Name Calling Bloggers

Filed as Features, Guides on December 17, 2007 2:05 pm

The The Pioneer Woman calls the man in her life the “Marlboro Man”. Chris Cree of SuccessCREEations calls his wife “Gorgeous”. I refer to my husband as “hubby” in my blog posts, a contradiction to the tall, handsome, Mensa-brilliant, multi-lingual engineer I love and adore. What do you call the lovers, spouses, friends, and family members in your blog posts?

Whether you are a personal blogger or business blogger, there always comes a time when you need to refer to someone in your life who would rather remain anonymous, protecting their privacy, and sometimes your own. What names do you use?

I read a blogger recently talking about her family, referring to her three daughters as the young daughter, middle daughter, and oldest daughter. While I respect the privacy protection of the children, it became very confusing to know which daughter was in which part of the story.

Another blogger was trying to tell a story about a party with at least a dozen people critical to the story’s point. She mentioned “my oldest friend’s boyfriend”, “my boyfriend’s sister”, “my sister’s friend”, “my sister’s boyfriend”, and “that guy friend of mine who isn’t really a friend”. I was so confused with all the unnamed characters, the point of the story was lost on me.

Choosing a name for the characters in your blog posts often defines them. It gives the reader clues and insights into the character’s personality and history. A name like Alexander Nikoleski identifies the person as having some Russia historical connection. As Lorelle VanFossen, I’m often accused of being Dutch. My husband’s family has Dutch connections that ended in the late 1600s when they came to the United States, and I took on his name without a lick of Dutch DNA that I can find in my veins. So not all names match reality, but as pseudonyms in blog posts, perception is all that matters.

Names in fiction often carry the burden of helping to define the character, and a blog post may have not much time for character development. The choice in a name could speed up the connection between the reader and identifying the character.

Name Calling Blog Tips

Here are some tips for name calling in your blog posts when you want to name the characters involved without revealing their identities:

  • Create a List of Your Cast of Blog Characters: If you have only one to four characters in your blog, it’s easy to remember what you call them. Have more and I recommend you create a list, and keep it easily accessible, of your blog’s cast of characters and descriptions. This way, you will know which one to call upon when you need them.
  • Choose “Real” Names: Create pseudonyms for recurring characters in your blog posts using real life-like names. The names can be similar or different from their real names, but memorable. It’s important you remember who is which who is whom in your list of characters, as will your readers.
  • Choose Memorable Names: The best names of fictional characters in history are often symbolic names, strong memorable names. Pussy Galore, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, Tokyo Rose, Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt…these names evoke memories and symbolism for the historical characters they represent, as well as the distinctive pronunciations of their names. “Franklin Roosevelt” just sounds proud and presidential, doesn’t it?
  • Give Them Strong Descriptive Names: Like Pioneer Woman and Chris Cree, they’ve chosen easily identifiable and visual descriptive names for their cast of characters. Marlboro Man creates an immediate image, as does Gorgeous. Sally Slippery can be the con artist or the sex pot in your stories. Change the name to Sally Squeamish and the perception of the character changes.
  • Sound Effects: Pronouncing “Hannibal Lecter” and “Darth Vader” sounds threatening. Allison Winklestein does not. The sound the name makes in the head of the reader can often influence their perception of the character’s personality. Harsh sounding consonants often make for harsh character names. Soft, melodic letters of the alphabet infer gentler, kinder individuals.
  • Identify Them By Relationship: Instead of youngest daughter and oldest daughter, in a list of daughter characters, why one Daughter One, Daughter Two, and Daughter Three. Be specific with your relational descriptions. There can be more than one Mother-in-Law in a family, so give the relationship name some added definition, such as Mother-in-Law-Terror or Mother-in-Law-Cookie-Maker.
  • Capitalize the Names: In English, proper names are capitalized, which gives us a clue when you use an adjective to name someone. Calling someone gorgeous or Gorgeous puts emphasis on the name calling with the capital letter.
  • Avoid Racial Names: While descriptive names like Sally Slippery creates a visual character images, Black Sambo, Black Boy, Jewish Princess, Yada Yada Yadtze, Killer Himmler, and other names which evoke strong negative stereotypes and racial slurs may not be the right choices for your name calling.
  • Use Names With Geographical Connections: Sometimes, you want a name that represents where the character is from to identify them. Tulsa could be a name for someone from Oklahoma, as a Texan could be called Dallas. Sevilla could be someone from Spain.
  • Named For a Famous Person: In a recent television episode of Boston Legal, a chicken called “Ronald Regan” was introduced, creating a strong association with the former US president which added some “humanity” to the chicken and its plight. I don’t recommend choosing the name of a living person, unless applied to a chicken or something non-human or plays into the plot line. There are many names from our history that create strong visual and character representation that we can use to name our characters, such as the Marlboro Man.
  • Avoid Disconnected Names: While your real life friend from Spain may be named “Fred Alexander”, a not very Spanish name, if you want to name them something that identifies them as Spanish, consider changing the name to one so easily associated with Spain, such as Frederico Alexia. Try not to confuse your readers with names that don’t match their expectations of what someone from Spain should be called, unless that is part of the story you are telling. Also avoid any name that will cause the reader to stumble across it, spending more time trying to figure out the name instead of reading on through the post.
  • Proper Names versus Nicknames: Which is stronger? Robert or Bob? Richard or Dick? Suzanne or Sue? If the character is a strong figure in your story, then maybe a proper name would be wiser than a nickname. Still, “A Boy Named Sue” tells us a lot about how tough a guy can be when he grows up with a name like “Sue”. Many of us cheered for “Buffy” the attacker of vampires, indicative of a character’s ability to overcome a weak name. Do you have the time in your blog posts to develop the real personality behind the name, or just choose one that works for the moment?
  • Names Replaced By Nicknames: “…we just call him…” When identifying a character within your blog post, part of their story may be that the person has a “real” name, but everyone calls him by his nickname, a name that often describes the person better than the real name. Orson Scott Card created one of his most powerful characters, Andrew Wiggin in Ender’s Game, with the nickname “Ender”, which describes the young man’s character from many different perspectives, from being the last one born to being the last one who can save the galaxy. A strong name like Sherlock Holmes sounds strong today, but imagine a 6 year old boy named “Sherlock” today? What would be your nickname? Shirley? Sherl? Consider if it helps your blog post for the character to have two names, a “real” name and a nickname.
  • Use The Star Treatment: A few decades ago, it was popular to name a mysterious character using asterisks, Mr. F*** or Mrs. B****. I’ve seen a few bloggers using this similar technique with dashes such as Mr. F— or Sally S—–. Modern and international readers are often unfamiliar with this technique, so many stumble across such names in blog posts, but it is an alternative.
  • Once You Are Stuck With It: Choose a name for your characters carefully. If your blog gains in popularity, or your character starts playing a greater role in your blog posts, you may be stuck with the name you choose for a long time.

