Do names matter? Would a rose by any other name – say, ‘cactus’ or ‘sand’ – make it smell so sweet? Gabbar Singh – ‘gabbar’ meaning arrogant, haughty in Hindi – would he be such a menacing character if his name was Shyam Singh?
A temper is the term to name fictional characters to suggest distinctive traits they possess before you even know them. If you remember any characters – from books, movies, or even songs – leave their names here, along with a line about the character and how the name and character quality are related. Here are 10 names we dug up to give you a hand to add more to this #Names-Have-Qualities list:
1. Robin Hood
Robin Hood, the outlaw English folk hero, was first mentioned in William Langland’s Middle English poem Piers Plowman (c. 1370), “stealing from the rich and giving to the poor”. His name refers to his “hod” or hood, which protected his identity during theft, similar to how a “hoodie” is seen today in many criminally-behaved neighborhoods.
2. Cuthbert Calculus
Cuthbert Calculus (original French name Tryphon Tournesol), ‘Calculus’ suggesting mathematical complexity and strangeness, describing Hergé’s ‘mad’ scientist distraction, first encountered in the 1943 Tintin adventure, Red Racham’s Treasure.
Dracula, in Romanian, “dracul” means the devil, derived from the Latin “draco” meaning dragon. Dracula meaning ‘son of dracul’. Bram Stoker used this name in his 1897 novel to refer to an evil beast-like entity based on Vlad Tepes, the 15th-century ruler of Wallachia (in present-day Romania) who was a member of the order Christian of the Dragon against the Turkish invaders.
4. Professor Hijibijbij
Professor Hijibijbij, the Bengali word “hijibiji” meaning indecipherable scribbles or doodles, the character in the 1979 story of the same name by Satyajit Ray about a “crazy” plastic surgeon whose name is given in the story (d a mutant hybrid character in a poem by Sukumar Ray, Satyajit’s father) to suggest his sinister experiments to create “scribbled” hybrid creatures from various animal parts.
Cacofonix, (original French Asurancetourix) of many Goscinny and Uderzo characters with names that instantly portray their main quality, the cacophonous bard first encountered in Asterix the Gaul (1959) is the most obvious. Others like the chief’s wife Vitalstatistix Impedimenta (“impediment” to all her husband’s actions), the druid Getafix (with her talent as a “medicine maker”), the village elder Geriatrix (a wizened geriatric, qu ‘he is) are also obviously named.
Malvolio, which means “bad will” in Italian, the pompous, authoritarian and malevolent character of William Shakespeare c. 1602 play the twelfth night.
Bahadur, meaning “brave” in Hindi (and other non-English Indian languages), this comic book hero first appearing in 1976 took dacoits at a time when the Chambal Valley on the border of the Madhya Pradesh, of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, was terrified. by these bandits.
Voldemort, from French ‘voler de mort’ (stealing death), the vengeful avatar of the most established scythe-wielding figure of death, is the main antagonist of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter novels (1997-2007).
9. Goopy Gayne
Goopy Gayne, the name suggesting ‘gaan’, song in Bengali, a character in the 1903 Upendrakishore Raychowdhury children’s story Goopy Gayne, Bagha Byne, who sings terribly. He was portrayed in the films of Upendrakishore’s grandson, Satyajit Ray, Goopy Gyne, Bagha Byne (1969) and Hirok Rajar Deshe (1980)
10. Holly Golightly
Holly Golightly, Holiday Golightly, her full name perfectly describing who she is and how she lives: lightly, as if life were one big party, main character in Truman Capote’s 1958 novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s, adapted from Blake’s 1961 film Edwards with Audrey Hepburn brings the simple country girl to New York society girl to life.
We leave you with a visual clue of another character whose name says it all. You know him?