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Where do you get your character's names?

richardshagrin
Updated:

There are a few authors who always use the same character's name as hero. I am thinking of "Bob", which is a very good name. Its a palindrome, spelled the same backwards and forwards. One possible problem is if you add an extra o its not very complimentary.

Of course I am partial to Richard. It contains what every man wants to be, rich and hard. It also has some connections to Richard the Lionhearted. I actually am a junior, my dad had the same name. We would have had problems if I had a son, Richard III has some unfortunate historical associations. We could have called him Tertius, Latin for the third. or Tersh for short.

My wife's maiden name was White. Her first name was Lillian, and she strongly resisted the nickname Lilly. Nieces and Nephews called her Aunt Lala.

My mother's mother had a maiden name of Wall. She was very careful to use her middle name, or at least the middle initial. Walda Victoria (Wall), even after she married Oscar Soliback. Soliback means sunny fields in Swedish. Although never interested in working in carpet sales, she didn't want to be Walda Wall.

Of course there are always the variations on John or Jane Doe, Dough, etc. But to have realistic sounding names for stories, what to authors do, or at least recommend?

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@richardshagrin

There are baby name sites that show the most common names for a year.

I always intend to come up with a unique name, but end up with plain names. Often they're short because I intend to do a global change when done and short names are easier to type, but I get attached to the characters and don't change their names.

It's the last name that I find hard to come up with. And I always Google the names I choose and have yet to come up with one where I don't get a hit.

Dominion's Son

@richardshagrin

My main character names are a bit different, but I frequently use:

http://www.behindthename.com/random/

and

http://namethingy.com/

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin
Updated:

@Dominion's Son

I used the first one and got Theodorus Seyyet. Looks like the first name is something like god lover. Not certain how to pronounce the second name, but say it looks possible. There are a large number of ethnic possibilities offered, perhaps if you need a name for a bad Czech? For a villain.

richardshagrin

@richardshagrin

The second choice (Name Thingy) was somewhat faster to use but possibly less useful. I did get Precious Dollar and Wet Soap among other forgettable names. Maybe I was not using it right.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

Click on options on the Name Thingy page.

There are pull down menus to control the first and second word types.

Opetions are:

Description
Thing
Verb
Boy Name
Popular Boy Name
Girl Name
Popular Girl Name
Last Name
Fantasy
Places
Technology
Indigenous (Americas)
Indigenous (Australia)
Music
Autoname (I think this is cars)
Gibberish
Dictionary
Custom (Whatever text you enter in the custom word texbox)

The check boxes for allow adult content, and allow misspellings can add additional fun.

Hands free mode will start building a list of names down the page.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

I used the first one and got Theodorus Seyyet.


When using behind the name, what I will typically do is first decide on an ethnicity for the character then use the appropriate option. If I am looking for a "American" name, I will use English/Irish/Scotish and then Americanize the result.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

I have a link to the U.S. Census bureau which I keep permanently open, where I can find the 100 most popular names by sex for any decade. There are similar sites for other nationalities.

The baby name sites are good, but I like to search the name sites for the name's origins, and pick one which fits the character I'm creating. A foreign language word or "hunter" or "bear" gives you a good feel for a character, and the name reinforces it.

Unlike others, I try to come up with unique names for my characters (though certain ones keep popping up as minor characters). I try to find names that flesh out the characters, so I wouldn't use a Clarance as a Green Baret.

I also keep lists of interesting names I run across. If I meet someone with an interesting history, I'll write out much of that history along with their family name. Personal experiences are a writer's godsend, and that's a terrific way of thinking of them. That's especially good if you want a unique name or personal history for a character (like my hairdressers name, Mac, which stood for her first, middle and last names).

Local community web postings are handy, as it's hard to combine first and last names in a meaningful way. It's always easier borrowing names, and then mixing the first and last names to make them unique (so no one in your local community thinks you stole them).

Wayne Gibbous

For several years, I've been using:

http://random-name-generator.info

for my names and it will do all male, all female, mixed and in three levels of Common, Average and Rare. It's taken from the US Census and can generate nearly half a billion names, surely enough for my writing.

Wayne G

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

I often just go with a mix and match of the names I know from reading, people I've met, and the news. If looking for a specific heritage or ethnic name I'll use a baby name site to look at a list and choose a first name then go to wikipedia for the most common family names in that area or ethnic group.

Crumbly Writer

@Wayne Gibbous

I've been using:

http://random-name-generator.info

for my names and it will do all male, all female, mixed and in three levels of Common, Average and Rare. It's taken from the US Census and can generate nearly half a billion names, surely enough for my writing.

That's cheap and easy, but it's not the best approach for high quality names. I add names to help flesh out characters, so I want the first and last names to fit, which is why I prefer real people's names. Picking the names out based on meaning, sounds or story potential helps define the characters, more than randomized names will.

Hell, even way back when, when I played D&D, I researched the names of my characters so they'd have more complete backgrounds and more authentic names. But ... it IS quite a bit more work!

El_Sol

I have a suite of names for my protagonists -- Jason, David, Michael, Miguel, and the recently added Simon.