In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, he admits that he was not ready for the public reaction and enthusiasm for the his character, Death. The character speaks in capital letters and welcomes the dying into the next…whatever. He admits that he created the characters originally as part of a joke, but his bigger than life joke became a major character, evolving beyond the joke. He warns in the book on the Art of Discworld by artist Paul Kidby to take care in creating a one-off character. You never know where that character might take you, and you may be stuck with him for a long time. More than 36 books later, Pratchett knows of what he speaks.

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  1. By GoingLikeSixty posted on December 17, 2007 at 2:27 pm
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    I’ll weigh in with nicks I’ve read in my blogroll for male significant others:
    Stud, Egg Donor, Redneck Cajun Man, King, but my favorite is H-band.
    I think that just sounds so high tech, for some reason!
    I just started using my wife’s real name recently. We’ll see how that goes.
    I like blogs that have a “cast of characters” in their about pages. Helps a noob catch on quicker.

    Reply

  2. By Arjewtino posted on December 17, 2007 at 3:05 pm
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    Well said, especially about the cast of characters. I call my girlfriend by the tongue-in-cheek nickname The Princess. While my friends and daily readers know who she is when I refer to her, I just realized that new visitors may be stumped.

    Thanks for the tip.

    Reply

  3. By Tuppy Glossop posted on December 17, 2007 at 3:07 pm
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    I prefer to remain anonymous right now, since I still have a day job and don’t want my moonlighting to be easily Googled by my employer.

    So, I took the name Tuppy Glossop … he was a minor character in books written in the 20s and 30s by PG Wodehouse. And my wife? She’s Mrs. Tuppy.

    Reply

  4. By Rob O. posted on December 17, 2007 at 3:16 pm
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    Anonymity isn’t a pressing concern on our blog, so I don’t have to personally address this.

    But more than once I’ve run across posts where guys use the abbreviation “SWMBO” when referring to their wives. SWMBO = “She Who Must Be Obeyed”

    There’s another local-area blogger who refers to her 2 little boys as “Crash” and “Bump,” which I’ve always thought was very cute.

    Reply

  5. By Jagdu posted on December 17, 2007 at 3:18 pm
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    I’ve always just called my wife, “my wife”. She has a name and likes it, maybe I should use that instead???

    Reply

  6. By ian in hamburg posted on December 17, 2007 at 4:06 pm
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    I call my daughter the little red-haired girl. One of the three will always be true.

