Names, pronunciations, derivations, and occasional apologies.
By apologies I mean that I altered the names of a few acquaintances for some characters, then realized the characters weren’t all that good. Uhh . . . oops.
As characters appear in the books, so will their names below.
[*A caveat: I have never “created” a character; they have “manifested” themselves to me. I’ve checked, and this does NOT mean I have a mental condition. Other authors have confessed to having characters stroll into their minds demanding to be written about. And sometimes, the characters even named themselves. They’re a bossy bunch.]
Prologue and Chapter 1
|Muggah, Vid, Hycy||We’ll get to them later||. . . much later.|
|King Oren||OR-en||Nero, but reversed.(And while I love historical and ancient references, Oren is not a reference to a certain ancient senator from Utah.)|
Background: Nero, according to popular tradition, fiddled while Rome burned. While many historians agree that detail is anecdotal (mainly because ancient Rome didn’t have “fiddles”—he would have “lyred,” which sounds a little too appropriate for a political leader), the truth remains that Nero cared obsessively about becoming popular. Rome’s “Emperor Pre-teen” run amok, if you will. When disaffected Romans sent executors to finish him off, Nero was too cowardly to commit suicide on his own, so he forced his servant to kill him.
King Oren is also destructive, but worse than a selfish tween: he’s simply too childlike to understand how to rule the world. Dull-witted and overly trusting, he didn’t even notice his grandmother killed his own mother. And yet, by virtue of birth, he sat on the throne. Well, not anymore . . .
|Nicko Mal||NEE-ko Mal (as in malcontent; not as in mall—a horrible placed to be trapped)||Loosely—very loosely—based on Niccolo Machiavelli.|
Background: When I was a child I heard the name Niccolo Machiavelli (I no longer remember the context), and I loved the way it sounded, proving that even if something rings lyrical, it can still be malevolent.
Not until I became older did I realize he wasn’t the nicest of guys, so naming a child after him probably wouldn’t have been a good idea. But I still wanted to name something after him.
Enter the new ruler of the world. I just had to give him a powerful name!
Naming this character Chairman Mal also let me bring up remembrances of the great dictator Chairman Mao of China. Loved his outfits, variations of which we can still admire in North Korea.
[Note: for a fascinating and entertaining treatise (with cartoons!) on dictators of the world, I recommend How to Rule the World: A Handbook for the Aspiring Dictator, by Andre de Guillame, a failed would-be dictator.]
No, I’m not obsessed with how to conquer the world; just trying to learn how to be a more effective mother.
|Querul, the name of the line of Kings (they alone retained the tradition of having only one name)||KWER-el||derivative of querulous, meaning “petulant” and “in a whining manner.”|
Background: Because, hey—historically, most kings were.
|Captain Perrin Shin||PARE-in SHIN||Shin is Japanese for “truth”|
Background: Perrin Shin is derivative of peregrine–as in the falcon–the fastest animal on earth. These birds can make their homes even in busy downtown areas, living off of pigeons and avoiding the hazards of modern life. And birds of prey, as Gary Larsen once illustrated, are just cool.
But I couldn’t very well name him “Captain Grin.” No one in the fort would ever take the man seriously. That’s not even a decent name for a super hero. Shin was far more fitting.
|Idumea||I-doo-ME-uh||Anciently, the city of Edomites|
Background: This name is another beautifully fun word to say out loud (along with diarrhea and gonorrhea, but neither of those will appear in this book, I promise). The Greeks gave this name to the descendants of Esau. (For a brief history click here; another reference to Idumea as “the world” can be found here.)
|Rector Hogal Densal||HOE-gal DENS-al||Amalgam of acquaintances|
Background: Hogal Densal’s name is an amalgam of “rectors” in my own life who were wise, sincere, insightful, and occasionally unhelpful in surprisingly helpful ways. I still don’t know how they did that.
|Gadiman||GAD-i-man||Just came to me (JCTM)|
Background: Gadiman reminds me of a few things, primarily the phrase, “What a gad-awful man.”
|Mahrree Peto||MARR-ee PAY-toh (Mahrree rhymes with “sorry”)||Mahrree: JCTM, sort of. Peto is Latin for “seeking”|
Background: Mahrree’s character named herself (remember: not a sign I’m mentally ill), and for months I wondered where I’d heard the name before. Finally I remembered the river that flowed near my home in rural Virginia of several years ago: the Maury River. Literature is replete with river analogies, and Mahrree fits a good amount of them.
