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The art and science of names
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I'm reading Milkman, which won the Booker Prize last year. It is set in an unnamed city, clearly Belfast during the Troubles, and in the heroine's community, certain names are not allowed:
"The couple who kept the list of names that weren't allowed in our district didn't decide themselves on these names. It was the spirit of the community going back in time that deemed which names were allowed and which were not…. The banned names were: Nigel, Jason, Jasper, Lance, Percival, Wilbur, Wilfred, Peregrine, Norman, Alf, Reginald, Cedric, Ernest, George, Harvey, Arnold, Wilberine, Tristram, Clive, Eustace, Auberon, Felix, Peverill, Winston, Godfrey, Hector, with Hubert, a cousin of Hector, also not allowed. Nor was Lambert or Lawrence or Howard or the other Laurence or Lionel or Randolph because Randolph was like Cyril which was like Lamont which was like Meredith, Harold, Algernon and Beverley. Myles too, was not allowed. Nor was Evelyn, or Ivor, or Mortimer, or Keith, or Rodney or Roger or Earl or Rupert* or Willard or Simon or Sir Mary or Zebedee or Quentin, thought maybe now Quentin owing to the filmmaker making good in America that time. Or Albert. Or Troy. Or Barclay. Or Eric. Or Marcus. Or Sefton. Or Marmaduke. Or Greville. Or Edgar because all those names were not allowed. Clifford was another name not allowed. Lesley wasn't either. Peverill was banned twice.
As for girl names, those from "over the water" were tolerated because the name of a girl – unless it should be Pomp and Circumstance – wasn't poltically contentious…."
It's worth mentioning that none of the characters in this book actually have names: they are Middle Sister, Maybe-boyfriend, Third Brother-in-law, the Milkman (who is not a milkman) and the especially wonderful Somebody McSomebody.
*Your eldest son doesn't appear on this list, Lucubratrix, but I think it's safe to assume he's also banned. ;-)
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