Rend Lake at sunset

When I was a kid, maybe four or five, I overheard some adult mention Queen Isabella.  I thought it was the most beautiful name I’d ever heard.  I also thought Queen was her first name and Isabella was her last.  Anyway, I labored under this misinformation for awhile until I learned about royalty, but she sparked the beginning of my fascination with names, particularly how they sound and how the fit the owner.

I lean toward romantic, musical sounding names:  Anna Maria Alberghetti pops in my mind.  I smile when I hear it, say it, and wonder if she is anything like the warm-sounding name.  A teacher I work with has the wonderful first name Francisco, which I found myself repeating out loud in the car with just the right accent and rolling ‘r’.  The next time in class he encouraged the students to call him by his first name and I perked up, waiting to hear him pronounce his name with a Spanish flourish, until he said, “You can call me Frank.”  Never.

As a fiction writer, I love playing around with naming characters, sometimes trying to be subtle, other times hoping the name will support the character’s personality or point to some trait.  The current bad guy in a standalone mystery I’m writing is named Cree, short for Credence.  Cree is one letter short of creep, which of course he is.  The protagonist’s name is Horace but everyone calls him Ace.

My father seemed to be the arbiter of naming the children in our family.  He was one of nine children and my mother was an only child, so he picked names–first and middle–from his numerous relatives and slapped them on all seven of us.  I’m fifth in line and by the time my mother went into the hospital to bear me, she’d grown a little tired of not having much say in the naming business.  In those days, apparently women stayed in the hospital TEN DAYS after giving birth.  When my father came to pick us up after mom’s “vacation,” she showed my birth certificate to him:  Deborah Ann Whitehouse was emblazoned on the offending document.

Dad took his pen out and drew lines through the most popular girl’s name in the ’50’s.  He substituted Agatha, which was one of his sister’s names (everyone calls her Dolly, for obvious reasons).  My mom dug in her heels, saying everyone would call me ‘Aggie’ and she hated the sound.  They finally agreed on Adelaide (another one of my aunts) with Frances (mom’s name) for the middle.  I ended up being called Addy, which is darn close to Aggie but different, somehow.  Come to think of it, it’s not too far off from Debbie, either.

Here’s the best name I’ve ever heard for sheer strength, creativity and uniqueness:  Quo Vadis.  True story.  And his last name couldn’t be more mundane:  Jones.

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