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  • Sally Jameson Bond

“What’s in a name?”


“That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” Sound familiar? I’m sure many of you will know these words came from William Shakespeare’s pen—Romeo and Juliet—Juliet’s Act 2 Scene 2 balcony soliloquy. (I still love the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli film with Olivia Hussey as Juliet and Leonard Whiting as Romeo. It was the first VHS movie we purchased back in the mid-1980s after we brought our first VCR home. Now we own the DVD, and we do watch it from time to time.) For some reason, I find it interesting that Shakespeare used contractions in his works. But “What is in a name?” just doesn’t cut it, does it? I guess old Will knew what he was doing.



I gave a lot of thought to names as I wrote My Mother’s Friend. I didn’t follow any of the rules you can find online. Maybe I should have, but I rather enjoyed just picking some of my character names out of thin air. My regular readers will know about Phee, my protagonist, who is named after my mom. I did honor my siblings in some fashion in the book, and in some cases, I used names I knew or had heard that I really liked (Zetterholm, for instance—Phee's piano teacher is Edith Zetterholm). Occasionally, I’d get stuck and would grab the Algona phone book I picked up on one of my visits. Or I’d check copies of the Algona newspapers from 1944 and 1945 and lift a name—sometimes a given name, sometimes a last name—from those pages. I named my German POW Horst because my library colleague, Jeffrey, told me it was his favorite German male name.


In the 1940s, a married woman almost always went by her husband’s’ name, and often, only initials were used (e.g., Mrs. J. V. Smith instead of Mrs. John V. Smith or Mrs. Emma Smith). Just for grins, I recently perused the first two pages of the November 14, 1944 edition of the Algona Upper Des Moines newspaper, looking for given names. I found many time-honored monikers—John, Bob, Elizabeth, Mary, Tom, Paul, Jean, David, Theresa, Don, Joe—names you’d easily find in today’s newspapers. But, in the 1944 paper, I found plenty of names you won’t often find today (except in the obituaries, maybe). Here’s a sample. (I saw some of them more than once.)


Ardis…Alvin…Avis…Adele…Arlene…Anton…Audrey…Albert…Angeline…Austin…Betty…Bert…Beryl…Bernold…Bernard…Beatrice…Chet…Campbell…Carl…Clarence…Clyde…Clayton…Cecelia…Duane…Delmar…Eugene…Earl…Everett…Erma…Ernest…Elmer (coincidently, Elmer is the middle name of both of my grandfathers)…Evroul…Fred…Frank…Frances…Flora…Forrest…Florence…Fenton…George…Harley…Hattie…Harvey…Harry…Isabelle…Ida…Ivan…Jerry…Jennie…Jakie…Kay…Kenneth…Leonard…Lucille…Lurena…Loren…Lawrence…Lewis…Louis…Matilda…May…Myrtle…Myron…Marjorie…Marion…Mae…Martin…Newton…Norma…Nels…Naomi…Oscar…Pauline…Phil…Phyllis…Raymond…Ray…Roy…Rufus…Roland…Shelby…Sanford…Sadie…Sylvia…Susie…Thais…Victor…Walter…Wilbur…Wilfred…Wallace


I do know old-timey names are making a comeback. My niece in Wisconsin will give birth to her second child at the end of December. It’s a girl, and they’ve chosen Hazel (which goes quite well with her older brother, Henry). Hazel was my dad’s mom’s name. My niece didn’t know that her great-grandmother’s name was Hazel when she and her husband selected it for their daughter. I love that coincidence.




When Joe and I were in Italy in 2010, we made a day trip to Verona (the setting for Romeo and Juliet) from our base in Padua. We did the touristy thing, visiting the balcony where Juliet didn’t make her impassioned soliloquy. But it was fun to be there with all the other Shakespeare fans. That evening, we had dinner at Osteria al Duca where we asked our friendly server for recommendations. She was confident we’d enjoy a pasta dish with donkey meat (no kidding). It tasted like hamburger . . . sort of.


Oh, and just so you know, Romeo and Juliet makes a brief appearance in chapter 25 of My Mother’s Friend. Also, Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey are now 71 and 70 years old, respectively. After forty-seven years, they reunited in 2015 in the movie Social Suicide. I think we missed that one.


Many thanks to our friend Rod in Lucca (that’s in Italy) for translating the Juliet plaque above.


Blessings to all.



Sally Jameson Bond is retired and lives in Southwest Virginia with her husband and two dogs. My Mother’s Friend is her first novel. You can find her web site here: www.sallyjamesonbond.com.



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