Ironic Names

There is a character in the book I am reading who is named ironically.  (Of course, I am not the author so I can’t say for sure if it was done on purpose, but given that it’s a Robert Jordan novel, I suspect it was.)  The person is question is a dour, scowling maid named Meri.

In this case, the irony results from the way the name is said.   I am pronouncing the name “Merry” which makes it an odd choice for someone with a perpetually sour face.  Not all ironic naming choices are homophones, however.

There are many names in current use that have literal definitions.  I’m not talking about how Leigh derives from Lea meaning “of the meadow” here.  I’m specifically referring to people named Sunshine, Rose, or Autumn.  If you expand the concept a bit, you can also include nicknames like Rich or Chuck.   They may not be intentionally named with a definable word, but it works just as well for our purposes.

It seems a bit silly (or lazy) to name a thief Rob or a royal daughter Princess, but flipping a name’s meaning for the character’s traits can sometimes be clever.  This is especially true if you don’t point out the name.  Calling a teenage girl Joy when she’s not particularly happy might draw an odd reader remark or two, but unless she explicitly says something like “I’m not happy, but my name is Joy” it won’t be blatant.  Then when the readers get it (like I just did with Meri) they might have a moment that makes them feel like they are in on the joke.

What do you think about utilizing literal names or homophones in your character development?

On a random personal note, I have worked with an Autumn, a Summer, and a Spring.  All I need is a coworker named Winter to complete my set!  🙂


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