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Should You Name Your Kid After Literary Characters?

Recently, my wife and I were discussing names for a possible second child sometime in the future (We have no announcement. We’re just planners.)

We’ve settled on a girl name. But, if we have a second boy, we’re still up in the air about what to name him. If she likes a name, I’m not crazy about it. If I like I name, she’s not feeling it. We’re having a constant back and forth.

The other day, I jokingly threw out the name Gatsby as a possibility. I mean, it’s kind of a cool name, I think. She declined.

But the conversation got me thinking about literary names. If we ever dived into the land of literature for our second child’s name, what are some possibilities?

The Boys

Gatsby: Like I said above, great name. I really like it as a first name, but it’s almost too associated with a literary character. Imagine your child in 9th grade when his classmates realize he shares the same name as a rich stalker.

Atticus: I think Atticus would be an awesome name for a dog—preferably a larger breed. It’s a power name. But I just don’t think I could do that to my son.

Holden. The name itself isn’t all that bad. But the literary character it represents is whiny and self-absorbed. Plus, the name “Holden” literally means “deep valley.” A little morbid, maybe.

Aslan. I don’t care that this is the name of the lion from Narnia. I have to convince my wife to name our next boy, if we have one, Aslan. How good of a name is that? Who’s going to mess with a kid for having the name of a freaking heroic lion?

Rhett. Classic name for a guy. If you name your son Rhett, he’s guaranteed to be the starting quarterback in high school and a corporate CEO at some point. Plus, he’ll have good hair.

Dill: Cardinal rule of naming babies is to never name your child after an herb. Harper Lee can get away with it, but you can’t. Rosemary is okay. Sage is not bad. But Dill, Parsley, Basil, Oregano? Not so much.

Humbert. The problem with this name is that your son will never know you named him after a literary pervert until he’s in his early 20s, reading Lolita in college. Imagine the devastation, the shock, the anger. “I have the same name as this creep? Have you lost your mind?”

And The Girls

Scarlett: I know, I hate this character from Gone With The Wind, and I’ve talked about it before. But I actually like the name itself. Maybe it’s just the southern boy inside me. Coincidentally, this is also the name of a character on the television show Nashville. Her fake southern accent is terrible.

Emma: I’ve always loved this name for a girl, which would be inspired by the Jane Austen book. It’s classy.

Harper: Not after a character, but after the author of one of the greatest novels ever, To Kill A Mockingbird. Isn’t Harper just a great name for a girl? I think so.

Rose of Sharon: The star of the creepy final scene in The Grapes of Wrath, Rose of Sharon is an unusual name. When I first started reading the book, I thought it was her nickname. But, no, that’s the name. Imagine a kindergartner trying to write this name out every day.

Ophelia: Two words: crazy lady!

Scout: Back to To Kill A Mockingbird. Isn’t Scout a dog’s name? Couldn’t do that to my little girl.

This is just a starter list. I know there are hundreds of other good and bad names from books that could be used to name your kid.

So what would you suggest? Aslan, Rhett…Rose of Sharon?

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58 Comments Post a comment
  1. i thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, in fact i thought it was hilarious i mean who would even consider calling there children half of these names? although being honest there are a few i would consider myself. happy name hunting for the future 🙂

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  2. Brandon #

    When I was in grad school, I was reading a Breton lai written by Marie de France, and I absolutely loved the name of her heroine: Fresne. It’s Middle French for “ash tree,” and I loved the sound and the look and the way it rolled off the tongue. I decided that that’s what my little girl would be named … until le Fresne left her nunnery to become the concubine of a rich elderly man. The rich elderly man eventually discovers Le Fresne’s royal heritage and marries her, legitimizing their relationship, so I guess there was a happy ending? Anyway, I ain’t naming no daughter of mine after a literary concubine. Such a shame. Such a pretty name.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
    • It’s funny how you can associate a name with someone from your past (even fictional) and then refuse to use that name because of who those people were. I do that all the time.

      Like

      December 7, 2012
      • Dylan #

        Noone gives a fuck!

        Like

        April 29, 2015
  3. I know two families who have named their sons Atticus and Aslan. How can anyone think of something other than those two characters when they read those names?

    Oh gosh, and I totally agree with you about Scarlett. At least on Nashville she does have good hair.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
    • We both live in Nashville, and I bet we don’t know anyone with an accent that thick. Why does Hollywood think southerners are such hicks?

      Like

      December 7, 2012
  4. Have you ever watched an episode of Horrible Histories, the BBC children’s program? It is very funny! Here is a clip of authentic Victorian age names. I say, if they got away with a name like ‘toilet’, there is no reason you can’t get away with ‘Gatsby’.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
    • Toilet and Baboon? Wow.

