Monday, May 28, 2012
Too many Karens
Here is one thing you get a lot in life, but almost never in fiction: too many Karens.
I have at least four Karens in my life: my cousin, my colleague, my boss, and my hairdresser. Hi, Karens!
My cousin Karen has a brother called Tony. And a husband called Tony. And on the other side of the family I have an uncle called Tony. This doesn’t confuse me because I know every Karen and Tony as distinct individuals, but it might confuse you because to you they’re just names.
Real life is messy. Fiction has to be neater, but this ignores the fact that names, like anything, come in and out of fashion. When I was a kid, every second boy from school was called Mark. And every third one was called Jason.
When my family lived in Papua New Guinea, my father used to travel around a lot. I don’t know how much of it was necessary for his work, or how much he just liked to get out and explore the place. Once, my dad and three friends went to a village and introduced themselves as John, John, John and Mario. Then they had to try and explain how three men who weren’t from the same family could share a name. And that even though Mario’s grandfather had been on the other side in the war Mario was okay, but that’s a whole other story.
I can only think of one instance where I've seen this common name clash in fiction. This is from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams. Gordon Way is leaving a message on his sister's answering machine while driving home. Shortly afterwards he is shot and killed by an electric monk from another planet hiding in the boot of his car. And that's not the weirdest thing that happens.
"Make a note to Susan, would you please, to get an 'Armed Response' sign made up with a sharp spike on the bottom at the right height for rabbits to see. That's secretary Susan at the office, not you, of course."
Read this book. I promise that you'll never think the same about Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Are there any names overrepresented in your life?
Do you think we can use the same name for two different characters?
Would you? Or is it just easier not to?