Names Have Been Changed to Protect the...Movie?

Nov 5th 2010

I recently heard a curious tale. A friend of mine organized a kids' book club, with a twist. The kids would read a book, talk about it, then watch a movie based on that book and discuss the relationship between the two versions of the story. Everything was going swimmingly, until the day they read Lois Duncan's Hotel for Dogs.

As the kids discussed the book, they just weren't clicking with each other. One would describe a scene that really captured his interest, and others would stare at him in bafflement. Confusion grew, then irritation, then hostility. The book group was on the brink of meltdown when somebody cracked the code. Kids who took the book out of the library or ordered used copies were reading about a girl named Liz. Kids who bought the book new were reading about Andi. Same book, different names.

The culprit behind this switch-up was Hollywood. The book Hotel for Dogs was written in 1971. By 2009, when the movie came out, some of the names in the story didn't pass muster. That's a reasonable decision, on the face of it. The movie was set in the present, and name styles do change. Curiously, though, the changes don't seem to be about modernization. There are at least as many girls named Liz as Andi today, and Sadie is a positively trendy choice that got the boot. Meanwhile the name of the young male lead remained the far more outdated Bruce.

Stranger yet, the new names were adopted in the book of Hotel for Dogs -- not just the movie novelization, but the reprint of Duncan's 1971 novel. They went back and changed history.

The book group fiasco was just one side effect of this naming revisionism. As an Amazon reader noted, educational materials that had been built around the book, including popular testing software, were totally thrown off. And what about the book itself? How is the story affected by changing the author's name choices?

Perhaps it seems a little silly to fret about the artistic integrity of Hotel for Dogs, so let's push the question further. How about the naming equivalent of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Meet the Bennet sisters of Longbourn House: Leighton, Makenzie, Ainsleigh, Kendall and Braelyn. They'll need some beaus, of course. Let's call them nice-guy Bridger, imperious Slade, and squirrelly Kylen. Would you read that version of the book exactly the same way?

Hey, it could happen. We just need someone to make the movie version first.


November 5, 2010 12:02 PM

Wow! That must have been disconcerting indeed. I wonder if Lois Duncan was contacted about the name changes or if she had any input. If I were an author, I think that would really tick me off.

I once read a book in which the name of one of the minor characters was switched after about 50 pages. I was so confused! The character in question was a teenaged-murder victim. The murder happened in the mid-1980s and her original name was Janice. Fifty pages later she became Jennifer, a more realistic but boring choice for the victim. This character was very peripheral, and I'm sure the editor just didn't catch the switch because she was one of several victims. But boy was I perplexed! I had to leaf back through dozens of pages of a book that wasn't worth the effort to sort it all out. Probably the author had switched her name from the first draft to the second and just forgot to make the change. Or maybe he forgot himself what her name was!

By Clay B (not verified)
November 5, 2010 12:30 PM

That seems totally unnecessary. I have noticed that in the Rainbow Fairies books, a couple of the fairy names were changed for the American edition (from the original UK edition).

By Finsama (not verified)
November 5, 2010 1:07 PM

As a writer, that would infuriate me! I choose names very deliberately. I wouldn't want them changed for no logical reason.

November 5, 2010 1:33 PM

I don't know any massive changes like this, but sometimes in books names will flip over and back. Like between Clarissa and Camilla. It doesn't bug me too much.

If I were a writer, I'm the type of person who would choose names very carefully, so I'd get annoyed.

By Philippa The First (not verified)
November 5, 2010 1:55 PM

This isn't book related, but I had to share. I just bought from Target a magnetic "chore chart" to use with my daughter, and the sample names on the chart- meant to be little kids in the same family I presume- were Colton, Jalin and Telia. That's surprisingly in touch. No little Kathy and Jimmy on this chart!

By Rjoy (not verified)
November 5, 2010 2:05 PM

That is appalling! I would be so upset if I was that author. Humorous (in an interesting way) story though picturing all the kids just baffled and upset about the mix-up.

By hunkeedoree (not verified)
November 5, 2010 2:29 PM

I found a popular names 1970 and 2009 quiz today that made me glad I follow this blog!

Here's the link:

(Sorry about the link title--I have no control over that!)

