Usain Bolt. He had to be the fastest man, didn’t he? His name. Nominative determinism is the term for the fact that people are drawn to professions that match their names. This is something that has been studied since the early Twentieth Century. Lawyers named “Sue.” A dentist named “Tooth.”
It works this way in fiction as well, although it happens deliberately. Characters tend to fill out their names, or at least the implications thereof. Lady Sneerwell. Remus Lupin. It adds fun to the story if the reader catches on, doesn’t it?
But sometimes the opposite is true. A character is named to lead you astray. Rollo Martins is a Graham Greene tough guy. And of course, there is just the all around mistake: Dick Diver from Howard”s End.
I love naming characters. Here are some of my favorites: (so far, none have made it into my novels–but someday, perhaps):
- Dolly Fescue. She raises cattle.
- Willem Quills. He sells printer ink.
- Hester Wallop. She is anorexic.
- Sylvester Gummer. He is a male model.
- Red Hester. He punches cattle.
- Esme Plinth. She teaches etiquette.
- Dickie Pickens. He’s a bully, of course.
- Theo Pudley. He’s a Labradoodle.
- Clotilde Blenk. She teaches Spanish.
- Abraham Varnish. He’s a paperhanger.
- Penelope Hork. She has sinus trouble.
- Vic Tolstoy. He is a carny barker.
- Alastair Sudbury-Reed. He’s a plumber.
- Eldon Cheeks. He is a professional gambler.
- Hortense Peach. She sells Bitcoin.
I have a million of ’em. If only I had a plot to go with some of them. But I am definitely working on Vic Tolstoy’s Adventures in Wonderland. Next up: Penelope Hork Shrugged.