Roald Dahl is a name ruiner

I love Agatha and Violet, but I don't know if I could ever use either. Agatha Trunchbull from Dahl's Matilda is horrific, and I don't know if I could ever say Violet without saying, "You're turning Violet, Violet!" I haven't even read his books. The movie adaptations are just too prominent. 

Thoughts? Experiences with names you thought would be ruined forever? 


February 7, 2018 10:37 AM

I haven't seen the movie, but in the book, Miss Trunchbull's given name is only revealed toward the very end of the story, so it doesn't ruin it at all for me. (I re-read it very recently and yet didn't remember that she was Agatha. If pressed, I may have come up with Agnes.)

I haven't read or seen Willy Wonka, so I can't comment on its effect (if any) on the perceptions of the name Violet.

By mk
February 7, 2018 3:26 PM

Never read/saw Matilda but I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (book and film). Still, when I hear the name Violet I think of the flower.

February 7, 2018 4:58 PM

I love Matilda, but I don't remember Agatha, I remember Trunchbull.  Trunchbull just sounds so mean.

As for Violet, I know a real life Violet and that's who I think of, though the "You're turning Violet...." is a popular quote in my household.

Both names are a go for me

February 7, 2018 5:08 PM

I had forgotten Agatha if I ever knew, and Violet just has so many associations. If anything, I think Roald Dahl is a name enabler. I'm sure he's done wonders for Matilda and Charlie! Veruca is definitely out though, despite listing on the Social Security data this year!

February 7, 2018 6:15 PM

Agatha was the go-to name for a certain kind of abrasively assertive, older woman for many decades; Trunchbull strikes me as just an extreme-to-the-point-of-caricature version of that, so it doesn't really change my feelings about the name very much. (Put another way, Agatha was already ruined for me in terms of naming a baby by all those other literary and pop-culture associations.) I've been somewhat pleasantly surprised to see it recovering from that stereotype over the past decade or so.

A lot of names get rehabilitated over time, as new associations supersede the old. Benedict was a total no-go in the US when I was growing up, and really didn't become thinkable to me until Benedict Cumberbatch became such a sensation and household name. So maybe if you find a really positive Agatha or Violet association that would help? It certainly couldn't hurt to watch Despicable Me and watch/read A Series of Unfortunate Events.

I'm trying to think of names that were personally ruined for me by some fictional association...Lydia comes to mind; in the abstract I think it sounds lovely, and I like the classical associations, but I strongly associate it with the horrible youngest sister in Pride and Prejudice. It was somewhat rehabilitated once I got to know a real-life little Lydia; now it's much easier for me to appreciate it, but I think I still wouldn't be able to use it for a child of my own.