November 5, 2010 2:59 PM

I've come across two similar incidents like this. One was a book I was reading a few years back. The main characters were two women who were twins. Their names were similar to each other and in the middle of the book one of them was trying to hide her identity and have people think she was her sister. It was very tough to keep them straight.
The second situation is children's text books particularly math word/story problems. I remember things like "Jimmy had 5 apples and he gave Kathy 3 of them". Now we have things like "Talia gave Fernando 7 marbles from her pile. She also gave Alexis and Shamika the same amount..." Times change, people change and political corectness changes. Thus names change. Or is it the other way around?

By Marjorie (not verified)
November 5, 2010 3:11 PM

"Would you read that version of the book exactly the same way? "

Helen Fielding beat you to it -- although she at least kept Darcy as Darcy, as did the author of Bride and Prejudice. (They both jettisoned Fitzwilliam, though.)

November 5, 2010 3:14 PM

hunkeedoree-Fun quiz! I got 50 out of 102. Missed a lot of the obvious ones. Shame on me.

November 5, 2010 3:41 PM

i was shocked that they've changed the names in Hotel for Dogs. But I turned deathly pale at the idea of changing the Bennett sister's names.

no matter the book, to my mind things have gone too far when any book characters names are changed from what the author intended. how would we as parents feel if someone came along and told us our child's name had to be changed because it wasn't right?

November 5, 2010 4:14 PM

I would presume they had to contact the author to make a change like that. But personally, I don;t like it. Interesting topic!

And veering off topic for a moment, I would like to nominate my name of the day: a guy from the Netherlands named...
Beer van Geer.

November 5, 2010 4:29 PM

Oh, I take it back, I just read another fantastic name- a young French actress named Clémence Poésy. Oh how I wish I'd been called that!

November 6, 2010 3:59 PM

My Jane Austen club functions in much the same way, and I have to say, I would find name changes to be WAY more disconcerting than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which is sitting on the bookshelf next to the bed waiting for me). Part of the great charm in reading books from a different time or country is the different names that really anchor me in the different setting!

I also have a really fantastic (or not, depending on your perspective) anectdote to report. I went in for the egg retrieval for my IVF today, which is a procedure done under IV sedation. While getting set up, the resident and the nurse anesthetist were making small talk, and the resident asked whether we'd been talking about names yet. I told him that we'd been talking about names for a good ten years, which is true, because names are fascinating.

The conversation then took a turn for the extremely surreal because the nurse anesthetist trotted out the Lemonjello/Orangejello twins story. AND the Feh-mah-lee story. AND that babies are named Meconium because parents hear it during labor and think it's such a pretty word. That last one was new to me, but I was apparently not yet under enough relaxation meds, so I protested through the oxygen mask that these are all urban legends that I have each heard debunked in MANY places. The nurse anesthetist then SWORE that these were absolute truth because her cousin who works as a labor/delivery nurse saw it with her own eyes. Uh huh.

Then, the resident said that his wife was a first grade teacher and that looking at the name popularity charts there was increasing popularity of the name Shi-thayd, and isn't that just so unfortunate but the parents are immigrants who just don't know that it spells a bad word. Hmmm. Funny how when upon returning home to my computer and the grep function, there is not a single "Shithead" listing anywhere in the SSA data, so if there are kids that his wife has taught with that name, there were never as many as five born in a year so it cannot POSSIBLY be much of a trend.

Thankfully then the doctor came in and we got started. But I thought it was absolutely hilarious that the chitchat I listened to before drifting off to my first ever anesthesia was also the very first time I have ever had anyone try to sell me on these totally preposterous and vaguely racist urban legends.

But the egg retrieval went very well so I am not complaining. :)

November 5, 2010 5:02 PM

Oh, and the "updating" of the book topic reminds me of the fact that the Sweet Valley High books just got reissued and they edited many things to make the books more "current"... the twins are now a perfect size 4, not size 6, and specific brands of clothing are mentioned. However, the only name change I've heard about is that Bruce Patman's car no longer has the 1BRUCE1 vanity license plate. (Bummer!)

