Friday, March 18, 2011

Pondering About Names Part 2

So yesterday I was wondering whether it was just me who associated hair colour with names - and YAY!  It isn't!  I'm not the only weird one out there :).

Today, I want to look at something which is probably cross-cultural and that is the use of nerdy or dorky names for a hero.  You see, I think what constitutes a nerdy name in the UK doesn't always translate as nerdy to those in the US/Canada.  Thus sometimes I will read a book and my heart sinks slightly when I realise that an author has given a nerdy name to their beefy Alpha hero.  It just seems wrong somehow.

For example, take the name Colin.  Now I know that these two guys are nothing like nerdy or dorky:

Kevin is also considered a bit of a nerdy name, as is Nigel, or Graham, or Dwayne.

Now let me stress here that there isn't actually anything wrong with these names, just that in the UK they have certain associations to nerdiness.  Mind you if the nerdy guy named Adrian looked like this I wouldn't be complaining!

So do any of these names translate to nerdy names in the US or Canada.  Do you have different nerdy names that aren't considered nerdy or dorky in the UK.  Let me know and we'll compare notes!


Anonymous said...

Starting the morning off with a laugh, Jen. Thanks! Ages ago I wanted to use the name Stefan for a character and a friend from Poland sent me a horrified email and totally nixed the idea due to major dork factor. Left me rather crushed and clueless. :)

Anonymous said...

Howard, Gilbert, Arthur, and Albert are kind of nerdy, but I think nerds are hot. :)

Chris said...

Um. Donald's the only one coming to mind right now.

Tam said...

Nigel. Definitely nerdy. And I think if Nigel was a nerd, great. If he's a 6'5" football player who hunts barehanded on the weekend, not so much.

Lewis (or spelled Louis but pronounced Lewis) is a nerdy name. I see Colin as a more middling name. Not alpha male, not nerd, more average Joe (who can be hot).

It can be hard to get past a name that just conjures up an image in your head. That happens from book to book as well. You meet a Cameron who is a certain type that sticks in your head and very Cameron after that is measured against him so you keep thinking that the new Cameron is just "wrong" somehow. Poor guy. :-)

Mem said...

Great post, Jen! This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend from the UK on names that exist in one country but are almost unheard of in another.

For example British names pratically unknown in the US included Rupert, Clive, Nigel, Felix, and Digory (the kid's name from that first Narnia book). I wish we'd thought to go the other way, too. I'd be very curious what American names are unheard of in the UK. Feel free to give me feedback! :)

As for nerdy American names ... Melvin, Wilbur, Walter, Howard, Otis, Rufus -- a lot of these come from an earlier era and have a funny sound to 21st century ears!

Jenre said...

Chrissy: Stefan isn't a nerdy name at all in the UK. In fact, it's a cool way of taking the name Stephen (which is slightly nerdy) and making it cool :).

Eyre: Arthur was my grandfather's name and is coming back into fashion in the UK. No-one is called Gilbert here!

Chris: My Grandfather in law was Donald. It isn't seen as dorky or nerdy, just an old man's name here.

Jenre said...

Tam: I know what you mean about the name matching up with the picture in your head. I often see Cameron's as beefy jock guys (or scots in kilts).

Val: In the UK some of the nerdier names are not what you would consider 'old men's names' but those from even further back in history. Hence Adrian or Nigel.

Not many of the nerdy names you have given are used in the UK much, except for Howard.

JenM said...

This makes me think of a post that Carolyn Crane did on her use of the name "Otto" in Mind Games. I haven't read the book so I don't know if he's supposed to be a hero type, but she was rather shocked to find out that name conjures up someone's old German grandfather for most Americans. It definitely isn't a name I'd expect to find in UF.

LesleyW said...

When I hear the name Kevin I can't help but think of Kevin the Teenager (Harry Enfield's creation).

Jenre said...

JenM: Otto conjures up pictures of a German bad guy for me. There's an episode of Blackadder where Blackadder and Percy are captured by a sadistic comedy villain called Otto and that's what the name reminds me of :).

I get the idea that it might be a German old man's name though.

Lesley: Yes! Me too :).

Anonymous said...

Heh, I named a character Dwight because I wanted the nerd factor. Dwayne, Clarence, Albert,Gilbert,or anything that ends up as Bert. Or Ernie.

Grandpa names, basically.

Jenre said...

You don't get many Dwight's in the UK, PD, but I can see how it might be a nerdy name :).

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