The (Random) Name Game

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by Stella

Well I’ve been away from the View for a while. My day job was threatening to swallow me whole and I had to put up a good fight. Anyway, it’s good to be back! *stretch* Yes. What was I saying?

I love the internet. It’s full of so many things – useful, useless, and just plain mind-boggling. It’s a particularly fabulous resource for writing – fact checking, finding tips, stumbling over interesting articles, and getting inspired, especially when creative energy is present but the subject is lacking. One resource I’m especially fond of is all the websites and databases for baby names – etymology, popularity, etc – not only for when I’m trying to find a name for a specific character in a project, but when I need to do a random exercise to get in the right frame of mind. I choose a name and then invent a whole biography – parents, childhood, job, hobbies, achievements, whatever. Not a very long piece; a nice little sketch.

The only disadvantage is that it can become unbelievably time-consuming to pick a first name and then a surname. Really, it’s usually only meant as a brief exercise, but I end up digressing for a good half hour (or more…) trying to find the right combination with the right meaning. That’s why today I said no getting bogged down. Pick something random. Except my brain cells couldn’t cope with all that spontaneity at once and so I turned to Google. Ah, Google… *sigh* All I had to do was type in “name generator.” Sure enough, “random name generator” came up as a search possibility. One click and everything was before me. Aside from the fact that there are actual programs you can download to your computer to randomly generate names, there are three websites which are very handy.

First up is Behind the Name’s random name generator. I'm already familiar with their first name and surname databases, which provide thorough etymological breakdowns, I just never noticed the (shiny!) random name generator. Not only does it give you a choice of creating a first name with up to three optional middle names of defined or ambiguous gender in languages ranging alphabetically from African to Welsh, it also gives you the option to select other criteria such as mythological (Greek, Roman, Celtic, Norse), ancient (Greek, Roman, Celtic, Germanic), biblical, historical, literary, and theological connotations. But that’s not all! It also has special categories such as witch, fairy, goth, rapper, wrestler, hillbilly, kreatyve (spelling-wise), and transformer (for all that transformer fanfic you should be writing).

Next is the Random Name Generator, which isn’t as intricate as Behind the Name, but it lets you set the obscurity factor in your search through U.S. census statistics; 1 = common, 50 = not so common, 99 = totally obscure. Trust me, setting the thing to 99 yields weird and wonderful results – different cultural backgrounds collide headlong. Finally, there’s the Fake Name Generator, which somewhat freaks me out since it generates an entire fake identity, complete with address, phone number, birthday, credit card number, mother’s maiden name, occupation, and UPS tracking number. I never would have thought of tracking a fake person via UPS. I’ll have to remember that.

Until a fake person actually vanishes, I'll try to figure out whether “Evandrus Silvius” is a successful or failed rapper.


Mike French said...

Welcome back Stella

and I love this - I went on the Random name generator - did the 99 factor and got

Del Bethurem

Think I'll stick him in my next novel called "The 99 Man"

Jane Turley said...

OOo..a fake person generator how delicious! I've always wanted an Amex with seriously posh name! Something like Ceclia Rockefeller-Vanderbilt would be good:)

Nice one Stella, good to see you back:)

kathleenmaher said...

What a find, Stella. I'm hooked. Listen to this one: Trinity Hageny. The last name doesn't matter much: I'll no doubt tinker with it. But Trinity? I didn't specify sex (gender), but to me Trinity is female with a lot to prove.
Expect to meet her in a flash fiction if not again in a longer endeavor, although I have to wonder if anyone but me actually follows those episode for episode. But I will promise this: my Trinity novella will, going by the character's name alone, venture into new but, I hope, plausible territory.

Jane: my middle name's Cecelia. (the two "e"s are an alternate selling--popular in Ireland, I bet.)
Before I was born, St. Celelia, virgin and martyr, was the patron of musicians--the last trait I can claim, although it turns out my two children are near progenies.
Since my christening, however, St. Cecelia has been debunked, same as St. Christopher.

Jane Turley said...

Kathleen - how bizarre! It was only when you mentioned about Ceclia as your middle name that I remembered it was also my confirmation name; I was raised as a catholic. (I guess that explains a lot huh?!) My teacher was a Sr Bernadette and all the other girls chose Bernadette but I was determined to be different:)

My elder brother's confirmation name was Bede - I've never stopped laughing at the one! I think if you could write a story with a Trinty and a Bede it would be a sure fire winner!

Ps My middle name is Andrea. So very boring! My mum and dad, as much as I loved them, weren't adventurous in the name stakes; Mary, Paul, Jane and John. Sounds like something to rival the New Seekers:)

Brigid said...

That is awesome! Might have better success with this than with baby name books. (And a little less embarrassing at the library. ^^; )

Stella said...

Mike - Good title. Hope it turns out well!

Jane - It certainly does suit you, but I'm quite fond of your actual name.

Kathleen - I know! There's nothing like the internet for some good time-wasting, is there?

Brigid - definitely. One thing the name generators don't do is judge you. ;)