Friday, May 26, 2017

Famous Fictional Bookworms - Sara, Matilda, Belle

Hello, readers!

One thing I've noticed from my time in the name community is how many name nerds discovered their passion through reading. It makes sense - if you're exposed to dozens of different character names, you're likely to find their names interesting and/or meaningful. I'm definitely a part of this group, and one of my favorite character types was that of the Female Bookworm.

Bookish and nerdy but headstrong and opinionated, these ladies were inspirations in my youth - and now inspire some fantastic name ideas! Why not name a child/pet/character after someone with smarts and personality?

Full disclosure - I've never read Matilda, by Roald Dahl. A brief clip of the film version frightened me at a young age, and I never got the courage to try the book. Still, Matilda (Wormwood) Honey is frequently cited as one of the most influential bookworms, and for good reason - her devotion to books despite constant derision is moving. Her sweet name also has the courageous meaning of "battle-mighty," making it a lovely choice that balances strength and style.

Who doesn't love a character whose catchphrase is "My glasses, my glasses!"? Velma from Scooby-Doo frequently got the gang out of trouble with her intelligence and cunning. Being that this sassy name last peaked in 1912, Velma could gain popularity along the same lines as Alma and Zelda.

Though her name literally means "beautiful," Belle is definitely the most bookish out of all the Disney princesses. Then again, were any of the others given access to a gigantic castle library, they'd probably follow suit! Belle returned to the top 1000 this year - its vintage sound and bright spirit matches its kindness.

The heroine of the Harry Potter series, Hermione has practically become an identity for fans of the books. Her early preoccupation with exams turns into a passion for knowledge over time, and she's an excellent example for young nerds. Unfortunately, her name is so unique that it's hard to bestow upon a child - perhaps in a decade or two, Hermione will soar.

Friendly yet formidable, Connie is Steven's well-read best friend in Cartoon Network's Steven Universe. Though the audience discovers that Connie's strict parents are the reason for her fixation on school, she certainly enjoys learning for learning's sake. Connie is a diminutive of Constance, and neither appealing name currently ranks in the top 1000.

I devoured the Anastasia Krupnik books in elementary school - precocious and blunt, Anastasia appealed to me on a personal level. She frequently mentions books, from Gone With the Wind to The Interpretation of Dreams, and uses her intelligence to help solve the problems in her dramatic twelve-year-old life. Once frilly, Anastasia has become a popular, elegant name in today's world.

Josephine (Jo)
The oldest American bookworm on this list, Jo March was based on the author of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott. Of the book's four sisters, Jo is the best read and the most bold, and (spoiler alert) ends up writing a few books of her own. While Josephine and Josie rank in the top 300, nickname Jo is perfect for tenacious and boisterous girls.

For fans of the Disney cartoon Recess, Gretchen was the smartest (and arguably most mature) of the crew. In fact, one episode shows Gretchen besting her teachers in a battle of knowledge. While the name Gretchen has never been very popular, it did have a brief peak in the early 1970's. It's originally a short form of Margaret, and it has an amicable and adorable sound.

Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess introduced many readers to Sara Crewe, a formerly rich little girl left penniless and forced to find her own way in the world (with the help of a few friends). Sara's cleverness and warmth towards others ultimately helps her more than money - an excellent lesson for young readers. The simpler version of the Biblical classic, Sara is especially great as a cross-cultural pick.

The titular heroine of The Book Thief, Liesel Meminger is a bright young girl enamored with books in the midst of WWII Germany. Many have heard this charming name via The Sound of Music, but Liesel is actually a diminutive of the perennially popular Elizabeth. Liesel is unusual but accessible, the kind of name that will fit all kinds of personalities.

In Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, Suzy Bishop runs away from home with just a suitcase full of books - we've all been there, haven't we? Though Susan is taking a well-deserved break, cute Suzy fits in with current retro names like Sadie or Sylvie. Might this nickname become a possibility in our modern age of diverse names?

The original fictional female bookworm (correct me in the comments), Jane Eyre turns to books when her family and boarding school prove subpar. This ends up empowering her, allowing her to leave a sheltered life behind and get working #girlboss A classic feminine choice, Jane has begun creeping up the popularity charts again, proving that it's anything but plain.

Shy but intelligent, Phoebe from Hey Arnold! is also memorable as one of the few early Asian-American characters on Nickelodeon. She's the smartest kid in class, but also shows an emotional side in a few episodes. This Greek name is a friendly and beautiful choice, made popular by the character in Friends, too.

I'm sure I missed a few - tell me your favorites in the comments!

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