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Feature on author Elizabeth Bailey and her A Rose By Any Other Name

Today's feature is on author Elizabeth Bailey. Connect with Elizabeth on Facebook.

A Rose by Any Other Name?

Because their respective families are sworn enemies, Shakespeare’s Juliet uses this argument to persuade herself that Romeo’s surname does not matter: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”

But, cries the author of historical romance, would my character be as believable if she was called Tracy instead of, say, Tamasine?

Well, no. “Tracy”, my Oxford Dictionary of Christian Names informs me, is a recent import from the US. A short form or nickname for Teresa, a name itself much in use in the 18th century, at which time the common nickname was Tess. Nowadays this is usually Tessa.

Originally Spanish, Teresa goes back to the 5th century as Therasia and was carried across the continents when St Teresa became famous. Tamasine (or Tamsin) is a Cornwall version of Thomasine, popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Names sound wrong if they weren’t used in the period, just as old-fashioned names sound strange on modern heroines. I can’t start a story until I’ve got the names sorted out, but I love trawling my dictionary for the right name. I’ve culled names in lists in my notebooks, which I browse too.

There’s one for jewel names: Jade, Sapphire, Amber, Opal. Unusual names: Amphelisia, Faramond, Hypatia, Alured, Salathiel. Names I fall in love with: Ozanne, Pertesia or Gide. French names: Olimpe, Matheu, Violette, Antoine. Italian: Isolina, Ruggero, Zuccari, Lodolini - copied from tombstones in a graveyard in Florence.

I also have a list of names for country people and servants: Gartrett, Audrey, Muriel, Roger, Samuel and the ordinary Dick. The Oxford Dictionary is specific about which class of person used the name at what period in history. Fashionable names tended to get picked up by the working classes, at which point they were promptly dropped by the gentry.

I love playing with names. In Seventh Heaven (soon to be re-released as an ebook) the gag is that the parents of ten children couldn’t be bothered to think of names for them, so called them by Latin numbers - Septimus being the seventh child of the title. In An Angel’s Touch, Verity and her sisters had names from the virtues, but the single brother was called Henry, a source of extreme annoyance to Verity until it turned out to be the hero’s name too.

Often I find I like a nickname, and so I can give the heroine a less pleasant name just to get the contraction. Friday (from Friday Dreaming), for example, for Frideswid.

In A Lady in Name, the hero’s mother is an eccentric obsessed with the Middle Ages who saddles her children with Stefanus and Dionisia (Stefan and Dion to the reader). The whole premise centres around the fact that our heroine Lucy is nameless. If she is a love child, she has no entitlement to the name she bears. Is she or is she not a lady?

The culture of names is endlessly fascinating, whatever the language or country. So hard for prospective parents to choose! As a novelist, I’m lucky to have the joy of picking just the right names every time I create a new set of characters for the latest book.

Shakespeare may be right about roses, but a heroine by any other name is simply not as sweet.



 A Lady in Name (Elizabeth Bailey)
Lucy’s world turns upside down when she learns she is the love child of the Earl of Pennington, and not the late vicar’s daughter.


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16 comments:

  1. I loved this post! Great to meet you, Elizabeth. I'm a name junkie, too. I have to know the names before I can begin. Sometimes the character brings the name when he or she shows up. I wish they were all that accommodating.

    Hi, Nas!

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    1. Hi Carol - thank you! How true that characters with minds of their own insist on being called a particular name, no matter whether the mere author likes it or not.
      Elizabeth

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  2. Excellent post, Elizabeth!

    I've heard the name Tamsin used before... though I can't recall where!

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    1. We've got an actress here in the UK, Tamsin Grieg, so it certainly is in use. Thanks for your interest.
      Elizabeth

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  3. Names are the best! I love unusual names, but not so unusual that they're annoying, you know? =)

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    1. Yes, I agree, Leandra. If they're too unwieldy to the ear, it really takes you out of the story.
      Elizabeth

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  4. Ah, names! I can't start writing until I get the right one either. My editor asked me to change names once and it felt plain wrong.

    Hi Nas :)

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    1. That's tough, Shelley. I've had to change a nickname for an editor, but it turned out better than my choice, so I didn't mind, but I think I was lucky.
      Elizabeth

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  5. Fascinating post! It sounds like you do a lot of searching when it comes to choosing the names for your characters.

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    1. Thanks, Sherry. I probably do too much! I love it...

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  6. What a beautiful post, Nas. Elizabeth, you have beautiful eyes. I agree that names are important in stories, especially period pieces. Good luck with your book, Elizabeth. Thanks, Nas, for sharing this with your readers.

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    1. Why thank you, Victoria. How very kind!

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  7. I'm pleased to meet the author. I like interesting names in characters and in real life.

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    1. Thank you, Medeia. Come to that, yours is a gorgeously different name. I'd love to pinch it for a heroine!

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  8. I like how the naming process actually becomes a part of your stories.

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    1. Thank you so much. It's a bit of a game with me really.

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