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agrippa1

Meaning in Rand's characters' names

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I've always been interested in how people come up with names for characters in their novels. Rand seems to take this art to a new level with some of her names.

On a personal level, it seems that "Francisco D'Anconia" is probably derived from "Frank O'Connor" and her Grandfather's name, Nate, a nod to Branden.

On a colloquial level are the names like "Mouch," "Boyle," and "Scudder" that pepper her writing.

Then on a higher plain, "Dagny" meaning "new day" in Norwegian, and "Ragnar" in old Norse meaning "judgment warrior," capture eloquently the characters those two.

A more complex construction is John Galt. "John" a Hebrew name derived from "Gift from God," and "galt," a variation of "gault," the Norwegian word, roughly, for "clay."

So John Galt literally means "clay, given from God." Now it gets interesting, because the word "galt" is so close to another word, so powerfully evoked in AS, "gold," or to use the closer derivative, "gilt." Maybe it's just a coincidence, but in order to transition the word meaning "clay from God" into the word meaning "gold," one must replace the the letter "A," which just happens to be the general indefinite article as well as Aristotle's shorthand for any possible entity, with the letter "I." It seems that a great deal of Rand's philosophy is captured in the deceptively simple name "John Galt."

I was just wondering if anyone has found other examples of Rand's imaginative use of names to evoke character in her writings.

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I find the ability of people to hypothesize about fictional names to be fascinating, especially the Galt mythology. Galt is the Norwegian neuter of "crazy, wrong", as in "Er noen galt" = "Is something wrong". Something was wrong, not just in the state of Denmark. I don't know this word "gault". John Galt was also a Scotsman and author who founded Guelph Ontario. I am more willing to believe it's an homage to the character Henry Galt from The Driver. And of course it's evocative of Germanic words meaning "gold, money".

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I find the ability of people to hypothesize about fictional names to be fascinating, especially the Galt mythology. Galt is the Norwegian neuter of "crazy, wrong", as in "Er noen galt" = "Is something wrong". Something was wrong, not just in the state of Denmark. I don't know this word "gault". John Galt was also a Scotsman and author who founded Guelph Ontario. I am more willing to believe it's an homage to the character Henry Galt from The Driver. And of course it's evocative of Germanic words meaning "gold, money".

Yeah, I was going to hypothesize about the possible meaning of "Greenspan," but then I remembered that he's not fictional. :)

Galt/Gault is a proper noun for an archaeological clay layer in England, derived from Norw. "gald" meaning "hard ground."

But this is much better.

And thanks for "The Driver." I got an email from Mises.org a few months ago asking "Who is Garet Garrett?" I had no idea, and I never had a chance to read the piece. BTW, the novel is available on mises.org in pdf format here.

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For what it's worth, I think Rand said she picked her characters' names solely based on the way they sounded.

Yes, I think that is on one of the taped lectures somewhere. I think it is one that is officially by Dr Peikoff but where Miss Rand comes in to answer questions later. If anyone else remembers it, it is the one where she notes that she picked the names Roark and Rearden because she loves the rolling-R sound. That their initials are both HR is a coincidence resulting at least partly from that.

JJM

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Without digging into etymologies or obscure histories of names, just listening to the names of the weenie characters in her books, you know that life wouldn't be worth living if you had the name "Wesley Mouch", "Bertram Scudder", "Kip Chalmers" or "Tinky Holloway".

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Without digging into etymologies or obscure histories of names, just listening to the names of the weenie characters in her books, you know that life wouldn't be worth living if you had the name "Wesley Mouch", "Bertram Scudder", "Kip Chalmers" or "Tinky Holloway".

She had the same snarky sense of humor in naming her less-likeable characters in her early writings. I haven't read it for a while, but I recall getting a chuckle out of some of the names in The Early Ayn Rand... I think there was a story called The Little Street, or something like that, which had some especially good ones.

--SpiralTheorist--

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She had the same snarky sense of humor in naming her less-likeable characters in her early writings. I haven't read it for a while, but I recall getting a chuckle out of some of the names in The Early Ayn Rand... I think there was a story called The Little Street, or something like that, which had some especially good ones.

--SpiralTheorist--

Different subject, but do you think there's a possibility that Pasternak stole from Rand? Dr. Zhivago was published long after "We The Living" Lara is close to Kira, and the Victor characters are uncannily close.