November 5, 2010 5:17 PM

So my many of you know my top girls name is Tess (for Teresa/Theresa) and one of the top contenders for a boy is Jude. Last night I was asking dh if there was a problem with that seeing as they are both titles of Thomas Hardy novels (which I loved in high school). He of course thought I had gone over the deep end, but now I can wonder if the publishers were to re-released these books for Hollywood's sake if they'd keep their names or change them. (As a side note to Thomas Hardy fans, Gabriel was also once on my list)

By Rjoy (not verified)
November 5, 2010 6:23 PM

RobynT- I haven't had a chance to Congratulate you yet. I think we are due around the same time. I am due April 26. What about you?

I have to agree with Amy that mentioned that once you are actually naming a real person it is MUCH harder. At least it always is for me. So much so that I almost can't even contemplate names for awhile. This pregnancy is the worst so far. (naming wise.

Need your opinion on Neil Patrick Harris naming his son Gideon. Gideon of course is a name we have had on our list for a long time. I am peeved that he is using it. For selfish reasons and for personal reasons. (I have met him and it was not pleasant) Anyways...pregnancy emotions aside.
Do you all think it is going to skyrocket now? Most people have never even heard of the name unless they are familiar with the Bible or have heard it on a TV show. I would probably still use it even if it did soar, but I just like to be prepared.

November 5, 2010 6:34 PM

another Laura-I am aware of the two titles by Hardy because you reminded me. If I met you in the supermarket and asked your children's names or you shouted them out at the park, I don't think I would blink twice and remember any connection. So if you love both of them then keep them in the running.

November 5, 2010 6:44 PM

Rjoy-I don't think it will go up any more than things like Simon, or Ephraim. There are so many names to pick from now out there. Gideon doesn't meet all the criteria I would think it needs to to be a "hit" name.
I think there are 1)sounds, 2)combinations, and 3)replacements, and 4)previous useage that need to be considered. Gideon meets for sound: has the -on ending; does meet for combinations (similar to Leon); does NOT meet for replacements Meon, Heon, Steon, etc.-there is no other sound to switch the begining letter to except L and does NOT meet for usage (in my opinion it is TOO old).

November 5, 2010 9:30 PM

Re: Gideon - I don't think it'll be the next Jacob. But, I do think the additional association of a celebrity baby helps free it from the motel bible image that I think has been weighing it down previously. So yes, I would expect it to go up in popularity. Biblical, ends in N, old-fashioned in feel, with that "gentle strength" feel. I would expect it to appeal to the same crowd as Simon, which is relatively commonly heard in my neck of the woods.

But then, we recently met a little B3ul4h so we are in hipster naming land for sure. :)

November 5, 2010 10:51 PM

re: urban legends: i recently had the chance to share laura's post about le-a on fb when people were telling similar stories!

Rjoy: I'm due 4/21!

November 5, 2010 10:58 PM

another Laura - I don't think that's a problem, especially not if you 1.) loved the books and 2.) are not giving Tess as the given name and 3.) are not doing any other Thomas Hardy tributes with their names. I haven't read either book, but I absolutely have heard of them, and I would have noticed the connection, but it would not be a bad thing. It would be further diluted if are planning on other children that you would not be naming after Hardy novels. Jude WAS a reasonably well-known arty movie with Kate Winslet a while ago, though it certainly wasn't a Hollywood blockbuster. But no screenwriter or filmmaker in their right mind would change the names Tess and Jude in the current naming climate, because they are perfectly fashionable and distinguished today. Additionally, I think people would object more strenuously to classics being renamed!

Name changes have such a huge effect. The last disorienting one was when I quickly rented "No Reservations" from the library and as I ellipticalled away I slowly realized that I'd ALREADY seen the movie. I would have realized that it was a remake of a German movie (Mostly Martha) if the back of the box had contained the same names. The substitutions were Martha -> Kate, Mario -> Nicholas (he's also no longer Italian), Lina -> Zoe, Frida -> Paula... but the movie was otherwise a scene-by-scene copy. But, the book that the original movie was based on presumably is still being sold with the original names.

November 6, 2010 7:16 AM

New baby born to a friend yesterday: Mae Laur3n

Very pretty!

