For the odd moments I can manage to think of something.

Sunday Project: By any other name…

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First up, the Sunday Project might seem like a misnomer – but at the very least I hope it will be things I have had time to think about on that metaphorical ‘Sunday’. A day of the week with some breathing space and time to think.

Hopefully it will be a series of things to think about, some more developed than others. They come from a series of sticky-notes that have been strewn around my desk. Some have full notes, others have two or three words and the longer I leave them, the harder I have to work to try to discover what I might have been thinking.

So, here’s the first one – it’s to do with word origins and classification. As you might imagine, I’m a big fan of word origins. Finding the right word for something is important to me and even more so when attempting fiction that requires the naming of characters and things.

I feel the need to ensure there is a reason why my characters have the name they do. Incidentally and if you’re in the slightest bit interested, all of my female characters, some male and new tech objects are called ‘Angela’ as a holding name, until I replace them with something I think has a better meaning for the purpose or person.

Anyway.

In looking at names, I usually end up browsing sites (it used to be a big book of names pre-Web) where I would rabbit-hole off for an hour or so browsing name origins and meanings. On occasion it leads to a raised eyebrow as many name origin websites have a pregnancy related URL. Oh how we laugh. (uhuh)

Using myself as an example – because it is handy. Jamillah is the feminine version of Jamil, is Arabic in origin and used in different spellings from North Africa, South America, Russia and across South Asia. It means ‘beautiful’ or ‘lovely’. I have some work to do to keep that one up…

I am sure that most people have looked up the meaning of their name and the language origin. It’s like etymological self Googling and for some, might provide another layer to your sense of self.

But the question I have is whether or not this classification is the way that others see us? Kind people might see me as my name meaning – well, kind people and people who want something from me. But my surname (not screen name) means hill-dweller – whether this means Hobbit or Mountain King is not usually specified.

I’d be surprised if my friends would describe me as a beautiful Hobbit. (Randomly creative though they may be.)

So, I was thinking about re-assigning meaning to names – it might be easier to set some examples. One thing to note is that instead of one meaning per name, I have friends who are similar and so I can assign many names to one particular feeling or description. (It does get trickier when I know two people with the same name but quite different personalities.)

Rain, Sue – Electric calm. In personality and with the two I have in mind, vocation. A kind of vibrance with a rock solid assurance beneath.
Cheri, Colleen, Jody – Love. These people have shown me unconditional acceptance and I associate them very strongly with this word.
Nate, Terence, Molly, Ela, Henry – Mathematical exploration. People who turn mathematics and code into a territory to be explored and explained.
Benjamin, Mike, Tom – New folk law. These are story tellers that I am lucky enough to know, they weave new folk law in my mind.
David, Jess – Strength. For what ever reason, some of the people I know with these names seem to be mentally strong and somewhat encouraging
Helen, Lynne, Theo – Craft creative. People who have influenced my thinking of craft making, using their hands to create.

That’s a short example. It’s like taking a sort of snapshot of some of the people I know and it can provide me with a cast of characters.

With a cast (even the short one above) sometimes all it requires to follow a new narrative is to set them in a scene with those senses and see how they interact in my imagination. From there, they tend to tell me what the tale might be.

I have chosen positive examples here because it’s a happy thought experiment. I raided my FB friends list to capture the ones above.

When I am constructing mean, evil or bad characters, I swap the names out from the ‘Big Book of Names’ to find a meaning and create them in composite from the less lovely people I’ve met over time.

So – it’s not perfect and it’s just for fun, but it’s my Sunday project for this week (I hope they will improve). If you associate strong senses of people with their names because you know them fairly well, what are they?

It might not change the world, it’s not even particularly useful as there are many flaws in this method of classification but it was fun to think about.

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