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According to one of the essays in the book on We The Living (edited by Robert Mayhew) many of the minor character names were pretty derogatory--but you had to know Russian to catch on (names translating to things like Pig Snout, etc.).

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Different subject, but do you think there's a possibility that Pasternak stole from Rand? Dr. Zhivago was published long after "We The Living" Lara is close to Kira, and the Victor characters are uncannily close.

Doubt it. I haven't read Dr. Zhivago, but from the info I can find on Wikipedia, Pasternak began writing it around 1910-20. It wasn't published until the late '50s, but I doubt he would have come in contact with Rand's writing during that time period.

Excerpt from Essays on Ayn Rand's We The Living

There were 3000 copies in the first printing, in 1936, and it didn't get reprinted until 1956, the same year Dr. Zhivago was completed. The odds that there was any influence seem diminishingly small.

In general, I'm skeptical of "x influenced y" arguments based on literary parallels. A lot of people have jumped on Heinlein's recently published early novel "For Us, The Living" as being obviously a Rand derivative. I doubt it, for the same reasons - it's highly unlikely an author in 1938 would have heard of Rand, much less have read her. (That said, there's no doubt he read her later.) That book, by the way - as a fan of Heinlein I feel obligated to mention this - sucked.

--SpiralTheorist--

EDIT: Yeah, that's what I get for hasty research. If you look on the next page down at the link above, you'll see (as I just did) that the European publishers of We The Living were much more successful than those in the US, and it was readily available for quite a while in various European countries. I still doubt the book would have made its way to Pasternak, but who knows. In any case, I think you'd need a bit more than a few similar characters to even say it's worth seriously considering.

Edited by SpiralTheorist

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I think "John Galt" just sounds really good. It's incredibly simple, very American and very strange at the same time. When I hear the sound "Galt," separated from the character, I sort of think of "god," "altar," "gold," even "art," though I obviously have no idea what AR was thinking about when she decided on it. And actually, I picture a flying eagle, and I don't know why, haha. I'm sure there is some word that has a similar sound which is somehow associated with eagles.

Also, John is just the ideal Anglo/American first name, a name that is so common and so associated with Western Culture that it is appropriate for the man who is, basically, everything to everyone.

I do know that Ragnar Danneskjold is taken from Hugo's early, early novel Hans of Iceland.

Oh, and Greenspan is a fictional character. He is as fictitious as the money he created.

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On a personal level, it seems that "Francisco D'Anconia" is probably derived from "Frank O'Connor"

That is something Ayn Rand denied ... sort of ... in 1966. I was part of a group of 3-4 people talking to Miss Rand after an NBI lecture and we were discussing naming children. She was very opposed to naming children after their parents or after living people because she thought a child should have his own identity.

Then I asked her, "What about naming fictional characters after real people." She said she was against that too and that she chose her character names if she liked the sounds and the associations with similar words. She cited Lois Cook making rhymes out of "Toohey."

I didn't completely buy that, so I asked "How do you say Frank O'Connor in Spanish?" She smiled a great big innocent smile and said, "That does sound good, doesn't it?"

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One of the speakers (I think it was Binswanger, but I can't recall) at the Atlas Shrugged 50th anniversary event at NYU corroborated Betsy's story. It was funny, because one speaker said something about the Frank/Francisco connection, then the very next speaker pointed out Rand's preference of not naming fictional characters after real people.

--Dan Edge

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That is something Ayn Rand denied ... sort of ... in 1966. I was part of a group of 3-4 people talking to Miss Rand after an NBI lecture ...

What a wonderful anecdote! :thumbsup:

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Not that "SparkNotes" is a reliable source of literary analysis, but I did notice in their analysis of The Fountainhead that they hypothesized the derivation of Howard Roark from "Hard Rock". This would make sense due to the fact that Howard is probably one of Rand's most morally unyielding characters she has ever created. His moral concreteness is paralelled by his ability and enjoyment of the simple tasks of breaking and shaping rocks that he completed while working at the quarry. He was a man harder than granite when it came to what other people thought of him.

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Just found an interesting reference to Danneskjold... Apparently Danneskiold was a family name created for several illegitimate children of Dano-Norwegian monarchs of the 17th century. I believe it translates to "Danish shield" but I'm guessing on the dannes part.

All modern Danneskjolds trace their lineage to the illegitimate children of Sofie Amalie Moth, mistress to Christian V of Denmark, who were originally given the surname:

Gyldenløve.