My females are always named after their 'inspirations'... Internet models, pornstars, executive assistants, etc.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@El_Sol

I have a suite of names for my protagonists -- Jason, David, Michael, Miguel, and the recently added Simon.

I dislike reusing primary character names, as I want each to be both unique and distinctive. If you name them all the same, or even worse, name them after yourself, readers assume you're writing about yourself (or are writing wish-fulfillment fantasies).

Replies:   Dominion's Son  El_Sol
Dominion's Son

@Crumbly Writer

(or are writing wish-fulfillment fantasies


Is there something wrong with that?

El_Sol
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

I do it because much of my porn writing is influenced by romance novel and visual porn structures.

I have always found male protagonists in romance novels to be mostly interchangeable, especially within a particular author's books. In porn from my era, the dudes are just penises... There is more personality today but they still fall Into archetypes. Since I write 'for' a male audience, I felt that works best to focus attention away from the male and onto the females of the story.

I do write wish fulfillment -- both my own and my audiences. The interchangeable male also works in these conditions because it is easier for the reader to 'push' the protagonist aside and replace ala POV porn. Although, this plays best when the Voice of the protagonist is in the reader's own range.

Like with most things writing, some people see weakness and others see strengths.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@El_Sol

Like with most things writing, some people see weakness and others see strengths.

Not at all, El Sol, DS. You've examined your target audience, and you know who you're trying to reach. You aren't taking shortcuts, you're applying directly to the reader. In your case, I'd imagine you also don't provide many descriptions of the characters (aside from physical attributes like size and girth), so readers can cast themselves into the role better. In my stories, I'm trying for a different dynamic, where I want to get the readers to sympathize with a particular character on an individual level, so I'll describe the character's appearance, attributes and behaviors, as a way of identifying who the character is as a person.

These are all valid writing techniques, and are best applied to specific (different?) stories.

Sterling

One thing I use is http://www.nameplayground.com/. It gives histograms over time for various names. It shocked me to learn that a name like "Linda", which I assumed was for all time :-) a common female name, was actually only popular for a brief period. It's something to think about if you're setting your story in some different time period. For stories with humor in them, you can use names like "Dick Longwood" -- one I used in one of the first stories I couldn't post on SOL due to the age restrictions.

Otherwise, pick names that don't get in the way of the story. I'd bet that in a good story with 20 named people, there are fewer duplicates than would be realistic in the real world. And that's a good thing.

Ernest Bywater

Another aspect to keep in mind is the cultural implications of where the story is set because names do vary between cultural regions as well as ethnic regions. For example, the most common name for a girl in the USA may not give the same answer as the most common name for a girl in the South-east USA or the North-west USA or in the UK or in Australia. You won't find too many people of Hispanic decent with a name like Tiger Lily or Little Blossom. So you need to keep those aspects in mind, as well as the time period the story is set in.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

For example, the most common name for a girl in the USA may not give the same answer as the most common name for a girl in the South-east USA or the North-west USA or in the UK or in Australia.

America, like the rest of the world, is much more culturally diverse than it was in the 50s. The exceptions are where genocide is still an ongoing practice (this is based more on jet traffic, rather than widespread acceptance).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

America, like the rest of the world, is much more culturally diverse than it was in the 50s.


America was never as culturally homogeneous as Hollywood (movies & TV) would have you believe, not even in the 1950s.

sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

Using random name generators:

That's cheap and easy, but it's not the best approach for high quality names. I add names to help flesh out characters, so I want the first and last names to fit, which is why I prefer real people's names

That makes a lot of sense but it seems to me that writers also read other people's stories of the same genre and are influenced. Half the stories I read include a "Chuck".

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

which is why I prefer real people's names.


I write fairly extreme stories and real people might object to having their names used.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son


I write fairly extreme stories and real people might object to having their names used.


I once got an email asking me if a story I wrote was true. I told him I only write fiction. He said one of the characters was his boss's name.

But then again, a reader once asked me where I lived. Shocked, I asked why. He read "Stuck-up Neighbor" where a guy blackmails his neighbor for sex and the reader wanted in on the action.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

I once got an email asking me if a story I wrote was true. I told him I only write fiction. He said one of the characters was his boss's name.


I've recently had a couple of people mention they know someone with the same name as my main character in a story - I can get away with it because of them being common names.

Heck run a Google search on Ernest Bywater and you'll find several in the USA who are not me at all.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I once got an email asking me if a story I wrote was true. I told him I only write fiction. He said one of the characters was his boss's name.

Readers always read more into stories. When I gave my family copies of my first book, they ALL saw themselves as certain characters, but while I did use parts of their personalities, they virtually all picked the wrong characters.

People can't "own" their names. You can't be sued for naming a character "Joe Black" just because it's someone else's name, since there are easily thousands of others with the exact same name. But that's why I avoid picking local names for my stories, or I'll mix the first and last names of people to make them less identifiable (if I know them personally).

