2/23/07

Naming Names, Part II

Striving for historical accuracy, I am super keen on the SCA webpages devoted to the history of names. I just love it. I want to write the Moorish Spain sequel to RWS just for the names of my leads: Siraj al-Rahib al-Garnati and Ada al-Zarqa' bint Yusuf al-Anklatari. (Bonus points for whoever provides a translation.) Yeah...I'll get there later this year.

Names are indicative of culture, trends, and family, and yet they come to carry the most meaning on an individual basis. You probably have a mental picture of "Mike" because of Mikes you have known, not because of the name itself. One regular visitor to this site prefers that I use my moniker, Salome, in our correspondences because "Carrie" holds negative connotations for him. I resent the bitch from his past who sullied my fair name. And yet Salome comes with historic baggage of its own.

Names also come and go based on changes to language. When was the last time you met a woman named Gay? (I waited tables with one about 12 years ago.) Others change beacuse of celebrity, like Michael Bolton in Office Space.

I digress. My heroines in RWA are named Meg and Ada. Research indicates that neither of these would have been given names. Margaret and Megisend, yes. Adeleide and Adalina, yes. I need to make mention of Meg and Ada as nicknames, but more likely, the pet names associated with these would have been Latin in nature. Ah well. I make compromises as I see fit (sticks tongue out). After all, I'm not writing the dialogue in Old English either.

And since I did this for the men a couple of weeks ago, here are the top ten most popular 13th century English names for women: Mathilda, Alice, Agnes, Edith, Emma, Isabella, Mabel, Margaret, Alviva, and Christiana. "Alviva" is quite cool, but no one would believe it was period -- sounds like a shampoo brand.

Too bad I already put Mathilda in Serenade. Its popularity as a name was probably enhanced by the ascension of Queen Matilda. I so need to write a book about her -- maybe become the next Philippa Gregory. Literary historicals are made into proper films starring Colin Firth. The best we romance writers can hope for is a Lifetime TV movie starring Heather Locklear. Sigh...

I finish up with a few bizarre-o entries: Ragenild, Godeleva, Gunnora, Hawis, Rochilda, and Scholastica. Rock on, heroine named Scholastica!

6 comments:

Mircalla said...

Adalina is a great name! My great grandmama name was Adelina.

Funnily enough the names you mention are the most pop names in Italy at the moment. All the little girls are called either: Matilde/a, Alice, Agnese, Emma, Margherita ... or Sofia.

Scholastica?!?

Mircalla said...

how are the kids now?

Ann(ie) said...

Gunnora would kick ass in a Norse medieval thingie.

jmc said...

We talked very briefly about names in my Arabic class today. [Did you know that Arabic women have always kept their own names when they marry?] Generally: given name, father's name, last name. Last names derived from historical profession of family (a la smith, baker, etc.) or origin, as usual.

Checking my not-so-handy Hans Wehr dictionary, I didn't find any definitions for Siraj, Rahib, or Ada. Rahib is a name that has appeared in dialogues in the textbook, though. Al-Garnati seems to be fairly common last name, haven't been able to find a meaning yet. A'zarq means blue, bint means girl. Ada the blue girl/daughter of Yusuf. Haven't found anything on Al-Anklatari, other than to say it sounds similar to the words for English language.

Yeah, no, not a helpful semi-translation there. Part of the problem is that I'm bad at transliterating. Sorry 'bout that. A fluent Arabic speaker would look at that and wonder, what was that JMC chick thinking? That's not what that means!

Mircalla said...

"[Did you know that Arabic women have always kept their own names when they marry?]"

also italian women...

and now a new (italian) law has passed allowing parents to give their kids either the paternal, maternal surname or both. how cool is that?

Tess said...

Margaret was our #1 girl's name, but I'm seriously thinking about Scholastica! I'd be afraid that with a name like that, though, she'd be bound by irony to drop out of high school.