Friday, December 3, 2010

Names Beyond the Book

Isn't it wonderful how sometimes a character becomes so ingrained into (pop) culture that its very name becomes a meaning or condition to describe a real life person? For instance: Scrooge. As in “Don’t be a Scrooge!” Other examples are Walter Mitty, Don Juan, Sherlock Holmes, Romeo and Simon Legree. Then there are the occasions where the character’s name is modified a bit to create a new word: Quixotic. Or adding a word in conjunction: A Mickey Mouse Operation.  And, of course, Peter Pan Syndrome.  Which, of course, brought on this post.

What author wouldn’t want their character immortalized beyond the scope of the page?

Then I realized something.

In every instance I can think of the moniker is used pejoratively.

You’re not supposed to like being called Quixotic (impractical, impulsive and rashly unpredictable).  If you’re a Walter Mitty you’re got your head in the clouds. “No sh**, Sherlock!” is said to someone who’s being an idiot at the moment.

Are there any used which do not “bad mouth” someone? Even “Romeo” has come to mean someone who is overly-sappy or lovey to the point of nausea.

It might not be so wonderful, then, for the author. Then again, it’s no less grand that the reach of a character’s popularity moves beyond mere story.

So now I’m torn between wanting it to happen to one of my creations and not.


Sunshine said...

I dunno--- a Herculean task is one that seems to honor the demigod for which it stands.

And about Romeo. I think using that particular name to mean sappy and overly gushing is absolutely accurate! People assume he was a real romantic hero, but if you read the play carefully, you see that he's just an undersexed and desperate teenager more in love with the idea of some girl (any girl--- Rosaline at first, then Juliet) actually returning his affections than with any actual girl.

Stepping off my soap box now.

Fun post, though. Which of your characters would you choose?

Oh- and if it makes you feel any better, your name has its own eccentric connotation in our household...


Anon said...

But Hercules is a mythological character, not a fictional character one individual made up for a story, isn't he?

Danielle Mari said...

I guess it depends on whether or not you prefer to pick that particular nit, Anon. Petey's post doesn't ask for much more than an author's character without specifying whether it "allows" mythology or not. Of course our boy Hercules comes from Roman mythology (stolen from Greek mythology) and because those pesky Etruscans lost their literature, we don't have the primary resources to cite. However, quite a bit of fictional literature (including graphic novels and the like) has been written about our muscle-bound hero. And I would imagine that most people know him through those more modern means. (Not unlike Pan!)
Of course, Peter, we may have just solved your dilemma. All you need to do is slap the subtitle, "_____: A Myth" on whatever work you'd like stamped with a character's nomenclature positively immortalized!

Peter Von Brown said...

Actually, I like all of your comments.

I'd asked for a character who is used positively and Hercules does fit the bill. However, I can see Anon's point about specific authors. Did I mean that so he doesn't count? Yes and no. I suppose I did mean 'single-author' type, but then, I don't want to disqualify Hercules on that account alone. Both are valid. :)

And regarding Romeo, yes, that's true.. and I thought of that. It's just that most people don't realize that it seems, so it tends to "look bad." Consider though, that with the exception of Sherlock (in the list I gave) everyone else is arguably "bad person" to begin with on some level so it's not all that surprising that they'd be used as such.

As for what character of mine I'd have over-extend from the page into a "term" I guess the only one who wouldn't break my heart would be Jinq from What If It's a Trick Question? Besides possibly deserving it, his character lends himself best to this type of 'treatment.'