03/03/2014

YA's Weirdest Names {The Birdie Musings}


After reading more than a couple of books with 'out there' character names (putting it lightly), I decided it would be a good idea to examine the weirdest names I've read in YA and whether or not the odd names serve a purpose, other than making us debate for hours about how to pronounce them.




 Main culprits: Nyx, Astraia, Telomach, Ignifex, Damocles

This is a case of trying too hard to be different. Nyx's name means Goddess of the Night / Daughter of Chaos, which I don't think is relevant. Unless we start reading in to things, about how Nyx's birth was the result of a 'deal with the devil' scenario. 

But even if I could get past Nyx, the rest of the names completely pulled me out of the story as I struggled to pronounce them or determine their relevance. It almost felt like these strange names were put there just for the sake of being different, instead of for any real purpose. 

Verdict: Very distracting and, overall, ineffective.


 Main culprits: Dossam, Meuric, Menehem, Sarit (and many others)

The names in this book weren't distracting at all and I really thought they reflected the unusual nature of the book and helped to establish the world, especially since they were all gender neutral. Dossam was also shortened to Sam and Ana (our main character) gave a good dose of normalcy in a sea of stranger names.

Verdict: In this type of society, unique names are to be expected, especially since these are people who have been alive for an extremely long time. This was an effective plot device.


 Main culprits: Penryn, Raffe

Being an angel, Raffe's name is perfectly suited to his character (the longer version of it, even more so) and really helps to remind us of his other-worldly past and his differences. Penryn's name isn't too strange, but unusual enough to make her stand out. Its mythological feel blends with the story nicely.

Verdict: Well-suited to the story, managing to be unique without crossing the boundary to unnecessarily weird.


 Main culprits: Beatrice (Tris), Four

I actually thought these names were perfect; Beatrice shows the old-fashioned, more conservative side of Abnegation and Tris is a no-frills, direct reflection of Dauntless. As for Four, how he got his nickname is fantastically explained and only helped to craft him into a more intriguing and well thought-out character.

Verdict: Great names which reveal a lot about the characters.


 Main culprits: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Iko, Wolf, Kaito

The odd names in this book really add to the fairytale element and are a reflection of that. Cinder for Cinderella; Scarlet for Little Red Reading Hood; Wolf for, well, the wolf. As for Kaito, it's a name that perfectly suits the New Beijing setting.

Verdict: This is a perfect example of odd names that have a purpose and, instead of distracting you from the book, only serve to immerse you in the story a little more.


 Main culprits: Blue, Gansey, Maura, Persephone, Kavinsky, Orla, Calla

I adore the names in The Raven Cycle books and think each one reflects the uniqueness of the characters. Maggie Stiefvater crafts such wonderfully individual characters that a name like 'Jane' would not befit someone like Maura or Persephone. And Blue needs to be called Blue. And Gansey has to be referred to as Gansey, instead of Richard or Dick. 

Verdict: The names all add to the intriguing atmosphere of the book and, for an indescribable reason, they just work.


 Main culprits: Nastya

At first I really didn't understand the point of such a weird name, mostly because I struggled to pronounce it for pretty much half the book. Actually, I'm still not sure how to pronounce it. But once everything was revealed I thought this was an absolutely perfect name and Katja did an amazing job of establishing the background behind it.

Verdict: Gave the terrible nature of our main character's past that much more impact and really emphasised how traumatised she was by everything.


So unique names can be either a hit or miss for me, depending on their reasons. If the names are there for the sake of it then I tend to eye-roll, but if there's a reason (even something like reflecting the nature of a character) then I think names can be a powerful tool in storytelling.

What do you think of weird names in YA? Are there any that really grated on you? Or any that you fell in love with?




 



Allie is a Pimm's-obsessed reader, who dreams of road tripping over America, learning to surf & becoming fluent in all the languages of her heritage (which, sadly, does not include Elvish). If she's not reading or blogging, you can find her catching up on Teen Wolf, or reigning supreme with Scrabble/Mario Kart. Stalk her on twitter, instagram or goodreads.


34 comments:

  1. Haha. This post, omg. So good! My HC of Cruel Beauty is supposed to arrive soon, but based on all the reviews, I already had trouble with pronouncing (and spelling) them lols. Whenever this happens, I just replace their names with inanimate objects :D "And then Table and Chair kissed more passionately than ever" Gives the humor a kick as well ;) Agreed with Raffe's name being perfect for an angel, also hells yeah for Tris and Four. So easy to say in my head. The Raven Cycle names are some of my favorites. So perfectly fitted to their personalities and Maggie's writing and, of course, the magical world. Bhaha- I'm in luck since Russia is our neighbour country. I don't speak all that much Russian (read: I know how to say I do not understand/speak Russian and a few random words lols) and even though Estonian and Russian sound absolutely nothing alike, they're like.. completely polarized, then it's easy for me to pronounce Russian names. I agree though--the names made perfect sense and really gave extra to the story :) Such an amazing post, Allie!

