My mother always harbored the wish that I’d become an artist of note. She worked near a store where art supplies of all sorts were sold, so I had early access to clay, colored pencils, sketch books, and how-to books. One day she brought home a book all about carving ship’s figureheads! Hooked, I started carving bars of soap. As for the how-to sketch books, I didn’t see the point in the step-by-step instructions of most of them. If you roughed out a sketch first with all the lines they suggested, you’d have to erase. And every kid knew erasing ruined pictures and sometimes even put a hole in the paper. If I wanted to draw a face, I’d just draw a face. I wouldn’t make an egg shape with lines for where the eyes, nose and mouth would go. All these years later, if I get a rare urge to draw a face, I’ll just draw the face — no egg head first. But I digress…
One day she brought home a how-to book all about cowboy and rancher brands of the old west — symbols used to keep cattle and property separate at a glance on the vast prairies. There were names and meanings hidden in the simple lines, and I was enthralled by them all. I still remember some of the brands nearly 50 years later: the Rocking R ranch showed an R with rocking chair rockers across the bottom. The Lazy K had the letter K lying face down. The Lucky M had three m’s turned in such a way they formed a clover leaf. That weird how-to book set me up for a life-long appreciation of symbols. I love symbolic representation. I guess that’s why I’m always tucking symbols into my stories. I get such a kick when readers catch them and write to tell me. Even if they’re never noticed, I know they’re there. 😀
So the other day, after reading that Huffington Post article about which names were popular in 2013, I started thinking about how to explain how I use names as a writer. Typically, I go for names that give me a layer of familiarity to work with when I create my characters. (Scroll back a bit to my previous post to see what I mean) But names can also be great symbols. Names have meaning.
I’d never given last names much thought until I encountered occupational surnames. My maiden name is actually one of these, and it means woodcutter. Names like these tied the occupation to the person. Here are a few examples:
Chandler = a candle maker
Fleischer = butter maker
Baker = literally a baker
Potter= literally a pot maker
Draper = cloth maker
Faulkner = falconer
Kowalski = blacksmith
Cartwright = cart builder
Fuhrmann = a cartwright
Barber = literally a barber
Fischer = fisherman
Baumgartner = an orchard keeper
Garson = servant
Knight = literally a soldier
Hoffman = farmer
Kellogg = hog butcher
Schindler = a roof shingler
Thatcher = literally a roof thatcher
Mason = literally a mason
Palmer = pilgrim
Sawyer = a cutter of wood planks
Sherman = a sheep shearer
You get the idea. How fun for writers to tuck those nuggets into our stories. Miss Fleischer can be buttering a slice of toast. Mr. Sherman can be wearing a cable knit wool sweater. Mrs. Kellogg can be eating bacon and eggs for breakfast. I do things like this all the time. 😉 Read my novels and see how many symbols of all sorts you can find. I think you’ll be surprised.
Tomorrow ~ more names.
The doors are open! Author Missy Martine is there today. Come see her favorite reviews.
A place for your old stars to shine 😀
Here’s one for today:
Gaudiloquent (adjective common from 1656-1727)
speaking joyfully or on joyful matters
Today we have a guest blog with Michelle Grey.
All through January the RB4U authors are doing interviews. The thoughtful questions are a great way to get to know us. Commenting that day gives you a chance to win a collectable t-shirt. Come see!
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Several promotional opportunities for romance authors can be found on my Exquisite Quills group blog. Meet the founding authors and our guests.
First Kiss Wednesday ~ share your best 300 word kiss.
Set the Scene in Six ~ share your backdrop or lead-up on Sundays.
The Genesis of a Book ~ share the spark that ignited your novel
Author Interviews ~ We’re booking late spring now.
Love Waits in Unexpected Places – Scorching Samplings of Unusual Love Stories
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