The Monday Muse: On Names

Greetings, fine readers of Nerd Cactus Land, and welcome to today’s edition of The Monday Muse, wherein we delve into less specific, more (hopefully) thoughtful topics designed to make someone think. I don’t know who that someone is, but hopefully they’re reading because otherwise this is all a waste.

I admit that I was at something of a loss as to what to write today. The Muse…she is fickle, is she not? After spending the weekend at Disney, I found that I was drained both mentally and physically. I was inspired to write nothing…except maybe another rant about how much I dislike Frozen, brought on by the sheer inundation of Frozen-related everything on display everywhere. Meanwhile, Tangled is relegated to a single bathroom at Magic Kingdom. A bloody bathroom. What is up with that?!

But that is not what I want to write about. We already know I don’t like Frozen. I’ve covered it. Unfortunately, that was the only thing that was popping into my mind when it came time to think about a topic for today…along with why it is too damn hot here in Florida. And so I thought, I pondered, I stressed…I even considered finding a topic generator and writing some sort of short fiction. But then, the Muse dropped the perfect topic into my lap.

It all begins with Sharp Falcon. Yes. Sharp Falcon. Which was a name someone suggested for a professional Software Test Automation product.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you blinked a few times. Maybe raised an eyebrow or two. Or you burst out laughing, because who names something Sharp Falcon? It sounds like a too-literal translation of some really cool move from a Japanese video game. Or…a Power Rangers formation. Whatever it is, it is not something you name a professional…anything. It just lacks everything a name is supposed to have. Take it from a writer…we know a thing or two about names.

Names are very important. A good name has power. It has oomph and pizzazz. You can speak it easily–trippingly on the tongue, if you will–and it is pleasing to the ear. Something about it sticks with you. Sherlock Holmes, for example, or Tristram Shandy.  Or maybe Inigo Montoya, though perhaps that’s just because it comes as part of a crazy-awesome bit of dialogue that anyone in their right mind can quote at the drop of a hat. These names are famous because they have resonance. Your mouth likes to make those movements and your ear likes to hear those sounds. And it doesn’t really need to be strange, either. Harry Potter is much better than Barry Hopper, isn’t it?

Another thing to note is the fact that names must also be a reflection of what it is they’re describing. It has to work, in other words, for the character. No, it doesn’t need to literally reflect the character (or product, company, etc); it just needs to evoke the right imagery. It needs to fit. This is true even of naming newborns, right? Parents often plan on a particular name for their child only to realize that it just doesn’t fit the person that is staring up that them (or, I suppose, sleeping up at them). And if this is true of a human child, with unknown characteristics, it is doubly true for a purposeful construct like a literary character. This is not to say you can’t go the literal route; it worked for Ron Swanson with the Very Good Building Company, didn’t it? But naming your enforcer Strong Guy without any sort of irony…not that fun. Looking at you, Marvel. So…let’s go with the right connotation, shall we? Not everyone can pull off Major Major Major Major, after all.

For example, do you think Luke Skywalker would have been as cool with the name Annikkin Starkiller? Yes, but in a very different way. Because of its peaceful imagery, Luke Skywalker is the name of a hero; Annikkin Starkiller, on the other hand, with its evocative images of violence and aggression, seems far more villainous and sinister. Professor Moriarty is also a villain name, given the obvious connection to ‘death’ (morir is Spanish for ‘to die’). Lord Voldemort is imperious due to the adoption of a title, but there’s also the meaning of Voldemort. Volere in Latin is ‘I roll’, de is of or from, and mortem is death. So, constructing this into a name, you get ‘I roll from death’ or, more loosely, ‘roll of death’ (which evokes a black cloud of looming evil). Further in Harry Potter is the use of (sometimes loose) Latin to make spells: expelliarmus is from expello, which is itself a combination of ex (out) and pello (to drive), and armus, meaning weapon. So, basically, Rowling is awesome, but we already knew that.

Taking all of that into consideration, it becomes obvious that Sharp Falcon is just not a good name for anything. A name that reflects the product and is memorable for something other than being Sharp Falcon (i.e. silly) is far better. Try a different language, particularly one that is no longer widely spoken (Latin is perfect for this), or words that have the right imagery for what you’re trying to describe. Combine this with words that sound good and are fun to say, and you’ll eventually find the perfect name. The name is out there somewhere; you’ve just got to figure out what it is you want to name, first.

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of The Monday Muse. We’ll be back on Friday with the latest incarnation of Boozy Books!

-C

ps- Just for the funsies, I tried to turn Sharp Falcon into something cool. I came up with Peregrine Dagger, who’s a British investigator-type character, probably gifted with some sort of magical ability. Either that or it’s a literal dagger that an Indiana Jones-type character needs, because it belongs in a museum. Whatever I decide, I’m definitely writing it. Peregrine Dagger lives!

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