Published on June 17, 2007
NAMES AND NAMING INYOUNG ADULT LITERATURE: NAMES AND NAMING IN YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE By Alleen and Don Nilsen Taken from the manuscript of our forthcoming book from Scarecrow Press, 2007 Slide2: Teenagers are vitally involved in developing their own identities as they say goodbye to who they were as children and hello to who they will be as adults. Their names are an important part of their identities both in real life and in literature. Because of this, we believe they are more interested in manipulating and presenting their names than are adults. Slide3: Ernest Hemingway’s 1916-1917 high school yearbook showed him experimenting with eight different pen names: Ernest Hemingway Ernest Miller Hemingway Ernest MacNamara Hemingway Ernest Monahan Hemingway Ernest Hemingway. (with a period) Ernest Michealowitch Hemingway B. S. E. H. Slide4: Leslie Dunkling in The Guiness Book of Names says that except for changing their names in relation to marriage or a desire to separate different parts of their lives, when adults change their names it is usually under a cloud. They want to hide from someone or something. In contrast, when young adults change their names it is usually done in a celebratory mood filled with optimism and anticipation, as in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Slide5: James Gatz—that was really, or at least legally, his name. He had changed it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment that witnessed the beginning of his career—when he saw Dan Cody’s yacht drop anchor over the most insidious flat on Lake Superior. It was James Gatz who had been loafing along the beach that afternoon in a torn green jersey and a pair of canvas pants, but it was already Jay Gatsby who borrowed a rowboat, pulled out to the Tuolumne and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour. I suppose he’d had the name ready for a long time, even then. HERE ARE SIX REASONS THAT TEENAGERS RESPOND POSITIVELY TOAUTHORS WHO ARE SKILLED IN THE LITERARY USES OF NAMES. : HERE ARE SIX REASONS THAT TEENAGERS RESPOND POSITIVELY TO AUTHORS WHO ARE SKILLED IN THE LITERARY USES OF NAMES. 1. Teenagers are more interested than are adults in manipulating and presenting their names: : 1. Teenagers are more interested than are adults in manipulating and presenting their names: Teenagers are closer to the name games they played as children The boys in Louis Sachar’s Holes do this when they call Mr. Pendanski, Mom. Slide8: They call the other guard, Mr. Sir, because he told them to address him as Sir. . In Cynthia Voigt’s When She Hollers, Tonnie tries to humiliate his step daughter, Tish, by reversing the sounds of her name. Perceptive readers understand that Tonnie is not only cruel; he is also immature. 2. Place names are not as sacred as they used to be because naming rights are now being sold. : 2. Place names are not as sacred as they used to be because naming rights are now being sold. Authors of books for teens are joining in the fun of getting new mileage out of old place names as in the title of John Green’s Looking for Alaska: Slide10: 3. Because young adult literature is contemporary, it can reflect current trends. Young people who are now becoming parents are not choosing traditional names for their babies. : 3. Because young adult literature is contemporary, it can reflect current trends. Young people who are now becoming parents are not choosing traditional names for their babies. They are using creative processes of word play such as clipping, blending, and reversing words. Nevaeh (Heaven spelled backwards) is now among the top 100 names given to girls. Slide12: This is similar to the Mirror of Erised in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. It is Desire spelled backwards. Donna Jo Napoli clipped the name of Rapunzel to get the title Zel for her retelling of the old story, much like Gail Carson Levine clipped Cinderella’s name for the title of her Ella Enchanted. Meg Rosoff made a joke in the title of her 2006 Just in Case. Her protagonist is David Case, but in the first few pages he changes his name to Justin. 