What’s in a Name? ~ Kari Trumbo

Do you find you love your name? People can be quite opinionated about something they had little to no control over. One common problem authors have who write historical books is to pick names that were authentically used in the time period. A name like Jaylen or even Liam (unless your character has a very specific heritage and hasn’t been in the US long) would be almost unheard of.

Names are beautiful, but surprising, too. From my study of census data and comparing it to various books I have with actual accounts, I can only say that simply because a name wasn’t common in an era, doesn’t mean it wasn’t used. There are names that have been created in the last few decades which should be (of course) avoided in a historical novel, but I’m all for using what the past has left behind to enrich the future.

Does that mean we should fill our stories with Agneses and Jacobs, or should we personally accept that we’ll have a name we are unhappy with for eternity? I don’t think we need to go that far. Not to mention, how boring it would be! A wonderful resource I’ve found for naming characters is, frankly, so simple I’m surprised more people don’t do it. I find books with personal letters from people during the period in which I’m writing and use their names.

For instance, one of my favorite books in studying Gold-rush era California is a book called, They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush, by Jo Ann Levy. This book is a treasure of life experiences from that period. So many people think of the Oregon Trail as the most difficult trial a family of that time could face, but life in California was hard. These women saw it all, not only the Elephant (you’ll have to look up that phrase to find the meaning, it’s off-topic for this post).

These early pioneers had fantastic names: Arzelia, Julius, Luzena, Ledyard, Zeno, Lodisa, Angeline, Lucena, Clotilde, and Fayette. These are just skimming through the first quarter of the book without even really looking! Of course, there are Annes, Jennies, Marys, Margerets, Johns and Josephs and I think a lot of authors feel like they must use these names because it is expected in historical novels, but in my digging for historical names, I found something very interesting. Your name doesn’t have to define you or your era, not now, and not into eternity.

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In the first book in my Brothers of Belle Fourche series, Teach Me to Love, Izzy is abused by the husband she hastily married. She comes to the Broken Circle O to find peace, what she gets is so much more. Conrad can’t think of her as Izzy, not even as her given name, Isabella. He gives her a new name, for a new start, Isabelle.

In Revelations 2:17b we learn that the Lord will give us a new name, a name so intimate, so truly ours, that no one but the receiver and the Lord will know it.

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

I really wanted to explore that in Teach Me to Love, how important a name can be in healing from the past, from our mistakes, the ultimate forgiveness because we are completely and totally new. The Lord knows we don’t want to be the selves we left behind when we meet Him, so he makes us new, not only in body, but in name.

So, what’s in a name?

I’ve got an ebook copy of my collection, Brothers of Belle Fourche, Books 1-3
 for one commenter. Do you think names are important? Have you ever wished you had a different name or read a book where it felt like the name of the character didn’t quite fit (or maybe fit perfectly)?

 

 

Kari Trumbo is an International bestselling author of historical and contemporary Christian romance. She began her writing journey five years ago and has indie published almost forty titles. Prior to writing, she was a freelance developmental editor and beta reader.

Kari is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the American Christian Fiction Writers Association as well as her local chapter, MN N.I.C.E. She makes her home in central MN—where the trees and lakes are plentiful—with her husband of over twenty years, two daughters, two sons, a cat, a bunny, and one hungry woodstove.

 

 

 

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Updated: December 12, 2018 — 12:32 pm

41 Comments

  1. I think our names can influence us. My given name is Patricia Marie. I was named after my father’s cousin. It was the name she took when she became a nun. Growing up I was called Patsy by my family and was what I used at school. When I started 7th grade, my teacher asked my name and informed me I should be using my given name and not the variation, so in school I was Patricia. The next year we moved and I started a new school. I wanted a new start and introduced myself as Pat. I have gone by that ever since. My relatives still call me Patsy. It is a name I really don’t relate to, but I understand the habit of calling me that. To high school classmates and those I have met since, I am Pat and that feels right. Of those I have met more recently, I am Pat or Patricia. Both feel right, but Patricia feels a bit formal.
    Thinking of family names, there were many nice older names Emma Josephine and Grace for my grandmothers. My mother and her sisters were Anita, Gloria, Beatrice, and Veronica. All were names from the late 1800s to the 1920′ and 30’s.
    I hope you and your family have a Blessed Christmas and a wonderful 2019.

