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It’s all in the names

Graceling – Kristin Cashore, Harcourt, 2008, 480 pages
Finished August 2012

Here we have yet another adventurous, slightly fantastical piece of young adult fiction with a strong female character, some romance, and lots of evil plotting that must be overcome. In a kingdom where some people are “graced” with special gifts or powers, Katsa bears the burden of being graced as a killer, which the corrupt king uses to his advantage and her frustration.

It’s certainly a fast-paced read and has a host of interesting characters, so if you generally like this genre, give this book a look. I finished it back in August, but wasn’t planning on writing about it as I was quite busy at the time. Recently, however, I was discussing it with my friend Jackie who had just finished it as well (both of us loved the plot and its not-so-subtle feminist angle, by the way) and we got onto a bit of a rant about Names.

You see, as much as we both found it an engaging, entertaining read, we couldn’t help cringing at some of the names Cashore chose for her characters and places. Nander? The Middluns? Bitterblue? Katsa was just difficult not to associate with Katniss (so much so that I accidentally published this post first time around with the name “Katniss” in the first paragraph).

At least Po was endearing – “although it is the name of a teletubby!”

This eventually led us to voice our appreciation for just how good J. K. Rowling is at coming up with names. Seriously, she is wonderful. It’s an important part of making your fictional world believable, and it’s just so great to read a novel where you don’t have to keep coming up against names that feel contrived. They should naturally form an image of the character or setting you are meant to be encountering. Here is but a sampling of Rowling’s Naming Awesomeness:

Rubeus Hagrid. “That shit’s amazing!” (Jackie)
Severus Snape.
Albus Dumbledore. “I can’t imagine a better name for Dumbledore than Dumbledore” (Katie)
Minerva McGonagall
Cornelius Fudge – perfect name for a dumpy, people-pleasing politician.
Argus Filch!
The Dursleys.
Ron Weasley.
Rufus Scrimgeour.
Madam Pomfrey.
Hermione Granger.
Wormtail.
DOLORES UMBRIDGE. “First name: quaint, kitschy lady. Last name: means business” (Katie)
Sirius Black.
Neville Longbottom.
Gilderoy Lockheart.
Lucius Malfoy.

And these are just the characters; there are all kinds of places and magical devices and sweets and shop names and textbook titles that I could mention too. I haven’t yet read Rowling’s new book, so I can only hope the names she chose are as perfect as those in Harry Potter. Truly, I think the only name I didn’t like in that entire series is Albus Severus (poor child).

Feel free to disagree with any of the names we liked/disliked; I’d be interested to hear other thoughts on this.

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5 comments on “It’s all in the names

  1. […] same age as Harry. I still love the characters and the world that Rowling created, and all of the awesome names she came up with for stuff (like Quidditch and Fizzing Whizbees). She is, in my opinion, an […]

  2. Those are indeed some odd names…

  3. An article Alan Jacobs has just alerted me to the fact that Mrs Norris is named after the awful, moral-less busybody Mrs Norris in Mansfield Park. Another one to add to the list!

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