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

"I write fairly extreme stories and real people might object to having their names used"
This is the sort of thing which really bugs me. Unless you use a really unusual name OR one of religious significance (I'm avoiding a reference to a certain religion which started in Arab countries) or it is the name of someone who recognises you as the author and sees themselves in your writing then nobody could have any real cause for complaint.
Of course there are mor*ns out there but hopefully judges are sharp enough to throw out such cases ( OK when I had to take action in the US of A they were, in my biased view, sensible)

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

Of course there are mor*ns out there but hopefully judges are sharp enough to throw out such cases


A public figure such as a politician or celebrity might be treated differently as a plaintiff in such a case. However even if it is thrown out fairly quickly, It can still be quite costly to get there.

However, beyond even that, personally I think using the names of real people in stories whose content they might object to if they were aware of it to be an assholeish thing to do.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Of course there are mor*ns out there but hopefully judges are sharp enough to throw out such cases

My father was friends with a man named T.J. Hooker. When the TV show by that name came out, he sued, arguing that it's an unusual name that could only have been based on him. The court quickly tossed the case, informing him it's impossible to claim copyright-like protection on a name (though Disney does it all the time!).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

The court quickly tossed the case, informing him it's impossible to claim copyright-like protection on a name (though Disney does it all the time!).


I didn't say that such a case wouldn't get tossed quickly. However even getting a case tossed early can leave you with legal bills in the thousands if not tens of thousands.

If you are a private individual, not a well funded studio, with not a lot in savings having to answer a suit at all can be a financial disaster.

As to Disney and their character names, I believe that they trade mark them, which is valid for a name and very different from copyright.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

As to Disney and their character names, I believe that they trade mark them, which is valid for a name and very different from copyright.


With the Disney cases for the few where they made up the name from scratch their claim for trademarking held up in court, but for the majority of the cases the courts held they had a valid trademark on the image of the Disney version of the characters but not any other image or the name. Thus the Disney Image of Snow White is trademarked, but not the name and any other image with the name that looks to be more than mildly different is free to use. This is because most of their characters names and stories are public domain stories.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


Thus the Disney Image of Snow White is trademarked, but not the name and any other image with the name that looks to be more than mildly different is free to use.


True, but my main point was that their character names where protected are protected by trademarks, not copyright.

I rather doubt that they have ever claimed copyright in their character's names. Even way back in Walt's early days, a copyright on something that short would not have held up even ignoring the fact that a good chunk of their characters were public domain.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son


True, but my main point was that their character names where protected are protected by trademarks, not copyright.


It happened before my time, but from what I read Disney used to think they had copyright and they lost their first case and were told they might be able to trademark them, so they did; they trademarked everything and decades later found out the only name ones that would hold up in court were those that were not already in heavy use by others or in the public domain.

Also, you have to be careful of using such things as registered business names, you can be sued over those as well.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

As to Disney and their character names, I believe that they trade mark them, which is valid for a name and very different from copyright.

Disney has a horrendous reputation for lawsuits which seriously overreach simple trademark. The professional arts community (I hung out with several professional artists in Soho years ago) is terrified of them. Though every single decision over the ages supports 'statement pieces' or use of images in original content, Disney will fight any use of it's images, whether legal usage or not.

Instead, they'll hire 20 to 30 lawyers and appeal, counter-sue, criticize the artist in the media and blackball them with their studios, driving many to financial collapse.

Law has little to do with lawsuits. Instead, the spoils go to the winners, no matter how they managed to manipulate the system.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Disney has a horrendous reputation for lawsuits which seriously overreach simple trademark.


Very true, but does nothing to justify your original statement regarding character names and copyright.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Very true, but does nothing to justify your original statement regarding character names and copyright.

I was responding to the idea that many individuals believe that their name belongs to them, and that they should have a right in it's use. (Hint: They don't, as it's not a trademark.)

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I was responding to the idea that many individuals believe that their name belongs to them, and that they should have a right in it's use.


There are a lot of other ways besides claiming a bare right to control their name that someone whose name is used in a fictional story that they object to could potentially take action, libel for example.

PS: How does Disney claiming rights over character names have anything to do with individual people thinking that they have a right to control their given name?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

PS: How does Disney claiming rights over character names have anything to do with individual people thinking that they have a right to control their given name?

The point was, both individuals and major corporations have a tendency to sue when they have NO legal standing, and it has little to do with the eventual outcome, either. As was pointed out, if you don't have a few spare million, any lawsuit will bankrupt you.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

The point was, both individuals and major corporations have a tendency to sue when they have NO legal standing, and it has little to do with the eventual outcome, either. As was pointed out, if you don't have a few spare million, any lawsuit will bankrupt you.


Which is exactly why I avoid using real people's names for my stories and why I think doing so is a generally bad idea.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

I have seen stories that mention Disneyland and Disneyworld as vacation destinations, and even some of the Disney characters that appear there. As long as the mention is favorable it does not seem to be a problem. I wouldn't want to set a horror story at Pirates in the Caribbean or some other Disney location or event because there might be legal suit consequences, but just like you can mention McDonalds or sausage mcmuffin in a story, there are lots of corporate names that wouldn't get you into trouble. I think.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

I wouldn't want to set a horror story at Pirates in the Caribbean or some other Disney location or event because there might be legal suit consequences, but just like you can mention McDonalds or sausage mcmuffin in a story, there are lots of corporate names that wouldn't get you into trouble. I think.


