Lauren Miller, posting over at nameberry, a baby names site, sounds like someone we’d like to know: she’s a true Austen enthusiast, and we appreciate her thorough knowledge of and appreciation for the names in Austen’s books. And I appreciate her suggestion of naming your child after the hero or heroine of your favorite book—a friend of mine named her daughter Serenity, and I think there’s nothing wrong with that (though I would not name my child Enterprise.) Yes, your Elizabeths, Janes, Emmas, Annes, bring ‘em on!
However, I do think Ms. Miller is a trifle naive in some of her name suggestions. To wit:
Kitty: Ms. Miller realizes you probably don’t want to name your kid Fanny. But naming her anything that can be twisted into the name of another female body part is really not a good idea. Alas, I speak from experience here.
Lydia or Maria: There’s nothing wrong with either of these as names. But do you want to name your progeny in honor of Lydia Bennet or Maria Bertram? Why not call her Scandal and be done with it?
Benwick: “It’s ‘Ben-ick,’ not ‘Ben-wick.’ On second thought, just call me Ben. Ha ha, Icky Ben! Like I haven’t heard that one before.”
Bertram: What ho?
Bingley: Is it my own dirty mind, or is this potential phallic territory? Rhymes with Dingaling, doesn’t it?
Dashwood: Similarly . . . Though we may have to face the possibility that NO name is safe from that sort of thing. But this one really does sound like a porn name. Sorry.
Wickham or Willoughby: See above re Lydia and Maria, plus, I think I’d kill my parents if they named me Wickham. At least Willoughby could be Will.
Darcy: As a girl’s name there’s nothing wrong with it except that it’s so . . . 80s. Isn’t it?
Grey: I know people can get used to virtually anything being someone’s name, and can forget its original meaning. But Grey, especially for a girl? Why not name her Dreary or Grim and be done with it? Also, small point, but Miss Grey in Sense and Sensibility was not exactly a nice person.
Price: LOL, think of the emotional scarring! Poor girl, branded as a prostitute from birth. “The Price is right!” The jokes are really endless.
Tilney: More random than anything else, I guess. But, Tilney? Really?
For the record, Ms. Miller, I love your other suggestions. Isabella: a nickname of mine, actually; Emma: a name I’ve considered for my own (strictly potential) daughter; Georgiana: just plain awesome! And considering some of the actual names people have actually named their actual children, I know it could be worse. But, please, think of the ramifications before you suggest these things! And, we’d love to hang out sometime and talk Jane Austen with you. You can even call me Isabella.
Come one, come all, to the Jane Austen Fight Club, where the very best from Jane’s world and the very best from the non-Austen world (sometimes) match wits and fists for all to see! The prizes: pride, honor, and the adoration of Jane fans everywhere, or a “The first rule of fight club is, we don’t talk about Mr. Darcy” t-shirt and some quality Regency-era medical care for all your combat-induced wound-care needs!
Captain Frederick “I’m on a boat” Wentworth, naval hero and longtime piner after one Anne Elliot, and Mr. George “Yes, I am awesome, why do you ask?” Knightley! Both do right by their respective lady loves; both live somewhat in the shadow of Fitzwilliam Darcy; only one will walk away from this match with his face and his reputation intact!
In their corners:
Captain Wentworth is, well, on a boat. Actually, he’s in charge of the boat. He probably has a sword, possibly a gun, and for all we know, he’s thick as thieves with some tentacled beast/kraken/JAWS that he calls up from the deep in moments of stress. He’s also fiercely loyal, extraordinarily patient, and—we have it on good authority—the kind of guy who turns heads but doesn’t really own a mirror, if you know what we mean. Basically, he’s a kindly, romantic pirate. Best of all possible worlds!
Mr. Knightley likes moonlit strolls on warm evenings, doesn’t mind going out of his way to see his lady love, and has a fine air and—ahem—way of walking. He’s honest, affectionate, and filled with integrity, and he handles his slightly overbearing future father-in-law without breaking a sweat. He’s the kind of guy you’d want on your arm at all those neighborhood balls, for sure.
Wentworth is, well, actually sort of a pirate. A legalized pirate, but a pirate. And if the Jack Sparrow lifestyle doesn’t read as a deterrent, exactly, try this: he was too proud to come back to Anne well beyond the Charlotte York “half as long as the relationship” rule, and then he “admitted the attentions of two young ladies at once”! Just imagine!
Knightley is rather disposed to being right. Constantly, obnoxiously right. Sigh.
Captain Wentworth in a close but ultimately not-that-close competition. Knightley’s a contender, but seriously? VIRTUOUS PIRATE! Adventurer/keeper of flame wins every time! Nice try, George. Why don’t you, like, go take a walk or something?