What’s in a Name?

A tee-shirt

I bought in

Shanghai.

I think it

stands for

“I love Sue

Healy”.

In Hungary, a person gets two celebratory days a year: your birthday and your name day. I lived in Hungary for a dozen years and love marking my nameday on February 19th. And I’d encourage the same for all my fellow Sues, Suzannes, Susans, Susies, Zsuzsas, Zsuzsis and Zsuzsannas. 

I have a mixed feelings about my name, however. Sue (or ratehr the homophonic ‘Szu’)  means ‘woodworm’ in Hungarian, ‘drunk’ in French and ‘death’ in Chinese, none of which is terribly sexy. Unlike in Ireland where I was born, in the UK, where I now live, Sue is a very common name. Moreover, the moniker is associated with a generation older then myself. Nonetheless, my name is something my parents gave me, so I wouldn’t change it for anything. Issues around my name have made me quite a name nerd and as a writer, I’m very interested in the associations created by names. 

Writers often choose names to reflect a character’s traits. Dickens was king of this device and his characters’ names are often a byword for their leading trait (Scrooge, Uriah Heap, Havisham). Arguably, JK Rowling is the modern name guru, her choices instantly evocative and revealing (think of Snape, Hermoine, Minerva McGonagall, Peter Pettigrew).  And think of Hannibal Lecter, in light of nominative determinism, what person named Hannibal was ever going to be anything but a cannibal. 

Conan Doyle chose very unusual names for the unusual Holmes family (Mycroft and Sherlock). Conan Doyle’s mother came from my home county of Waterford in Ireland, and he spent summers there as a young man. I’m convinced it was in Waterford the author first heard the name ‘Sherlock’ and it stuck. It’s not an uncommon name in that county as a surname, and growing up, I knew at least one man with it as a first name. An elementary deduction really…  

About suehealy

From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln, a Creative Writing tutor at City Lit and the Irish Editor at TheTheatreTimes.com. Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer. TV Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series. Stage Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts). Radio Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. Prose Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy. An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus. View all posts by suehealy

2 responses to “What’s in a Name?

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