What’s in a name?

Yay, snow! A month late but definitely not a dollar short. It’s been snowing off and on for four days now and it’s quite nice. All powdery and silent. Not like rain which is noisy and usually has wind or thunder accompanying it.

This picture actually has a basis in reality now!
This picture actually has a basis in reality now!

Snow brings to mind hot things. Like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Oh, and soup. Lots of soup and blankets and black and white movies. All which sound good right now, but I have a pile of dishes to do and I’m loathe to add another cup on top of my already bursting sink. And I have a book rough draft to hammer out. So, there’s that. And things to edit.

And the list doesn’t end.

But we’re taking a break from a list to talk about names. Names are fun. Names are the things that people agonise over when creating characters because–like every Wiccan/Pagan/Witch out there says–names have magic. Names have power. Names shape the destiny for which you were born to. Whatever that destiny is.

Talking of names, has anyone wondered why we call snow ‘snow’? Where did it come from and why. How? And why did ‘snow’ catch on? Is it an acronym for something?

Funnily enough this was the sort of thing that plagued me for GRIMMAULD. My editor who is very keen on names and the ‘cutesy’ factor (which he hates) asked me if there was another name for the Snatchers. I remained steadfast with Cheesers. Cheesers got people to read the flash fiction, Cheesers–Francis Damien Mayweather–would stay Cheesers. Though he would get another name besides his mousey one. But the Snatchers I hadn’t even thought about. They snatch people. Ergo, Snatchers. Makes sense, right? I didn’t need another reason than that for the existence of the Snatchers and their associated name.

Except I kind of did. I will admit to trying to be clever and hedge around the need for a new name by creating this whole back story where everyone has a name for the Snatchers but no one can remember what it is. Except for the paranormal investigator who tried to coin the term ‘chaotic temporal displacements of the subaetheric plane’. He played D&D a lot. I managed to get away with not actually naming the Snatchers something other than Snatchers by distraction.

Don’t tell my editor.

He will be very angry with me..
He will be very angry with me..

In my defence, I didn’t think I needed another name. Snatchers snatch people. The name makes sense. Story or no story, the Snatchers do what they do because that is their name.

So names is what we’ll talk about today, and we’ll start with mine. And, if you’re very good, I’ll tell you the secret behind R.J. Keith.

My actual name is Denise Marie Lhamon. Behind my name is the French feminine bastardy of ‘Dennis’ and the Greek translation of ‘follower of Dionysus’ or ‘Goddess of Wine’. Marie is translated from its Hebrew origin into ‘bitter’ and is the French form of ‘Mary’. Lhamon is one of those old, old, old, OLD French names that has been around so long those people who research these things are pretty sure it means ‘the home’ but there is some room for debate. And, my name fits me. In a way, I guess. There are people out there who can make the connection between names and people and how it shapes destinies.

There are worse gods to be named after...
There are worse gods to be named after…

I am not one of those people.

I will tell you that I am of French descent (as well as Serbian, Swedish, and Dutch and maybe just a touch of Irish) and there have been moments in my life of which I am still bitter about. Then again the bitterness could have a meaning more toward my attitude or perhaps manner in which I carry myself? Regardless, I can point to a specific moment in my life to which I am bitter and it has a lot to do with my swim team and my senior year of high school. I am a house hobbit, more prone to staying at home watching movies rather than going out. Though, I do like to venture outside every now and again and see the light. My life has been shaped by hard situations, travel, and never really having a home. Take that for what it is and do the magic that some people have to look beyond words and make mystic connections.

My sister is one of those people. She can do funny things with literature and the meaning behind things in movies and all of that other really, ridiculously smart stuff. When I go to a theatre I watch a movie. When she goes to a theatre and sees a tapestry of double meanings.

I envy that.

There's a reason why Jake Gylenhall was the star of Prince of Persia and not someone that, you know, of actual Arab descent. Which would make sense.
There’s a reason why Jake Gyllenhall was the star of Prince of Persia and not someone, you know, of actual Arab descent. Hollywood has a thing for white men, apparently.

