Let’s make Mildred a cool name… again!

Here is a question to all science fiction and fantasy affictionados. Why would a character in a fantasy kingdom located on a different plane of existence be named Bob, Tom, or John? If the answer to this question eludes you, I bid you welcome to the club.

There is always some context to a name’s origins. Some describe function or occupation, while others describe desired or perceived character trait. Names do not just come out of nowhere, and are unlikely to mean the same thing in different, unrelated cultures. So while I can suspend my disbelief and assume that in Kingdom of Lower Made-Uppia, “Steven” really means something like “dragon-slaying knight”, and “Edward” is a local translation of “pious”, there is a lot of disbelief to suspend.

Now, I understand the need to have pronounceable character names thrown in amongst the more exotic permutations. Hence the “Aeris and Bob” concept on ever-reliable TV Tropes, which sometimes makes me wonder if a character with an ordinary name will be considered exotic in a more unconventional setting.

And then, what is an exotic name to one culture will be a very mundane one to another. Case in the point: typical modern Anglo-Saxon names were considered exotic in the former Soviet Union, where I grew up. A Russian named Robert would be unusual, despite there being millions of Roberts in the English speaking world. When this is translated into fiction, some hilarity may ensue… completely unintentionally, of course!

With this in mind, I am setting upon a mission. You see, names may come full circle, and there is no telling what may become popular a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand years from now. The names we think of as archaic and horribly dated now might gain a new lease on life at some point in the future. They might become exotic and hip with the passage of time, or with their adoption by other cultures. So in a thousand years, Alvin may no longer indicate a near-centennarian (or a chipmunk), and Brooklyn may become respectably old-fashioned.

As such, for this next writing project I am working on, my mission is to write in a character named Mildred, and to do it with a straight face. A sprinkling of Zebulons, Jebediahs, and Hirams may or may not follow.

And this is from a guy who deliberately gave his children more conventional names. Geesh!

Leave a comment


  1. Mildred was the name of The Worst Witch…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Worst_Witch

    But overall, I agree. I hate thinking up the details of fantasy worlds.


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