January 15, 2011

What's my name again?

I need a character name for a boy, and it's driving me nuts. Character names are something I get a little irrational about, and I wasn't much better when it came to naming the kids.

My middle kid asked me recently where his name came from, for a school project, and I took him through the whole thing (including his dad's streak of crazy when it comes to "No shortened names on the birth certificate!" Some people name their kids after superheros and cleaning products, but he doesn't like to think about that).

All I cared about was that I really liked "Ben." It sounds gentle and kind but strong to me, all admirable things. And I agreed with the other half that we would avoid Benjamin, because I really didn't want him ending up a Benjy, no matter how cute it might be on another kid. We were down to Benedict and Bennett, and since the latter seemed like less weight to carry, we went with that.

But now, even though no one calls him anything but Ben (and Benno, fondly, around the house), it matters that his name is "Bennett" and not something else somehow. There's a simplicity to it, and a kind of elegance (wow, I can hear Ben laughing his head off somewhere right now without knowing why) because it's slightly old-fashioned and polite without being too stiff. 

In my head, anyway. But it's like the chicken and the egg -- did he grow into the name, or did we just pick the right one for him? 

Naming characters is weird, because you *know* (or hope you know) the kind of people they're going to be, and you never really know that with a baby. (I mean, I'm sure Charles Manson's mom didn't look at him in diapers and think, "Oh yeah, crazy serial-murdering guy, that's my boy!") But at the same time, naming a snarky, scheming, boyfriend-stealing girl character Jezebel is sort of cheating, too. You don't want to give away everything right  there in the character's name, and in the world of the story, you have to figure what parents would name their little girl Jezebel?! Nobody, that's who. 

Which brings me back to the boy I need to name, who has been going by, um, BOY, so far. Back to the baby-naming books with me.

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