee Child books on offer were arranged between books by Chandler and Christie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, of course jhNY, that seems to be a given to me. I frequent several Barnes & Noble stores, and though similar in many ways, there’s one that insists on putting the mystery authors on varying shelves, so that at least a quarter of them are too high to reach without getting a store employee to get on a step stool to get one down. So much for just browsing around and reading the backs of any one of their books.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, jhNY, for the interesting comment!

      The Dick Diver name IS a bit of a puzzler from a literary writer, but writers can be…complicated. Heck, there’s some pretty “low-brow” humor in the works of “high-brow” such authors as Herman Melville.

      Natty Bumppo is puzzling, too. He’s a brave, mostly dignified character in James Fenimore Cooper’s five Leatherstocking novels, yet he’s saddled with such a goofy name.

      Very nice Philadelphia sighting! There’s of course the well-known fact, as I’m sure you’re alluding to, of how Jim Grant created his Lee Child alias because he wanted his Jack Reacher novels to appear on shelves between the Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie books he admired.


        • Too true, Dave! Also, thanks for that interesting info about how Lee Child became Lee Child. I never knew that, but it actually was a rather brilliant marketing move on his part!

          Liked by 1 person

            • And yet, according to the write-up in the NYT that came out in the last couple of years, around, I think, the time he was writing “Make Me”, Child works on Reacher books without so much as a plot outline and seems to just go, day by day, wherever the muse takes him.

              Wodehouse, by contrast, wrote up his delightful farcical entertainments by a strict adherence to previously outlined plots, which he kept up on the wall of his room while he wrote…

              Liked by 1 person

              • I read that NYT piece, jhNY. Interesting that he planned his novel-writing career methodically yet went on to write the actual books in a rather spontaneous way.

                Didn’t realize Wodehouse wrote the way you described. His great stories and novels DO seem a lot “looser” than his writing method. Making something “look easy” often involves a lot of hard work!


  7. Does the name Bond, James Bond count as significant? I’m about to start my first Fleming and am a little excited. I’m also currently without internet so I’m posting this from my phone, but it’s Susan 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Anonymous aka Susan! The name “James Bond” IS pretty evocative. It sounds strong, manly, no-nonsense, adventurous, and all that other stereotypical macho stuff. 🙂 😦 Or maybe I’m just reading into it given what we know about him as a character. His “word is his Bond”? Whatever.

      Good luck reading Ian Fleming, and let me/us know what you think! I’ve seen a couple of Bond movies, but never read the books.


      • Susan, I think that the only Ian Fleming I’ve read was “The Spy Who Loved Me,” back in 10th grade. It was one of the first few racy novels that I ever read back in those days. But I also remember seeing the movie of that same name, and, alas, it wasn’t anything like what I remember from the book.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Dave, one of my favorite names is Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” It’s such an evil sounding name (think of wretched) for such an evil person.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dave, I’ve always been interested in names in the book by Edith Wharton, “The Custom of the Country,” which was very good, but I never figured out why the main character was named Undine Spragg until you brought it up a while ago. As I thought about it, there weren’t many female (or male for that matter) characters with first names starting with the letter U. The only one that comes to mind right now is “Ursula,” which reminds me of the evil character in “The Little Mermaid.”

    I also wanted to post my support for David Cassidy, who seems likely to not survive his organ failure. But rather than focus on “The Partridge Family,” I wanted you all to know that I had the privilege to see “Blood Brothers” on Broadway, starring David and his brother
    Shaun as the fraternal twins, and Petula Clark as their mother. It’s one of the most moving musicals I’ve ever seen, and the ending was one of the heart-rending sort that I’ll never forget.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, Kat Lib, it’s not easy to give a character a first name starting with “U”! I guess there’s also the actress Uma Thurman. The name “Undine Spragg,” in addition to its telling initials, also has a harsh sound befitting that character’s unkindness.

      A shame to hear about David Cassidy. I guess his alcoholism took a toll — 67 is not that old. Great that he and others helped make “Blood Brothers” such a memorable experience for you! “The Partridge Family,” as corny as it seems today, was a fun TV series.


      • Yes, I was very fortunate to see some great actors on Broadway or the West End over many years. Ginger Rogers in “Mame,” Bebe Neuwirth in “Chicago,” Gregory Hines and Sauvion Glover in “Jelly’s Last Jam,” Patti Lupone in “Sunset Boulevard,” and one of my favorite moments was when Martin Short came out for his first appearance in “The Goodbye Girl.” He turned, looked out at the audience and smiled — we all went nuts! I’m having a deja vu moment as I think I already posted some of this on another one of your blogs last year?