This is a woman who’s always looking for answers, so Peto was natural.
|Cephas Peto||SEE-fus PAY-toh||Aramaic for “rock”|
Background: The apostle Peter was called Cephas by Jesus Christ, meaning that Peter would become the rock for the church after the Savior left. Cephas is Mahrree’s solid foundation, even when he’s gone.
|Teeria, Hitty, Sareen||TEER-ia, HIT-ee, sa-REEN||JCTM|
Background: They’re teenage girls. They giggle. They roll their eyes. They already know everything. At times they make you tear up, or even want to hit one, and they’re definitely not serene.
|Guide Hierum||HIE-rum||among other things, the name of a town I enjoy|
Background: While I want to claim that this name comes from some neighbors I once had, the truth is that at the time I wrote about this character I was actually thinking about chocolate. (Mahrree’s other neighbors aren’t named here, but their last name is Lindt.)
|Hycymum Peto||HIE-si-mum PAY-toh||JCTM|
Background: OK, here’s one of those “apology” moments I mentioned at the top of this page. Mahrree’s mother showed up easily in my head one afternoon, and I had no problem writing her description and dialogue. When I needed to name her, “Hycymum” just popped into existence.
As I thought about this person more, however, I realized to my surprise that I had actually written a bit about my own mum. The Hycy part came from Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced “bouquet”) from the British comedy “Keeping Up Appearances.” I had blended my mother with Hyacinth! My mother—who is currently declining from dementia and Parkinson’s—read a very early draft of this book a few years ago, and didn’t make any negative comments about Hycymum. Either she didn’t see parts of herself in this character, or she already was slipping mentally and forgot to accuse me of plagiarizing parts of her personality. She’ll forgive me. Eventually.
|Tabbit Densal||TAB-it DENS-al||JCTM|
Background: Decidedly uninspired. My daughter was talking about her rabbit at the time I was looking for a name.
|Relf Shin||RELF Shin||“Relf” is old Germanic for “wolf”Shin means “truth” in Japanese.|
Background: Relf is also derivative of my father’s name, who’s as opposite of Relf as you can get. He was so gentle he made lambs seem vicious.
Background:Because naming people was yet another thing Oren wasn’t too clever at.
(His new last name of “Heth” just came to me. His mother’s last name of “Batalk” just may be Klingon in origin. Sorry, I’m a Trekkie. But no characters will be named Picard, I promise.)
|Terryp||TARE-up||Shortening of a favorite author|
Background: This is my homage to one of my favorite authors, who I didn’t discover until 2007. I was immediately fascinated by his ability to create a satire with humor, tenderness, and downright profundity. His inspires me, just as Terryp inspires Mahrree.
|Tuma Hifadhi||TOO-ma hi-FOD-hee (I’m guessing here, because the name is Swahili: not my native tongue.)||A Swahili phrase I found and realized it makes for a great name. I’ll tell you later what it means.|
Background: Go ahead and Google it for now. I couldn’t find it again either.
|Hew Gleace||HUE GLEES||amalgam of names|
Background: Hew is the first name of a philosopher and thinker who has so astonished me that I’ve taken up trying to philosophize and think, but dismally in comparison. Gleace is a truncation of the first and last name of an inspired “rector” who, when I was an overly emotional 13-year-old, told me it was impossible to please everyone, but I should just please myself and my God. That literally changed my life.
|Brillen Karna||BRILL-en KAR-na||Brillen—brilliantKarna—an Indian hero|
Background: Not that Brillen is particularly brilliant, but he is a bright officer.
Karna was an interesting Indian hero who shares a few things in common with this character, primarily his undying loyalty. To read more about Karna, click here:
Background: The Swahili language is amazing in the way it looks, sounds, and rattles off the tongue! I really don’t know how to pronounce any of it, but I like to pretend I do.
Dinay–or rather Dine’–is the true name of Navajos, a name they gave themselves long ago meaning “The People.” Click here for a brief history.
|Dormin||DOOR-min||Reverse of Nimrod|
Background: Because Dormin’s mother didn’t want him to be named, “Secondsonoforen.” (Or “Sonoforenanotherone”.)
Historically, Nimrod is a complex character. The Bible calls him a mighty hunter, but Judaic tradition claims he was mighty only because he stole Adam’s garment, also worn by Noah. The animals, thinking he was a beloved human, trustingly came to him. Then he slaughtered them. Nice. He’s also credited with building the Tower of Babel, and interestingly, to call someone a nimrod is to state he’s an idiot (Bugs Bunny called Elmer Fudd a “poor little Nimrod”).