    1. Pat, I never liked the name Linda because there were always six or seven in each of my classes in school. And I hated my middle name of Louise. It always resulted in people calling me Linda Lou. Hated it. But now that I’m older, I don’t mind the Linda because I have an unusual last name and when paired together it’s not vanilla anymore. 🙂 I hope you’re doing well.

      1. I ran into many variations of Pat when I was in school. The summer I got married 4 of us Pats (Me, Patti, another Pat, and Tricia) got married in a 5 week period. I can’t say I blame you about the Linda Lou name. Sounds like something from The Grinch in Whoville.

    2. Thank you! I hope you have a Blessed Christmas as well. Thank you for commenting and I totally understand what you’re saying about how names “feel”. I’ve always disliked mine because there were four of “me” in my class growing up. Now, it’s just part of who I am.

  2. Great blog. I love my name because it’s pronounced different then most people think. Tony’s has a long “O” I was named after my dad, Tony, so think Tony with an A. Ton- ya!
    My brothers name is Trophy, yes I named him, I was only 5 when he was born and my parents thought I was playing and laughed, but when I started to cry because I wanted him named Trophy, they gave in. My brother loves his name so I take full credit. HA HA!!
    Yes some books use names that just don’t fit the character, but those are usually far & in between.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Tonya, I confess that I sometimes say your name wrong. I’ll try to remember and please don’t hold any slip against me. Your version is so different from any I’ve heard. I adore the name Trophy! You were brilliant at 5. Heck, you’re still brilliant!

    2. I love that! Both very unique names. 🙂

  3. This was interesting. I have never been a fan of my name because most people don’t really look at it and I get called everything other than what my name is. I’m constantly called Janet, Janice, Janie, Jeannie and so on. I have gotten where I just answer to anything.

    1. That happens a lot. I’ve even had someone decide I was Terri because that’s what he heard when I was introduced to him. I will say, more people have trouble with my last name. My name gets spelled Trouble or Trumble a lot.

  4. I like my name because I am NOT a Kimberly and Kim is most common in asia. I commonly have to correct people because everyone assumes it’s a nickname but it’s not. I love reading uncommon names in books.

    1. I do too. I recently wrote a character like that in a book that hasn’t been released yet. She told me her name was Addi, not short for Addison, just Addi. That makes it special.

  5. I have never really liked my name but I would not change it because it is mine. Names are important.

    1. They are important, and I agree with you. Even though I don’t love my name (because it is so common) I would never change it.

  6. Thank you for your post. I live in central Minnesota too so will look forward to becoming more acquainted as an author. I totally get the hungry wood stove comment, trees, and lakes. Mosquitos too! There are names I just love, like Andrea. When I first heard that name years ago, I so hoped we could have a baby girl because I loved the name so much. God blessed us!

    1. Andrea is my cousin’s name! Happy to connect with a fellow Minnesotan. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

  7. Wow, this is such a wonderful post. I looked up Rev 2:17, so cool. I didn’t know about that one. Well I haven’t read Revelations for a while. Thanks for sharing that one. I really like my name. Lournetta. My dad was the oldest of two brothers. Dad-Floyd and his brother-Lourn. I was the first baby born between the two and 60 years ago I was supposed to be a boy, and I was going to be named Lourn. But since I was girl my mom just tacked on etta. I love what my name stands for and I have loved my uncle, plus there are just not a lot of those names around. Merry Christmas.

    1. I love your name. What a fantastic story, and a little piece of history you get to carry with you. So very unique.

  8. I have always loved my name. I gave all my daughters the same middle name (my middle name) so they can always share that even after they get married and have different last names. They love it.

    1. My husband’s family has a similar tradition, but only with firstborn boys. But I tried my best to make sure that each of my children knew that we took a lot of time with their names and wanted them special.

  9. I never like my first name so always went by my middle name with friend and family. Now in school they used my first name.Now that I am older it really doesn’t matter that much so I will go by about any thing they call me.

    1. I do think it seems to matter less when you get beyond the school years. For whatever reason, once I got married my name didn’t really bother me much anymore.

  10. I have never been crazy about my name and people are forever mixing it with the name Linda so a lot of times I’ll say Glenda like the good witch of the north cause most everyone has watched Wizard of Oz . Really enjoyed your blog today

    1. Thank you! When I first read your name, that was my first thought, ‘oh, like in the Wizard of Oz.’ It’s nice that it is unique though. I’ve never met another Glenda.