1. Both of my stories are fairly hard core BDSM stories. In my non sci-fi story I haven't particularly shied away from using real companies where it's just background. I wouldn't make a real company a participant in the action though.
2. I am talking about people names, not company names. A major corporation is not likely to pursue a merit-less nuisance suit. Individuals are far more likely to make irrational decisions about filling suit.

richardshagrin

Banadin's Story Ever and Always has just posted a chapter, I think its eleven, where a character is a Doctor named Robert Heinlein. Gee, I wonder where he got that name?

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Banadin[] just posted a chapter ... where a character is a Doctor named Robert Heinlein. Gee, I wonder where he got that name?

In a situation like that, I'd purposely call attention to it, say having the Dr. admit that his parents were sci-fi fans to help define the character, rather than simply leaving such an unlikely event floating around in the story.

Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

where a character is a Doctor named Robert Heinlein.


In Shiloh I introduced two characters named James Bond and Jimmie Bond and pointed out their parents were Ian Fleming fans and added comments on how bad a thing that was to do to a kid. I know a lot of readers got a laugh out of it because they wrote to say so.

There is a some poor kid in the USA whose legal name is Jed I. Knight - don't know if there's more to go with the I or not, but if he kills his parents later I'd let him off on the grounds of justifiable homicide.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

There is a some poor kid in the USA whose legal name is Jed I. Knight - don't know if there's more to go with the I or not, but if he kills his parents later I'd let him off on the grounds of justifiable homicide.


Jed I. Knight is tame compared to the insanity that some celebrities inflict on their kids.

Rohki Obyak

Nowadays, I use sites for name meanings to find something that fits then I corrupt the letters a bit with a "k" here and "y" there.

Although, I'm starting to use old methods I had when thinking of my story like a fantasy: play with sounds a bit until it sounds right, no meaning attached at all. In that way, I play like I'm my own random name generator and call it good.

Wheezer

I love the Iron Druid novels by Kevin Hearne, but I gnash my teeth at times over his use of Gaelic names for many of his characters. He provides a pronunciation guide, but it's still distracting. I mean, how the hell would you pronounce Granuaile? And Siobhan is pronounced nothing like it's spelled! ;)

Switch Blayde

@Rohki Obyak

I corrupt the letters a bit with a "k" here and "y" there.


Like the "y" in "Blayde"? LOL

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
sejintenej

@Rohki Obyak

Nowadays, I use sites for name meanings to find something that fits then I corrupt the letters a bit with a "k" here and "y" there.

The origin of mine is almost certainly copyrighted so I simply translated one of the three words into a marginally different language.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Like the "y" in "Blayde"? LOL

More like "Bkyb". 'D

tppm

When I need a character name I pull one out of the air (figuratively) and then try, usually successfully, to keep in mind which character I gave it to.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@tppm

When I need a character name I pull one out of the air (figuratively) and then try, usually successfully, to keep in mind which character I gave it to.

That's why many of us employ character lists. It's easy to use the same name twice without realizing it. Having a central list of character's names is a good way to check spellings and keep track of who's who. I also use a timeline, so I can catch myself when I use the wrong date, as well as reminding myself what happens in each chapter in the story.

Replies:   Perv Otaku
Perv Otaku

@Crumbly Writer

That's why many of us employ character lists. It's easy to use the same name twice without realizing it. Having a central list of character's names is a good way to check spellings and keep track of who's who.

Yep. I do that too.

Last night I needed a random surname quickly for a background character that is around for all of a couple paragraphs. As I was on an airplane at the time, I opened the in-flight magazine and found one. Not the first time I've done that. A couple times when I was at home instead I used the phone book.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
richardshagrin

I don't know what it is "to rell" but Jay Can't.

Crumbly Writer

@Perv Otaku

Last night I needed a random surname quickly for a background character that is around for all of a couple paragraphs. As I was on an airplane at the time, I opened the in-flight magazine and found one. Not the first time I've done that. A couple times when I was at home instead I used the phone book.

That's why, whenever I'm stuck for a name, I book a flight departing at midnight so I can get lucky at finding a name. It takes hours to return home again so I can write, but if I don't forget the name, or the TSA doesn't confiscate my computer, I'm set. 'D

sejintenej

Might be a help to someone at a pinch:
http://www.lutins.org/lists/surnames.html

a bit off topic for you but I was mildly amused
http://www.lutins.org/lists/minced_oaths.html

richardshagrin

@sejintenej

If you plan to write for Fine Stories some of the minced oaths could be useful. I hadn't heard "cheese and crackers" as a curse substitute before.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@richardshagrin


I hadn't heard "cheese and crackers" as a curse substitute before.


I have, my grandfather, who lived on Long Island and lived through prohibition, used it throughout his life.

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

a bit off topic for you but I was mildly amused
[by] minced_oaths.html

I should reference this more often. I can never remember whether it's spelled "Dern!" or Durn!".

