Tag Archives: naming

Story Research: What’s in a Name?

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There is much to be said about the origin of words and especially, names.

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Whenever I hit a snag in getting a writing idea off the ground, I brainstorm some concepts and look up the etymology of the words.  Almost always that sparks inspiration and a clearer sense of direction for my writing.

For example, take a look at the etymology of name:

one’s reputation”             “well-known,”             “the essential thing or quality”

When you know someone or something’s name, you know the main, or essential quality of the thing… or I could take this to mean that one’s name could also describe qualities they are well-known for… this would hopefully help me with naming characters.

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As a mom, I’ve had the opportunity to name these little people who are my children. I was taught this was the single most important task as a parent as the name has the potential to describe a child’s personality and place in the world. I probably feel this way because of stories my grandmother told me as a child.  A little bit of family folklore:  my grandmother used to say that parents think they name their children, but the name actually already exists out in the world and parents only hear it when the creator wanted them to hear it.  Apparently, the name was their destiny anyway as it reveals information about how they would be in the world. She told me that it was no coincidence that my name is Nada, meaning hope. Yes, very nice, thank you Grandma!  I could get into an interesting debate regarding fate versus free will and all the opposing views that often exist side by side, but that’s for another day!

So what’s in a name? For my creative writing, I am inspired by looking at whether names run with or opposite of what is expected. I think it would be fun to create imagery, settings, and characters based on this concept. There is lots of space here to create multilayered meaning, or irony.

Also, I can’t talk about naming without seeing it from a post-colonial lens: that which you name, you own and control. luckily, many of the original names of places in and around Rhode Island survived all these years.

Roger Williams and the Narragansetts

                               Roger Williams and the Narragansetts

In 1636 Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, settled on the east bank of the river and was told its name by the local Narragansett Indians. The name “Moshassuck” means “river where moose watered”.

Here’s some more name info I’ve gathered:

  • Woonasquatucket River (pronounced /wuːnˈɑːskwəˌtʌkᵻt/, Algonquian for “where the salt water ends”
  • Quinnipiac River: (Quinnipiac) “where we change our route”
  • Conanicut Island: (Narragansett) named for a 17th-century chief Canonicus
  • Conimicut: (Narragansett) thought to be named for granddaughter of Canonicus
  • Hockomock Swamp: (Natick-Abnaki) “evil spirit” or “hellish place”
  • Siasconset: (Narragansett) “at the place of many/great bones” (whales?)
Providence

Providence

  • Pawtuxet: Little falls confluence of north and south branches of the river at river point village in Warwick. empties into Providence River at Pawtucket River.
  • The place we call Federal hill,  was known as Nocabulabet: place between the ancient waters
  • Moshassuck : river where moose watered source: pond in lincoln’s lime rock preserve.
  • Woonasquatucket: where the salt water ends, Where I wrote about Here!   

This post wouldn’t be complete without a break down of the name I choose for the blog itself several years ago: Now Approaching Providence.

Providence means God’s grace-and grace could mean- among other things- favor, esteem, regard, pardon, mercy.

Turks Head in downtown Providence; looking graceful.

Turks Head in downtown     Providence; looking graceful.

The name fit as I often feel like I might be approaching, but not quite arriving at… Providence.

 

Happy Writing!