What’s in a name?

15 octobre 2009


    « What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

    By any other name would smell as sweet. »

    Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2) 


It’s always a bit of a headache. Finding names, giving names. You struggled as a parent, but once you’d  chosen your kids name, they and their names become one. You forgot that Samuel could have been an Eli or that Betty was almost called Helen. 


When writing, you skip that part as often as you can. Because you’re lazy or lack confidence, or maybe because you’re inspired for once and don’t want to waste your energy looking for stupid names. Actually, you’ve become an expert at writing short texts with few characters who won’t need names. Maybe because you don’t have a clue, or maybe because you don’t want readers to become influenced by their own experience of names.


It’s wrong of course, you should trust yourself enough in that your characters will be strong enough to define themselves, or you should be able to enrich their backgrounds, to add to their depths with well chosen names. Although, managing 4000 words with no names is also a good exercise, you tell yourself, and exercise is good, one must practice, right, and it’s always better than calling them all Jane and John? Right. 


It’s easier in English than in French. The language has its stereotype of course, Sophie and Charlotte are sophisticated brunettes, Cindy and Britney are blond cheerleaders. But still, there is less prejudice in a name than in French, where an « Aurélien de Drancy » won’t have the same spontaneous identity as a « Léo Chmollo ». It’s difficult because this culture’s made it difficult, and because yourself have been prejudiced against by snobs for lack of a proper name when you were a child (what’s that, you’re a fruit?!), and your next-door neighbor can’t find a job because his name sounds too foreign, definitely not WASP or well bred enough. Thus, the process of choosing names can be arduous and painful and time consuming. There’s a lot of procrastinating on Google, with hundreds of hits, some odd, some interesting (3). 


It’s a lot of time spent not writing. 

Of course, sometimes, a miracle happens, and a name instantly appears in your mind and it’s the one. It’s magic, it’s perfect, and you need to write it down at once and work with it, and you forget that you’re freezing and wearing gloves while typing because the rest of your family’s not cold, actually, you’re growing old Mam.


Usually, the names, they escape you as if it were a fun hide and seek game for them. 

But you’re not having fun. There’s no one home, the heating system’s up and perfect, and you’re procrastinating.


You’re checking your emails for the thousandth time or resisting that last piece of chocolate (they can say what they want, chocolate will beat water anytime.), thinking that maybe that itchy mosquitoes bite on your eye was caused by a spider after all, wow, gross, or how will you tell your husband that you think he threw away his ipod because it was in a box because you’d gone shopping to get him waffles, as requested, and you had your hands full getting to the car so you put it there, on top of the waffles.

You put everything away but you don’t remember about the ipod. And he threw away the box of course, and he never checks if there’s stuff left because he’s a thrower. You were too tired to play the game ’cause your foot hurt and you didn’t want to move, and now, the ipod, you can’t find it. Your lunch date cancelled on you yesterday and you went to the hairdresser instead, and you wanted music and you couldn’t find it and the box was gone.




Except that when you get up to get away, away from your computer, away from your blank screen and your now cold coffee, when you come looking for your cellphone as an excuse to not write, you find the ipod in your hand bag and not your phone*. Maybe because you’d put it there firsthand, or you emptied the box and you were the one who threw it away, because you’re learning and making progresses although you’re also loosing your mind, apparently.

Boy, aren’t you glad you didn’t say anything to your spouse last night? All that, and you’re still not writing. But that chocolate’s darn good.


Where were you? Names. Ah yes. Arf. Itchy eye, emails, cold coffee, Google. 




* You should probably check near your kitchen sink


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