Mel’s Meme: Ye Olde Monikers

It is tempting – oh, so tempting! – to announce that I would name my children things like “Eomer”, “Lothirial”, “Idril”, “Beren”, “Eilonwy”, “Gwydion”, “Alighieri”, and so forth.

But sadly, I could never do such a thing.

This is not mere cowardice on my part – although I cringe to think of the looks I would receive for naming a child that – but what I would like to think of as “humanity”. As much as I love Middle Earth, my children will have to live on this earth. And deal with the societies of this earth. So, I prefer not to make it too difficult for them.

And I have long since come to the opinion that some names qualify as child abuse. Therefore, there must be rules in naming children.

Rule #1: The name must not be too cumbersome for the poor, defenceless babe who must go through life bearing this name.


Some more obscure characters do tempt me to use their names. In particular, Miss Anathama Devyce from Good Omens, whose parent chose her name based more on sound than meaning. The thing is, it is a pretty sounding name . . .

My given name means “ready for the harvest”, which is pretty prosaic. My siblings all have cool name meanings, like “grace”, “beauty”, “womanly”, “bold protector”, “strength” and “elf army”. So not fair!

My children must have name meanings that are awesome.

Rule #2: The name must be examined for both sound and meaning.


Aside from the fantastically named literary figures, there are few who would make decent patrons for baby humans.

Susan Sto Helit. Anne Eliot. Gabriel Gale. Rupert Psmith. Sam Gamgee. Princess Irene.  Sebastian Flyte.

Er, maybe not the last one.

But none of the names on their own resonate with the associations of that character. I could name child Susan, and no one know who I was naming her after.

This works the other way too. What is it with villains having nice names? I love the name Margaret, but Shakespeare’s histories have ruined that one for me.

Also, the end of the character makes a difference. Desdemona is such a pretty name, but I would prefer to lessen my child’s chances of strangling.

And authors themselves make wonderful role models, but so often their own names are strange, or ugly, or dull!

John Ronald Ruel? No thank you. Clive? Ugh.

And while I like the names “Agatha” and “Dorothy”, (although I do prefer “Dorothea”,  or even “Theodora”: they all mean “gift of God”!) I am not soooo fond of Ms. Christi or Ms. Sayers as to claim their patronage for my offspring.

And though t’would be delightful to name a man-child after Chesterton, that is a moniker of such determined presence that it would require an equally strong surname. So I cannot exactly plan on using it.

Rule #3: The name must be clearly associated with figures whom I can respect, who are decent patrons, and who do not have horrible fates.


Oh, the naming of a child is already a fearful and wonderful responsibility!

See, I am also working on a theory that names affect character.

For instance, think of all the people to you know who are named, (or go by,) “Ben”. Aren’t they all fun, odd, unique, quirky, smart people? I would not mind having a “Ben” for a child.

But I would mind having a “Fred”. All the Freds that I have known, in either fiction or real life, tend to be . . . . annoying.

Rule #4: The name must in of itself recall excellent character and personality.


These all being the case, there are very few literary characters for whom I would actually name my children.

After much thought and consideration, (and conferencing with my dad,) I managed to pull the Pevensie children to mind. And I can say with complete certainty that I would enjoy having a Lucy and an Edmund.

Also, perhaps, a Miranda, an Andromache, a Gareth, (or Gawain,) a Cúchulainn, or a Gertrude.

But in truth, there are only two characters for whom I would absolutely name my children. These I did not have to think about; they have long been lurking in the corners of my imagination, awaiting only the child.


So, unless my husband vehemently (very vehemently) objects, my first son will be named “Benedict”.

After Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. (But with a slight spelling change.) I love this name not just for it’s association, and the hope that my child will become as smart, manly and sweet as his namesake,  but for the fact that it means “Blessed”.

And, oddly enough, one of my daughters will be named “Beatrice”.

Not, shockingly, after the Shakespearian counterpart. But after Dante’s Beatrice, who guided him in Heaven.

Both these characters are ones whom I admire and respect and even love.

And, for Heaven’s sake, they both just have awesome names!


9 thoughts on “Mel’s Meme: Ye Olde Monikers

  1. Personally I think the name-meaning “ready for the harvest” is anything but prosaic. There is much meaning and poetry to be found there. “elf army” is awesome, though.

