Elwood & The Art of Naming Things

Elwood the Horned Lizard <br>(still a bit swollen)

        Elwood the Horned Lizard               

Saturday was a pretty fun day (which was nice, considering last week felt like it was never gonna end). Hubby and I dropped in at a retirement party, and then I went straight from there to an appointment with the guy who does my tattoos, where “Elwood” was “born”. He’s a horned-lizard, colloquially called a “horny toad” (I’ve no idea why – they look nothing like toads), and like Charlie, the rattlesnake just opposite him on that wrist, his species is native to Montana.

Yes, I name my animal tattoos. Well, the ones that don’t already have names, anyways. I mean, my skunk isn’t just any skunk, he’s Pepe le Pew. But the snake on my ankle (the BSB logo snake) is named Erwin, the one on my shoulder is George, and the one on my wrist is Charlie.

Erwin

                 Erwin

I kept looking at my new lizard all weekend and thinking he was just so adorably plump (ahem), and the name Elwood just jumped out at me and stuck. Which is way better, in my opinion, than my buddy Carol’s idea of Sam. As in, Yosemite. Sheesh. No. Just no.

I have another appointment on the 27th to get a grasshopper and a barn spider on that same forearm (workin’ my way around), and those two already have names. But I’m not telling yet, because I might do a “guess the name” contest when they are done. I’m still trying to work out what to give away for that. I kind of think I need to come up with a tattoo story (yes, I already have several ideas – ideas are never in short supply around here).

In any case, Elwood, Erwin & Charlie are not named after or for anyone. Those particular names just seemed to fit the images in some way or another. I thought Erwin sounded somewhat “old school literary”, which is a great thing for the Brazen Snake Books mascot, eh? Charlie…well, Charlie is beautiful but deadly, and the name seems to portray that in a sort of “harmless-until-provoked” sort of thing for me.

Charlie

                  Charlie

Elwood…well, it just feels kind of antique and a little bit sneaky but mostly harmless and easy-going, as long as his daily routine isn’t interrupted. Which reminds me of someone, but not an Elwood. Who could that possibly be, I wonder? 😉

George is named for my husband, and I think he was a bit tickled by it, actually. I’d post a pic, but he’s on my shoulder blade and I don’t have the energy to try to bendy-twisty enough to get a decent photo. Maybe next time.

And no, I have no names actually tattooed in my skin, nor will I ever do that. Not my thing.

It’s funny, because I was thinking about names and naming things and characters after Elwood’s name came to me, and it’s odd how much perception can be skewed or manipulated merely by choosing one name over the other. Names tend to evoke a sort of emotional, pre-loaded response to the person on the other end for many of us, which is probably why some people have such a hard time naming babies and pets. Naming (or re-naming, as I usually do) a dog is no small feat. It requires days, sometimes weeks of thought, and about a dozen side-eyed looks at the husband for tossing out absolutely absurd options (as men generally do).

One of the few things that really gives me pause at the start of writing any story is…character names. Because the reader is going to have all these built-in perceptions of a person depending on what their name is, which makes it a vital early piece of information. But it’s not just for the reader – it’s for me too. Because I also have a whole bunch of perceptions attached to any number of names, not even based on who I may have met before, but also on how the name sounds and “feels” when I speak or hear it. And since I don’t consciously “write” my characters…I more just watch them live and transcribe that, the name gives me a whole bunch of information about the character too. Even better if that information turns out to be wrong later in the story…character twist!

Names are important, and have long-term implications. Isn’t that the oddest thing? But if you think about it, it really is true.

Now…about that redhead named Sam in a cowboy hat. I wonder if she’d be the tattooer, or the client? I think I might write her story and find out. Thanks a lot, Carol. There’s another book in my to-be-written queue… *sigh*

 

One comment on “Elwood & The Art of Naming Things

  1. Carol

    Glad I could help! 😀

    And I hope you’re at least going to give her a Yosemite Sam tattoo. 😉