What’s in a Name?

A lot, if that name is Dracula.

I was pondering the names of monsters and how it must feel to share a name with someone with a ‘loaded’ reputation. Out of curiosity, I checked the Manhattan White Pages for Dracula listings. (No, I don’t have one of those gigantic, old, ‘sit-on-this-because-you’re-short’ phone books — I went to the Internet.)

There were NO Draculas in Manhattan, or anywhere else in New York, but there is one in Colorado Springs and another in Ramona, California. Frankenstein yielded better results. There’s a family of five in lower Manhattan. There’s also someone calling himself Hyde Jekyll, but I suspect that’s a joke gone wrong.

Sharing a name can cause confusion. All through high school my paperwork was mixed up with a girl with a name that’s similar to mine, but not the same. I’m leaving it out here, because I heard she left the reunion early when one too many people asked her about me. (LOL)

For years I received phone calls intended for the other C. Korman. There wasn’t much I could do about it. They were looking for Cliff Korman — not me. When I received an embossed envelope that looked like an important invitation, I tracked him down. He turned out to be an excellent jazz pianist and a nice man.

Everyone knows someone with a common name — or more precisely, a combination of both a common first name and a common last name. My dear friend Grace Lee attended a party for the opening of a film entitled ‘The Grace Lee Project’ a few years back. A documentary filmmaker, Grace Lee, made a film about a sample of the many Grace Lees out there. My friend wasn’t in the movie, but she made the list for the party.

Jackie Clarke, John Smith… some names have pages and pages in phone books. Your John Smith might be your best friend and mine might be my crazy neighbor, but neither of us would be surprised to meet another John Smith. A little confusion goes with the territory. But what happens when you share your name with a real monster? Godzilla, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster remain unlisted. And I’ve yet to find a Hannibal Lecter — or a reason to seek him out.

Getting stuck with a name with a history is one thing, but choosing it is another — no I’m not making a big deal about Hyde Jekyll. If someone wants to get extra prank calls, let them. But I recently learned that the brother of a friend chose to be called David Berkowitz, when he took his beloved step dad’s family name. Berkowitz is better known as the ‘Son of Sam Killer.’ He terrorized New York in 1976/7, with an extended shooting spree directed by the ‘messages’ he got from his neighbor’s dog.

‘The Son of Sam Killer’ is one of the stars of the human monster/serial killer hall of fame (infamy). Choosing that name — and the baggage that goes with it — would be impossible in New York, but since the man in question lives in another state and is too young to remember the story as anything but history, I guess he’s not afraid of talking dogs.


  1. lmao – I love this wry, understated humour 😀 Great post.
    My maiden name was unpronounceable in English and uncommon, even in Hungary, so I chose to keep my married name but I can’t imagine deliberately changing my name by deed poll. Names have a certain power, for good or ill and conjure expectations. How could you meet someone called Dracula and not feel a slight shiver?

    • Candy

      I’m with you on the meaning and power of names. I know a bunch of people who have made specific name choices, like dropping their first name in favor of their middle name or altering the original spelling. My mom added an E to the end of her name when she was about sixteen, so she’s Eleanore. Of course it’s pronounced exactly as it would be without the extra E.

      My given name — Candida — is lovely but problematic. No one ever pronounced it correctly and there’s that unintended connection to yeast… yeeeech. Anyway, I was Candy from the start and gave up trying to use Candida in anything but official documents. Once in a blue moon — and I mean avery unusual blue moon — someone gets the reference to the play by George Bernard Shaw (my parents’ intention), but those moons are so few and far between. The last one was, predictably, at the box office of an off-Broadway theater. Literature professors and particularly actors are the only ones…

      Oh, well… Now, I pose a question to you and to other writers out there. How do YOU chose names for the characters in your fiction? Do you have M.O.?