Sunday, 16 December 2007

Calling Names

Names are REALLY important...

I bet everyone with a computer has, at some time, idly googled his own name. It's only when you hope to become well known that you realize being called Mary Jones or John Smith is not good. Not good at all. Though you can get away with it if you excel in your field - John Smith, briefly leader of the Labour Party, at the time transcended his bog-standard name.

I chose my writing name with this in mind. Google Lexi Revellian and it's all ME. Mwah-ha-ha-ha! (Though they do ask if you mean 'rebellion').

There is a magic in names. Yahweh was God's name in the Old Testament, so powerful that his worshippers were forbidden to say it. In an unacknowledged rite of passage, teenagers today often change their name when leaving home. Tessa becomes Tess, Elizabeth Liza, Mark Marc.

Back to writing; a critic once said that you could often guess the quality of a novel by the aptness and credibility of the characters' names. Bad names most likely meant a bad novel. This is especially true in fantasy, where writers have total freedom, and frequently abuse it. A hero called L'tru? Rramis? Gwaal?

Or children's fiction. Bobby Redbreast the Robin, Squawky the Crow, Mr and Mrs Blue-tit, Beady Eye the Hawk, Bobtail the rabbit, Ollie the Owl - the poverty of imagination makes you want to weep. (I did not make these up, by the way).

I've just read The Princess Bride, an eccentric but good read. Some of the names are excellent; Inigo Montoya, Vizzini, Fezzik. But others give you the impression William Goldman put down the first names that came into his head, then forgot to go back and change them. Buttercup, Westley, Humperdinck. Dear oh dear.


  1. Lexi,

    I was late coming to The Princess Bride just having read it for the first time a couple of years ago. I thought it was one of the bravest, most imaginative books I have read in a long time. He breaks so many so called rules and it still works beautifully. When I read Stardust by that wonderful writer Neil Gaiman, I enjoyed it, but it still came across as a pale imitation of Goldman's book.

    "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

    I may be a little off on the quote, but I couldn't help myself.

    Inspired by your thought here I am changing my name to Rasputin Jones.

    Nah, I think I will stay with Plumboz.

  2. Yes, that was my VERY favourite part of the film, with Inigo Montoya excellently played by Mandy Patinkin.

    Now there's a name a man wouldn't necessarily choose...

    And yeah, let's break some rules!

    Go Plumboz!

  3. Ive never read the Princess Bride. I will now look out for it!

  4. Hi, Casdok, the film's good too, and as the screenplay was written by the author it's close to the book.

    My copy of the book was read by my daughter in one go on her last visit. She took it away with her back to university.

  5. I've read both the book, and watched the film. I have to say I prefer the film much more, as original and interesting as the book is. Perhaps this is because I'm not really sure what the book's going on about at points. But maybe that's just me.

    With regard to the names though, I think that the fact that Buttercup and Westley sound rather silly helps Goldman to spoof the traditional fairytale: Beauty, Cinderella, and Goldilocks are all sopppy names too...


    PS Just to say, love your stories!

  6. Thanks, Robin!

    But you'll never convince me that thought went into those names.

    Maybe I should ask William Goldman about it...

  7. I agree that "The Princess Bride" has some great names, and those names that you don't like are at least suitable to the characters. That is the most important thing. Unless you want to make a joke, it is normal to have names that evoke the image you are after.

    BTW, you can't blame (or praise) William Goldman for the names. He didn't write "The Princess Bride", he merely abridged it. The original (longwinded) author was some chap called S. Morenstern. I don't really know much about him. In fact, I don't know anything about him, beyond that he wrote "The Princess Bride" and a sequel, "Buttercup's Baby".

    I don't even know his full name.

  8. Hi Krew, thanks for dropping by.

    I am blaming William Goldman for the names, as S. Morgenstern is but an authorial device; see

    In fact, it was the improbable names that made me first suspect that Morgenstern didn't exist...

    Not sure why Goldman wanted to hand over some of the credit for such a cracking read. Darned if I would have done!