Season XVIII – Alphaday 9

Hi Alphas,

Welcome to Alphaday 9, Season XVIII. We progress – both literally and (I hope) metaphorically. We’ve still got plenty left of this season and the nearer we get to the end, the more intense and fulfilling each Alphaday seems to be.

I think you’ll agree with me on this point when you see what the Alpha team has put together for us this Alphaday. It’s all work, of course, but sometimes we actually enjoy work.

This is what’s been prepared for today by our brilliant Alpha team with an ample input from all the rest of you:

Alphaday 9, Season XVIII agenda:

  • This bulletin from me
  • The brief for Challenge 7 from Cat
  • The collated entries for the ‘hitherto unknown person’ from Rick
  • Results and feedback for the Open Page 2nd edition from Christine
  • A call for contributions for Alpha Log 6 from Phil

I have no particular Alpha news to announce. Hopefully that means you’re all fine and busy with writerly and other useful occupations.

The general news is inspired your writings and other things.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

It takes time and careful thought to choose a name for our characters. Names have associations and connotations that we either accept or avoid. Shakespeare was referring to the family names of his two main characters. Today the names of Romeo and Juliet have their own connotations.

Dickens was brilliant at choosing names that conjured up a realm of ideas. If a scrooge wasn’t a generic noun at the time he wrote the Christmas Carols it certainly is now. As for the mere sound of the name Uriah Heep, it makes my skin creep.

Even the rose can acquire sinister overtones, as illustrated in one of the OP2 entries. These overtones creep into the name-choosing in many ways nowadays. We need to be more circumspect than ever to avoid the wrong connotations. Even naming the Covid-variants ran into troubled waters. At first they were named after the place where they first manifested themselves, but Wuhan and Kent felt stigmatised and the WHO decided to use the Greek alphabet. A long line of variants were listed that way until they reached Nu. As a homophone of ‘new’ it was deemed confusing. Next was Xi. The WHO explained that Xi was a common surname – without mentioning that it was the name of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping who might be offended if a Covid variant was named after him.

That’s where politics and woke culture rear their ugly heads. It used to be joke back in the 1980s thinking up funny, posh PC titles for charladies and the like. It’s no longer a joke. When Rhodesia changed its name to Zimbabwe, this was understandable. It wouldn’t change the past, but it could make a difference for the future of that country.

When the concert hall in Bristol, UK, formerly known as the Colston Hall, was renamed as the Bristol Beacon the influence this might have on either the past or the future seems dubious.

Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader, was unaware of the BLM movement, or perhaps he just blatantly ignored it. It took nearly a century and a half after his death before society recognised the atrocious crimes of slavery. Colston was punished posthumously for his sins, his effigy drowned in the Severn and his name stripped from the concert hall. That’s how much there is in a name.

One OP2 entry has a much lighter take on the problem of choosing a suitable name. There is, however, a serious side to the discussion about which name out of Pancake, Sausage and Bailey would be best for a puppy. Another entry features DS Lark Calmly and Ariadne Fairfield. These unusual names have no doubt been chosen for a reason. There’s one entry with names that are so foreign that I can’t even pronounce them. They impress and colour the narrative, but they’re real names, I presume, and that’s different.

How much trouble do you take when you name your characters?

Christine

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