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s some serious star firepower you’ve witnessed, Kat Lib! Great memories. 🙂 If you did post some of this before, I’m not recalling — but nothing wrong with an encore!

          I’m a big fan of Martin Short — his Ed Grimley character always cracks me up.

          I haven’t attended enough Broadway plays (or any London ones) to have a lot of theater memories, but I did see Lena Horne in her one-woman show in the early 1980s. Won the tickets as a door prize at some event!


      • So I read this morning that David Cassidy had died, not surprisingly since he was going through organ failure. I don’t know why it is so much harder to accept the deaths of actors or musicians once one has seen them in a show or concert. I listened on YouTube yesterday to most of the recording of the London production of “Blood Brothers,” even though this wasn’t the production I attended but throughout I envisioned the Cassidy brothers and Petula Clark as the leads. Kiki Dee played the part of the mother, and she was great in this role!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Howdy, Dave!

    — What names in literature strike you as being significant to the characters? —

    Two score and seven years ago, I had occasion to read in quick succession the inarguably great Flannery O’Connor’s “Wise Blood” and the arguably great A. Nonymous’ “3500 Names for Baby: Boys’ and Girls’ Names Plus Every Name’s Meaning and Origin.” So it is unsurprising that I was — and am! — fascinated by the juxtaposition of “Hazel Motes” as the main character in the former (religion-centered) work of fiction and the given meaning of “Hazel” as “One Who Sees God” in the latter (dubiously sourced) work of nonfiction.

    One Who Sees God! With Motes in the Eyes!

    Cosmic, baby.

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love names and think no one has a better list of interesting names in literature than Charles Dickens. Another writer I adore is Richard Russo and the character Sully from Nobody’s Fool came to mind. He is indeed tarnished just like his name and it looks like his son may follow in his footsteps as a serial failure. Other names in the book that make me laugh – his best friend’s name is Rub and his one-legged lawyer’s name is Wirf.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Shallow Reflections! “Sully” is definitely evocative of “sullied,” and those other “Nobody’s Fool” names are also great!

      I’ve only read one Richard Russo novel — the excellent satire of academia “Straight Man,” in which the protagonist has the last name Devereaux. While I might be stretching here, that name reminds me a bit of the word deviant — which could describe some of Devereaux’s quirky (though not really harmful) traits.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hello Dave, it’s been some time since I made any comments! I’ve been too busy, and some health problems caused me to be less productive – could not work as quickly as I used to.
    I missed all of you and your intelligent and interesting posts.
    This week’s topic caught my attention – but right now I have nothing to offer, am busy packing a bag for my trip to the hospital tomorrow morning – surgery to replace my failing pacemaker.
    Just wanted to let you know, Dave and all the faithtful followers, how much I enjoyed the column and the comments – hope to be back soon and join in once again.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Oh man, what a great topic, where to start, where to start…I guess maybe with Lovelace (“Loveless”) from Clarissa.

    Dostoevsky was particularly known for his “speaking names” and Raskolnikov, for example, means “split” or “schismatic,” while the name of Raskolnikov’s sensible friend Razumikhin is from the word “razum,” or common sense. Meanwhile the loathsome Luzhin’s name comes from the word for “puddle.”

    Over in the Tolstoy camp there are also lots of speaking names, maybe most interestingly Ivan Zhilin (John Alive or John Life) in Prisoner of the Caucasus, for the character who escapes from captivity alive, both physically and spiritually. There’s a great modern movie version , by the way, called in English Prisoner of the Mountains, set during the first Chechen war. And, in related news, the star of that movie, Sergei Bodrov, played a disaffected Chechen veteran in his next movie, “Brother,” whose name is Danila (Daniel), which means “God is my judge.” Danila becomes a vigilante hitman and another character tells him, “God is your judge, Danny.”

    Female characters also often had speaking names in Russian literature, of course. Sonya from Crime and Punishment is the nickname for Sofiya, the feminine aspect of divine wisdom, and Sonya is the moral compass of the book. Margarita, the heroine of Master and Margarita, has a name that refers back to Gretchen in Faust, which is the backstory of the novel, and also to Sofiya, as Margarita means pearl, the symbol of Sofiya.

    Gosh, I could go in but maybe I’d better stop now!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Elena! Loved your excellent, wide-ranging, knowledgeable comment — filled with examples of significant naming in literature.

