Good Name: Mundys

J. K. Rowling’s name for nonmagical people, muggles, is known to everyone on the planet.  It’s a good name.  A little goofy.  But in the Potterverse muggles are goofy, so it works.  However, I recently read Bill Willingham’s Peter & Max: A Fables Novel and I have to admit, I like his word, “mundys” a lot better.

In Peter & Max, mundys are the normal people — the “mundane natives”, as opposed to the Fables (the magical refugees from the Homeland where fables are real).  The name is great because it automatically associates the Fables with the opposite of mundane: sacred.  And though the novel doesn’t overtly discuss the way in which fables and the characters from them are sacred, just by implementing the name mundys the reader gets the sense that it’s a tacit aspect of the book.

But even better than playing off the mundane/sacred dichotomy, “mundys” is great because it associates all normal humans with Mondays.  Is there anything that could better get to the heart of the umagical, uninspired, uninteresting aspects of humans than the word Monday and all that it implies?  Dull and insipid.  Bored and uncolorful.  That’s a Monday/mundy for you.  It has become commonplace for people to use the term muggle colloquially.  But when I hear muggle from now on I’ll be thinking mundy instead.

Damn Good Name: Offred

Naming characters and places can be very challenging.  Obviously names are important.  You want them to sound good, sound real, and have the appropriate flavor (consider Mundungus Fletcher, if you will…).  But at the same time, names usually mean very little.  They are arbitrary markers.  Conglomerates of syllables — until you craft your character/place, of course.  Because the whole process is very mysterious to me, I’ve started this post category to explore what makes a damn good name.

Today’s damn good name is Offred from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fantasy novel The Handmaid’s Tale.  That’s right.  Offred.  Weird, huh?  Yet still passable for normal-ish.  Offred not only sounds cool, but furthers the story and adds depth to the story.  How?  Spoiler alert.  All the “handmaids” in the novel are referred to as Of-fill-in-the-blank-with-their-man’s-name.  So if you were assigned to be the procreating vessel for a man named Jim, your name would be OfJim.  OfJim sounds terrible, and it looks obvious too.  But Offred?  Brilliant.  Sounds vaguely Germanic and archaic, hence plausible.  And because it’s not obvious, the moment in the novel when you realize it’s not really her name but a patriarchal rebranding is one of the best (of many) parts of the novel.  Hats off to Atwood for a damn good name.