Have you ever noticed that if you read, I don’t know, ten Regency historical romances in a month, you start to see the same names over and over again?
William, James, Charles…Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia…
Why does this happen?
Well, as a historian and an author, let me give you some of my thoughts, which are 100% not scientific but based on my own experience, and a few comments from my author friends!
Firstly, there are some names that were super popular in the Regency era. Just like there was a time about a decade ago when every baby seemed to be named Oliver or Isla, there have been name fashions throughout history. So we see a huge number of Olivias in the historical record, for example. Many historical authors want to be accurate, so they choose these popular names.
Secondly, some of the names that were quite popular in the Regency era simply haven’t stuck it out to the 21st century, and so sound really odd to the modern ear. Be honest: would you read a book if the heroine was called Spencer, or Awellah, or Unity? Can you picture a duke called Americus, Coape, or Jahleel?
Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with these names! But they are unusual, and so often pull the reader out of the story.
And thirdly, we come to ‘the Tiffany effect’. The Tiffany effect is simple: it’s when something seems historically inaccurate, but it’s actually 100% true. For example, the name Tiffany was a popular name in medieval England, but it just seems…wrong? Doesn’t it?
In a similar way, there are names historically used in Regency England that sound far too modern, and so readers might complain that the author isn’t being historically accurate…even if they are! Examples include Miles, Sampson, Marina, and Angel.
So there you have it! Some of the complexities we authors face when it comes to naming characters 😅
Does anything in this blog surprise you?
I enjoy reading these blogs, they give me ataste and then I go and read some more.
I do actually read history, I enjoyed reading my old school history books. I’ve always been the sort of person, if I don’t know something, I look it up. It was instilled into me when I eas a child.
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Yay, history nerds! 😀