Saturday, January 28, 2012

What's In a Name?

Many authors return to ideas again and again in their writings. The Royal Historians of Oz are no exception to the rule.

In the first chapter of The Hidden Valley of Oz by Rachel R. Cosgrove (Payes), we meet the main character, a little boy who’s busy building a kite. The boy is called Jam. On page two we learn that
Jam was really only his nickname. His full name was Jonathan Andrew Manley, so his initials spelled “Jam.”
Creating a nickname from a person’s initials isn’t unknown, but it’s fairly rare in real life. However, it isn’t all that rare in Rachel Cosgrove Payes’s fiction. Consider this passage on page twelve of Rachel’s romance novel Long Journey Home (1962), from the middle of a scene between the main character Ellen Leona Ford and her Uncle Simon.


  Even that foolish nickname Elf was so unsuited
  to her, she thought. Uncle Simon had started it
  years ago, because the initials of her full name
  spelled “elf,” but there was nothing magic
  about Ellen and she would be the first to
  admit it.

Two instances might be coincidence, but a name created from the initials of her main character turns up yet again in Rachel's books. In chapter eight of her gothic novel The Black Swan (1975) the main character Lady Margarita Elena Godoy loses her memory when her head is injured in a fall. She can’t remember any of her past. In the pocket of her dress she finds a patchbox given to her by her lover, although she can’t remember where it came from.

It was a beautiful little enameled box, with silver sides, exquisitely engraved. Turning it around in her fingers, she saw that there were initials on the box, initials formed of delicate white roses: M E G.
Then on page forty-nine, when a woman asks Lady Margarita her name, we read that
Recognizing peril in the woman’s words, she swallowed hard, trying to get rid of the lump of fear that was lodged in her throat. Who was she? She didn’t know. Then, she thought of the letters on the box hidden in her pocket. They spelled a common name.

“Of course I know who I am.” She put as much hauteur in her voice as she could muster. “My name is Meg.”
Rachel obviously wasn’t one to let a good idea go to waste. But once a decade might have been enough, since I've yet to find this naming convention in any of her other books. But there are still plenty of books to go, so we’ll see if she ever did it again.

4 comments:

Edward Einhorn said...

I'm just glad my mother, Jane Ellen Wiener, wasn't one of Rachel's characters

saintfighteraqua said...

It is rather strange, but I think it's forgivable and kind of nice. :)
I think it's fun to make names from the way initials sound too.

Some can be humorous or tragic though!

I wonder how many other cases of this there are in literature?

Sam A M said...

Well in that case my nickname IS my name!

Sam Antony Milazzo.

Though one time I was ORIGINALLY named Salvatore after my Dad's Papa . . .

Hungry Tiger Talk said...

Speaking of initials that make names, can everyone say Oz Pinhead?