      Like

      December 7, 2012
    • This made my day! It makes silly modern names like Bronx Mogli and Apple seem a bit less bad. (But just a bit.)

      Like

      December 7, 2012
  5. Rhett would be a perfect name for a boy, it is oh so very masculine. Besides, I personally like the character. I don’t think Rose of Sharon is a good choice, coz it would be Rose anyway. Can’t imagine schoolmates would call her Rose-of-Sharon all the time. It’s a pity Ma’s name is unknown, otherwise I would name my girl after her!
    I quite like Harper, because of Harper Lee, yes)

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  6. Lucille #

    Best one is Harper, which works for a girl or boy. But consider the nicknames that might arise when young Aslan walks into middle school.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  7. I’m still working on my wife for Ishmael.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  8. Check out the film Namesake. It is a wonderful film on just such a topic.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  9. I know she’s a crazy lady, but I kind of like the name Ophelia. I wonder if that means I will have crazy children someday? Love this post, by the way.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  10. Rose of Sharon is a very beautiful name. Another one that was just suggested to me is Arwen. I think this is the correct spelling from the book.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
    • Actually know a guy who named his daughter “Arwen.” Thought that’s a good one.

      Like

      December 7, 2012
  11. Myra's voice. #

    I enjoyed this morsel. Its nice to hear couples think out names of their potential offspring. Its essential. I like Harper too. Its lovely name.

    My aunt Ophelia would love this post (wink wink)

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  12. Myra's voice. #

    revision: Its a lovely name. whoops!

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  13. Sam P. #

    You could always go with Okonkwo for a boy. But he might take over the house with masculinity and leave you cowering in a closet.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  14. I feel exactly the same way about Atticus. Such a great character, but the name is a bit heavy for a little boy. Also too many yuppies have used it.

    I always liked Emilia (from Othello) as a literary name.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  15. yearningtoread #

    Ahhhh!’ Thats amazing that you have Aslan on there – our friends named their son Aslan and it’s amazing! Seriously, tell your wife it’s not unheard of 😉 Maybe she’ll give in? It’s a great name! And Scarlett is one of my favorite girl names as well.

    I totally love this list. I have a few names from one of my favorite trilogies ever, “100 Cupboards”… Penelope, Ezekiel, and Anastasia. Also from “Ben-Hur” – Judah Benjamin. I think it’s a great idea to name your kids after characters 😉

    Loved this post! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
    Sierra @ Yearning to Read

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  16. Something tells me people with the name ‘Harper’ would be very brilliant !

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  17. Lisa #

    Harper for girls is climbing the most polar name charts steadily. I think some names are better than others, but I love in Utah, the land of making up ridiculous names for your children like “Aunisty” or “Brecklyn.” A solid character name like Scarlett or Scout is much better!!!

    Like

    December 7, 2012
    • Lisa #

      Popular. Not polar.

      Like

      December 7, 2012
    • Lisa #

      Live in Utah. Strike two.

      Like

      December 7, 2012
    • Aunisty? Are those Mormon names?

      Like

      December 7, 2012
  18. I know a lawyer who named his son Atticus. I thought it was very fitting for him, maybe not for his kid, though. I love Aslan and Rhett; Harper has been on my list for years! Although, I think if we name a girl Harper and our dog Scout, people will catch on to us quick.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
    • I feel like if I was a lawyer and I named my son Atticus, that would be putting WAY too much pressure on him to be a lawyer too.

      Like

      December 7, 2012
      • Exactly. Like the guy who was named “Major Major Major” in Catch-22 and then really became a Major.

        Like

        December 28, 2012
  19. I love Emma! Such a beautiful, classic name. I also like Harper. Quite different, but nice.
    Atticus is my all time favourite character, EVER. Someday I’ll write a character that comes close.
    Such an interesting topic here. Glad you raised it. 🙂
    My fiance and I aren’t likely to agree on names either. I’m a bit more quirky than she is, I guess. I like to tweak existing names, and come up with names that still sound normal, but she just like normal. We ain’t havin’ no normal babies! They’ve got to have extraordinary names to match their winning personalities, don’t they?
    If all else fails, we’ll name ’em what she likes, and I’ll still call them whatever I feel like. Hahaha.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  20. When I was pregnant with my son I suggested a ton of my favorite literary characters and authors, most were politely declined, lol. We ended up naming my son Oscar, after my grandfather, but I still got my author influence in there with dear old Oscar Wilde!

    I also fought pretty hard for Salinger and Holden. Both turned down eventually because Salinger would become Sally and Holden begged for my kid to be depressed. And I know scout may sound like a dogs name…bu to dont think it does and I LOVE it. It’s a contender for number two. Also love Harper.
    Good luck!

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  21. Harper is a good one! I also like Alice (Alice in Wonderland) and Lily (Harry Potter) as literary names.