4. People are choosing names to honor, or at least hint at, ethnic identification as a matter of pride. : 4. People are choosing names to honor, or at least hint at, ethnic identification as a matter of pride. There is more to ethnic explorations than names, but still such titles as these serve as miniature 'book talks' informing readers that ethnicity will be explored in the book: When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park Slide14: Call Me Maria and The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer Missing Angel Juan by Francesca Lia Block Naming Maya by Uma Krishnaswami Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples A SAMPLING FROM THE CHAPTERS IN OUR BOOKILLUSTRATE HOW AUTHORS MAKE USE OF DIFFERENT KINDS OF NAMES : A SAMPLING FROM THE CHAPTERS IN OUR BOOK ILLUSTRATE HOW AUTHORS MAKE USE OF DIFFERENT KINDS OF NAMES Chapter One. Names for Fun: M. E. Kerr, Gary Paulsen, Louis Sachar, and Polly Horvath: Chapter One. Names for Fun: M. E. Kerr, Gary Paulsen, Louis Sachar, and Polly Horvath Slide17: In Kerr’s Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack, Dinky (a character who is far from Dinky) names the cat she found under a car Nader in honor of Ralph Nader, who as a critic of the American automobile industry, also spent considerable time under cars. In Kerr’s Is That You, Miss Blue, she illustrates how the girls at an exclusive southern boarding school for young women come from both old, well established families and from newly affluent families whose land happened to have oil on it by explaining that Carolyn Cardmaker’s roommate is named Cute Diblee, 'and Cute isn’t a nickname either. She’s got a sister called Sweet.' Chapter Two. Names to Establish Tone and Mode: Robert Cormier and Francesca Lia Block: Chapter Two. Names to Establish Tone and Mode: Robert Cormier and Francesca Lia Block Slide19: Cormier’s I Am the Cheese is an example of a book where the names are integral to the plot. The metaphor in the title comes from the old nursery song, 'The Farmer in the Dell.' Farmer is the surname of a family of three who have been assigned to the Government’s witness re-establishment program. Slide20: The parents are killed and the boy, whose name is Adam, is sent to an institution where he is regularly interrogated. At the beginning of the book, the family would sing the old song and laugh about how special they were to have a song made up about them. This happy time contrasts with the grim ending of the book when readers are left to decide which line is most appropriate: 'The cheese stands alone' or 'The rat takes the cheese.' Slide21: Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat books are equally powerful but in a 'glittering' and 'slinkster-cool' fashion. The first two pages of the Weetzie Bat chapter entitled 'Shangri-L.A.' contain 203 words, with 35% percent of them being names. Character names include Weetzie, My Secret Agent Lover Man, Dirk, Duck, Cherokee, and Witch Baby. Names of their pets are Slinkster Dog, Go-Go Girl, Pee Wee, Wee Wee, Teenie Wee, Tiki Tee, and Tee Pee. Slide22: Actual names taken from the Los Angeles area include Hollywood Boulevard, Tick Tock Tea Room, Fredericks of Hollywood, Loves, Shangri-la, Shangri Los Angeles, Shangri-L. A., and Hollywood. Seasonal names include Christmas and October. Celebrity names include Marilyn, Elvis, James Dean, Charlie Chaplin, Harpo, Bogart, and Garbo. There is also a literary allusion to Lost Horizons. Chapter Three. Names to Establish Time Periods: Karen Cushman and Her Historical Fiction: Chapter Three. Names to Establish Time Periods: Karen Cushman and Her Historical Fiction Most English and Continental surnames developed during the Middle Ages were either: : Most English and Continental surnames developed during the Middle Ages were either: Based on place names Descriptions of personal characteristics Descriptions of a person’s occupation Patronyms based on the personal name of a father or another admired person Slide25: Karen Cushman’s Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice are wonderful illustrations of these processes during the latter part of the Middle Ages. Her The Ballad of Lucy Whipple shows that the processes were still at work on the frontier of the California Gold Rush. The protagonist was named California Morning Whipple by her 'Eastern' parents who more than anything want to 'Go West.' They named her brother Butte, her sisters Prairie and Sierra, and two babies who died Golden Promise and Ocean. Slide26: In Chapter Two, after the decimated family has finally gotten to California, the girl decides to change her name to Lucy May, because back home it was 'just a name, like Patience, or Angus or Etta Mae. But in California…. It was a place, a passion, a promise….' As she explains in a letter to her grandparents, 'I cannot hate California and be California.' Her mother says 'After twelve years of calling you California, I don’t see how I can suddenly say Lucy any more than I could Bossie or Nelly or