|"...a terrific book to help with naming characters in historical stories, stories in foreign settings, or fantasy cultures modeled on real ones on this planet." -- Lee Killough (Bridling Chaos, Bloodwalk)|
So there I was, compiling one more pick-list of names, digging through the stacks, and wishing there was one book where I could find almost any ethnic group that ever existed. Then I realised that if I wanted it, lots of other people did, too. Only I had the linguistic and anthropological background to write it.
This began life as "How to Name the Character" (as opposed to what to name the baby), and maintained its emphasis on the special, often ignored needs of fiction writers creating characters. But the brilliant people at McFarland knew that business people, teachers, and travellers needed much the same information in our newly multi-cultural world.
The main part of the book is crudely divided into the Contemporary Section, some of whose chapters have historical information, and the Historical Names, some of which are definitely still in use in small groups. The Historical section starts with the most recent, like names popular in Victorian America, then steps back through the Renaissance, the Middle Ages, the Dark Ages, and so to the beginning of recorded names.
In each chapter, I tried to provide at least 200 personal names for each sex, and 400 family names (some are much larger). Think of how many people you know who share the same personal name, versus how many unrelated ones have the same family name, and you will see why the ratio. I also tried to stay alert to practices different from the American: places where women do not change their name at marriage, where men and women use different suffixes on the family name so that gender is glued on, where unisex names are common or impossible, where the family name comes before the personal name, or where no family name is used (yes, it still happens in the modern world).
Also, when I ran into the information, I included titles of address and other name-related etiquette.
In some places, I was unable to dig up enough names for a chapter, so I created Other or Assorted groups, so as not to leave you completely at sea. I hope to improve these years from now when I do the revised edition. For example, I finally got hold of a book on Hittite onomastics, so next version they should get their own chapter. Equally, I'm awaiting the publication of a book on Dutch personal names from the 1947 census, so as to improve that chapter. By the time of the revision, we may know finally what language and names the people of the Indus Valley culture used.
If this book helps you write your book or your term paper, makes your business deal go more smoothly, helps you welcome an immigrant child in your classroom, or just enriches your understanding of other cultures, I will feel amply rewarded for the years of work.