Sunday, February 21, 2010

Soothed by Names

I've been reading Baby Names Made Easy: The Complete Reverse-Dictionary of Baby Names by Amanda Elizabeth Barden off an on for the last month or two since I purchased it. At first, I thumbed through with specific goals. I looked up the names of people I know—for instance, my name means "knotted cord" or "God's servant"; Cody's name means "cushion" or "helpful person." Then I looked up names of my favorite characters in novels and TV shows.

Then I looked up names by category, getting serious about it, looking for names for characters in my novels. I found some, but more often than not, I'd end up thumbing through the book as one name would spark an idea for another, one category would lead me to another.

Lately, as nothing else (especially not novels) seems to be able to hold my attention for long, I've found myself reading Baby Names Made Easy as I would any nonfiction novel: in snippets while eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, or while idly watching Cody play a video game. And, oddly, it's a very soothing thing to read. It captures the attention of my creative mind without demanding my full attention. I can bounce around from page to page without "loosing my place" and I can set it down without marking my page. It's been just what I've needed to satisfy the part of me that needs to have a book to read.


Tracy said...

Hmm, I could spend hours wandering baby name websites, I never thought to actually buy a book. So much fun! I think naming characters is SO important so it takes me forever to find a perfect name. Then there's always the, "I've made up the perfect name...oh crap, but it's a real name and it means Crap Warden in Armenian."

Rebecca Chastain said...

LOL! Fortunately for us, most readers don't surf through name books and sites looking for the meanings of names. So if you like the name that means Crap Warden, keep it. Maybe make it a running joke.

I own two name books: the one mentioned in the blog and A Concise Dictionary of First Names by Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges. They both offer a different way to look up names and not all names overlap between the books.

I'm seriously considering buying another: The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg. She runs the Nymbler site, and I believe the book includes lists of names that go together. So if you've named a character Derek and you want to name his siblings names that are similar (from the same time period, with the same ethnic background, etc.), there's a convenient list right there.

Plus, how can I go wrong with another name book? :)