The Name Game

Names are difficult. People research endlessly and pore over name books for months before picking one for their kid. But writers have to populate an entire book with interesting names which are appropriate for their characters. For the few pieces of fiction that we have written, the task of picking out names has been the most challenging and we do not know how people do it. We puzzle over whether there is a trick to picking names taught in workshops and creative writing classes. Not having attended any, we haven’t as yet gotten the hang of it. There are memorable names  from books, that stick in in one’s mind, like Captain Ahab, Uriah Heep, Bilbo Baggins, Horace Rumpole (not to mention She Who Must Be Obeyed), Esme Weatherwax, Danaerys Targaryen, Wednsday and so on. The names somehow perfectly personify the character. So how do the writers do it? How do they think of these fabulous, weird, wonderful, creepy or slimy names for their characters?

PS: The only way that we manage is by running through name lists of cricketers or the kids in your daughter’s school programme.

LL: No, don’t you remember, we once sat with a telephone directory and picked out names from there.

PS: I do remember. It was difficult enough getting hold of one of those things since they are no longer printed. But that was a while back.

LL: This whole conversation started off because we went and watched Asterix and the Mansions of the Gods. Nobody does names better than Goscinny and Uderzo. And to think it is a translation! I wonder if the names are even better in French although I can’t imagine how, as they are so very apt in English. My favourites are Cacophonix the bard and Unhygenix the fishmonger.

PS: What about the potion fixing Druid being called Getafix?

LL: You can’t really pick one. They are all so wonderfully appropriate and funny.

PS:  Like the overweight chief’s name is Vitalstatistix and his wife is Impedimenta.

LL: Don’t forget the Romans. The architect in Mansions of the Gods is called Squareonthehypotenus. Then there are those legionnaires – Fishfingus and Gastroentitus in other Asterix comics.

PS: I like Nefarius Purpus and Marcus Ginantonicus.

LL: We could go on and on. Sigh. I really want to know how they think these up.

PS: O for a name…Will someone please tell us what the trick is?


2 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. I for one can vouch that the names in the Asterix series in French are equally funny. Sometimes the names in English are exact translations like Obelix’s dog who, in French is called Idéfix which literally means being dogmatic. Hence Dogmatix in English. Other names like the chief of the village are totally different in the two languages. Vitalstatistix is called Abraracourcix in French which comes from the French expression “to fall on someone with shortened hands”, meaning he’s ready for a fight. The old Geriatrix in English is called Agecanonix in French which means someone who s lived forever. The list is endless.
    I don t know who I admire more, Goscinny and Uderzo for the original French or Anthea Bell for the amazingly funny translation…..

    Liked by 1 person

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