Friday, July 4, 2014

N is for Names

I like to read novels - particularly historical ones, including historical romance, by authors whose fiction I have not read before. When choosing what to read, the character's names are very important to me. If, for example, the hero, who is a mediaeval knight', is called Wayne and the heroine is a mediaeval lady, for example, called Flossie, I don't choose that book. If the names are inappropriate it indicates the author's research might leave much to be desired.

Wayne or Waine is not listed in The Oxford Book of English Christian names, but "Wainwright. Old English waegnwyrhta 'wainwright, wagon-builder" is mentioned in The Reader's Digest Great Encylopaedic Dictionary as a surname.

 Florence, which is shortened Florrie, Flo, Floy or Flossie, became common in the 19th century.

The name, Florence, derives from Florentia, female and Florentius, male. Florence was used in the Middle Ages about equally as a man's or a woman's name but died out as a man's name.

That's enough about the origin of the name, Florence, but as I have already mentioned a heroine in the middle ages called Flossie would put me off the novel.

When choosing names for my characters I refer to The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary useful for both Christian and Surnames,  and Burke's Peerage as well as a book of first names for Babies which includes names from many parts of the world. As for Burkes, it's fascinating, and provides a treasure trove of unusual first names and surnames some of which have been handed down from generation to generation.

Until I have named my main characters they do not spring to life in my imagination. I spend many happy hours browsing names in my search for appropriate ones.

1 comment:

anne stenhouse said...

Really good post, Rosemary. I find choosing names, also for historicals, fraught. I once read of a writer who simply looked up a football team and went down the list of surnames alphabetically. sometimes, I understand that ploy. Anne Stenhouse