By Any Other Name

By any other name

On Saturday The Guardian uploaded this audio clip of JK Rowling discussing the naming of Gilderoy Lockhart and what his name conveys about him, but also about his mother and her ambitions for her son. The author’s intentions for her character are linked then to those of a character’s mother (who doesn’t even appear in the books).

In books like Rowling’s (and many others, Dickens being another obvious example), a lot can be discerned about the plot and the characters as soon as their name is introduced; proper nouns giving proper meaning. In the case of Remus Lupin we know that there is something wolfish about the character as soon as he is introduced. Does this ruin the twists and turns of the plot or is it an easy shorthand, giving the reader a large amount of information about a character without having to be told explicitly? Would Sirius black have behaved differently if he had been Sirius Sunshine?

This focus on a name brings to mind that awful interview with Katie Hopkins on This Morning. Would Tyler have had as fulfilling or as adventurous  a life as a Timothy? Why (not)?

So perhaps, in fiction it’s OK to judge a character by their name (you might be right or wrong, or maybe doing so will set you up for a brilliant twist)…but maybe in real life that makes you a bit of a Millicent Bulstrode. In the end, what’s in a name?


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