Name Theory: Names as Cultural Short-Hand

Some names seem sexy, or classy, or pert. Some names have a definite image attached to them, either by sound or by association.

But associations can be tarnished by experience.

Character namer:  Know thyself!

If you think Horace is the sexiest name in the world, because the one Horace you know is sexy, you are name biased.

If you think Tara is an exotic name for a sultry character, you may have a name prejudice that readers will not share.

If you think Aiden is a cool and interesting name that no one has heard about, you might have missed out on some cultural knowledge.

Maybe no one else would think Miryam is a cool/sexy/alternative name, as I do. Maybe it would be more generally considered nerdy/clunky/foreign by the general populace. Maybe I get it wrong, sometimes.

But that’s why I give options to writers; that’s why I give a list of choices. I know I have biases, and no matter how hard I try to think neutrally about names, I know sometimes my personal opinions will confuse my judgment.

Consider your readers, and their general associations of names. Don’t chose names only based on your experience of them, but on how they will most often be perceived by others. Remember that character names are a kind of linguistic short-hand that we use with our readers, and we need to make sure that our meaning is understood.


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