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    1. Haha I'm definitely going to give that a try! Though knowing me I'd end up being really childish and doing something like 'Baked and Beans were made for each other'.

      Don't even get me started on Maggie's names in The Raven Cycle books, those are my absolute favourites! And her writing is just *sighs dreamily*

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  2. Wow, what a great post! I felt like this through a lot of Eragon and the other books. There are names like "Nasuada," "Ajihad" and, well...Eragon. "Ajihad" is apparently pronounced "A-zi-hod," which you wouldn't know unless you looked at the back. But I agree with you - they're definitely hit or miss. I think they can be really good at creating a sense of setting :)

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    1. I've never read the Eragon books but WOW lol, I would have such a hard time trying to pronounce those! I always find it weird when I think I know how to pronounce a name and then the book gets made into a movie, or the author speaks about a character and its pronounced entirely differently!

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  3. Really great idea for a post! I agree with you when the names add to the character and feel of the story then the names work. But when the names distract from overall novel, then its a problem. Great problem! :)

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    1. Yeah, it just kind of pulls me out of the story, which is never good since the whole point of a book is to have something to immerse yourself in!

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  4. With Cruel Beauty, the ones I had trouble with were Astraia, Damocles. I get Nyx's and Ignifex, since it is heavily Greek Mythology based and kind of recreation of the world, when you really look into it, it does kind of make sense...and I have no idea where I'm going with this, but I could make sense of it in my head, but trying to explain anything makes my head hurt and I honestly don't know how Rosamund Hodge done it. I totally loved Cruel Beauty though.

    I really love the names in The Raven Boys as well, and I do like reading books with unique names, but the ones that annoy me more are the ones that go into the books titles. Like Ever in Evermore, and there's Nearly in Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano (which, sounds amazing, but ugh the name.) which is just gimmicky.

    So I guess, some are hit and miss with me too, great post! :)

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    1. Haha, I get you! And I'm glad you really enjoyed it :) I actually found myself feeling a bit 'eh' toward the book, but I seem to be the black sheep because everyone else is raving about it.

      Oh God, yes the names being used as puns in the titles :/ I hate that. Like Honour in 'In Honour'. It makes me cringe

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  5. I really like different and unique names, but when they become difficult to pronounce, that's usually the reason I have a problem with them. they don't necessarily need to add anything to the story/character, but being able to read them in my head is important for keeping me in the story and letting things flow. I always loved the various names in Harry Potter, and most of them really did suit the character.

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    1. Harry Potter did unique names really well because, though they were strange, they were never really hard to pronounce or unfitting to the world, you know? I felt like they all really suited the characters to and never felt out of place. J.K. is pretty ninja like that!

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  6. I really struggled with Cruel Beauty too and loved the names in The Raven Boys!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

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    1. I struggled with Cruel Beauty as a book, overall, if I'm honest, and the names only added to that.

      The Raven Cycle books are amazing <3 unique names which go with the freaking fabulous characters Maggie has crafted :D

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  7. Really lovely article Allie! I totally agree that Ignifex is the weirdest name ever, I stumbled upon his name every time and it was distracting. Lunar Chronicles is a great example of how perfect the names are for the characters and the book though, so that was a fantastic pick.

    I got the opportunity to ask Rachel Caine some questions in person and I asked how she picked her characters names and she said she went with those which were easy to read and remember. Makes it more memorable that way than a hard name no one will ever remember.

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

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    1. I'm definitely agreeing with Rachel, it's nice to have simple, easy-to-read names. It doesn't need to be Jane Smith or anything, even something like Ivy is simple and easy, but yet really unique and lovely. And it's much better than Damocles!

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  8. This is brilliant! (And sooo weird.... I seriously just drafted up a post like this a few days ago. lol I'll hold off posting mine for a while. BRILLIANT MINDS ARE WE NOT?! xD) I totally agree! Divergent and The Raven Boys and The Lunar Chronicles totally worked for me. No problems at all. But, while I haven't read Cruel Beauty, I'm already kind of weirded by the names. I like names I can pronounce and remember. I hardly ever remember them if they have fifty silent syllables and a whole lot of Xs and Ys. I guess the authors are trying to be original? It's nice, but yeah...weird.

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    1. You should post yours! I'd love to see which books you've taken a look at :D

      I think some authors get carried away with emphasising that the book is supernatural, or fantasy and mythology, so they feel the need to remind you of the genre with out-there character names. It's like, oh look our main charcater is called Perteius because this is a FANTASY book about FANTASY things in a FANTASY world, see? Lol

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  9. I just love this post! I completely agree with everything you've said!! Lots of times original names work if they suit your character (all the characters in the Lunar Chronicles come to mind as series with character names that worked wonderfully!), but it's really distracting when authors try too hard to make original names for their characters; because it shows (* cough * Cruel Beauty * cough*).

