Naughty words, and odd names…

I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s been on my mind today; I have a very dear friend who has made most useful and helpful observations on my books in the past, comments which have really enabled me to be more objective about my writing.

She has just started reading my latest novel, Lucky Portbraddon, and I know, I just know she is going to make at least two comments; one is going to be about unusual names, and the other s going to be about swear words.

I have written so many posts about names and choosing names,for actual children and for imaginary characters, so I’m not going over it all again except to say that I do a huge amount of research about names, and the names I use in my novels, trying to make sure they are the sort of names which might typically be associated with a particular person, or a particular age and class and with the sort of background I have given them. As I write I keep thinking of my friend and thinking about what she might say about my characters. Most of them in Lucky Portbraddon have perfectly ordinary names, Alex, James, Nick, Ruby, Alison, but one of the main characters is called Ismène. She was one of those characters who just arrived on the page with that name… I tried to call her Emma but it just didn’t work… Lo and behold, my friend has bought my book and the first thing she said was about the name!

Having my characters using ‘bad’ language is another thing,another thing which I don’t; take lightly. I never use bad language in front of my children… except in very trying circumstances when some naughty word escapes, and I don’t use it casually in my books. However, some characters do use obscene or foul language – just a we might come across people in real life who do. It would be unrealistic for them to say “Oh bother, oh blow, oh goodness gracious!”

I have heard recordings of soldiers from the first World War who use obscene/foul language… I’m sure people always have, so in Lucky Portbraddon, some times some of the characters swear at each other… and one character in particular swears almost every time he speaks. He is young, and I’ve noticed that young people do use a lot of words which older people might not approve of. I’m not using it – or rather, he‘s not using it to shock, it’s just the vernacular.

I know my friend is going to comment… and having her metaphorically sitting on my shoulder as I write does make me think very carefully about the language I use, even if my characters don’t!

Judge for yourself about the names I’ve chosen and the language I’ve used!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/LUCKY-PORTBRADDON-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B01LWTVURP/ref=pd_sim_351_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=H97RYNSJ55WA73Z88QT3

 

How do you say it?

My name, Lois is not very common, but it’s not that unusual either; Lois was St Timothy’s grandmother, and considering how ubiquitous Timothy is it’s strange that his granny’s name didn’t catch on too. I’m not complaining, I like to be unusual – although I wasn’t so keen when I was young and had to continually spell it for people and pronounce it for them.

You would have thought that Lo-is, was easy… but it’s mistaken for other actual names, male and female:

  • Louise
  • Eloise
  • Lucy
  • Lewis
  • Louis
  • Lulu
  • and even on one occasion, Laurence

As for spelling it, instead of taking the simplest four-letter spelling, I’ve had all sorts of offerings,as well as the above:

  • Loeese
  • Lorris
  • Lios
  • Loose/Lose
  • Lowes/Lowis/Lows
  • Lossie

So I have always tried my hardest with someone with an unusual name to say it as nearly correctly as I can – even if I have to ask them a couple of times, apologising for having such a poor ear. A difficulty comes when the name is written down, and may even be very familiar in the written form, but how do you say it? Where are the stresses, are there any hidden sounds, or sounds which disappear, or change from what you expect?

One of my son’s favourite names is Leonidas, most famously a Greek hero, born about 540BC and dying at around sixty in 480BC. I can’t recall ever having heard it spoken, but I’ve always pronounced it Layon-nid-as… My son insists it’s Leon-ide-ees…

I found this:

https://youtu.be/CjhpH9lj3vM

This man seems to say something like Leon-nithe-ass… and I’m sure he must be right!

 

Names, names, names and naming

One of the trickiest things about being a parent is giving a name to your child; what a responsibility! Balancing names you like and love, or have an attachment to maybe for family reasons, and names which suit the surname the child will have, which aren’t ridiculous (however much you like them) which are easy to spell and pronounce and haven’t got hilarious associations, and which the other parent of the child accepts.

Most people only have to chooses names a few times, but as a writer it’s a continual conundrum – or at least it is to me. Sometimes a character’s name just arrives with them, and stays… sometimes they have a name but I change it for some reason (a properly thought reason, not just a random whim) Sometimes I struggle and struggle to find a character’s name, trying out different ones which don’t quite fit.

My next novel is in the final stages of editing and should be published next month, so soon I will have to think about the cover, the blurb and all the other admin type things which go along with it. However, before that I must finish my editing, tying up all the now tiny loose ends… and finding a surname for my main character. The story is of a family called Portbraddon, so that’s easy – most of them have that as their surname.