    Reply

  7. By Lewis posted on December 17, 2007 at 7:10 pm
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    I guess I don’t worry about this TOO much. I mean I am pretty ambitious about what I will SOMEDAY contribute to the blogosphere but that day hasn’t come yet so I’m not overly worried about the world (my 50 dedicated readers) finding out that my real name is Lewis and my wife’s name is Beautiful Wife :) Honestly, I think some people are just a little TOO paranoid…IMHO

    Reply

  8. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on December 17, 2007 at 8:11 pm
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    @Lewis:

    Protecting the privacy of the individual you are talking about is common sense, not paranoia. But it is also creative license. You might not have to protect someone’s privacy, but want to choose a name for someone that better describes them and their purpose in the telling of your blog story.

    And Wife is an odd middle name. As a wife, I know it comes first, and last. :D

    Reply

  9. By Kristi posted on December 18, 2007 at 1:58 pm
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    One of my friends refers to her family as “the mister”, “he-spawn” and “she-spawn”. I usually use the given names of my family, but when I’m feeling especially lazy I use their initials only: TR, CS, etc. It doesn’t help with true anonymity, but it keeps the stories straight for the readers.

    Reply

  10. By Webomatica posted on December 18, 2007 at 2:48 pm
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    Heh, funny thought. I actually have been using initials for certain people as well. Anonimity is important and not everyone would appreciate being talked about on a blog, even if it’s positive.

    Reply

  11. By Jessi posted on December 24, 2007 at 1:44 am
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    Those are some really great tips. There are some kids I mention from time to time on my blog, and for safety reasons, I don’t refer to them by their names (they’re fairly memorable/unique names and it’d be easy to trace them, unfortunately). I tried just using things like their first initials, but it feels so impersonal. I may certainly consider the tips you offered. Thanks!

    Reply

  12. By arlene posted on February 18, 2008 at 2:14 pm
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    I was talking with a woman earlier this year who exposed a man I knew on a online forum and I had facts to back her story. he proceeded to sue her and file false charges on her for telling about what he did to her and her family. This guy is a sexual con artist and he has infected several women with the same disease.
    I was advised not to use his name or to remain anonymous if I came forward about him.
    I have been given information that he has targeted underage individuals on line.
    Do you think in cases like this, it should be an exception? The guys name should be posted right?

    Reply

  13. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on February 18, 2008 at 7:21 pm
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    @arlene:

    If you choose to make something public, make sure you have chosen the right lawyer to back you up in case things head south. Especially third-party information. You weren’t the one victimized. You are not the one with the facts, only hearsay. You may think they are facts, but you are not the policy, judge, nor jury.

    Blogs are not a forum for justice. Let the authorities handle this. If the person is found guilty, let the judicial system do its job.

    If you “out” someone in public, especially in “print”, you are responsible for the consequences, including libel and defamation suits. That’s why WordPress uses the word “Publish” to send your blog writing to the front page of your blog.

    Reply

  14. By unknowen posted on October 14, 2009 at 8:04 am
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    Grizbonton sending threats/blackmail via aol net: Woman sends out e-mails saying she’s gonna file false charges on people. In reality she does not know nothing about these people & filing fake/phoney charges. Be warned she makes many threats & is dumb enough just does not relize that she can be caught/tracked down.

    Reply

  15. By unknowen posted on October 14, 2009 at 8:06 am
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    A few years ago I believe I saw her on posts/e-mailing people making threats. Report her to the fbi if you see her online.

    Reply

  16. By unknowen posted on October 15, 2009 at 12:50 am
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    I reported her to the police but wanted to give a warning out get any e-mails from her report them. I think she’s a. mental or b. black mailer. I don’t know don’t matter if she gets arrrested.

    Reply

  17. By unknowen posted on November 13, 2009 at 2:20 pm
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    Okay this woman seems to be mental. She knows nothing & following people around on sites. She stalked me for a while. I have no idea who she is. Please be warned she has been reported to federal. It may take a while because they do have a few other cases to deal with. They just may arrest her due to the fact she is breaking laws. So griz anymore threats & stalking. I will give this info to people to help them. Report It. Do not be scared. People like her have fear in reality. They are cowards. They are not tough as they make it to be. So report it to police a.s.a.p. . if any kinds of these things go on. These people can face up to months in jail, few yrs probation. And huge fines. I noticed this woman has no account anymore. She deleted it. Tips though even at that they can still track you. These people will not stop till something is done. Show them you are a better person then them by reporting these scum bags online who do crazy stuff. Even if they are mental which is worse they will not quit till they get what they want. There minds are set different from normal people’s. Let the police & doctors etc. handle it.

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  18. By unknowen posted on December 5, 2009 at 1:41 am
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    There are just some complete nuts online. There’s way many people online with issues. And don’t know squat about the people they talk to or bash on. Grow up ppl. Or get yourself into a mental hospitial if neeed.

    Reply

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