Does the choice of their characters’ surnames matter to writers of fiction? Probably not a lot. In the UK, a double barrelled surname might be used to indicate social pretension, but a surname is unlikely to carry either heroic or villainous connotations. Does the name Moriarty have a hint of evil in it? Not before Conan Doyle used it, and not to present day bearers of that name. And how about Murgatroyd? Does that have an antiquated ring to it? If so, blame Agatha Christie.
The most obvious area where an active choice of surname might be used is humour. Supposedly humorous names could be invented for this purpose: Bucketfull (drinks too much), Bedworthy (overdoes it between the sheets), Brimstone (a preacher of the old school). But though this was done in the past it probably isn’t a good idea now since it smacks of caricature. (One of my favourites is Sir Leicester Dedlock and Dickens, as we know, invented quite a few surnames in his time.)
But sometimes an author will take a more active interest in surnames, as William Boyd does in his novel ‘Waiting for Sunrise’. The main character is Lysander Ulrich Rief, son of famous actor Halifax Rief. Lysander has a problem and has gone to Vienna for help. The name of his shrink is Dr Bensimon, from which we might assume that his analyst is Jewish, and that would come as no surprise in the Vienna of 1913. It could almost be considered an additional qualification.
However, being Jewish in Vienna could have its disadvantages too, as is explained to Lysander by an Austrian army officer. Some money goes missing and Wolfram is accused, on the secure grounds that his surname gives him away as being Slovenian. When his case finally comes up, Wolfram points out that he didn’t take the money, which explains why there is no evidence that he did. However, another officer, one with a Jewish surname, could just as easily have taken it. The court martial is most interested in this suggestion and Wolfram is exonerated. He then fills Lysander in on the attitude to minorities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Although engaged to an actress called Blanche, Lysander starts sleeping with a sculptor called Hettie Bull. Boyd gives a full description of this diminutive character then asks, ‘Was ever a name less suited to a person?’ (Page 91). So it is evident that this author makes full use of the opportunities offered in choosing names for his characters, and we can all do the same if we want.
Yes, and if your character has an Arabic name we must inspect his luggage very carefully.
Hi there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site?
I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had
issues with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.
I am using WordPress.
If you like using WordPress apart from the hackers, you might consider
continuing to use it but from a hosted service.
If you do that you’ll have access to Jetpack plugins,
which include Wordfence, which will protect you from hackers.
Several hosting services allow you to set up WordPress:
and one at least has a transfer service (paid for)
if you have trouble doing it yourself.
To do it yourself, you export from your excising blog
and import the resulting file into your new one.
As far as I am concerned, names beginning with M and containing Rs are always sound dark and mysterious – no matter if it’s first of last name. Mortimer, Morgana… Although I know one Moriarty and several Morgans and none of them are dark or mysterious.
Would this still be true if the first vowel was ‘a’?
Marshall, for example, or Marigold?
No, you are right. Marigold! Peh! How did I not notice this?
Although name places work too. MORDOR being one of them. I think the formula for a name of an adversary would have to be
Where x and y are variables.
You’re leaving me behind now!
You wouldn’t have a part-time job as a code-breaker at GCHQ or the NSA, by any chance?