Dormin is likewise a confused character, unsure of who or what he is, or should be.
|Aldwyn Cush||AULD-win CUSH||Adwyn–Anglo-Saxon for “defender”|
Background: This is one of those “apology” points. You see, I named the character Cush after a wonderful high school teacher early in the story’s development. Then I realized the teacher had nothing to do with the personality of General Cush. But, I like the name, and so it stays. Sorry, my former teacher, should you ever be offended.
|Dr. Brisack||BRIZ-ak||Something I cobbled together|
Background: Another apology. Early in development, I knew I would have a doctor of family life here, but I didn’t fully know who he was yet. Names help define people. I thought about doctors in my past, and remembered fondly a family practitioner and obstetrician who, when I discovered I was pregnant the second time, saw me through it.
My first pregnancy and delivery was an especially difficult and horrendous experience. My first doctor was neglectful (two babies died from his failure to show up at the hospital on time) and dismissive of my pain (“It’s a small baby! Just push it out! The basketball game’s starting!” Seriously–he had season tickets. And the “small” baby turned out to be over 8 pounds. And I had no drugs.) That doctor lost his license and practice just a couple of months later.
A year after that, when I realized I would be going through pregnancy and delivery again, a new doctor whose first and last names mash up into “Brisack” literally held my hand and promised this experience would be much better. It was. I deeply appreciated his concern and sincerity.
Dr. Brisack shows a few of his tendencies, but more of my original ob/gyn. Sorry.
|Gizzada||gi-ZAH-duh||a bite-sized Jamaican coconut tart|
Background: Well, because he is. Perhaps not bite-sized . . . unless you take enormous bites.
|Grandpy Neeks||GRAND-pee NEEKS||JCTM|
Background: Sometimes characters name themselves. He showed up in my mind one day, introduced himself, and just started rambling. (Or maybe that was an odd dream I had about R. Lee Ermey.)
Book 2 names (Soldier at the Door)
|Shem Zenos||SHEM ZE-nuz||Ancient names–see below|
Background: I’m fascinated by the ancients—Adam and Eve, Enoch and Mrs. Enoch, Noah and and his other half, etc. Sometimes I feel I should know them–deeply and intimately–but instead I’m seeing them through a glass as if on display in a museum. But they wink at me, hoping I remember some common plot we shared thousands of years ago before any of us came to this earth. They intrigue and beckon to me to discover them, so I read all that I can about them, then I imagine them even more.
They lived for hundreds of years, had dozens upon dozens of children, and watched the world literally grow up in front of them. And just how did they survive in a pre-flood world, dealing with a “cursed” land which was very different than the earth we now live on? They were made of much sterner stuff—they must have been!
I love the tantalizing beliefs and traditions, variations of which pop up in nearly every ancient culture, especially the stories about Enoch, and the Judaic traditions of who Shem later became. We’ll never know what’s true or isn’t, but I long for the day when, on the other side, I hope to dare approach one of them and say, “What is it that I’ve forgotten about you?” I had to name one of my characters after the ancients, and I think Shem’s been marginalized for far too long. For some of those traditions about Shem, click here.
The name Zenos is also an equally tasty bit of mystery. Common sense tells us that the stories and prophecies of many great men and women have been lost to time, and from the Bible, either by error or accident or deliberate intent. Yet a few names have popped up, Zenos and Zenock begin two of them who were well known in Old Testament times, but were scrubbed from history. For a more in-depth explanation about Zenos, click here. For a description of his most famous writing, the parable of the olive tree, click here.
|Qualipoe Hili||KWAL-ee-poeHEE-lee||Hawaiian for “wandering in the dark”|
Background: Poe can’t help that he’s wandering in the dark; his mother doesn’t turn on the lights for him. She named him Qualipoe, after all, as if adding “quality” to the beginning of his name would imbue him with some special presence. (Similar to companies that name themselves something obvious and hopeful, like “Qualipro”—we’re quality AND professional. For some reason, I distrust companies like that even more than if they were named something like, “Yeah, Probably Could Do The Job—Lemme Find My Wrench And Duct Tape.”)
|Hegek||HEG-ick||amalgam of a relative|
Background: Loosely an amalgam of a beloved relative who not only was a great teacher but a much better superintendent than this character. However, I needed a name, the connection was there, and so I pseudo-immortalized yet another acquaintance who will likely later be demanding an explanation for this dubious honor.
|Yung||YUNG||Chinese for “brave,” “courageous” and “soldier.”|
Background: Because the Yungs simply are.
|Xat||GSAT, or KSAT, or KZAT, or whatever||Uh, see below|
Background: Just made this name up because every book needs a character whose name begins with an X that no one can figure out how to pronounce. Not even me.