Now, R.J. Keith is a simple story. 12+ years of people squinting at Lhamon (pronounced LAY-mon, the ‘h’ is just for show) and a high school yearbook picture denouncing me as a Llama, prompted me to want to write under a pseudonym. And it’s a mash up of names that I like. ‘Riley’ because my dog’s name is Riley and it’s androgynous. I can be male or female, though I do generally like to stick with my feminine gender, ‘James’ because he was the first character that originated from my own imagination and not one of my friends stuck into a story, and Keith because that’s my dad’s middle name and I kind of like the sound of it.

Plus, R.J. Keith sounds like a writer’s name whilst Denise Marie Lhamon or any abbreviation thereof, brings to mind complicated pronunciations and much squinting of the eyes and a very uncomfortable tongue.

Which says something about my life. Now that I think about it.

So, R.J. I will stay until prompted otherwise. Or legal forms demand it.

Because dishonesty is frowned upon.
Because dishonesty is frowned upon.

Just like names can shape a person, they can shape characters. My sister and I had a conversation about this a month or so ago. She is of the opinion that only odd names are suitable for any character in a book. It has to be odd or the character is automatically uninteresting and does nothing for the story. She made some interesting points, many of which I can’t remember because it was late at night and we were driving back from Cambridge I think and I was fighting off sleep.

I am, however, inclined to agree with her. That isn’t to say that ‘Jane’ can’t be an interesting person. But is she more interesting than Sudoku Jamerson, who is a math genius and rather uncomfortable with girls? Jane can be. Maybe Jane has a secret mind-reading power that she uses to glean the answers to every math test in her classes. Her teachers are so impressed with her that they put her in the math league and she winds up running against Sudoku, who is ridiculously uncomfortable around girls and that uncomfortable-ness lends a sort of shield against Jane and her crazy powers.

Which one are YOU going to root for?

Terry Pratchett who–if you haven’t read any of his books you’re really missing out– is ridiculous for crazy names. Moist Von Lipwig (pronounced lip-VIG), Sam Vimes, Adorabelle Dearheart, Reacher Guilt, Veternari, Constable Carrot, Dodger…the list goes on and on. They all have a story that reflects their names. Their names are, in a way, their story and they pull a double duty by giving us an insight into their personality.

And that, is the fun of writing. A name doesn’t necessarily have to be outrageous, but it should reflect your character. So, my friends, what’s in YOUR name?

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8 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Yvonne Hertzberger says:

    Did you know that there are natives of Iran that have read hair, (sometimes blond) and green eyes? They are from the north, as a rule. I have some as friends, refugees who came to Canada. They told me it is not uncommon at all. So maybe Jake isn’t so far off. Though I think you’re right about Hollywood. šŸ™‚

    1. rjkeith says:

      Really?! That I did not know! My sister tells me it’s because Hollywood has the rule that the ‘white man’ has to be the main character. It’s a superiority thing and falls along the same lines as why minorities are usually the first to die in movies and how it wasn’t until recently (term used loosely) that black men are cast as main characters and only certain black men…It’s kind of crazy.

      1. rjkeith says:

        Oh, amen on Mr. Washington. Yum. Hollywood is definitely changing, slowly, but surely, this I agree. Too bad their movie posters are uninspiring these days, but we can’t hope for miracles….

  2. Bubbe says:

    Hello there Denise! My baby sister (18 years my junior) is named Patricia Lynn Denise. We had to include a second middle name because my uncle swore he’d call her by it either way. šŸ˜€

    My real world name is Lori Jean and I never really gave it a lot of thought. Family lore says that my mom was so sure I was going to be a boy she didn’t even have a name picked out for a girl and a friend wound up naming me. True? I’ll never know this side of heaven, but it makes for an interesting story.

    1. rjkeith says:

      Howdy! Family lore said my name was going to be Dawn but mom decided to name me after one of her best friends. I like your day time name! It’s awesome to say! Even Patricia Lynn Denise is really, really cool!

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