Lady Jane.' Lucy humbly asks, 'Will you try, Mama?' Chapter Four. Names to Establish Realistic Settings: Gary Soto, Adam Rapp, Meg Rosoff, and Nancy Farmer: Chapter Four. Names to Establish Realistic Settings: Gary Soto, Adam Rapp, Meg Rosoff, and Nancy Farmer Slide28: This is probably our most varied chapter. It begins with Gary Soto’s Buried Onions, which he describes as a regional book. He believes in giving real names to 'rivers, mountains, gangs, streets, cars, in short, the particulars of the world.' He thinks regionalism should have as much of a place in young adult literature as in the adult literature of Flannery O’Connor, Mark Twain, Sherwood Anderson, William Saroyan, and Bernard Malamud. Slide29: In parts of How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff is purposely vague about a mysterious war that has started with no one knowing who the enemy is. Daisy, the protagonist and narrator, is a girl from New York who is sent to live with her cousins in England. Rosoff has her use names to remind readers of her being an American in a strange land. Slide30: She compares 'the concrete jungle' of the Upper West Side of New York to her cousins’ farm which in spring is 'Walt Disney on Ecstasy.' She wonders why 'Ye-old English version of a 7-Eleven' is also a post office and a drugstore. And she alludes to Carnegie Hall and to Jason’s fake smile in Friday the Thirteenth. Chapter Five. Names to Establish Imagined Settings: Yann Martel, Orson Scott Card, and Ursula K. Le Guin: Chapter Five. Names to Establish Imagined Settings: Yann Martel, Orson Scott Card, and Ursula K. Le Guin Slide32: We love the explanation of how the protagonist in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi got his name and how he managed to shorten it from Piscine to Pi. The whole book is filled with wonderful name play. When Pi is stranded at sea and floats through a group of whales, he is convinced that they understand his situation and he imagines their conversation, complete with the names he has giving them. Slide33: Oh! It’s that castaway with the pussy cat; Bamphoo was telling me about. Poor boy. Hope he has enough plankton. I must tell Mumphoo and Tomphoo and Stimphoo about him. I wonder if there isn’t a ship around I could alert. His mother would be very happy to see him again. Goodbye, my boy. I’ll try to help. My name’s Pimphoo. Chapter Six. Names to Reveal Ethnic Values: Amy Tan, Sandra Cisneros, Maya Angelou, Cynthia Kadohata, Sherman Alexie, and Others: Chapter Six. Names to Reveal Ethnic Values: Amy Tan, Sandra Cisneros, Maya Angelou, Cynthia Kadohata, Sherman Alexie, and Others Slide35: Name-related ideas commonly treated in YA literature include characters’ developing pride in their heritage and ethnicity, feeling disadvantaged because of their ethnicity, resenting labels applied to them from outside of their own group, facing challenges in crossing social barriers between ethnic groups, having attitudes different from their parents’ ideas about assimilating into mainstream culture. Slide36: In Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street, twenty-one of the forty-six chapter titles are based on the names of people or places, e.g. 'Gil’s Furniture Bought and Sold' 'Alicia andamp; I Talking on Edna’s Steps' 'Edna’s Ruthie' 'Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut andamp; Papaya' The saddest story is 'Geraldo No Last Name.' Slide37: Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven gets its title from the Lone Ranger radio show, which between 1933 and 1954 presented nearly 3,000 shows and was later adapted into a television program, comic books, movie serials, and a video game. The hero was a masked cowboy (a Superman in cowboy clothes) always accompanied by an Indian named Tonto, who served as his companion and Man-Friday. Tonto, with this spelling but a slightly different pronunciation means 'stupid' or 'foolish' in Spanish. Slide38: An example of Alexie’s dark humor that stretches readers’ emotions from pathos to humor is 'The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor.' James Many Horses has cancer and describes his favorite tumor as being about the size and the shape of a baseball, complete with stitch marks. 