Monday, November 19, 2012

A few considerations before you name your son Edward

Now, we know one of the reasons you come here is because we do the important research no one else is willing to do. Well, today is no exception, so if you’re an expectant parent with hopes of producing a literary genius, listen up.

You need to think about how your child’s name is going to appear on the cover of his or her first book. Will they be able to splash it boldly across that fancy dust jacket? Or will they demure behind a pair of initials? The answer might not be as obvious as you’d think. Just ask the parents of Thomas Stearns Eliot, Thomas Edward Lawrence, Edward Morgan Forster or Edward Estlin Cummings. All gave their verbal wunderkinds very solid, respectable names, but perhaps they were too  solid and respectable. After all, each one opted to use their initials when their galleys finally went to press.

They’re not alone, of course: J.D. Salinger, H.G. Wells, D.H. Lawrence- all preferred a two-letter trade name to the Jerome Davids, Herbert Georges, and David Herberts they were given as children. Others only went half way: Francis Fitzgerald became F. Scott, and little Henry Haggard rose to fame as H. Rider. And still others took it to the extreme- I’m looking at you, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien- three initials indeed!

Now, there’s nothing at all wrong with going by one’s initials, just ask G.K Chesterton, T.C. Boyle, H.L. Mencken, C.S. Lewis, J.P. Donleavy and E.L. Doctorow. But parents should go into this naming exercise with eyes wide open. So, let’s get down to brass tacks, or as some might refer to them, “B.T.” What are the names most likely to be initialized? We’ve created two word clouds to illustrate exactly that. The one pictured above is based on the authors already named in this post, and the second one below is based on Wikipedia’s “List ofLiterary Initials”, which catalogues roughly 200 or so authors who have preferred letters to full names. The larger the name, the more frequently it has been shortened to an initial.

We’ll leave the rest to you and your favorite book of baby names.

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