What’s in a Name?

I believe in addressing people by their names. It makes them feel good about themselves.

Unfortunately, my memory for names is almost as bad as my memory for faces. Although aging hasn’t helped that problem any, at least I can still remember my own name.

Because of that–my preference for using a person’s name, not the fact that I can remember my own name–the first draft of my first novel had characters calling one another by name left to right, top to bottom, front to back.

I’m quite thankful my wife caught that problem early enough for me to correct it. Pronouns came into being for a reason, and I guarantee you readers are thankful for that. I’m a reader, too.

According to How Many of Me, which searches census statistics, the United States has thirty men named Roger Bruner. I haven’t met any of the other twenty-nine and can’t imagine I ever will. If How Many of Me was able to search on middle names as well, I’m pretty confident I’d be the only Roger Ellis Bruner.

I suppose knowing I’m relatively uniquely named should be reassuring. Suppose I shared the name of one of the world’s most dangerous and hated men? Hmm. Let’s not even go there.

“Roger” means “expert with a spear.” “Ellis” is the first name of a man my parents were very dedicated to. I wouldn’t be willing to quote the Urban Dictionary’s definition of “Ellis,” but they make being teased during my childhood by “friends” calling me “Elvis” seem less objectionable.

I was almost scared to look up “Bruner,” but the results weren’t nearly as bad. It’s both German and Jewish and used to refer to a person who lived beside a spring or a well. As a Christian, I would like to be thought of as someone who lives beside the Spring of Living Water and invites others to drink from it.

People sometimes used to think my father looked somewhat Jewish. I was interested in learning–while visiting a synagogue in Sydney,  Australia–how few Jews ‘t look “typically Jewish.” So why shouldn’t my non-Jewish father be a reverse of that?

As a novelist, I’m frequently having to name my characters. Although I try to avoid using the names of famous people,  sometimes a person isn’t sufficiently well known for me to be familiar with. Thank goodness Googling a name is apt to identify that person and help me make a wise decision about whether to go ahead and use his or her name.

In When Love Won’t Wait, a novel I plan to publish within the next couple of months, I’ve named one of the protagonists “Katie Campbell.” Google found a number of hits on that name, although only three showed up in Facebook. Since my Katie is a wonderful woman, I didn’t see any reason not to go ahead and use that name.

Nonetheless, this statement on the copyright page is always important:

This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, dialogue, incidents, and places either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Just one additional thought. Because I’m adopted and don’t have any idea who my birth parents were, I also have no idea what their surname was or what they planned to name me. My daughter is adopted as well, but at least we know she was named “Ashleigh” at birth.

I’ve had fun writing this. If you haven’t already looked up your name on How Many of Me, why don’t you do it now and tell us the results in a comment. How about also letting us know what your name(s) mean, if you know.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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