Replies:   tppm
tppm
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

This reminds me of an anecdote/parable I first heard as a child. Kid goes to his grandfather and asks "Is (E)ther or (I)ther correct?" Grandfather responds "(A)ther one will do."

Dern, Durn, and Darn are all correct.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin
Updated:

@tppm

That's discrimination against the other two vowels, I and O. Dirn probably is pronounced like dern/durn but dorn probably is like door-n. Perhaps even dyrn? Take a vow L, any vowel.

Why is there an N in damn? Dam is pronounced the same, or maybe I just can't hear the N. I kind of understand the silent P as in pterodactyl. Or maybe I don't know how to pronounce words. Pronouncing Antidisestablishmentarianism or Supercalifragilisticexpialidosich are not a challenge to me, except maybe to spell, but some words are, like yawl, a watercraft with two masts, not the plural of you in War of Northern Aggression land.

Please stop me before I keep typing.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej
Updated:

@richardshagrin


but some words are, like yawl, a watercraft with two masts, not the plural of you in War of Northern Aggression land.


Sheesh kebab. Youse never erd o' ketch, a watercraft with two masts and nothing to do with baseball
You write dyrn but you should gurn

sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

The point was, both individuals and major corporations have a tendency to sue when they have NO legal standing, and it has little to do with the eventual outcome, either. As was pointed out, if you don't have a few spare million, any lawsuit will bankrupt you.

According to the broadsheets Mr McDonald (his true name) opened a chippie in his home town and got sued by the American company of same name for copying their name: they won and I think he had to close his shop down

broadsheet = a newspaper
chippie = a shop selling fish and chips to take away

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

According to the broadsheets Mr McDonald (his true name) opened a chippie in his home town and got sued by the American company of same name for copying their name: they won and I think he had to close his shop down


And that's where you start to come into the crossover of different legislations. In most countries you are supposed to register your business name before you set up the business. Part of that is running a check on the existence of a name in your field of endeavour to ensure that name isn't being used yet. In that case I'd say he found out the Fast Food Industry already had a business called McDonald's and that was why he lost out. If he was setting up as a scenic boat trip company called McDonald's the fast food company wouldn't have been able to sue him. The problem was using an already registered business name in the same industry. He could've used just his first name or his full legal name and likely got by.

Years ago I had a registered business name of BITS (Bywater Information Technology Services) and had a lock on both the full name and the acronym as registered business names. When I closed the business and my registration ran out someone else registered BITS within an hour of my registration expiring - I guess they wanted the name and were in the IT field, because they could've used it in any other field.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

According to the broadsheets Mr McDonald (his true name) opened a chippie in his home town and got sued by the American company of same name for copying their name: they won and I think he had to close his shop down

broadsheet = a newspaper
chippie = a shop selling fish and chips to take away


1. The McDonald's restaurant chain in the US was founded by a Mr. McDonald, though he sold out a long time ago.

2. Broadsheet is used in the US as well, it refers to a specific type of newspaper, and is a reference to the physical format used.

The other format would be a tabloid, which while the term tabloid is usually used to refer to scandal rags such as the Weekly World News, there are serious tabloid format papers both in the UK and the US.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

And that's where you start to come into the crossover of different legislations. In most countries you are supposed to register your business name before you set up the business.


I don't know about the UK, but under US law, the business name would have to be protected under trademark law. You are not obligated to register a business name as a trade mark, but it is normally done. My understanding is that US trademark law does make some allowances for small businesses using the proprietors name in the same general field as a larger company with a trademarked name as long as they aren't directly competitive.

The suit could have gone either way in the US, and even if the fish and chip place lost, he would not have been forced to close, only to change the name.

If he was forced to close because he bankrupted himself trying to fight the lawsuit, that was just poor decision making on the part of Mr McDonald.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

I don't know about the UK, but under US law, the business name would have to be protected under trademark law.


I suspect the UK law is like the Australian law where we have trademarks and registered business names as two different pieces of legislation, so you can register a business name without it being a trademark and it's a lot cheaper and easier to manage.

I didn't look up the case mentioned, but I suspect the reason he closed shop had more to do with the cost of the court case than it had to do with any court orders.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

I suspect the UK law is like the Australian law where we have trademarks and registered business names as two different pieces of legislation, so you can register a business name without it being a trademark and it's a lot cheaper and easier to manage.

Yes, in the UK they are separate. You do not have to register a business name but if someone subsequently registers the same name they can require you to cease and desist. My wife and I have not registered our business names - they are not big enough to interest anyone. You can trademark if you are registered as a business name.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I don't know about the UK, but under US law, the business name would have to be protected under trademark law. You are not obligated to register a business name as a trade mark, but it is normally done.

You may not be obligated to register the name, but if you don't research the name first, you're criminally liable, and if you don't register the name, anyone can came alone, register your shops name, and sue you to shut you down while they steal your customers. It's a stupid move not to register a business name (unless, of course, you're doing it under the table anyway).

