Culling Baby Names from Books
Guest of Ohdeedoh
Aug 31, 2010

They're some of the first associations we form in our minds: Phineas may be a Phoenician king of Thrace, but my brain immediately leaps back to 9th grade's A Separate Peace. Introduce your son Atticus and people might assume you named him for the inimitable Atticus Finch. Prior Twilight fiasco, a little Esme would have recalled the J.D. Salinger poem, but for future generations she will always be a sensitive vampire. For now, Salinger still has the trademark on Holden.

From William Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, these authors are masters at choosing a moniker. Many are solidly strong, historical names that also happen to feel very fashionable. Others are so singular that your child will forever be answering questions like "where's Beezus"? (unless of course you happen to be the child of movie stars). Some of these choices can help encapsulate childhood innocence or impishness throughout one's lifetime, while others, depending on the namesake, read literary but dour.

At the risk of appearing like the last book you read was in high school, here are some old friends to consider from children's and adolescent fiction:

Arthur- The Sword in the Stone, T. H. White
Asher- My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
Atticus- To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Balthazar- The Comedy of Errors, William Shakespeare
Dorian- Portrait of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
Edmund- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Ender- Andrew "Ender" Wiggin from Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Ethan- Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
Ferdinand- The Story of Ferdinand, Munro Leaf
Finn- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain; also James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake
George- Curious George, Hans Augusto Rey and Margaret Rey
Gilbert- Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
Gulliver- Lemuel Gulliver in Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift
Harold- Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
Holden-Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
Huck/Huckleberry- see Finn
Ishmael- Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Jem- To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Max- Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
Marlow- Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Merlyn- The Sword in the Stone, T.H. White
Milo- The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
Okonkwo- Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
Omri- The Indian In the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks
Orlando- As You Like It; William Shakespeare; Orlando, Virginia Woolf
Peter- Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie; and Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
Phineas- A Separate Peace, John Knowles
Ralph- Lord of the Flies, William Golding
Rhett- Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Roark- Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
Romeo- Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
Sawyer- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
Silas- Silas Marner, George Eliot
Tristram- The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentlemen, Laurence Sterne
Ulysses- The Aeneid by Virgil and another name for Odysseus

Alice- Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll
Amelia- Amelia Bedelia, Peggy Parish
Antonia- My Antonía, Willa Cather
Arwen- Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Beatrice- The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Beezus and Ramona, Ramona Quimby
Calypso- The Odyssey, Homer
Cecily- The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde and a character in Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables
Celeste- Queen of the Elephants in Babar, Jean de Brunhoff
Claudia- From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsberg
Daisy- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott FitzGerald
Dorothy- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
Elinor- Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
Eloise- Eloise, Kay Thompson
Eowyn- The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Esme- For Esmé--With Love and Squalor, J.D. Salinger and Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Eulalie- Eulalie and the Hopping Head, David Small
Fern- Charlotte's Web, E.B. White
Flossie- One of The Bobbsey Twins, Edward Stratemeyer (published under pseudonym Laura Lee Hope)
Frances- The Frances series, Russell Hoban
Ginevra- "Ginny" Weasley in Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
Gloria- From the Frances books, Russell Hoban
Harriet- Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
Heidi- Heidi, Johanna Spyri
Helen- The Odyssey, Homer
Hermione- A Winter's Tale, William Shakespeare, Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
Juliet- Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
Kit- (Katherine) The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
Imogen- Cymbeline, Shakespeare
Jane- Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
Jemima- Jemima Puddleduck, Beatrix Potter
Jo- Josephine "Jo" March in Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Lolita- (Dolores) Lolita, Nabakov
Madeline- Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans
Marcella- The girl in Raggedy Ann, Johnny Gruelle
Marianne- Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
Matilda- Matilda, Roald Dahl
Ophelia- Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Orleanna- The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
Penelope- The Odyssey, Homer
Phoebe- Holden's sister in The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
Pippi- Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lingren
Phronsie- Sophronia, The Five Little Peppers, Margaret Sidney
Portia- Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare
Posy- Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfeild
Ramona- Ramona Quimby, Beverly Cleary
Rosalie- Twilight saga, Stephenie Meyer
Rosalind- As You Like It, Shakespeare
Sadako- Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Eleanor Coerr
Scarlett- Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Scout- Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Sula- Sula, Toni Morrison
Tabitha- Tabitha Twitchit, Beatrix Potter
Trixie- Beatrix "Trixie" from the Trixie Belden series by Julie Campbell Tatham
Veruca- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
Wendy- Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
Winnie- Winifred in Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbit; Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne

Before you pluck a name off this list or any other, please be sure you are familiar with the character as you might not want life to imitate art. As is evidenced by the series this month on favorite children's stories, we all read different books growing up and this list is far from complete.

What characters were you raised with, and did any of them make it to the birth certificate?

(Photo by Davina Zagury)

Elisabeth lives and breathes names. At You Can't Call It It she writes about names and naming from every angle you can think of - naming siblings, super short names, saints names, names related to food, name roundups from Italy, the Boden catalog and even Ohdeedoh! She also helps readers tackle their naming conundrums as well as offers a more formal (but affordable) consulting service to help you find the perfect name for your child. Visit her at You Can't Call It It and follow her on Twittter.

Thanks Elisabeth!

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