    Thanks for sharing and great post! :D
    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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    1. Cruel Beauty had a massive case of using character names to back up the genre of the story. I get that this book is supernatural / fantasy, I don't need ten syllable character names to remind me! I think there's a way to be original and quirky, without going OTT and authors need to find the balance.

      The Lunar Chronicles worked wonderfully! Marissa did such a greta job of weaving the fairytale aspects into the names. I love those books!

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  10. I'm actually one of those people who love odd names! I actually liked the names in Cruel Beauty, though and didn't like the ones from Angelfall. This definitely proves that we readers have different tastes, lol. If they're hard to pronounce, it's usually fine with me, unless I mention it to a friend and they have a different pronunciation! X.X That gives us a lot of things to talk and think about, lol!

    Aimee @ Deadly Darlings

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    1. Haha oh definitely! Different strokes for different folks :)

      I thought Angelfall worked well, mostly for Raffe's name, because that is the name of a very popular angel and it was a nice nickname to keep the mystery of who he really was for the first half of the book. I can see how people may not have liked Penryn though, as it's not a name you hear too often.

      That different pronunciation thing happens to me ALL the time. One example is actually in The Raven Cycle, where I always imagined Gansey being pronounced as 'Gainsey' and apparently it's actually 'Gahnsey'. I like my way better ;)

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  11. I like weird names in one but only to an extent. This is to say that they've to kind of fit into the story for me to work. Like you, I didn't think most of the names in Cruel Beauty worked because they were just weird. Nyx kept making me think of nicking something from someone and that was pretty distracting.

    I had no idea about Incarnate's weird names. Interesting!

    I've yet to read Angelfall but Raffe is a name in my culture so it's not weird for me but Penryn is. I do like it, though.

    I love the names in Divergent mostly because they fit so well.

    The Lunar Chronicles are so fairy tale-ish and cool. I love them.

    The Raven Cycle has the best weird names ever. I love the names Gansey, Blue Sargent and Ronan Lynch. So perfect.

    I also love the names in Throne of Glass: Celaena, Chaol, Nehemia. They're so fantasy-ish.

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    1. Oooh yes I LOVE Ronan's name. It fits him so well! And Gansey and Blue and ahh ALL of them. They're just perfect :)

      Haven't read The Throne of Glass books yet, but they're on my reading schedule for next month. I'm so excited because everyone seems to adore them

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  12. I wasn't really a fan of the names in Cruel Beauty either. Usually when I read books with names like those, I don't even try to pronounce them in my head. I just look at them and recognize the character's name and move on. I definitely love the Lunar Chronicles names though! I love Cress and Iko's names =)

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    1. That's what I ended up having to do for certain character names, just skimming over them and acknowledging it was that character, but not bothering to try and 'read' them properly. Which is a shame, because I hate doing that.

      YES, Iko's name was perfect!

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  13. Great post! I remember discovering The Hunger Games a long time ago and telling a friend "WHAT KIND OF NAME IS KATNISS" and got all judgemental. Ah, my teenage self. I totally agree about Incarnate! For some reason, I never quested the names that much because they worked. I tend to dislike any name that I can't pronounce though, haha.

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    1. When I first heard everyone talking about The Hunger Games for SO LONG I genuinely thought her name was Katnips! So when I found out it was Katniss I actually thought that was normal in comparison haha

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  14. I hate, hate, hate out there names! It's one of my only annoyances with fantasy books. (Which I write. I'm such a hypocrite)

    Also, I really want to read Angelfall JUST because of that gorgeous cover! Swoon!

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    1. The covers for Angelfall and World After are the most gorgeous things! My bookshelf loves them ;)

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  15. So many of these books are still on my TBR list! The only one I've read on here is Divergent, and I didn't like Tris' name. I liked the name "Four" a lot, but really didn't like Tobias... Haha, I don't know why! I love it when names are different and unique though. Really interesting post and glad I stumbled upon your blog, I'll be your newest follower! ;D

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    1. Tobias . . . nah, I didn't like that either. I kept wanting to call him Toby, but I suppose he wouldn't have suited that. Far too cutesy for him! Four is definitely the best :)

      Thank you for following, I'm so glad you like the blog! <3

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  16. I absolutely love a good, unique name in a book, especially if there's a special meaning to that name. It just makes the book a little more special.

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    1. I always love discovering new names in books that I haven't seen before. It kind of makes me want to collect names, like Nastya in The Sea of Tranquility. As long as they're not TOO out there (e.g. love the name Eden, but names like Damocles are not my cup of tea lol)

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  17. The worst part of weird names is that you never know how to pronounce them! Especially if they get transformed into movies, or if someone mentions them on booktube and they pronounce the name differently. I can only really stand weird names in Fantasy books because you kinda expect it, it is fantasy after all!

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    1. That is SUCH an annoying thing. In the book I'm reading now (Throne of Glass) I had no clue how to pronounce any of the names and I spoke to Wendy at Book Scents (who has the pronunciation guide) and it turned out I was pronouncing them all completely wrong lol.

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