    “Fred” …Frederick Wentworth is annoying? 😉 All theories must be challenged, and I challenge your developing names-affecting-character theory! I propose that the opposite is true, that the character of people we encounter, in life and in fiction, that gives a slant to names.

    Otherwise I like your rules and your final name-choices. I, too, would turn that “k” into a “t” but Benedict and Beatrice are among my favorite names. Unfortunately, my brother’s cat is named Benedict, which could make things awkward if I named my child the same. I can just imagine that conversation.

    • Yes, the same brother whose initials spell OGRE has that awesome first name. Harvesting is dull beside that. And not very feminine either!

      And the people we meet to do tend to form our tastes for names, but haven’t you noticed that people with the same name share certain traits and characteristics? I am not sure how it works, but names do say something about the person, beyond just being a handle.

      Ooh. Yes, sadly, my family just named the new dog “Lucy”, which takes that name off my list. Pet names should have pet names, not human names! Humph!

      I do kind of dream of having twins – a boy and girl – and naming them Benedict and Beatrice. But that might make the play awkward for them later . . .

      • Nothing much can compete with elf-army, or initials like that, but I consider your name to have the best meaning, after that, of all your siblings. Consider Demeter and Yavanna! Consider the sustaining and life-giving beauty of orchard and field. Throughout history, in many cultures, women have been the harvesters, not the men.
        Then there is the spiritual to be considered. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” That in itself makes such a name-meaning as “ready for the harvest” beautiful to me. Yes, I think if I had to choose a name-meaning from your list of siblings, and elf-army was taken, I would choose “ready for the harvest” in a heartbeat. So there. 😛

        I’ve had rather the opposite experience, I fear. Maybe I am unusual in that regard, but I can’t think, off the top of my head, of anyone I know who shares a name with anyone similar in personality to them. Hmm…

        Heh. Maybe we should hand out a list of “reserved names” that shall not be bestowed upon pets.

        *chuckles* Yes, indeed.

  2. Benedict? Surely that’s almost as bad as naming your child “Quisling”. I suppose you could rely on the general ignorance of history among the population at large to spare him the mockery of his peers, but, personally, I find that particular Christian name forever marred by its most ignominious holder.

    • Oh! Well fortunately, this is a literary meme and not a historical one. (Hmm. There’s and idea!) Besides, as long as he stays away from Arnolds, he should be in the clear. The name could use some redeeming!

      And what – or who? – is a “Quisling”?

      • Vidkun Quisling, the man who collaborated with the Nazis and ran the Norwegian government while the country was occupied in World War II, had his surname pass into English as a synonym for “traitor”.

        From the OED:

        Etymology: < the name of Major Vidkun Quisling (1887–1945), Norwegian officer, diplomat, and fascist leader, who collaborated with the German forces during their occupation of Norway from 1940 to 1945 (from 1942 as Minister President).

        A. n.

        A person cooperating with an occupying enemy force; a collaborator; a traitor. Also in extended use.

        B. adj. (attrib.).

        That collaborates with an enemy; traitorous, disloyal.

    • Aye, I was thinking similarly. Benedict, to most people, suggest Benedict Arnold and his famous eggs Benedict. And even if kids don’t know of those, there would be horrible teasing regarding the latter half of the name. Shakespeare in high school and college might help redeem the name for the poor boy, as the character of Benedict is, I think, one of the Bard’s best, but it’ll still be hard going for a boy with that name. If it can be redeemed, though, without too much anguish on the boy’s part, then I’m for it.

      As for Beatrice…well, that’s probably a fine name. Personally it reminds me a bit too much of my great aunts, who had similar-ish names, and thus has the connotation of tough, stubborn old women (lovable and awesome, of course, but still tough and old). But on its own it is rather pretty, and, as you point out, has good company in both Shakespeare and Dante. I don’t think a girl would have much trouble with Beatrice as a name. It’s elegant, adorned, and inspiring of poetry.

  3. Oh hey. I just noticed “Alighieri” in your list of tempting names you’d never really use. But what do you think of “Dante”? I’ve met at least one or two out there, and I should think it would be far easier pronunciation-wise. It’s a shortening of “Durante,” meaning “enduring.” Thoughts?

  4. Pingback: Conclusion « Egotist's Club

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