Registration and trademark are different. If you have a registered business name, you're free to use that name and no one else can open a similar shop with the same name in your given state. A trademark guarantees the name itself, aside from the business. Since "McDonald's" is trademarked, if you opened a tire shop called "McDonald's", expected to be sued for violating their trademark.

richardshagrin
Updated:

The US Olympic Committee is also anal about the name Olympic, but have given up attacking Olympia named businesses. The capital of Washington is the city of Olympia. There are some businesses on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington who had to make changes to make it obvious the Olympic Dry Cleaners were not related to the Olympic Games in any way.

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

There are some businesses on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington who had to make changes to make it obvious the Olympic Dry Cleaners were not related to the Olympic Games in any way.

Just wait until the Olympic Games officially become the "Amazon Olympic Games" and watch all the lawsuits skyrocket!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Just wait until the Olympic Games officially become the "Amazon Olympic Games" and watch all the lawsuits skyrocket!


I know the International Olympic Committee is pretty corrupt, but I don't think that they would sell out to a US company.

On the other hand, if Amazon (or any other mega corp) wants to put up the cash to fund the Olympics rather than using government funds, I say let them have at it.

awnlee jawking

@richardshagrin

The Olympic Committee is also anal about the five rings. About the time of the 2012 London Olympics, they were scouring UK schools for evidence of kids using the symbol without permission.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@richardshagrin

In similar vein, I just had a struggle to think of a suitable name for a space ship.

What techniques do other authors have for naming naval vessels?

AJ

richardshagrin

@awnlee jawking

The US Navy favors dead politicians, or if the vessel is smaller, war heroes. There are also ships named after cities or states. Other navies use letter(s) or numbers. U101 for a submarine. The British tend to be more imaginative with similar ships wearing related names, like rivers or other geological names. I have no idea where something like Warspite comes from.

Replies:   ustourist  Dominions Son
ustourist

@richardshagrin

If I remember correctly (from something I learnt over 50 years ago) merchant ships with registered names are female and ships of the Royal Navy are male. The (apparent) exception to this is the ship Duke of Normandy, but since the present Queen holds that title, it is actually a female duke.
That supposedly goes back to the day that the figurehead was on the prow, and female to ward off mermaids. Hence traditionally vehicles of all types in Britain are female.
The reasoning behind the ships in the Royal Navy depends on their class and some were named after former ships so the original name could be centuries old.

sejintenej

@richardshagrin

A couple more: "hard cheddar" as a rude "too bad" or "just lump it". I have been heard to say "oh, sugar" in place of a hard swear word and I have heard other decent words used with similar tone

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

A couple more: "hard cheddar" as a rude "too bad" or "just lump it".

"Hard cheddar" as a potential name for a space ship? Dude, you'll been sitting in front of your computer for too long!

That's why it pays to include a quote from the entry you're responding to, so readers have some context.

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

What techniques do other authors have for naming naval vessels?


Systems currently used by various navies in the world today, and also used by authors of space based naval fiction, have naval vessels being named after:

Past national leaders - monarchs and presidents
Military heroes
Past military victory locations
States, counties, cities, and towns
Ship designers

For non-military vessels it's open slather.

Replies:   richardshagrin  tppm
richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

Non military ships Titanic was based on the relatively large size. Holland America (passenger) Line names them after Dutch cities, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, etc. Its their dam ship. There used to be a cruise ship named Marco Polo after the Italian who went to China and brought back spaghetti. Columbus had the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Settlers in Massachusetts came over on the Mayflower. Sir Francis Drake's ship was the Golden Hind. That one may have been military.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

US Navy favors dead politicians, or if the vessel is smaller, war heroes.


Not True, Only Aircraft carriers are named for politicians (and admirals) by convention with an exception for Enterprise which has a long tradition in the US navy.

This will give you a list of the conventions for all the different types of ships: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_ship_naming_conventions

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

Sir Francis Drake's ship was the Golden Hind. That one may have been military.


That wasn't its original name - from wikipedia

Golden Hind was an English galleon best known for her circumnavigation of the globe between 1577 and 1580, captained by Sir Francis Drake. She was originally known as Pelican, but was renamed by Drake mid-voyage in 1578, in honour of his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose crest was a golden 'hind' (a female deer). Hatton was one of the principal sponsors of Drake's world voyage.

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

I'm not sure adopting anthropocentric conventions is the right way to go for sci fi stories set in the distant future. However, in a novel I'm currently working on, a member of a royal family arrives on the scene as titular head of an eponymously-named battleship. Readers are meant to assume he'll be a pretentious prick, but as the story progresses, he turns out to be quite a decent, down-to-earth insectoid.

AJ

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

I'm not sure adopting anthropocentric conventions is the right way to go for sci fi stories set in the distant future


Such conventions should work just fine for any advanced human society in even in the distant future.

However, not all of the conventions have to be anthropocentric. Many of the conventions could be used in a non-anthropocentric way if you create enough of a back story for the aliens. Naming military vessels for culturally important places or historically important military figures / leaders makes sense for any intelligent species, as long as it is their places/historical figures. But that means creating a robust history for the alien race.

