“Name” is an Anagram for “Mean”

This week I had the pleasure of attending BEA 2010 and reading Matched by Ally Condie. Check out the review via the “Well Read” link. The heroine of the awesome “perfect dystopia” YA novel is Cassia.

Wait a second.

The past couple of years have brought us awesome dystopia/speculative YA novel heroines. Named Katsa (Graceling) and Katniss (The Hunger Games and Catching Fire). Now we have Cassia. What’s in these names?

Maybe the hard “k” sound represents the hardiness these women need to survive in their worlds. The “ess” perhaps softens the blow or is indicative of their feminine nature. Or their sneakiness, like a snake, as they subvert their societies’ norms. Katniss, I’m aware, because Suzanne Collins told us so, comes from a fictional plant. But that name is what Katniss meant to mama Everdeen. What is Katniss supposed to mean to us? Katsa maybe comes from the character’s cat-like reflexes. Cassia reminds me of Cassiopeia, which in Greek means “she whose words excel.”  That line sums up the thematic thrust of the book.

Are writers aware of how they name characters? I believe so. In my own writing, which is realistic, I try to find “normal” names that sound right. But sometimes, a character just grows into her name and in later drafts cannot be anything else but her name. Do I purposefully select names loaded with meaning so that future generations of lit students might possibly maybe have a book of mine to analyze? Not really.  To characters, sometimes a tree is just a plant, green is just a color, and ‘A’ is just a letter. In the fictive worlds, a name is that which a person is called. The meaning is not for them. The meaning is just for us.

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One thought on ““Name” is an Anagram for “Mean”

  1. Shoshana says:

    I had to consciously wrench myself out of an A-name phase I entered for reasons unknown to me. Don’t want my characters to feel like siblings with cutesily matching names.

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