Monday, 27 May 2013

Name Games

Every time someone says anything; you have an idea in your head of what it might look like. We don't put any thought into these images, they just seem to come out of mid-air. But they're always based on a past experience.

For example; when I started writing my novel, I couldn't help but picture the protagonist waking up in my bed, in my house. Eventually I was able to change that notion by thinking up a house for him to live in, but my intuitive reaction was to put him in something that I was already familiar with.

This week I've discussed this concept with some people, specifically around names. I realised that a lot of names have very strong judgements associated with them, for me personally anyway. Some names I hear them and immediately think of a particular type of person.

Kind of like a typecast, only backwards. A typecast is a role someone is always cast in because it's just what you picture them in when you think about casting them. For example; Arnold Schwarzenegger has a very distinct typecast. He will always play the stone-cold, robotic killer.

Cameron Diaz will always play the romantic lead, Morgan Freeman will always be a lovable character, and Eddie Murphy will always be very eccentric. Regardless of the character they play, those are some very blatant typecasts.

As I was saying, it works both ways. A Mafia Boss will always be slightly overweight, (Perhaps because they're always Italian) God will always have a soothing baritone voice, Henchmen come in twos, and one or both of them are stupid, and Disney Princesses will always have a lovely singing voice.

But what I noticed this week is that it goes further than that. All the way down to just names. Read this list of names and picture the person in your head intuitively, don't think, just imagine:

Lucy, Jared, Ellen, Bruce, Ellie, Sarah.

I'll tell you what, I immediately go to the same stereotypes every time. Lucy is a very young girl, five or six, and very cute. Jared is a crazy red head. Ellen has long brown hair. Bruce is a big guy, in height and girth. Ellie is a cute teenager. And Sarah has blonde hair, maybe a little bit wavy.

Most of those have been drawn on from very powerful experiences that I go back to whenever I hear those names. If I ever wrote a poem or a story or a song about a little girl; her name would be Lucy. If I ever wrote about a crazy red-head; his name would be Jared. That's just how it is.

And this obviously won't be the same for everyone, or anyone at all for that matter, and those names might not stick out at all to you, like David for example doesn't have any image associated with it for me personally. It's completely neutral.

But I'm curious to hear what other stereotypes people have of particular names.

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