The inspiration for that came from a tiny village in Ireland, off the north Antrim coast, the most pretty little fishing village you could imagine. Their first names, just arrived, Alex, Noah, Ruby, Alison, Nick, James… for some reason two brothers are Antoine and Eduardo – maybe they had a mother from some European country, and Tyrone – maybe his mother was Irish, or maybe she loved Tyrone Power the 1940’s actor?

The main character who becomes an observer for what happens in the complicated lives of the family is a woman, and after much trauma – on my part – her name is what it was from the beginning Ismène… she was briefly Emma, then Ismae, but now she’s back to Ismène. A French name, so when I came to find her surname that’s what I was thinking of… but what? Nothing springs to mind… I don’t want anything with an ‘s’; she told her ex-husband she didn’t want his surname Masson – “Ismène Masson, a poor attempt at a palindrome” she said, which infuriated him. At one point she thought she might be marrying into the Portbraddon family, and she liked that, Ismène Portbraddon…

So a French name without an ‘s’ ‘z’ or ‘ch’, and probably not beginning with ‘n’… I’m beginning to get a list, which will probably change…

  • Ismène Baudet
  • Ismène Bourdon
  • Ismène Cortot/Courtot/Courtial
  • Ismène Regnard
  • Ismène Rodin
  • Ismène Robillard
  • Ismène Verany
  • Ismène Thibaud/Thibault/Thibaut/Thibeault

In actual fact, her surname isn’t mentioned that much, but I just want to have it in my head – and in her head too!

By the way, my featured image is of another pretty place along the north Antrim coast, Ballintoy Harbour.

If you want to read my published e-books, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

Orangehaven

I decided to walk from the station to rendezvous with my friends in London; as I strolled along the Bayswater Road I passed a building and the plaque caught my eye. We have dear friends who live in the Netherlands, and anything to do with their country and history interests us.

Once I was home, I was able to find out more about ‘Orangehaven’ – it was a club founded during the second World War  on the initiative of Queen Wilhelmina; she had been Queen of the Netherlands since 1890, when at the age of only ten she inherited the throne from her father King Willem III. When the Germans invaded her country during World war II she escaped to London.

There were about 1700  ex-pat Dutch people who had also fled the invaders  and the Queen was determined that there should be somewhere in London for them  where they could meet, socialise, and receive support if they were in need or difficulty. There was also some accommodation for people when necessary. The club opened on the 6th June 1942 opened the club was. One amusing story in what was otherwise a sad and trying time, whenever Queen Wilmelmina came to the club, everyone drank tea , all alcoholic drinks, were discretely hidden from view

 

WhatsApp Image 2016-07-30 at 11.09.53

Place of the ash trees

I have a fairly unusual first name, and a quite unusual surname – and my married name is also quite unusual too. I like having that distinction, although when I was a child I didn’t like my first name particularity, but soon got to like it and can’t imagine being anything else.

I suppose because of my own names, I am interested in other unusual names – names of people, first and surnames, and names of places too. The other day I was watching the news, and i can’t now remember what the report was about, but their was a police officer whose surname was Upex… that really is a very unusual name! There are so many people from other countries in the UK now that I wondered if it might be a name from overseas, but no; it is English.

Apparently, the first recorded spelling of the name was on a marriage record in 1636, in Norhtamptonshire, but it seems as if the name is much older than that, going back to an old English place name, something like Up-aesc which means has a connection with ash trees.

In the 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses, all the Upex individuals recorded lived in the counties of Northampton and Huntington, and so it continued over the next decades, with the majority of the families living in the same area and Cambridgeshire; a few moved further away, Yorkshire, Cornwall, London, but the majority were in that broad area across what might be called the south Midlands.

However, for people from the Northeast of England, and Middlesbrough in particular, the name Upex has a very different connotation… pies! Apparently Upex meat pies are the best in the world. I can’t find out anything at all about them historically, except that the orignal pie production closed down for twenty years, but apparently is now back and being enjoyed across the area.

http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/whats-on/food-drink-news/upex-pies-back-in-business-9194727

As well as Superintendent Upex, who first triggered my interest in the name, there are two Professors Upex, one an archaeologist particularly interested in British landscape history, one a very senior lawyer, and a Dr Upex who is also a specialist in archaeology.

I wonder if it is the case of having come across this unusual name once, now I’ll bump into it a gain and maybe again?

