Names are important, in telling a story. For one thing, a person’s name has to be believable. Well, actually, names can be a story unto themselves.
I once read a book by Isaac Asimov in which one of his character’s names was Jorj. Asimov was brilliant with names, but even I wondered at that one. Who can feel any empathy with a character who has such an out there name like Jorj?
That thought has stuck with me for years and is probably why I’ve created some mildly Outlandish Names myself in my books and stories.
But then along came the US Presidential election of 2016 and we Brits, who are most called John Smith, Bill Brown or David Jones, it seems, now have a flurry of Outlandish names to deal with. Hoever much we Brits may think Reince Priebus is slightly outlandish, it’s apparently Greek, we do have a whole swath of such names on our side of the pond as well.
Names like Sir Stafford Cripps have always conjured up potential great characters in a murder mystery. Then we have the aristocratic Fionnula Tambling-Goggin, maybe a scientist, do you think? The first name here, that of Cripps, was a British Labour MP in the first half of the 20th Century and the latter was a name seen on the credits of a program broadcast by the BBC.
It’s not until you delve into the depths of people’s names and their etymology (the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history) that you realise there are more outlandish names out there then I would have believed.
In the end, we Brits love a good eccentric and even more so if the eccentric in question’s name sounds a little cuckoo too! Men like Sir Tatton Sykes (1826–1913) who had a pathological hatred of flowers that was so extreme, he would hack flowers to death with a stick, while out walking.
Keep it up ye English speakers of the world. Maybe we should have a World’s Most Outlandish Name competition.
Tom Kane © 2017
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