What’s in a Name?

Reading time: < 2 mins.

We were musing about names the other day (“Why I Rob Banks,” 1-25-16), which got me thinking about character names and I made an interesting discovery. Some people are giving credit in the wrong place and I’m here to reclaim what is potentially my legacy.

I wrote a Christmas story several years ago with a protagonist named Leon, which is the opposite of Noel. The story essentially posits the idea that the character Leon embodies the opposite of Christmas. Saddling him with such a name added a risk factor to make him predisposed him to such a life.

I’m not saying I’ve been a trendsetter again (just cuz I’m not saying it doesn’t mean it’s not true), but look what happened after my story was unleashed upon the public.

Nevaeh suddenly became a ridiculously popular girl’s name. In case you’re not scoring at home, Nevaeh is the opposite of Heaven. According to American Baby Names, there were 8 girls named Nevaeh in 1999, the year before my story featuring Noel as the opposite of Christmas came out. What happened in the wake of my story? Let the numbers speak!

In 2001, Nevaeh became the 266th most popular name. By 2010, it was the 25th most popular given name for girls born in the United States. You wish I was making this stuff up!

So, in effect, parents are naming their kid the opposithelle of heaven. There’s already a name for that, of course. It’s called hell. If one of these girls named Nevaeh grows up to marry a guy named Lucifer, you can bet some FBI profilers are going to have a devil of a time monitoring any offspring.

So, what are your thoughts: does Nevaeh mean the “opposite” of heaven or does it mean someone is heavenly “inside and out?”

 

 

10 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. I love picking out names for my characters, but I’ve never considered creating one like you did – and what now seems to be a “trend.” Having said that, I view Nevaeh as opposite heaven = hell. I guess you could argue both points, i.e. opposite = inside out? My head is now starting to hurt, but let me see if I can go on. If you wanted to elude to the opposite of heaven, it makes more sense (in my wee little hurting brain anyway) that a name like Lleh would…mean…opposite of hell. What’s that? Heaven!

    That’s my take. No need to thank me for that stellar example of brain power.

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  2. Hey, thanks for that stellar example of — oh, wait, never mind. No need for that.

    There’s already a Lloyd on the male side, so I don’t think Lleh (“Lay”) is as far-fetched as it originally sounds. It’s just a shorter pronunciation of Eric Clapton’s classic Layla. And we all know her name in real life wasn’t Layla, that’s just an anagram of Allay.

    Don’t we all know that? Oh, won’t you ease my worried mind.

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  3. I’d never thought of it that way. Since I know a Nevaeh or two (babies, which adds credit to your claim of being a trendsetter) I’m going to go with the heavenly definition. Now what I’m wondering about is what this all could mean for palindrome names..

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  4. Nice segue. To no one’s surprise, I have some experience with palindromic names. I wrote a 13-episode sit-com called The Doubles about a teen band where all four members had palindromic names: Hannah & Anna were identical twins while their friends Izzi and Otto were fraternal twins.

    What can I say about people with palindromic names? Based on my limited, and fictitious, experience, I can tell you they’re all funny. Really, really funny. Last I checked, one can still do an Internet search for The Doubles and see just how funny they were.

    Thanks for dropping in, Jessi. Even more, thanks for setting me up with such a perfect question. Got any more? I might be able to do an entire blog post on the next one!

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  5. Oh, Brigid, you slay me! I so wish I had thought about palindromic names for a set of twins when I was writing The Doubles! Now I need to write a time-travel piece, go back to the scriptwriting sessions, and update the scripts. But then we’d have to re-shoot all those scenes!

    Oh well, in the immortal words of folks much smarter than me, keep moving forward.

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  6. I love playing with names in my fiction. There is a character in my fantasy series called Lux Ferra which if you go through the etymology means “Light bearer” = “Lucifer”.

    And next time I have twins, I am asking Brigid for ideas. Not that I have ever had twins or ever intend to reproduce again. In fact, I think if I do manage another offspring, that will actually signal the end of times. And you think the name Nevaeh is popular now? And just think of the number of kids going innocently by the name “Luc” who will turn up.

    Hell just doesn’t make nearly as nice of a name as Nevaeh. It was so thoughtful of you, John, to give all those demonic parents such a nice sounding name for their little opposite of heavenly children. Although, I suspect many don’t realize and just thought, ‘what a pretty sounding name’. And it is at that.

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  7. Ellie,
    I never knew Lucifer meant light bearer. Finally, an explanation for all that fire. And brimstone, of course. Show of hands: how many people knew brimstone just means sulphur, but has fallen out of favor in our lexicon?

    I just like to use lexicon near Lucifer cuz I’m snarky that way. No idea if any of this is true.

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  8. “Hell” is too short for the backward name. You need to use something like “Eriflleh” with a good Welsh double-l sound in the middle.

    Junk/spam is also a good source for names.

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