… and i have to say my featured image isn’t necessarily of ash trees!

Coldharbour

There’s a little track near us which actually has a name, Coldharbour Lane and I thought it was so unusual when I first saw it, and thought it was the proximity to the sea, and the wharf in our village in Uphill. Then I realised that there was also a Coldharbour Road in Bristol… so maybe it was a local name. The I discovered there were other Coldharbour Roads, in Hailsham, Gravesend, Tonbridge and Woking, plus Coldharbour Lanes in   Dorking, Maidstone, Bristol and Ashford… oh and in London. There are places just called Coldharbour…

  • Buckinghamshire
  • Cornwall
  • Havering
  • Surrey
  • Tower Hamlets
  • City of London
  • and the name occurs in Wiltshire at Blunsdon, Kington Langley, North Wraxall, Great Hinton, Warminster, Amesbury, Farley and Pitton, Collingbourne Ducis and Malmesbury.

…plus…

  • Coldharbour House, an estate in London
  • Coldharbour Mill Working Wool Museum, an industrial museum in Devon
  • Coldharbour Estate in south-east London
  • and a village in Surrey

Does it literally mean a cold harbour? Or does it mean something else and the original name has been changed and transcribed as ‘cold harbour’? Well, no-one seems to know. Every theory put forward is discounted by someone else.. here are just a few of the suggestions for the name’s origin:

  • a derivation from cool arbour
  • an uninhabited shelter for travellers, often along a well-known route, according to some an old Roman road
  • as above but along an old Neolithic trackway or road
  • of Anglo-Saxon origin, meaning a cold place to stay, literally  ‘cald here-beorg‘, meaning ‘a sheltered place in the open’.
  • a winter shelter for cattle

There seems to be a consensus of its original meaning, if not its original actual name; what is certain is that it is very ancient, and quite often the place or area has a long human history.

Here is an article I came across:

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/dictionary-of-london/cockpit-court-coleharbour-lane

House names

I moved into a house, a new house, brand new, and I called it ‘Ongers’; there was a reason, of course, a little story which shows why I think I must have a very strange brain. We were on holiday in Pembroke and became quite excited by a shop, sadly closed, called Elsdon’s, which was so like our surname, Elsden. After Elsdon’s, it said ONGERS, which we all tee-hee’d at as it sounded so funny, Elsdon’s Ongers… So that was how I arrived at my house name… it was only much late I realised it must have been Elsdon’s Fishmonger’s, or Ironmonger’s…

In my novel which I’m editing at the moment, a lot of the story-line takes place in two houses, one very large and extensive, and one, still large, but an ordinary town house size. I had to give them names, so they became Ongers and Little Ongers… I’ve already played around with the names of my characters in the story, and now I just feel that these house names aren’t quite right… maybe they will be used another time somewhere else, but now I need two more names.

I want the names connected in some way… and I first of all thought about location, or place names, then I thought about geographical aspects, ‘hill’, ‘mount’, ‘lower/upper’ etc or something about the local vegetation firs/elms/oaks etc… Nothing seemed quite right, and then I thought about the appearance of the house or what it was made from, and then I thought about the roof… maybe there is a local slate quarry near my houses, and the roofs are made from a particular sort of slate…

Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock apparently, which before it was metamorphosed, was sedimentary rock. The great thing about slate and why it is so useful, is that it can be split into sheets, useful for all sorts of things including roofing! Because of the type of stone it is it can be used as a work surface in a kitchen or a laboratory, for a billiard or snooker table, for blackboards, tombstones, insulation and old-fashioned slates for writing on in school.

The actual word ‘slate’ comes from old french meaning to split or splinter, which perfectly describes what slate does. It has been used for a very long time, and in fact, as something to write on with a chalk it’s been in use since the 1300’s.

So… To my two houses… there is a connection as they are both owned by the same family and have been in the family for over a century… so Slate Hall, Slate House, Slateholme/Slatholme, Slathall/Slatthall, Slates/Slaters… Slatters… Hmmm… i think I’m on the right lines here, but I need a few days of mulling and pondering…

If you are intersted in slate, here are a couple of sites i came across:

http://www.englishstone.org.uk/documents/Stone%20slate%20glossary.pdf

https://content.historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/horsham-stone-roofs/horsham-stone-roofs.pdf/

By the way, my featured image is of Walford House – my maternal family were Walfords, but this house has nothing to do with them, just a coincidence!