    Like

    December 7, 2012
  22. Amanda from Dead White Guys named her twin boys Atticus and Rhett after their respective book characters. I think Atticus is a pretty fantastic name for a person. 🙂

    Like

    December 8, 2012
  23. My fiancé and I have more or less agreed that if we have a daughter at some point, one of the names in the running is Sarah Jane (Sarah for my sister, Jane for Jane Austen and Jane Eyre). We haven’t agreed on ANY boy names, literary or otherwise, but maybe it’s time to start hitting the books!

    Like

    December 8, 2012
  24. Why don’t you name him ‘Jay’ instead of ‘Gatsby’? I think Gatsby too literal. I also suggest ‘Jane’ and ‘Anne’ for a girl. Btw, it’d be really fun to think about upcoming child’s name, which I began already as a single 😉

    Like

    December 9, 2012
  25. I think about this all the time! I would love to name one of my children after a beloved character, but it’s hard to find a good character with a good name you would give to a real person. This post was hilarious, very enjoyable to read. I agree with the dog names…I think Atticus and Gatsby are good for large breed dogs. Rhett is kind of cool sounding for a boy, that would have my vote. As for girls, I love Jane (not mentioned) and Emma. Harper isn’t bad either, just not my style. Good luck!

    Like

    December 9, 2012
  26. Aslan is an amazing name.

    My son’s name is Theodore, which was in part inspired by Theodore Laurence from Little Women.

    We also considered Brontë if we had a girl. Umlauts are so awesome!

    Like

    December 9, 2012
  27. Reblogged this on noniisphalisa.

    Like

    December 10, 2012
  28. Kristi #

    I’m not sure about my kids…but I’ve named my cats Katniss and Karlos (after the author Carlos Ruiz Zafon). We have a rule about K names in our family. I suppose Katesby would work also!

    Like

    December 10, 2012
    • Kristi #

      Oops, I meant “Katsby”.

      Like

      December 10, 2012
  29. My oldest daughter is named Ronja after the wonderful children’s book Ronja the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren. It was one of my favorite books as a child. My dog Kayleigh is named after a song by Fish and Marillion. I have been trying to persuade my boyfriend that if we should have a third child and it was a boy, he should be named Aslan – or Mio (another Lindgren book). So far, no luck.

    Like

    December 10, 2012
  30. I named my daughter Allison Meaghan and often call her Allie Meg. I have told her that A Wrinkle in Time was my favorite childhood book. When we started reading it together, she exclaimed “you named me Meg after your favorite book!” I replied “well, not consciously…”

    Like

    December 12, 2012
  31. I am pleasantly surprised to see all this enthusiasm for the name Asian. Being Asian myself, I couldn’t in a million years name my child Asian. 😉

    Fun post. Wish I had thought of this when I was pregnant!

    Like

    December 13, 2012
  32. I knew a guy named Holden. I enjoyed the name at first, as TCITR is my favorite novel. But as I thought about it more, I just found it cheesy. I say the same thing for my teacher who named her baby Truman for you-know-who.

    Like

    December 14, 2012
  33. I love the name Atticus for a dog. I happen to agree with your wife that naming a boy Gatsby is saddling him with a bit too much of a burden. In terms of the Great Gatsby, you could consider naming him after F. Scott Fitzgerald, i.e. Fitz or Fritz.

    I personally like a variation on a name found in Lord of the Rings. Instead of Rohan, how about Ronan?

    Just my thoughts.

    Like

    December 15, 2012
  34. My friends called their son “Yuri”. When I jokingly remarked “oh, so he will be the first child in space”, they explained that he was named after Dr Yuri Zhivago.

    Like

    December 28, 2012
  35. Bh #

    How about Damon, Eustacia, and Arabella which are all Thomas Hardy names?

    Like

    May 3, 2013
  36. Aslan is a very popular Turkish name, and it does mean lion in Turkish.

    Like

    May 17, 2013
  37. Ellen #

    I am personally very fond of the name Dorian for a boy. Never mind that the original character became increadibly vain and a murderer…

    Like

    July 7, 2013
  38. 財布 人気 女性

    Like

    September 9, 2013
  39. My future wife intends to name our first daughter after a comic book character, Yue. It’s originally a Chinese name. I think you can imagine how well it will go with our hard Eastern European surname.

    Like

    November 22, 2013
  40. debbierodgers #

    I follow a blog of a woman who has just named her son after Tom Sawyer’s friend. Yup – Huck.

    Nice name in and of itself, but oh, my – what he’ll go through at school!

    Like

    November 22, 2013
  41. Hi, the whole thing is going fine here and ofcourse every one is sharing data, that’s truly good, keep up writing.

    Like

    June 4, 2015

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