Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Television characters with anachronistic names

Maybe this is something only name nerds notice, but have you ever been watching a TV show or movie and thought, "There is no way that character would actually be named that. No. Way."? Last year, Jeremy and I watched a few episodes (or maybe it was the whole half-season...?) of Falling Skies, and it featured a few egregiously anachronistic character names.

First there was Hal, age 16ish. And this show takes place in the present day, people. According to the Baby Name Voyager, Hal hasn't been in the top 1000 baby names since the 1970s...when it was ranked #903. Yeah.

Then there was Karen, also age 16ish - yet another name that hasn't been really popular since the 1970s.

So maybe screenwriters are giving characters names that were popular in their own generations, right? But that wouldn't really explain Emma (a grown-up woman) in Once Upon a Time. The name Emma didn't become super popular until the 2000s, so maybe a writer noticed everyone naming their kids Emma and then slapped the name on a 25-year-old woman.

I'm not saying these naming situations couldn't happen, just that it's strange that a TV show would choose them for its characters instead of other, more likely choices. In a more realistic TV world, Hal would be named Josh or Ryan, Karen would be Jessica or Megan, and Emma would be named Heather or Ashley.

I'm just saying. And yes, I know it's really weird that I notice this stuff.


Melody said...

Well technically, Emma was named in a fairy tale land. And we have no information on what names are popular there. ;)

Britney said...

I love this kind of stuff. So weird or not, at least you're not alone. :)

Emma’s name struck me as out of place, too, until I started looking up the meanings of the other characters’ names after watching the first few episodes. For example, Regina, of course, means queen; Mary Margaret Blanchard means white pearl or pure; James (the prince’s brother) means supplanter or substitute. So, can we assume the meaning of Emma’s name is significant too? Maybe. Emma means universal or whole, according to some sources.

Ariana said...

Growing up, I swear every one of my school teachers' first names was Judy...

JosephJ said...

The anachronisms are probably more common in the movies because they suffer from the whims of the writers.


In Real Life I still encounter people with names seemingly misplaced from their generation. For example, when I was a kid, a boy in my class was named Vernon. And a boy named Ernest rode the bus with us. I have a cousin who named her boy George, and a friend with daughters Ada and Alice. Then there were the two boy scouts named Arnold and Henry (teens now). A year or so ago I was surprised to hear of a new baby named Jennifer (a couple decades late with that one, folks!)

It goes the other way, too. I went to visit someone from church named "Jayna" and was surprised to meet a 70 year old lady! With a name like that, I was sure she'd be about 30!

Looks like the pot'o'names has been stirred vigorously.

Amanda said...

The baby name lady wrote about this when Glee became popular and I think the lead boy character's name is Finn, which is a name that hasn't become popular until recently.

Aimee said...

I know a number of "Karens" all younger than me. The youngest was definitely born after 1990 and she just married a fella named Stuart. Definitely not a common name for a 21 year old. I also know a Hal who is 30. Names are a funny thing. My son Tobin's name is barely in the top 1000 and yet I have already met one little boy on the playground named Tobin, and heard of a couple of others. My husband is an economist, and he really likes the works of James Tobin, which is where we found and liked that name!


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