Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor;
Richman, Poorman, Beggerman, Thief.
As a child’s rhyme, it’s okay, but there is more to the words used in various games.
Ticker, Taylor, Soder, Saller;
Rickman, Perriman, Beggman, Theiss;
Tucker, Tyler, Schroder, Chalder;
Reichmann, Merriman, Bridgman, Weiss.
A list of occupations has segued into a list of names, which is entirely what can happen over history. In the nineteenth century, literacy skills were not as they are today and priests marrying couples rarely asked how names were spelt; thus corruptions of the original through phonetics.
Not all names were accidentally changed. As we know, many kept the names of their occupations because it was easier: John the Clarke, Eric the Forrester, James the Cartwright, Frederick the Gardener, Paul the Miller, Lucius the Priest, Richard the Walker, and so on.
What was easy then is not so easy now. How often have you struggled with what to call your magnificent, heroic and clever protagonist? What name would fit? How, out of the millions of forenames, do you fit one with the millions of surnames?
You don’t want a disaster like, Sunny (or variations thereof) Day, Penny Lane or and you don’t want to attach names to occupations like, Joe Death, the Undertaker, or Doctor Pirahna the dentist (this one is true, he was my dentist as a kid); you also don’t want names, that when taken with another – like in marriage – they’re humorous, for example: Jo Bannister marrying Mathew King: she becomes Jo King. So not funny. Even double names can get you into trouble: Marta Thicke marries into the chicken empire of Legge’s and she becomes Marta Thicke-Legge.
And never, ever, forget about contractions. Can you imagine some young, buff guy, by the name of Pitt, having a father called Cecil? What’s Cecil going to be shortened to? Hmmm?
Your names must reflect at least some of the character’s personality. I don’t mean like Ridge, Thorne and Brook Forrester – they’re not as natural as the names suppose (what were those writer’s thinking?). Male names should be strong, but not ridiculous; female names can also be strong, but not overpowering, and feminine.
The solution, if names don’t just spring from your forehead like Athena fully grown, is threefold: first, get yourself a baby name book, and second, find an old phone book. Both will solve your problems. The third is to go to name sites, like: Think Baby Names. The page will also give you links to other sites.