For some time, I have been keeping a small notebook in my purse in which to capture fugitive ideas, oddities, vignettes, and joyful or horrid happenings for use in future writing. From this exercise has come, among much else, a long list of weird names encountered in the press and occasionally in life. I long to use them in fiction, but since they belong to real people, the best I can hope for is to mix and match. Today, I want to share some of this raw material with you, my fellow writers, who may well come up with better matches and better mixes than I. Feel free.
Some of the names are simply too appropriate to be believed. There are:
- Sir Jock Stirrup, once head of the British armed forces (and now Baron Stirrup.)
- John Stalker, an ex-Deputy Chief of Police.
- James Naughtie, the BBC Today interviewer of a heterosexual man who, after a stroke, “woke up gay.” Naughtie was described by Britain’s Daily Mail as “the formidable BBC pinko who turned the airwaves blue.”
- UK Member of Parliament, Mark Reckless, who bolted the Conservative Party to join the Independence Party.
(The English outnumber the Americans in my list. Does this Mean Something?)
Here at home, the items in my collection seem to come with brief stories attached. I itch to fill them out:
From my cookbook shelf, Crescent Dragonwagon beckons. According to my sister-in-law, who claims acquaintance with her (and that is not the kind of source one questions), Ms. Dragonwagon married an enlightened man who did not insist that she take his surname. Neither of them wanted a hyphenated name, however, so they made one up. The marriage ended, but Ms. Dragonwagon’s vegetarian cookbooks were already well known, so, publicly at least, she will be Dragonwagon to the end of her days. The stuff of tragedy.
I found another name near the end of a news tidbit about the theft of a Stradivarius violin. We were several paragraphs down into an account of the Strad before the perpetrator appeared: “The violin, which police said appeared to be in good condition, was stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun…. Police traced the stun gun to Universal Knowledge Allah, a 36-year-old barber….”
A cousin of Michelle Obama made the papers very recently. Rabbi Capers Funnye of Chicago was nominated to become what an international organization is calling the first “black chief rabbi” of the 21st century. A statement from the International Israelite Board of Rabbis declared that Funnye would serve as the “titular head of a worldwide community of Black Jews.” And why not?
Internationally, my best name source so far came from an account of Ted Cruz being booed off the stage at a gathering of Middle Eastern Christian ecclesiastics. It was also my best source of impressive titles. In the audience were:
- Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Raï, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East;
- Gregorios III Laham, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Alexandria, and Jerusalem [pictured at the top of this post];
- Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East;
- Aram I Keshishian, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church;
- Metropolitan Joseph Al-Zehlawi, Archbishop of New York and All North America for the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America;
- Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria;
- Ibrahim Ibrahim, Bishop Emeritus of Chaldean Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle.
I don’t know where to start the character list for my fantasy novel, with the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia or the Bishop of the Chaldean Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle. George R. R. Martin, look out! (Alas, the first result of a Google search on the Eparchy was a parish listing — in Southfield, Michigan. The glamor is gone.)
Okay, writers, start your pens. Pick a name and give me a scenario.