Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Looking for hidden meanings

Sound Symbolism. Ever heard of it? Me neither until I read an article in my online newsletter from RWA.

The idea is that certain sounds as presented in language have meaning, and that the letters used to represent them have meaning. It's all very academic. Or is that new age? I get confused.

If you want, you can read more about it on Wikipedia. Me? I'm going to skip right to the fun part -- putting a barely understood theory into use.

Margaret Magnus, who wrote Gods of the Word: Archetypes in the Consonants, has a chart on her website that allows you to examine names for their hidden meanings, called The Hidden Message in Your Name.

She takes the idea a little further, though, and suggests that the names that people choose to call you, the nicknames and variations on your given name, reflect how those people think about you.

I thought it would be fun to look at my own name and see what came up. I looked at "Haley" and my sometimes nicknames of "Hal" and "Hughes". The directions say to look at the stressed syllable of the name, which would be "Ha" for Haley, "Hal", and "Hu" for Hughes (taking into consideration that the "gh" is mostly silent and not represented in the chart).

So what did I find out? In all three variations, I get themes of "elastic" and "going with the flow", which are pretty much the same thing, and "home" , which I interpret as homeward facing, being self-reflective and self-critical. I'm sure I'm missing several nuances in my quick interpretation, but that's the gist of things.

Does it seem to be in the ballpark for how people view me and how I view myself? As much as I can tell. You tell me: Based on what you read here, does it?

But enough about me.

The whole reason this subject was written up in my romance writers newsletter was because it could be a fun way to examine character names in the stories we write.

So, I looked at the two main female characters I've been imagining over the years, twins named Natasha and Tatiana. And here's where I thought things got interesting. In both names, the stressed syllable is "ta". In the case of Natasha, it's the middle syllable, and in the case of Tatiana, it's the first syllable.

The short "a" sound in "ta" is suggested as being "balanced and flat", which I'm not sure how to interpret. They're well-balanced characters? Or they're flat characters? (Which is really bad in fiction writing.)

The "t" in "ta" is suggested as meaning "Temptation. 't' is the letter of the dreamer, the designer of grand schemes, the traveller who follows her star", which I thought was really appropriate since both characters are travellers, time travellers to be exact. And there are some grand schemes involved in their lives. And they're heroines in romance novels, so of course there's lots of temptation. :P

If there's any truth to this sound symbolism stuff, then my sub-conscious was working hard when I came up with the names Natasha and Tatiana.

Anyway, I thought it was a fun experiment, and I thought you might have fun with it, too. So, I'm wondering: What's the hidden message is your name? Did you find any accuracy in the interpretation? Or is it all bonkers?


  1. Hey this is really fascinating stuff! I love hidden meaning stuff!! Great work Haley!

  2. Yay! You have the new comment box too :)
    In counselling lessons, we have had to do a bit of work on archetypes in dreams and art work. I had not heard of it in names before, but I suppose it makes some sense. I will come back tomorrow and look at the link, I am off to bed now :)

  3. Interesting... of course, I did my name (don't we all?). And it wasn't really off the mark at all. I did my sister's, too, and that also seemed to hold true. Thanks - helps to lighten the mood (appropriately) going into the holiday weekend.

  4. @fragileheart -- Thanks!

    @Claire -- I got the new comment box idea from you. Installed it ASAP. Love it, too.

    @Jessica -- I'm glad it held true for you, and that it helped lighten your mood.

  5. Claire did a wonderful job! Nice to see her serious side for a spell.

    The novel Prairie Fire - it is a published piece, or still in the works?


Hi! Feel free to leave a comment. You do your part, and I'll try to keep the conversation going.