Having no children of my own, and having inherited already-named pets, I have never had the opportunity to bestow a name on any living creature. My car is named Pete and my guitar is named Jazz, but to be honest, the names of objects are a low-stakes venture. Naming babies is far more difficult and fraught with risk. Luckily for any expectant book lovers, we librarians are here to advise you in the dangers of literary names. So with tongue firmly in cheek and without further ado, we present “What not to name your baby, but feel free to use them for your dog.”
Holly Golightly: You’ve seen Breakfast At Tiffany’s, right? With the graceful, long-necked beauty of Audrey Hepburn and the happy ending wherein the poor, damaged play girl finds true love at long last? Yeah, maybe you should read the novella before choosing Capote’s most famous character as your sweet baby’s namesake.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles: Imagine, a few years in the future when your sweet, ruddy cheeked little Tess asks you about where you got her name. “Well, dearie, there’s this girl in a book by Thomas Hardy…” That’s not a conversation you want to have.
Jezebel: Such a lovely name. Too bad it comes from a blood-thirsty, manipulative Old Testament princess who makes Lady Macbeth look like Mary Poppins and is defenestrated and eaten by stray dogs. It really is quite a musical name, though.
Ahab: None of the literary Ahabs make great role-models, but at least Melville’s had a certain admirable stick-to-it-iveness.
Lolita: Should I go there? No. Just a bad, bad name choice.
Hernia Sue: Seriously. She’s a character in Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God. Apparently her dad found an old medical handbook and he liked the sound of it. But he wasn’t a very nice man.
Uriah Heap: Dickens is a master of the bad, but fitting, character name. Uriah will represent for all of them.
Tristan: This one goes back to a romantic ballad of woe told by troubadours in medieval times, Tristan and Iseult. It was revived in the nineties when Brad Pitt appeared as Tristan in the movie adaptation of Legends of the Fall. I don’t care how hot Pitt is, you do not name your baby “child of sorrow” without hurting somebody’s feelings.
Hawk (or Falcon, or Peregrine, or, heaven help us, Owl): These are all pulled from my time developing the romance collection here at the Library. Apparently, predatory bird names are super hot. Who knew? Here’s a little advice, though: things that regurgitate pellets are neither dashing nor romantic. When predatory birds sweep you off your feet, it’s not a good thing.
Wickham: Not only would he grow up to be a cad and a rake, he’d be a hipster with a fondness for tight trousers as well.