It would likely be impossible for any human to speak an alien language from and insectoid race our vocal apparatus is simply too different from that of insects. So if you really don't want' even a hint of anthropocentrism a string of random symbols is the way to go if you don't want to build enough of a back story to apply some basic conventions from existing navies.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Dominions Son

Naming military vessels for culturally important places or historically important military figures / leaders makes sense for any intelligent species, as long as it is their places/historical figures. But that means creating a robust history for the alien race.


AJ wants the reader to think that the ruler is a pretentious prick and this naming is a parallel to what some such humans do.

It would likely be impossible for any human to speak an alien language from and insectoid race our vocal apparatus is simply too different from that of insects.

It seems to be movie industry standard to have translation machines which can talk both languages. Some books have humans (or in-between races) who can do the translation. Remember that this is sci fi so credibility is suspended

tppm

@Ernest Bywater

What about things like Endeavor or Enterprise?

Dominions Son

@tppm

What about things like Endeavor or Enterprise?


I am not sure about endeavor, bur Enterprise has a long history with US naval ships going all the way back to the revolutionary war and the Continental Navy. Currently Enterprise is the one exception to the convention that aircraft carriers are named for presidents or admirals. As the last USS Enterprise has been retired from active service, the next USS Enterprise is scheduled to be built and to enter service in 2025.

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Dominions Son

The word "enterprise" when it's not the name of a ship hasn't particularly changed meaning in that time. What algorithm is used to give ships that type of name the first time it's used?

I haven't looked it up but I'd bet that HMS Endeavor has a long history in the British Royal Navy, considering one of them was Admiral Nelson's flagship. But what was the criterion used for naming it originally.

Ernest Bywater

@tppm

What about things like Endeavor or Enterprise?


When a ship is involved in something momentous, the officials responsible for ships' names often add the name to a list of names they wish to keep in service, once that happens the name will often be assigned to a new ship when the old one is taken out of service.

The first HMS Enterprise was a captured French vessel and they simply Anglicised the French name of L'Entreprise. The first USS Enterprise was a civilian vessel taken over by the US Navy and renamed. In both cases the names just kept being recycled after that.

The first HMS Endeavour was purchase in 1692, the famous one captained by James Cook was much later and started life as a civilian collier and bought to be a research vessel.

Both names started in use before anyone started a serious system for naming ships, although the Royal Navy did have a board that reviewed and approved names then, they'd didn't have a strict naming policy beyond no two names the same in the navy.

Ernest Bywater

@tppm


I haven't looked it up but I'd bet that HMS Endeavor has a long history in the British Royal Navy, considering one of them was Admiral Nelson's flagship. But what was the criterion used for naming it originally.


There have been many HMS Endeavours over the years:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ships_named_HMS_Endeavour

Most have been smaller ships built as civilian vessels, bought by the Royal Navy and converted. None have been big enough to qualify as a flagship for anything. Nor can I find a reference to Nelson ever having commanding a ship of that name. Nelson served from 1771 to 1805, becoming a ship's captain in 1779. The only HMS Endeavours in operation during his time in service were schooners that would have been commanded by lieutenants, and both operated in the West Indies.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@tppm


The word "enterprise" when it's not the name of a ship hasn't particularly changed meaning in that time. What algorithm is used to give ships that type of name the first time it's used?


True but that definition going way back has aspects that are not business related.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enterprise


1: a project or undertaking that is especially difficult, complicated, or risky

2: readiness to engage in daring or difficult action : initiative (showed great enterprise in dealing with the crisis)

3

a : a unit of economic organization or activity; especially : a business organization

b : a systematic purposeful activity


Both 1 and 2 seem to be fine inspirations for naming a naval vessel 1, particularly so for a ship of a revolutionary navy.

Dicrostonyx

@richardshagrin

Take these suggestions with a grain of salt, as I don't have anything currently posted on this site. Most of my writing has either been for role-playing games (private GMing, not published stories) or for a sequence of stories that I am hoping to eventually do something with, but unfortunately I'm both a procrastinator and a perfectionist. Still, I have done lots of research regarding naming characters, so maybe that will help.

For fantasy or alternate reality fiction, I usually choose a specific world culture and mine in for words, not just names, then apply English grammatical rules to make things more memorable and pronounceable. As much as possible I'll stick to one language/culture within any insular society, as it helps make everything sound connected. For example, if the chosen kingdom is using modified Russian names, I'll use both modern and historical references, but I won't through in a Spanish name unless the character is clearly a foreigner, and even then I'd be cautious.

Fort science fiction and modern stories, I keep in mind three ideas: multiculturalism, laziness, and cultural drag.

Multiculturalism is obvious, and growing in visibility, but still not as well accepted as many progressives would like. Just look at how many people make fun of "silly celebrity names", even when many of those names are just out of fashion or even culturally traditional. Years ago I saw some TV presenter suggest that Kirsten Dunst was trying to sound special by pronouncing her name KEER-stan, rather than the more common KUR-stan; in actuality KD uses the German pronunciation because that's her heritage, and how her parents pronounced it.