November 6, 2010 9:36 AM

Re: Gideon, when I read about it on a celebrity site the writer complained that Gideon was weird, so I'm not sure how mainstream it will become. Plus NPH isn't massively famous

Another Laura: I didn't make any association. If it was a main theme it would be more noticable, but I think it's fine.

By Amy3
November 6, 2010 10:46 AM

Re: Gideon, while I agree this will rise, I don't think it's going to explode

Re: Jude and Tess, particularly because you have 4 other kids already, I wouldn't worry about using both seeming like a Hardy theme.

By JennieNLI (not verified)
November 6, 2010 12:12 PM

We have good friends with the sibset Gideon & Ezra (older kids, not babies). Adorable.

By Rjoy (not verified)
November 6, 2010 12:27 PM

JennieNFL- How funny! I already have an Ezra. If your friends have another boy, tell them not to use Isaac. We also have an Isaac. LOL!

Thanks everyone for your input on Gideon. It so far is number one on our list. I am sure it will rise and give all the people who have been wanting to use, it but were reserved the extra push. Oh least hopefully it will be in our favor and we won't get so many raised eyebrows.

RobynT- We are so close!

lucubratrix-Beulah! Wow! Were there siblings?

November 6, 2010 1:13 PM

As I was waiting for a blood draw yesterday there was an adorable toddler in the waiting room with his very pregnant mother - his name was Gideon. I was so curious as to what she was planning on naming her next baby. Someone mentionned Ephraim up above which is one of my guilty pleasure names. I just love the sound of it. There was even a saint Ephrem who was a poet and doctor of the Church (I've been meaning to nomitate that spelling variation for inclusion in Laura's data base).

I'm fairly confident the Hardy connection would be lost on most people particularly with other children in the mix. It was more an alarming realization b/c I'm sure they have had a subconscious influence on my naming preferences. I do have a Clare afterall (though Hardy's Clare was male which totally confused my 10th grade class). Besides I think Eli is our top pick (though I keep thinking of this baby as Jude).

November 6, 2010 1:36 PM

RobynT - the only naming urban legend that did NOT get trotted out was the Le-a one! I was surprised that the anesthetist missed this more recent entry in the annals of ridiculous stories. Maybe she talked about it after I was unconscious.

Though I thought briefly I had already drifted off to sleep and was living through my inner psyche's personally constructed hell, it was a bit novel to actually hear these. I'd only encountered the debunkings before, or perhaps seen them mentioned in some comment thread on a blog.

Rjoy - yep, little brother is G1l3s! I'm surprised there are still >=5 babies named Beulah reported each year. I know there's an indie rock band named Beulah, so that might contribute to the fact that it's still being bestowed with some frequency.

By Rjoy (not verified)
November 6, 2010 2:02 PM

another Laura-So you have "met" a Gideon. That is rare. I have only met one. He is a red headed 2 year old of an acquaintance of mine. Not so close it would be weird to name a child of mine Gideon also.
It is so interesting how certain name circles run together. Ephraim is also one of the top contenders but it just doesn't seem to fit yet. With the meaning of "double blessing" I keep thinking how cool it would be to name a twin Ephraim.

lucubratrix-Where did you meet this family? What an interesting mix. Is it in a hippy area? Seattle or San Francisco?

November 6, 2010 2:21 PM

Rjoy - your first guess is correct. We're outside of the city in an extra-hippy area. :)

By Rjoy (not verified)
November 6, 2010 2:38 PM

I am on here trying to ignore my chores today. :)

lucubratix-aha! Those are the only areas those names could survive and fit in. right? Also, your hint of hipster land helped. I like your discription of Gideon having that "gentle strength" feel. That is exactly the type of names I am drawn to.

In an earlier post there was talk about how if you use one name it crosses out another possible name. I read it with interest but didn't think much of it until it hit me yesterday.

The two names my hubby and I JUST decided on is exactly what they were talking about!
Gideon and Gwendolyn. If we use one we can't use the other. They sound TOO much alike. So, that of course brought of the discussion of which one is more important. That to us is Gideon. So if this baby is a girl we have to start back at square one again. sigh...
I am not too heart broken. Gwendolyn is a gorgeous name but it just didn't seem to fit perfectly. I was trying to make it fit like you make an "almost" perfect puzzle piece fit into the wrong match. (does that make sense?) It just fit all the criteria. It didn't start with a vowel, it didn't end in an a sound, and it was more than two syllables. Unfortunately all the names I love sound the same.
It would be easier if we could just find out the sex already.

