about writing and life and God

What’s in a name?

on January 29, 2013

It’s probably just as well that three out of the four Beatles had nice ‘normal’ names: Paul, John and George. I wonder how many babies of that era were named Ringo?

Names have definite fashions, and connotations. I was surprised today, at a meeting in the care home where my husband lives, when a very elderly lady was ushered in and addressed as ‘Sally’. Surely Sally is  a much younger name? But of course it was made famous by singer Gracie Fields in 1931 with her hit song ‘Sally in our alley’.

My own name was a compromise. In traditional communities, names are handed down the generations. My Mother was one of a fleet of Elizabeths – who as a result all had nicknames or short versions to distinguish them: Betty, Bett, Liz, Lily. And yes, she was born in the same era as Queen Elizabeth II – known to her family as Lillibet.

When I arrived, the second child, the tradition was for me to be named after my father. Donald. In traditional East coast fashion, I very nearly became Donaldina – but my Mother, bless her, fought the tradition and her in-laws. Inspiration came from the movies she and my father enjoyed – the Bob Hope, Bing Crosby … and yes, Dorothy Lamour movies. And so I am Dorothy. Nothing to do with yellow brick roads (though the shiny red shoes are tempting!)

Today I was with two Jennies and another Dorothy. I seem to have lots of friends named Patricia (and all called Pat). And when I’m writing, a book doesn’t come alive until I get the names of my characters right. One of the big mistakes American authors often make when writing about England or Scotland is their lack of instinct for the right name – or the inbuilt connotations of a name that a native knows immediately. I’m sure the vice-versa also operates!

But on yesterday’s walk two names jumped out at me – one very nearly my own:

Digital Image

I am in fact Dorothy Mary – a fact which seems to cause goodreads real problems as they list me as two separate people, one with and one without the M!

The other… well, see for yourself:

Digital Image

I can’t be the only one perplexed!





4 responses to “What’s in a name?

  1. Hilary says:

    I could never discover where my parents found Hilary for me, my Dad had originally thought of Monica which was quite popular at the time but my Mother vetoed that in case her precious child was nick-named Nickers..

  2. My human’s name is Louise but if she was a boy she was going to be called Mathew. 18 months after when her brother was born he was called Joseph. Something must have happened inbetween to change the humans minds! I love my name, I think it suits me. I love looking at boat names we have seen some terrible ones. There’s one in the marina called lunitica!!! Interesting! =^.^=

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