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Monday
Jun112007

Stranger than Fiction

While cleaning up my genealogy files last night, I was struck by a number of...interesting names on my family tree. When I write, naming my characters takes a lot of time and thought. I want the names to be distinctive, so that the reader can keep everyone clear in his/her head, but I don't want them to be so distracting that they pull the reader out of the story. I'd have to be writing something in the John Irving/Richard Brautigan vein in order to pull off anything close to the names of some of my august forbears. I've put some of the weirdest into loose categories below for your perusal.

 

From the British Isles (yes, they certainly do sound like spammers' pseudonyms):
Gotham Howe
Gillachomhghaill O'Toole
Onesiphorus Tileston
Mabilia Talesmache
Benedicta Shelving
Gwair ap Pill
Rollo Bigod
Theopharcia Baliol
John MacHell

 

Scandinavia (Tolkien didn't work in a vacuum):
Frosti Karasson
Eyfuru Svaflamasdatter
Gandalf Alfgeirsson
Frodi Frodasson

 

The American Frontier:
Catherine Vandeventer-Turnipseed
Josnorum Scoenonti Running Deer
Polly Pickle
Thomasine Lumpkin

 

Elsewhere in Europe:
Burkhard von Schweinfurt
Gundreda Monasteriis
Aubrey de Mello
Adam Moomaw
Hienrich von Krickenbeck

 

Finally, Those Wacky Puritans:
Constantia Coffin
Thankful Sprout
Deliverance Nutting
Wealthy Blood
Including my personal favorite:
Preserved Fish
Poor Preserved. I presume that his name was shorthand for "Preserved by the hand of the Lord." Maybe Mrs. Fish almost died in childbed, or something like that. Her maiden name was Grizzel Strange, by the way, so you'd think that she'd be sensitive on the naming issue. Or perhaps her name and that of her son's didn't sound odd at all to 17th-century ears.

 

Oh, well; I guess when it comes right down to it, it's a heck of a lot easier researching folks like Preserved than yet another John Carter or Mary White. And it certainly keeps me smiling.

 

Reader Comments (9)

Well, I think Polly Pickle should be a character someday. I also love the Puritan names. This is a really rich collection of all the people who were made fun of in kindergarten!

June 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

There's another reason why I'm glad I'm not a Puritan! Can you imagine the Ferris Bueller role call with the name "Catherine Vandeventer-Turnipseed?"

June 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKara

My favorites:
Polly Pickle
Constantia Coffin
Thankful Sprout

June 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda1

Oh heavens! Poor Mrs. Fish! Thanks for the laugh!

June 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette Lyon

Wow. These are awesome...and they put into persepective the annoyance I've gone through answering the question - 'now how do you spell Christie?'- every time anyone has written my name. Gillachomhghaill O'Toole , for example, had something to complain about! :)

June 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChristie

Okay so "Catherine Vandeventer-Turnipseed" - hyphenated by marriage? Because "the Vandeventers" rolls off the tongue of my mind like "the Rockefellers" but I gotta say "Turnipseed" - not so much.

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

June 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRadioactive Jam

I will never complain about my name again.

June 12, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterkristi noser

RaJ--the tongue of your mind: Nervous chuckle. ;)

But yes: good guess. Her name was hyphenated by marriage.

Kristi--thanks for coming by! I hope you'll drop in again sometime soon.

June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLuisa Perkins

Oh, thank you for sharing these, which made me laugh out loud at my computer just now! (I have a secret and long-nursed love of awesome names like these, starting with the fake bridge club I started in the seventh grade. We required everyone to adopt a name from someone real -- maybe because it's twice as funny if you know the craziness actually exists! Mine was Hortense Peacock.) We have a favorite ancestor named Hannah Helliwell. My mother (who never swore) used to use her name as a curse word...probably because it sounds so much like damn-it-to-hell if you say it fast enough and angrily enough. She'd also say, "So help me Hannah...." Cracks me up. I can't wait to see my mother and Hannah united on the other side of the veil, with my mother trying to explain why she'd taken Hannah's name in vain so many times!

September 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercharrette

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