November 6, 2010 2:43 PM

My ears immideatly perked up when hearing little Gideon's name. He was African-American.

That's cool that Ephraim means double blessing. I've been secretly hoping that I'm pregnant with twins as I've been feeling unusually sick for this early in a pregnancy.

By EVie
November 6, 2010 3:15 PM

re: Gideon - I went to summer camp with one, way back in the day. He was a very attractive, sweet and charismatic kid, so I have very positive associations with the name (haven't seen him since then—he would be in his 20s now). The family was Jewish, older sister was Just1ne.

re: Tess and Jude - I don't think the Hardy connection is at all a problem—I think the only people likely to notice would be the ones inclined to look upon it favorably anyway :) I myself have mixed feelings about Hardy, but generally appreciate subtle literary references. Also—wasn't Clare in Tess of the d'Urbervilles his surname? His full name was Angel Clare. I always thought that the choice of his name was very heavy-handed, even for Hardy (who often names his characters significantly—e.g. Gabriel and Bathsheba in Far From the Madding Crowd)—especially since I remember thinking Angel Clare was actually a self-righteous, hypocritical jerk (though I'm not positive that's what Hardy would have wanted me to think).

November 6, 2010 4:21 PM

Good call on Angel Clare. I had remembered that we were surprised by his gender but that must have been b/c of Angel. 10th grade is getting to be a long time ago. I don't know if I'd care for Hardy much now (it's been along time sense I've read his works) but he was one of my first "favorite" authors in later high school.

By Also ZR (not verified)
November 6, 2010 6:48 PM

Zoerhenne on laptop here...

Rjoy-To go with your other Gideon sounds like the perfect choice. If you really go for these kinds of names then it is right for you. However, regarding your following comments, Gwendolyn is awfuly close and does pretty much get ruled out. It doesn't seem as "perfect" as Gideon to me either. My first thought was Rebecca but since you want to stay away from the -a endings then maybe Ruth. I really can't think right now of a longer name that fits in the category of Biblical. Maybe someone else can.

Another Laura-If you are in your head thinking Jude then you should go with that.

November 6, 2010 8:59 PM

Rjoy-Here are some girl choices:

November 6, 2010 10:27 PM

Found an article about the TOP names in Washington State. Here is link:

And here is a preview of the most popular 2010 SSA names:

By A Rose, nli (not verified)
November 7, 2010 9:49 AM

Re. Gideon: I know one who is 16 or 17 years old. His younger sister is named Clara.

By Beth the original (not verified)
November 7, 2010 10:21 AM

Sophia of the D'Urbervilles
Asher the Obscure
Isabella of Green Gables
Ruby of Sunnybrook Farm
Liam Copperfield
The Olivia Drew Mysteries
Jaxon and the Chocolate Factory
Madison in Wonderland


I know of a Gideon who would be in his teens now -- younger brother Isaac.

By Melly C (not verified)
November 7, 2010 11:21 AM

Also know a 2 year old Gideon here in Canada. His parents are Mormons.

By knp
November 7, 2010 11:30 AM

On topic for once: The book's names were changed because it was supposed to happen in the present, and so the initial reasoning was ok. But, changing Anne of Green Gables names doesn't make sense because it was supposed to happen in a certain time and place (more than just the names would have to change). Same with P&P, and some of the other books that have been mentioned. To make these truly in the present a LOT more would have to change.

For the SVH books, less would have to change-- the plots would be generally the same, only some pertinent details would change (brands, maybe more cell phones...) For the author though, smart financial decision...

I do think that their name choices for replacement are different. I wonder how much the author had a say so-- did SHE have namer's regret??

By Also ZR (not verified)
November 7, 2010 12:21 PM

Beth the original-Hysterical!

