Help for Names with MEANING

OK, so in case you're wondering, this post is for a whole other story idea.

I've been thinking for a few weeks now about my main character's name: Caulfield Eileen Owens (she's a girl.)

At first, she didn't have a surname, but then I decided to make her the brother of an already existing character of mine, because they had the same skin colour, and I didn't think up any family history for him yet.

I wanted a reason for Caulfield to have such an unusual first-name.

I came to the conclusion that she would be named Caulfield after Holden Caulfield. (Because I also felt I kind of needed a reason for them sharing part of their name.) She was named Caulfield because her mother was depressed before and during this time, and she felt it was a fitting name connection for her child.

She will have two brothers. (One a year younger than her, the other four or five years younger.)

Her middle name is for her grandmother.

I'm asking about a couple of things:

1) Do you see an appropriate connection with the mother suffering from depression, and so naming her daughter Caulfield, for Holden Caulfield? I'm going to start more research this weekend.

2) I'd like some imput and suggestions on her brothers' names.

Names I Considered Before I Thought About Name Meanings:

Drew (this is the name of their father, so it has some meaning in the story)

Desmond (I don't know why I thought of this)

Miles (doesn't work too well, because I have another really important family where all of the kids' names are also words -- purposely, of course)

Names I Considered After I Thought About Name Meanings

Dakota *this was the lone-family history brother's name before I put him in the family (I would find it very helpful if you could supply as many name-origins as you know on this name, so maybe I can find a reason for using it) *it would be strange for the elder kids to have name meanings, but the third to not, so this is the trend I'm going for

Phoenix for the third, as in "rebirth," because the mother would have become happier by his birth.

Allie (Holden Caulfield association again, Allie being Holden's dead brother)

I'm thinking of having the grandfather's name being Dakota, so then it would be is middle name, and he could go by it instead, because I'm kind of stuck on Dakota now. (I've called him this for two years now.) 

If you could supply background meaning to any/all of the names listed above, that would be great.

I'm thinking Caulfield, Allie and Phoenix fit best. Your thoughts?

Suggestions also appreciated. :) I'm open to all names with appropriate meanings,  from name origin, all literature, etc.








November 8, 2012 5:03 PM

If your wondering, I put (she's a girl) before I added Eileen, and then I forgot to backspace that part. 

November 9, 2012 4:11 PM

I think Allie and Caulfield are too close, especially since Allie's death is the reason that Holden is so depressed. People often interpret Holden's behavior as being emblematic of the times and of the way that adolescence became codified in mid-20th century America (all adults were phonies who could not understand what teenagers were experiencing). I didn't see it this way. I interpreted Holden's behavior as grief and anger at the way his family (and by extension, the uppercrust society from which he came) pretended that Allie's death hadn't happened. Ignoring Allie's death means that his life had no meaning, and furthermore that Holden's grief is abnormal and unimportant.

So to name children both Allie and Caulfield in my mind seems almost depraved. It's like saying that one of them will die and the other one will be warped forever. The mother in your story may have done this, but you're going to have to think very carefully about what her choices mean and what her state of mind was at the time she made them. If Allie is older, was she thinking about A Catcher in the Rye when he was born? Why would she name a son for such an obscure character? Allie's name only appears two or three times in the text (and that absence is what haunts the entire novel, so his presence is defined by his absence). Allie is also typically a girls' name--what caused her to choose this name for a son? And why did she then give such a masculine-sounding name to her daughter? Was she depressed before the children were born? Was she too suffering from the loss of a sibling or loved one? Did she become depressed in her marriage? Why? Did she suffer from post-partum depression?

I wouldn't go there. A character named Caulfield could make all sorts of ironic comments about her phony and depressed mom, but to compound that by adding an Allie--it's too much.

I also wouldn't use the name Dakota for a grandfather. It's too anachronistic. Plus some Native Americans consider the name to be offensive (in a similar way to the way many aborigines dislike the name Ayers Rock in Australia--it's a form of cultural appropriation). That being said, there are plenty of boys and girls named Dakota whose parents had absolutely no knowledge of the cultural baggage, and that's fine. It's just that to give the grandfather that name seems off since the name didn't appear on the Social Security lists until the 1980s. A grandfather could have that name, but you'll have to include the backstory for it to be plausible.

Phoenix could certainly work, especially for a baby whose birth seems like a new beginning. That does seem cruel to the older siblings, but your Caulfield might come from that kind of family.

