Modern Monikers

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Archive for the tag “literary names”

Literary Heroes

I love literary names, mostly because I love literature. I think the heroes of the story are usually so well named. Here are my picks of literary protagonist names for boys.

Odysseus – The protagonist in Homer’s epic The Odyssey, Odysseus was an epic hero, who faced many obstacles on his long trek home. The meaning, “angry man” is not very pleasant, but I love the overly Greek-nees to it. The Latin version, Ulysses, is known by many as the first name of President Grant (even though it was actually his middle name). I also adore the nickname Odie and I think it’s time for it to shake off its Garfield connection.

Dante – At #268, Dante has an upward trajectory since the 1960’s. Known to many high schoolers as the name of the Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, the author and narrator of the epic Divine Comedy. This Latin moniker, meaning “enduring”, is one of my favorites. It has a recognizeable but different feeling. It’s handsome, distinguished, and likeable. I think the nickname Dan is entirely suitable.

Arthur – I am a huge fan of the Arthurian legend. Knights, ladies, magical swords stuck in rocks. It doesn’t get much better. Celtic for “bear”, Arthur sits at #338. It’s been on a steady decline for around 70 years, but is starting to be seen by parents looking for a classic yet underused names. It has further literary credence from characters in To Kill a MockingbirdHarry Potter, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur was also the name of famed American playwright Arthur Miller. When you add the athletic reference to Arthur Ashe and the scientific reference to Arthur Conan Doyle, you get and incredibly well-rounded name. Nicknames Art and Artie make it even more usable.

Hamlet – Alright, I’m not really suggesting this one. There are plenty other more usable names from Shakespeare. But taking away the inevitable “to be or not to be” jokes, Hamlet becomes a very handsome name. Sure, it starts with “ham”. But hear me out. Just say it out loud. Notice how the letters melt together and roll off the tongue. It has such a pleasing sound. Will was probably using Hamlet as a slight memoriam to his son, Hamnet, who died years before penning this most famous tragedy. You never know, Ophelia is getting more popular. Could Hamlet be far behind? (No.)

Crusoe – I think this surname is very handsome. The nicknames Crue and Cruse are adorable and the fashionable -o sound and the end makes this a big contender. For the titular shipwrecked hero in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, I think it has the makings to become popular, but it probably won’t.

James – Bond. James Bond. He’s the kick-ass agent 007 from Sir Ian Fleming’s novels. His martini-drinking, tuxedo-wearing, gadget-wielding, sexiness has made countless women want to be with him and even more men want to be like him. At #17, James is popular. While the reference to Agent Bond could be what some parents went for, it’s unlikely. There are a plethora of namesakes, from several presidents and roayls, to a slew of actors, singers, and other entertainers. Although my favorite James was the creator of the Muppets, Jim Henson. Hebrew for “supplanter” James appears in the Bible, Harry Potter, Star TrekJames and the Giant Peach, just to name a few. It has a few nicknames, too. Some go for Jim, Jem, or Jimmy, but the stylish Jamie is my pick.

Atticus – Though a Roman literary name, Atticus is probably most famous for the upstanding patriarch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Lawyer Atticus Finch tries to do right by his conscience and his children by representing an African-American man in the Deep South. Greek for “from Athens” Atticus sits at #462. It’s jumped several places in the last few years and is a favorite among celebrities, chosen by Casey Affleck, Daniel Baldwin, and Mary Louise Parker for their children.


Literary Heroines

Literary names have so much meaning. Not just the names, but the characters. Sometimes a bad character can make a good name unusable. But a great character can make a plain name unforgettable. Here are some of my favorite literary protagonist names for girls. (None of these are from children’s books, that’s going to be a different list.)

Penelope – Odysseus’ ever-faithful wife in Homer’s The Odyssey, Penelope is a Greek name meaning, “weaver”. This is one of my favorite names and I love the reference. Penelope is a strong name made more friendly with the adorable nicknames, Penny, Poppy, and Nell. At #200, it is certain to gain in popularity after Tina Fey named her daughter, Penelope Athena.

Viola – In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Viola survives a shipwreck and disguises herself as a man in order to find work and her lost twin brother, Sebastian. Latin for “violet”, Viola as has certain musical flair, even though it has a different pronunciation than the stringed instrument.

Jane – An English name meaning, “God’s grace”, Jane is the name of Charlotte Bronte’s eponymous heroine character in Jane Eyre. She is determined and opinionated. Just the sort of heroine to look up to. As a variation of John, it can be the namesake of many names, like Jean, Joan, Janelle, Jeanette, etc. Also, the “plain Jane” connotations are not true for this sweet and spunky name. Also, at #384, Jane is neither common, nor popular, yet familiar.

Elinor – Jane Austen’s incredible Sense and Sensibility is my favorite. It’s just amazing. And Elinor is my favorite character. Sure, most people go for Pride and Prejudice or Marianne, but I have more in common with the proper and level-headed Elinor. Although more commonly spelled “Eleanor”, Elinor has a spunky, Welsh-type feeling to it. Meaning “shining, bright” it has some equally sunny nicknames in Ellie and Nora.

Josephine – Jo March. I wanted to be Jo March. She didn’t take “no” for an answer. She stood up for what she believed in and remained true to her heart. She wanted more for her life than what was expected of her. Josephine is the feminine variation of “Joseph”, meaning “Jehovah increases”. At #186, it certainly has increased in popularity over the past twenty years, but may start to level off soon. I adore the nicknames potential. From feisty Fifi to jovial Josie to precious Posey, Josephine gets a gold star in my book.

Scarlett – Scarlett O’Hara from Margaret Mitchell’s epic Gone with the Wind is the quintessential southern belle. A wealthy woman who is used to getting her way, Ms. O’Hara goes through intense hardship and comes out a survivor. Scarlett is an English name meaning “red”. Some parents spell it without the additional “t”, but I prefer to think that “scarlet” is the color and “Scarlett” is the name. While the intense Scar may not be the nickname you prefer, Scarlett lends itself to a plethora of familiar choices: Carlo, Cari, Lettie, Etta, Arlie, etc.

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