There are those writers who have a purpose in mind when they name characters. Ray Bradbury’s tattooed and mysterious “Mr Dark” in Something Wicked This Way Comes, for example, is a fitting name for someone who personifies evil. I had a reason for the name I chose for the heroine in my upcoming release For Your Eyes Only. Willa Heston, a physicist, is named after the author Willa Cather, mainly because I love her books O Pioneers, My Antonia, and Death Comes For The Archbishop, which, like For Your Eyes Only and A Basic Renovation, takes place in New Mexico. See that connection?
Using Heston for Willa’s last name was also deliberate choice; it’s my nod to the actor Charlton Heston. However, I did not know this would be the source of some trouble. No, I don’t mean the issue stems from Mr Heston’s work as a political activist or his 5 terms as president of the National Rifle Association. I picked Heston because, as a very young child, Chuck H seemed to be in EVERY movie I saw on TV. I understood nothing about his “Cold Dead Hands” NRA gun rights activism, but what I did know from those movies, the ones where Chuck was Moses, or fought off Apes, or rode in a chariot race, was Chuck was THE MAN, the HERO. As some of you may recall from earlier post (see Bondage of Another Sort), Heroic Chuck had a such huge influence on me that when it came time to picking a name for a woman who makes calm, deliberate choices I automatically, and quite geekily, reached for the Heston. This is where my geekiness backfired. In the novel, the name Heston becomes a bit of a joke, a play on the name, a gee, aren’t I so clever to do what people do in real life kinda thing. My cleverness backfired into a different meaning altogether, one I find absolutely hilarious.
My very dear Greek friend, Vassiliki, pointed out that in GREEK, Heston, or rather, χέστον, means “shit on him.” Willa Heston is actually Willa Shit on him.
Yeah, kids, I’m having a real life Alien Nation moment. You ever see that movie? It’s a bitchin’ ’80s science fiction film that stars Mandy Patinkin and James Caan. Patinkin plays the Newcomer alien, Samuel Francisco. Get it? Funny name, right? Yeah, ha-ha. But Caan is Matthew Sykes. Not so funny in English, but in the Newcomer language Sykes means shithead.
Thanks to Vassiliki @vaveros and Steven Moschidis, aka “@TheBeardedLlama” for this morning’s Greek lesson and revelation!
4 thoughts on “What’s In A Name? It’s All Geek (and Greek) To Me.”
Mea Culpa, mea culpa, mea bloody culpa. Though mea bloody laughing too 😀
Funniest damn thing. Ever.
Ose nose! I’m actually with you on Chuck. I think he was brilliant in those movies. Those characters could have been pompous cardboard cutouts and they’re all real people. He had genuine gravitas! By the way, did My Antonia when I was at uni and loved it – hardly anybody here has read it. Nice to meet another fan!
I adore Willa Cather, AC. ADORE. I found her after I read all the Laura Ingalls “Little House” books. I sort of considered her to be like a grown up Laura Ingalls, only with grown up content. I read her again when I was in my twenties and saw her writing from another perspective. LOVE HER! It seemed fitting to name the Willa in my book after her.