A Rose by Any Other Name . . .

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

    –  William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

Juliet’s lament notwithstanding, a name does matter.  If we renamed  the flower formerly known as Rose a turd, it simply wouldn’t smell as sweet.  Sorry.  That’s the way our brains work.

In the first draft of Avalon, S.C., the black fishing guide and his wife were named Amos and Bessie (you have yet to meet her, but she’s a trip).  My first draft readers immediately objected.  Ginny perhaps summed it up best:

Amos & Bessie—are those a bit stereotypical, even Uncle Tom-ish, names for a black couple? If they were born before 1940, OK, but if that were the case, they’d be too old for their roles.

I concede the point without further rationalization on my part.  So I need new names.

[Amos] was born in 1952, before the new wave of names for African-American babies became popular.  Willie was and remains a popular name, but it was too diminutive for [Amos].

So he’s James for now.  I can live with that, but I think we can do better.

SO . . . send me your suggestions.  There’s no tangible prize for winning the contest, other than total bragging rights when the book comes out.  But impressing your friends, “Hey, I named that character,” should be reward enough.

My sister suggested Clarissa to replace Bessie—I like that quite a bit.  But when you meet her in a couple more chapters, you can take a hack at renaming her as well.

AND AN ANNOUNCEMENT:  Soul Mate Publishing offered me a contract on Strange Bedfellows Thursday.  That’s the novel you read in serialized chapters last year and contributed your comments to the eventual polishing and improvement of the book.  I’m excited, of course, but you should be as well.  Hey, if we keep doing this, eventually we’ll get good at it.

Rose4Scene from Romeo and Tiffany

rose4aMLB all-time hits leader Pete Starsky



15 thoughts on “A Rose by Any Other Name . . .

    • I second that. Also Ed, Douglas, Frederick, Jackson, Wheeler, Kenny and Murphy,

      I like Clarissa, but call her Issa.

      And I love, love, love the publishing news!!! Congrats and happy dance.

      (Your words–“if we keep doing this, eventually we’ll get good at it”–are just what I needed to hear today. Thanks for the reminder.)

  1. 🙂 Proud of you.

    James. I like it. It’s stately. It’s not dimunitive. Of course, if you wanted to, you could look up the census for SC and see popular names that year. And pick one out. No 😛 I won’t do that for you! 🙂

    • Well, you can’t look up the 1950 census for SC (unless there was a special state census, which I’ve never heard of), because the US census doesn’t get released until 72 years later. So you can search the 1940 census at familysearch.org but you have to wait 9 years to see the 1950 census. I don’t think he wants to wait that long.

  2. Fishing makes me thnk of “fishers of men”…Simon (called Peter), and Andrew (Andy?)…also a couple of wonderful, black, & dearly departed musicians I know of : Jackie or Ozell (Jackie Gray was a drummer, funeral yesterday, and apparently Ozell was one of the best guitarists and souls to ever grace this world)

  3. Ok, so I looked at the 1940 census at black names in South Carolina — Hilton Head, specifically, since I knew it was mostly black then. I looked mostly at names of small boys — lots of biblical names, like Abraham/Abe, David, Aaron, Joseph/Joe. No Amos nor James. Names appearing more than once were Edward/Eddie, William/Willie, Ben/Benjamin, Ernest. Other interesting names:Jake, Willis, Nathaniel, Richmond, Profit, Clifford, Earl, Duncan — several of these were “Jr”. There was an adult named Preston who was a boat operator. . . Anyway, some ideas.

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