Still, it is not unlikely that in the future the acceptance and visibility of a wide variety of names will only increase, so that in a few hundred years the idea of culturally inappropriate names will only apply to a few nations with closed borders and in history books.

Laziness refers to the fact that, over time, people will try to make things easier for themselves, and that includes language and names. In Old English (pre 1066 AD), there were a lot more long vowels and hard consonants than we use today. That's where we get a lot of silent letters from (eg, in "knight", not only would the "k" be pronounced, but the "g" and "h" would be also, similar to the German "nacht"). Middle English (11thC - 15thC) had a lot more in common with Modern English, but was still a separate language.

For naming, laziness means that people will simplify names both over time and over usage. How many people do you know who insist on using Christopher, Daniel, or William in day to day life, versus Chris, Dan, Will, or Bill? How many Catherines go by Cathy, how many Elisabeths are know as Liz?

Cultural drag refers to the fact that some cultures resist change more than others do, and this affects language as much as it does economy, technology, and politics. For example, the Russian and Polish languages separated about 1,500 years ago, but I have been told that if a Russian speaker and a Polish speaker -- each knowing nothing of the other language -- speak to each other slowly they can understand each other.

The Russian name Nadyezhda (roughly NAD-jyez-da, but I suck at Russian) is the long form of Nadia. In Russian culture, especially historically, it would be a grave insult to use the short form of a name without being intimate with the person. For a woman, that would mean her parents, favoured siblings, and her husband.

China likewise has a lot of cultural drag, though for very different reasons and in different ways. In some villages, all children of the same generation are given the same middle name. In Vietnam there are about a hundred family names in total, so it is not uncommon for two unrelated people of the same name to marry.

...

Summary:

There was actually point of that huge wall of text, other than the fact that I only say something if I really have something to say. If you're just writing a short story, set in some vague location near the present, then just choose names randomly, using any of the suggestions or resources above.

If you want to write a story taking place anywhere else in the world, or more than about 25 years into the past or future, or if you're planning to write a long story or series, then you may wish to actually think about how the pieces all fit together before you start naming characters.

Personally, I often name characters as the last step in writing. In fact, I current have a short novel that I'm working on in which I have created two cultures, have the plot laid out, have written over 50 pages including moving the action through three locations, and I still haven't named the main characters or even the first-person point-of-view protagonist. The characters' personalities are all set, but I use place-holders for the names, because the names are important to me.

Obviously I don't expect anyone else to go that route, we all have our own styles, and our own quirks, but my point still stands. That point, in case it got lost in the ramble, is that you need to decide for yourself how important names are to you, and if you want them to be consistent both within and across stories. If you are planning multiple stories, or hope to draw a large audience, some extra forethought before writing will make a big difference later.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dicrostonyx

Personally, I often name characters as the last step in writing. In fact, I current have a short novel that I'm working on in which I have created two cultures, have the plot laid out, have written over 50 pages including moving the action through three locations, and I still haven't named the main characters or even the first-person point-of-view protagonist.

At this stage in your non-writing career, it's not important, but when you begin writing in earnest, you'll discover that defining names early is essential. Not only does it eliminate several duplicates, but it helps define the characters in your (the author's) mind.

Duplicates still pop up, especially among the minor characters, especially between first and last names, but keeping track resolves most of them fairly quickly.

Replies:   Dicrostonyx
Dicrostonyx

@Crumbly Writer

Hmm, perhaps, perhaps not. I'm not arguing with you, you have several stories on this site while I, obviously, do not, but my process is likely different from yours in many ways. Among other things I have a very good, detail-oriented memory, and I have no problem keeping multiple point-of-view characters straight while using place-holder names.

In any case, I was not suggesting that @richardshagrin, or any one else, should use that method, just pointing out that everyone has their own style for naming and that what works for one may be ludicrous to another.

...

Off-topic, but the reason that I use place-holder names is that I find it easier to massage the names in editing. Before I begin writing I do a lot of work on the background and setting, and I outline the plot in terms of the beginning, ending, and major events and locations throughout, but character evolution I create organically as I write. Just as a person's view of themselves and others changes over time, so do the names and descriptors they use.

So as I'm writing, I keep in mind where the character started, who they are now, and their relation to other characters, but the name in text will often be a generic name that I associate with a specific archetype. Usually these place-holder names are characters whom I've created or played in games, favourite characters from fiction, or generic literary terms.

After the story is complete, I then decide on appropriate names for the setting and edit the text as I do my first read-through/ edit of the completed story.

And yes, I am aware that this is pretty much the opposite of what any creative writing teacher or most authors would recommend. But still, it works for me.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dicrostonyx

As I've said, I've renamed characters, both major and minor ones, but rarely will any major character not have a fixed name very far into the revision process. By the time I start revising, I know where the story is going and most of the plot points are fixed. At that point, I'm focusing on foreshadowing, removing empty plot points and cleaning up the text. Minor characters might turn up with incompatible names, but for them, they're lucky to be named at all. 'D

That said, my editors have never been big into sweating over my story description, and I was shocked to discover--near the end of my revision process--that I was using the wrong name for the main character. No one had noticed. I'm glad I caught it before publishing the book!

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