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NOMINATIVE DETERMINISM (NAMES)

Posted on September 29, 2011

The curious phenomenon of nominative determinism – the concept that the name of a person determines their character or behaviour or profession – is enticing and, it would so often seem, proved in everyday life. Yet it is difficult to believe that it is anything other than superstition. In the world of the story, however, it is undoubtedly a strong force when it comes to naming characters.

Would the spy novels of Ian Flemming have become quite so popular if his protagonist had been called, not ‘James Bond’, but ‘Ezekiel Honeydew’? Would we laud Charles Dickens as a great novelist if his first book had been called ‘The Jones Papers’? I sincerely doubt it. Names carry connotations for us all. Some of those connotations are personal (because of our own experiences) and some are universal to a culture. I cannot say whether this is true of all societies, but certainly in the one that I know, the name of a character triggers associations within the readers’ minds. Always remember that, when struggling to come up with characters’ names.

 

Tags: characters' names, connotations