  11. In my Mom’s family Fayette is the middle name of her dad,brother,nephew, and grand nephew. I always thought it was very unusual but Grandpa was known as Fay to his family and friends. His father’s name was Melvin so I never understood why he went by his middle name.
    Great post,names are fascinating.

    1. That is interesting. I bet there’s a story there. 🙂 Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it and thank you for commenting.

  12. Welcome back, Kari! We’re so happy to have you visit. I agree about the importance of a name. I like to make them interesting. But for a bit character that isn’t in the book much I choose a classic one like Joe, Charles, or William. Your series sounds amazing and I wish you good fortune with them. Enjoy your visit.

    1. Thank you so much Linda. I’m a fan and enjoying your Men of Legend series right now.

  13. When I was younger, I wanted a different name, but now feel it suits me… glad I wasn’t given the name they planned on before I was born… I was going to be named after my dad and grandpa.

    1. Oh, I hear you! I think the Good Lord stepped in and saved me. My mom wanted to name me Candy, and as much as I like sweets…I’m just not a Candy. LOL

  14. Names are important and yes, I’ve read a few historical novels that the names didn’t seem to fit the era. I was named Deborah, from the Biblica spelling and I had a horrible fight with some of my teachers to spell it correctly because in our area of the country it is pronounced like Debra. Combined with the fact it seemed half the girls born in 1955 and 1956 were named Debra or Debi (I spell mine Debbie), I felt like I wasn’t unique. I tried changing to my middle name when I was in High School because I loved it so, but I would forget to answer when my mom called, so that was short lived. There were so many Deborah’s in one of my college freshmen classes we had to sign in by number (I think there were 17 of us) My middle name is Marietta, after my grandmothers Mary Bertha and Lilly Rosetta (she went by Etta) an name I love and the story that goes with it. Other beautiful female names from my family include Diamindy, Lucretia, Florence Mae, Hester, Suzanne. Guy names Meshavh, Shadrack, Noah, Joseph Young, Jacob Lawson, William James, James Burwell, Gabriel. These male and female names all come from the 1840’s through 1890’s. I also love my grandsons names which have been resurrected Rocco Case (resurrected from an old ancestor on his father’s side)and Asher Douglas, a name that has been out of favor for 175 years, Asher was one of the 12 tribes of Israel.

    1. Such great names! My youngest is Gabriel, middle name Frederick (after my great grandfather). My younger daughter’s middle name is Joelle, another name you don’t hear frequently.

  15. Spell check and I are fighting today! That was supposed to be Meshack not Meshavh. Lol

  16. Names are our most personal part of our identity. I dislike when people pronounce my name as Dennis. It’s Denise.

    1. I once had a nurse call my Gabriel, Gabrielle, so I understand. Thank you so much for commenting.

  17. I used to hate my name because I thought it was old fashion and made me sound old, of course, now I’m there. lol
    Always wanted a different name when I was younger.

    1. Aw, I’ve always liked your name Sharon. Good to see you here!

  18. A name sets pace of first impressions. My mother almost named me Gabriel and to call me for short Gabby. It would have fit. My name doesn’t always get pronounced correctly.

    1. My name doesn’t either. People always ask me if it is car-ee or Care-ee (it’s care-ee).

  19. I have always liked my name

  20. I prefer simple, old-fashioned biblical names like John, David and Daniel for guys, and Leah, Phoebe and Sarah for women. If it’s a more modern name I still prefer simple and one or two syllables like Jack or Sue. A horse can be long gone from the corral by the time one gets around to shouting a five-syllable name, don’t you think? So of course I even like shorter, simpler names for animals as well.

    Similar to Linda Broday, I had the same problem as she did with my first name being so common that it seemed as if everyone had it, so there were likely often five us in the same homeroom all the way through high school. I’ve noticed that continues to happen with names coming in and going out of popularity with Sophia and Olivia, and Jackson and Liam being currently in vogue. In fact, my next-door neighbor’s new granddaughters are named Sophia and Olivia!

  21. Avatar

    I have never disliked my name but it is one that was.popular during a certain time frame. There were 3 Connie’s in my class and many more older and younger than me in my high school. Connie was apparently very popular in the 50s but you don’t hear today’s baby girls being given this name. There are some names that are classic and every few years they get a resurgence.

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