'You’re full of shit.' Slide39: 'No, Really. I told her to call me Babe Ruth. Or Roger Maris. Maybe even Hank Aaron ‘cause there must have been about 755 damn tumors inside me. Then I told her I was going to Cooperstown and sit right down in the lobby of the Hall of Fame. Make myself a new exhibit, you KNOW? Pin my X-rays to my chest and point out the tumors. What a dedicated baseball fan! What a sacrifice for the national pastime!' Chapter Seven. Names to Build a Dual Audience: Daniel Handler and the Lemony Snicket Books: Chapter Seven. Names to Build a Dual Audience: Daniel Handler and the Lemony Snicket Books Slide41: Audio tapes and CDs, released simultaneously with popular new books are making children’s literature a cross-media genre enjoyed by all ages. Daniel Handler, author of the popular Lemony Snicket books, uses names that communicate on one level to children while at the same time amusing adults on different levels. For example, the protagonists are Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire. Klaus and Sunny might remind grownups of the most famous murder case of the 1980s when Claus von Bulow was accused of injecting his diabetic wife, Sunny, with an overdose of insulin. Slide42: Two other orphans are named Duncan and Isadora Quagmire. Their names probably remind adults of Isadora Duncan, the famous American dancer who in the 1920s was killed when she was jerked from the back seat of a speeding roaster because her long, elegant scarf got caught in the open spokes of a wheel. Handler may be hinting that his melodramatic plots are not far removed from real life. Slide43: Handler makes multiple, clever allusions to the following authors and their books: T. S. Eliot George Orwell J. D. Salinger Robert Frost Edgar Allan Poe Gustave Flaubert Herman Melville Virginia Woolf He creates names that are heavy with foreshadowing as in: Mount Fraught Grim River Hotel Denouement The Salmonella Cafe Slide44: Handler relies on alliteration both to amuse readers and help them remember such names as Caligari Carnival Damocles Dock Finite Forest Fowl Fountain Grim Grogonia Grotto Hazy Harbor Lake Lachrymose Lavender Lighthouse Chapter Eight. Names as Memory Hooks: J. K. Rowling and the Harry Potter Books: Chapter Eight. Names as Memory Hooks: J. K. Rowling and the Harry Potter Books Slide46: Jim Dale, the actor who records the Harry Potter books, told a New York Times reporter that he had been forced to create 125 different voices when he recorded the fourth Harry Potter book. Rowling has to be exceptionally clever to create names that young readers can remember throughout a single book, much less two years later when a new book appears. One technique is to create descriptive names as with Grimmauld Place for the 'grim, old' house that Harry inherits. Slide47: Faculty members include: Mad-Eye Moody, whose one eye spins around, Professor Binn, who is a has-been (a ghost), Nearly Headless Nick, another ghost who has to wear shirts with high ruffled collars, because his beheading went awry and he got only a 'nick' with a dull axe. Slide48: She uses spelling innovations that help readers remember they are in a different world as when Harry takes the Knight Bus and mends his school papers with Spellotape, which corrects the spelling at the same time that it mends the paper. Floo powder enables magicians to step into a fireplace and be immediately transported to someone else’s fireplace. She could have spelled it Flue (which is what they move through) or Flew as in the past tense of fly. Slide49: But by using Floo, she left it to her readers to think of these two possibilities as well as the present tense Flee, which has a familiar ring because of Flea Powder. Like Daniel Handler, she plays with alliteration and also with combining morphemes, the smallest sounds that communicate meaning, to create new names. A good example is her use of the real Kings Cross Station in London from which Harry catches the train to 'cross over' into the magical world of Hogwarts and to Diagon Alley, which is a play on diagonally. Slide50: Slide51: She creates sets of names as with parseltongue and parselmouth and merpeople, merperson, a mersong, something mermish, and a merversion of a town square. She frequently returns to a name and reinforces it with an amusing story or a little joke. And when creating names for her charms, she uses Latin roots that readers might already be familiar with in regular English words. For example, Expelliarmus! is a shouted charm that causes someone’s weapon to fly away. Students already know the Latin root expello/expeller in such phrases as 'being expelled from school,' 'the propellers on helicopters,' and 'a propellant for an explosive.' CONCLUSION: CONCLUSION Please tell us about other interesting names in adolescent literature, and tell us what these names do in terms of intertextuality, advancing the plot, developing the characters, or entertaining the reader.