Hunger Games Baby Names: Another Path To the Future
Next week's big movie release, The Hunger Games, looks like the richest name franchise of the year. That's not to say it will be a baby name trend-setter -- I don't expect a generation of boys named Peeta and Cinna. What The Hunger Games offers is treasure trove of what I'll call "speculative naming": naming the fictional future so that it sounds futuristic, while still sending meaningful name signals that connect with audiences in the present.
A few years back I wrote about various naming approaches writers have used to suggest future worlds. These included inventing new names; giving familiar names a twist; turning word categories into names; and reviving name styles of the past. Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins used most of them, and added a few other wrinkles besides. (NameCandy.com has a nice wrapup of the Hunger Games name highlights.)
Where the series particularly excels is in using different futuristic name styles to define different segments of society. The Capitol, for instance, is a wealthy, decadent metropolis, and the Hunger Games is its gladiatorial spectacle. Names of that future culture suitably hearken back to the Roman Empire: Caesar, Plutarch, Flavius, Portia, Octavia. In a subtle bit of namecraft, some, but not all, names from privileged districts courting the Capitol's favor copy this style with choices like Brutus and Cato.
Two other name groupings I particularly like take current, familiar styles and push them to new extremes. Start with today's sleek, confident meaning names like Eden, Miracle and Chance and dial them up to 11. You might end up with the supremely self-assured "District 1" names Glimmer, Marvel and Gloss. At the humbler end, botanical names like Lily, Violet and Ivy are a classic style for girls. The "humbler" districts of the Hunger Games world push those comfy botanicals into unfamiliar territory like Katniss, Primrose and Rue. (One male character even bears the ultimate in humble botanical names: Chaff.)
I like to imagine what the "extreme" versions of other name styles might look like. Western names Rawhide and Spur? Exotic old saints' names Simplicius and Villanus? It's all a great reminder that our potential naming futures are almost as wide-open as the future itself.