By EVie
November 9, 2012 2:05 PM

I think that Elizabeth T. has given you some really good points above. To add to it—I'm not necessarily sure that I find it plausible that a mother who was depressed would name her daughter Caulfield because of it... unless she was a very, very young mother. I can see this sounding like a good idea to an angsty teenage mom who had just read the book in high school; alternatively, I can see it being used by a mom in her early twenties or so who didn't get much education past high school, hasn't read much beyond Catcher, and is still for some reason fixated on the book. Honestly, while The Catcher in the Rye is a "classic," in my experience at any rate, it isn't a book that is really discussed or thought about much by adults. I certainly never heard it brought up in any of my college or grad school English classes. I think the portrayal of Holden Caulfield is something that is very resonant with teenagers, which is probably why it's still taught so much in high school, but Holden's brand of angst is not the kind that a depressed adult is likely to identify with—at least, not enough to name a child in homage. A more educated woman who is depressed is probably more likely to identify with writers like Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf... But even then, I really question the idea that a person suffering from depression would be likely to name a child with reference to her condition. Elizabeth T. is right that there's something kind of twisted about passing that burden on to your child. You would have to be not only depressed, but maybe a little bit sadistic to want to give that kind of emotional baggage to a little baby... or else just very, very naive.

If any of this sounds like a good description of the mom in your story (either teenage mom, OR young, naive and not well educated, OR kind of sadistic), then yeah, I can see Caulfield being a plausible choice. But if you want her to be an older, mature, well-educated and well-intentioned kind of person, then no, I don't think it's realistic.

November 9, 2012 4:00 PM

Yes, she's going to be in her late teens to early twenties -- I haven't exactly chosen how old, but along those lines -- around high school or maybe just starting college...

By EVie
November 9, 2012 9:16 PM

Maybe I wasn't clear enough. I wasn't talking about the age of the main character in your story, the one named Caulfield. I was talking about her mother, the person who chose the name Caulfield, and the age she was when she gave birth. To reiterate, if you were talking about a mom who was a teenage mother, or young and not well educated at the the time she gave birth, then I see Caulfield as a realistic name choice. If not, then I don't, unless you go the family-surname route. 

November 10, 2012 6:48 AM

Yes, I was talking about the mother. Sorry, I think I was the one who wasn't clear enough.

You were perfectly clear. 

By EVie
November 9, 2012 2:10 PM

Alternatively, here's a suggestion if you really want to use Caulfield as a name: make it a family surname (maybe her mom's maiden name?) and completely unrelated to Holden. You could make the character totally annoyed by the connection to The Catcher in the Rye; have a few other different characters say, "Oh, like Holden?" or make a snarky comment about her parents not reading much past high school when they first meet her; she can make a face, make a snarky comment back or otherwise show her annoyance. I honestly think this would be a much better solution than working in some convoluted story about mom's depression. 

November 9, 2012 4:02 PM

I did consider the surname thing, and I'm still toying with that idea.

What do you think about the brothers' name ideas?

By EVie
November 9, 2012 10:36 PM

I think the brothers' names really depend on what you decide on for the mom's motivation in using Caulfield for her daughter. 

If your family picked a very unusual family surname for their daughter, I would expect them to pick either other surname-style family names for the boys (this might be a good place to work in Bryce if that's one of your favorites), or else very traditional boys' names like John, Charles, Robert, etc. Desmond or Miles might fit here, if you can establish that they're family names. These would also be a good choice for the grandfather's name. If Drew is the name of the father, then this works nicely, though I think it would be best to have Andrew as the full name. 

If the mom was super young with only a high school education when she had her kids, then I would expect to see more creative or modern picks. Dakota would fit better into this explanation. I guess that Phoenix could as well (though I associate Phoenix more with earthy/hippie moms than teenage moms). 

I think you should stay away from Allie, as it complicates the Catcher in the Rye reference way too much. And Elizabeth T. is right that Dakota is just not a believable name for the grandfather. 

So, in sum:

Caulfield, Desmond and Andrew (nicknamed Drew) for a family in which the parents are older, well-educated, and picking family names for their kids (Desmond being grandpa's name, and Andrew/Drew dad's);


Caulfield, Dakota and Phoenix for a family in which the mother was very young and angsty (possibly a teenager when she had her first couple of kids).

November 17, 2012 7:49 AM

I just remembered a few names I'm considering for the younger brother (and again, before I thought about name-meaning):


Cullen (I'd eliminated the possibility because of Edward Cullen)