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Saturday, 29 June 2013

What's in a Name?

I like names. As a writer, names are important. For me, names can make or break a character. I choose my characters' names on meaning and what stories they have to tell. The four main characters in my Pangaea Trilogy have names that coincide with their personalities and their personal journeys. The main character in "The Tunnels" is named Everett Palmer. Everett means 'brave boar' and Palmer means 'pilgrim'. Throughout the story (if it ever gets finished), Everett goes through one heck of a personal journey when he discovers dragon hatcheries in the tunnels of Toronto's subway system and that the dragons are cared for by a secret department of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). Oh, and did I mention that Everett's father, Ira (meaning watchful) works for the TTC as a subway driver? Everett also has a big brother, Bailey (bailiff) who is consistently bailing him out of trouble.
Sometimes I try to make a character fit a name I want to use. For example, I've always wanted to have a character named Percy. So, I created a Percival for The Tunnels. Percival means pierce and the character is one of the dragon caretakers. I got my Percy.

But, I like names in general. Especially names in different languages. Whenever I meet a new Japanese student in my language exchange, I ask them what their name means. Japanese parents name their children by means of meaning. Two people may have the same name, but because the kanji is different, their names mean different things. For example, there are two women with the name, Yuki. One woman's kanji ()means 'snow', while the other () means 'happiness'. Pretty cool huh? Most parents here in the West name their children based on what they like or what names are popular at the time.

I also like that "older" names are coming back. Names like George, Carol, Arthur. I like older names. There's just something timeless about them. My top three boys' names are William (helmet of desire), Isaac (he laughs) and Aidan (little fire). I also like Declan (full of goodness), Dean (valley or leader), Robert (bright fame), Paul (humble), Peter (stone) and Jacob (supplanter/holder of the heel). My top girls' names changes every few years. At one time I wanted to name my future daughter Catherine (pure), Letitia (happiness), Estella (star), and as of late, the name Aisling (dream) has entered the running. Letitia was my mother's mother's name and my father's mother's name was Catherine Estella (she went by Stella). My middle name is her first name. The C stands for Catherine. Her name meant pure star and her maiden name was Palmer (pilgrim). It's fitting; she was born in Montreal, lived in Toronto, moved to Hull, Quebec and back to Toronto (Scarborough). She lived the rest of her days in Etobicoke. My mother's mother was Letitia Peers (before she married my grandfather, Abraham Acton [father of many, oak settlement]). Together, her name means happy stone. And she was. She was a rock for her family.
My full name is Jennifer Catherine Flynn. The meaning? In order: fair maiden, pure, red/ruddy. Flynn was originally an Irish nickname for someone who had red hair or a ruddy complexion. As a kid, I hated my name. I even went by my middle name (among friends) during the first half of my Grade 1 year. Jenny was an unfortunate nickname I received, a name I hate being called to this day. Over the years, I fell into a very comfy and simple nickname of sorts: Jen. Eventually, I came to like my name and I still do. I also plan on keeping my last name when I get married.

Your name is important. It’s how your friends know who you are, it’s what your family call you; it’s part of your identity. Maybe your parents named you because they liked the meaning of the name. Maybe they named you after an ancestor or maybe because they liked the name. My father had a girl on his school bus run named Jennifer and he fell in love with the name. My middle name was my Grandma Flynn’s first name and she herself was named after her mother, Catherine McDermott. I guess I’ve been named after two people in a sense. Your name is something to be proud of, because it is a part of who you are and you are a very important person. Your name is too.