November 7, 2010 2:02 PM

I once had a conversation with a woman who wrote historical novels for children. I mentioned (well, complained) that the characters had inappropriately modern names. She told me that that was totally the doing of the publishers who insisted that the period-appropriate names be changed to namee in use today.

By T.R. (not verified)
November 7, 2010 6:14 PM

Beth the original -- those made me cringe and laugh, ouch!

Miriam -- Thanks for pointing that out. I've wondered how much publishers have a say in what's finally brought to print, just as it seems like TV/movie producers may sometimes quite change the original script-writer's or director's intent.

I hate to de-lurk and go off-topic so early, but I'm really curious about others' experiences on something. My second daughter is due soon and we are strongly set on no more children, and I've just been so sad about ending my search for names. I've loved considering potential baby names for so many years, and now this is most likely the last time it will be a real option. Naming the cat or the car just doesn't hold the same appeal to me. I think it's made the decision on this kid's name harder because it feels so FINAL. A little thought inside me said almost excitedly, 'well if she doesn't like the name we choose for her, then she gets to pick a NEW name for herself when she's 18!'

Has anyone gone through this?

I think I'll still find names interesting, and I love Laura's thought-provoking posts, but it may resonate differently once the naming-possibility is closed off for me. Sorry if this sounds too dramatic, I don't mean it to be THAT emotional.

By alr (not signed in) (not verified)
November 7, 2010 6:30 PM

Just couldn't silently read all the Ephraim chatter and not mention our 2 year old Ephrem. :) His name suits him beautifully.

November 7, 2010 8:19 PM

I transferred to a new college this semester, and have classes with not one, but two Gideons! One is, I believe, from Ethiopia, so as a biblical name it's makes sense. I was surprised that the other, an 18-year-old from Jersey, was a Gideon, though. I definitely think of it as a name that's only getting rediscovered now.
Another Laura: Tess is stunning! I honestly wouldn't worry. Like seemingly everyone, I read TotD in tenth grade, but am not that familiar with Jude the Obscure (I've heard the title, but wasn't sure who wrote it). Most people wouldn't make the connection, and even if they did, there's really nothing bad to take away from that. If you were going for, say, Tess and Alec, I'd see that as a problem :-)

By Rjoy (not verified)
November 8, 2010 12:05 AM

How fun to read about all these Gideon's! Thanks everyone!

re: name changing because of publishers: My hubby is doing research on writing a book, mostly children's books. In one How TO book it warns that your final piece will look NOTHING like what you originally planned. sigh....To me, I would say, "What's the point".

zoerhenne- Thank you for your suggestions. They are good but most won't work. LOL! Here is why, and them maybe you can see why this is so frustrating.

Josephine-taken by friend
Rachel-my brother has called dibs on it
Mabel-my other very close friend is naming her someday daughter this
Esther/Hester-possibility in the future. It is my Grandma's name and other relative
Eleanor-my daughter is already named a derivative of this
Hazel-still to fuddy duddy for me
Ruby-50's waitress still to me (haven't met a cute little girl to change my image of it yet.)
Beatrice-was considered and still on the long list but just doesn't feel right
Cecelia-not my style
Miriam-love the sound but can't get over the meaning though "our" Miriam here has given her best shot to persuade me otherwise. :)
Rebecca- is ACHEM already taken here :)
Ruth- is my sister.

With family and close friends most biblical names have been taken.
We have decided to just wait until we find out. There is no reason to hit our head against the wall when it might not even be necessary. :)

November 8, 2010 12:16 AM

Rjoy-Wow that does present a tough predicament. Now biblical names are not really my personal style, but many here are quite fond of them and I remember a few months back a fellow poster naming her new daughter Tzipporah. What about that?

T.R.-That's why I am on this blog so much! I have to name others children for them so I can vicariously still have the fun of naming. I also have 2 (which was decided from the start). I got lucky and ended up with one of each. I remember naming my son (firstborn) was relatively easy. Naming my daughter was a much more difficult task. On top of the fact that there were so many more girls names to like, I felt like it had to be "just the right one". So yes I know how you feel.

By Emmy Jo (not verified)
November 8, 2010 2:16 AM

Just thought I'd mention that I adore both Gideon and Beulah. And I'm from a hippie area just outside of San Francisco. :)