Email Me!

Email me questions, comments, or post ideas!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Literary Inspiration: To Say Nothing of the Dog

My next book for Literary Inspirations is To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. I know its not very famous, not very many people have read it, but it is highly entertaining. It is a comedic time-travel mystery. The main characters are traveling from 2057 to 1888. It is full of a mix of quirky and Victorian era names, and it is the place I first saw what remains to this day one of my favorite girls names.

Ned Henry - Ned is a classic nickname for Edward, meaning 'wealthy gueard'. With Theodore/Ted/Teddy on the rise, I would not be surprised if Ned follows suit. Henry has a classic feel and is already on its way to the top.

Verity Kindle - A classic virtue name, meaning of course truth. My husband dislikes it because of something called a "Verity Index", but I think its brilliant and love the meaning. My husband hates it due to something in computer world (People Soft specifically I believe?) called a "verity index". I do  not think the vast majority of the population would make this link. I would also suggest Kindle as a nice name if it had not been corrupted by the branding of the popular E-Reader.

James Peddick - Another classic English name, James means 'he who supplants". Not exactly a nice name, but the historical weight outweighs the old Hebrew meaning I believe. James is of course one of the twelve disciples in the bible, a royal name of England, and used often in popular culture (think James Bond). I actually recently discovered the Scottish version of James in the movie Brave and then again somewhere else (ever notice how once you hear a name you start hearing it multiple places). Anyways, the Scottish version is Hamish.

Finch - In the book, Finch is a assistant in 2057,  turned butler in 1888. Finch comes off as a classic Butler name. It could be seen either as "last name as first name" or as a nature name, as in the songbird.

Tocelyn Merring - I am having no luck identifying the origins of this quirky first name, Jocelyn with a T. The character goes by the nickname "Tossie," which has some minimal usage in the United State, but it is quite possible that Connie Willis made this name up and that it is even meant to be comedic (Tossie does evoke notions of tossing something out). Jocelyn is a Germanic tribal identification name. Mering could be a nice "last name as first name" type for a little boy.

Terence St. Trewes - Terence is derived from the Latin name Terentius, who was a poet of ancient Rome. It turns out that there is actually no Saint named Trewes, in fact the word appears to refer to a part of Medieval underwear, so I would suggest avoiding it. Did I mention is a comedic novel?

William Patrick Callahan (Baine) - Enough names for you? All three names are great. William and Patrick are both classic, while Callahan offers a nice "last name as first name" option with nickname Cal. The character's nickname Baine means "pale bridge", though I can't help but think of the word bane, meaning "cause of distress or annoyance".

T.J. Lewis - I am a big fan of initial nicknames, so of course I love T.J. I would prefer it stayed as an initial based nickname (how about a Theodore Joseph? Tristan Jude? Thames Jarret? Terence Jerome?), but if a person really loved it they could spell it out Teejay. Lewis is a nice alternate spelling to the classic Louis, that gives it s different feel. Lewis means "famous battle" and is an old German surname.

Elizabeth Bittner - Elizabeth is of course a classic name with biblical and royal reference. It means "God's promise".

Princess Arjumand - Ok, so in the book this is a cat. But the cat is an important character (to say nothing of the dog... hahahahaha!!) Arjumand is a famous historical Indian name, the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was made (as a tomb).

Cyril - The dog. A greek name meaning lordly or masterful.

Place Names
Thames - Pronounced Tames, the Thames is the biggest river in the U.K. To use this name in the UK would probably be like naming a child Mississippi here, but I think for an American it has a nice sound, similar to James but with a twist.

Coventry - Coventry is a district in England. To an American ear, it evokes a cozy country feeling. It has a nice flow, with the popular feminine Y ending.

Oxford - Again, if you used this in the UK, it would be liked naming a kid Harvard. A bit pretentious? But in America, it has a nice ring. 

Other references
Connie Willis - Of course you could take the author's name as inspiration! In this case, Connie is short for Constance (another virtue name!) meaning consistency, loyalty. Willis could easily be made a first name, an Old English derivative of William.

Jerome K Jerome - the title of the book is inspired by a novella of similar humor called Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog) - I love the name Jerome, meaning "sacred name"


  1. To Say Nothing of the Dog is my favorite book in the world! (I actually came to this post because of a To Say Nothing of the Dog google alert.) I have long considered Ned as a possible boy's name. I think it would wear really well at all ages.

    1. I am glad you stumbled upon this! Its a really good book and I am so in love with the name Verity!