      And you do know tons about Russian literature! Absolutely fascinating to hear explanations of names/nicknames used in the works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc. I learned a lot! Raskolnikov meaning “split” or “schismatic” — how appropriate! That name also reminds me of the English word “rascal,” but I of course doubt Dostoevsky intended anything like that. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Elena, I’m not sure if you are still monitoring comments, but this is my 3rd time to post something to you. I’m not sure what Word Press doesn’t like about my comment, but there you go… I read War and Peace 46 years ago, but for some reason my favorite character was Masha as I remembered her as. I realized that was a nickname, so when I tried to look it up on Wikipedia today it took many searches to discover that she was Princess Maria or Marya, depending on the translator, so I hope that I’ve finally got it right! Can you please confirm that to me? Thanks so much!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh, and I should add that Russian nobles at that period would have had two names–a Russian name and a French name, and they also would have had Russian nicknames of those names as well. So Princess Marya’s “real” name was Marya, but she often went either by her French name Marie or the nickname of Marya, Masha. Likewise, Natasha’s “real” name was Natalya, but she went by the nickname Natasha and would also sometimes be called Natalie. Pierre was “really” Pyotr, aka Petya, and so on and so forth.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Elena, thank you so much for that info! It makes a lot more sense to me now about my confusion over Maria, Marya and Masha. I don’t know what happened to the paperback of the novel that I studied in my course on Leo Tolstoy back at the University of Texas at Austin, though I expect it to have been the flooded basement problem that wiped out most of my mass market paperbacks in the 1980’s. At some point in the last 7 years or so, I bought a hardcover copy of “War and Peace,” published as a 1994 Modern Library edition, translated by Constance Garnett. I’ve read some not favorable reviews of her translations, so I wonder what you think of hers. Thanks!

          Liked by 3 people

          • So Garnett’s translations are known for being less than 100% faithful to the original text. She would make the rather wild and unruly Russians more appropriate for Victorian English sensibilities by cutting out the bad words and things like that. She also worked very fast and would just skip over passages she didn’t understand. That being said, her translations sound like very natural-sounding 19th-century English novels and are very “readable,” more so in many ways than for example the P&V translation of War and Peace, which is extremely faithful to the original but can, I have been told, sound clunky and strange to the non-Russian-speaking ear.

            Liked by 2 people

    • As to Lovelace– there’s also Richard the Cavalier poet, who precedes, historically, Clarissa’s.

      The name has always suggested an overfondness for finery to me– but that may be because I’ve read the name so much more often than I have heard it– at least that’s what I would have guessed, before I remembered Linda, who reminds me of something else altogether.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. I’m sure that more characters will come to mind, but the first one that did was Lord Peter Wimsey as written by Dorothy L. Sayers. He obviously comes from an ancient aristocratic family, whose motto on their crest is “As My Whimsey Takes Me.” I always found him to be a rather whimsical character, which was more pronounced in the earlier novels than in later ones. I do remember that one of the things his future wife, Harriet, said about him was that she enjoyed hearing him talk piffle. I’ve got someone in my life who can do the same and it is a very endearing quality. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a great example, Kat Lib! I should have remembered to mention Lord Peter Wimsey after reading “Strong Poison” and “Gaudy Night” on your recommendation. He is indeed whimsical in certain ways.

      Harriet Vane’s name is also sort of meaningful. That ultra-smart character is not vain, but perhaps “Vane” conveys her knowing the right direction to take things (as in weather vane). She makes good decisions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dave, I agree with you on that about “Vane,” because she definitely knew what was the right and the wrong direction to go in when it came to her own life.

        This topic is very interesting to me as I have both a very common first and last name. These days kids are given such bizarre names, especially by celebrities, but all I wanted was something not so common. My first name is very common as a nickname, but I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me for my legal name, and I had to spend time arguing with people who didn’t believe me when I said that it was my legal name. The funny part is that when I born, my mother realized that all my older five siblings had five letters in their first names, so apparently I had to have one of that length as well!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yes, Kat Lib, there’s a happy medium between too-common names and too-UNcommon names! I agree that some celebrities are not doing their kids any favors with some of the weirder names they bestow.

          My older daughter’s first name of Maggie is NOT short for Margaret; Maggie is her full name. So I know exactly what you mean about your first name. Interesting that you and all your siblings were given five-letter names!

          My first name of David is WAY too common, but the nickname I use isn’t bad. (And my last name is totally misleading because I’m not related to the rich Astor family; the name was in fact an Ellis Island-era creation that anglicized an Eastern European name, at least from what I’ve been told.)

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, that’s what happened to most of my forebears, and the change to other more common names such as, Johnson, Carlson, Nelson, Anderson, etc. My maternal grandmother, who came as a teenager from Sweden/Finland, worked for a British family as an au pair, named all four of her children with English names: Reginald, Evelyn (my mother, and the twins Harriet and Henrietta.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Name changes and shortenings were definitely part of the immigrant experience, for better or for worse!

              And I guess there was/is a pull among some people (including your maternal grandmother!) for all things English — names included. Again, for better or for worse. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s