Edited by agrippa1

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I find it hard to believe she didn't put at least some thought into the names as I have noticed a few things in particular. Perhaps circumstance, perhaps subconscious on her part.

Orren: pale or light

I would read that as lacking color or vividness.

Boyle: 'vain pledge'

and of course if she picked them based on sound, Boyle also sounds like 'boil' which can have a couple of meanings, of course one being to cook in hot water which of course turns something solid or liquid into a non-corporeal gaseous state, and also the legion that can be found on the skin. A stretch, I know, but the sound of the latter again, represents a connotative subconscious discomfort so probably had at least some significance.

Hank: diminutive of Henry and apparently in some cases also of 'John' (from Johan??), meaning 'home ruler' or one who holds power over his own domain

Reardon: royal bard

Wesley means simply 'western meadow' so again fall back on sound and the full name sounds like 'Weaselly mooch'

Mouche is also a french word meaning 'fly' or 'pesky insect' as well as meaning a parasitic insect.

Taggart: son of the priest

Perhaps also a stretch due to non-religious views, but if there was anything akin to a religious notion in Shrugged, it was that of the business world. The priest of business would be the builder of the Taggart line.

Dagney: scandanavian for 'New Day'

James: now here's where I don't think the names are completely and strictly by 'chance' because James is a derivative of Jacob. and means 'He who supplants. usurper: one who wrongfully or illegally seizes and holds the place of another'

Now tell me that is just happenstance????

Midas is a given as the mythology of one who turns to gold anything he touches.

Mulligan: (Origin Gaelic) Locality. Mullechean, the top or summit, a height

In addition to the things you point out about Galt, it is also shown in one reference I found to be a derivative of Walt or Walter 'commander of the army'

Stadler means 'Lives near or works in a barn' I'm guessing that's a nice way of saying "one who shovels manure" - someone pointed out to me it has a Yiddish meaning also [from Hebrew shtadlan, meaning compromiser, appeaser, lobbyist] (originally a Jew who works for anti-Semites)

Robert meaning simply 'bright fame'

Put the two together and you get either 'famous for shoveling crap' or 'turning against his people / working for the enemy'

I'm still looking into names, but there are a lot more hits than misses on them. Some are likely coincidence, but that James one really got my attention

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Some names seem obvious from the sounds.

John Galt-gaunt tall gold gelt (gold money)

Orren Boyle=sore boil

Wesley Mouch=weasely mooch ouch

Bertram Scudder=burr tramp cruddy

Tinky Holloway=hollow tinkling

Robert Stadler-staid stagnant

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I also looked up Francisco D'Anconia. I had a link somewhere on the meaning of the last name, but I'm having a hard time finding it now. (I think google changed something in how they are weighting search results, as anytime I put in anything with Anconia now it brings up links to the money speech that I search for and use a lot)

Francisco means 'free man' in Spanish.

The link I found on D'Anconia said it meant something akin to 'of very high price' or essentially 'not for sale' akin to 'that which cannot be purchased at any price'

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For what it's worth, I think Rand said she picked her characters' names solely based on the way they sounded.

--SpiralTheorist--

Yes, I think that is on one of the taped lectures somewhere. I think it is one that is officially by Dr Peikoff but where Miss Rand comes in to answer questions later. If anyone else remembers it, it is the one where she notes that she picked the names Roark and Rearden because she loves the rolling-R sound. That their initials are both HR is a coincidence resulting at least partly from that.

JJM

Yes, Ayn Rand answered this question directly. The text is in Ayn Rand Questions and Answers on page 195.

Q:
"How did you select the names of your fictional characters?"

Ayn Rand :
"My characters are not named after real people. I made a long list of first and last names for both heroes..."

If I remember correctly after that she states something about them sounding good together.

Edited by freestyle

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Yes, I think that is on one of the taped lectures somewhere. I think it is one that is officially by Dr Peikoff but where Miss Rand comes in to answer questions later. If anyone else remembers it, it is the one where she notes that she picked the names Roark and Rearden because she loves the rolling-R sound. That their initials are both HR is a coincidence resulting at least partly from that.

On the other hand, I got a good laugh when our Atlas Shrugged Reading Group got to the scene where Eddie Willers discovered a bathrobe monogrammed "HR" at Dagny's place. "Oh no, she's sleeping with Howard Roark!"

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