Category Archives: What's in a Name?

What’s in a Vampire Name?

Contrary to popular belief, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was not named after Vlad the Impaler. It is believed that Bram Stoker would have known very little about Vlad, “certainly not enough to have been inspired to base Count Dracula on him.” In fact, Stoker discovered the name Dracula in an old book with a footnote suggesting it came from a Romanian word for “devil”, which was, obviously, appropriate for his main character. Until then, the name he had in mind for his spooky Count was Wampyr. Yes, the best known vampire in history was almost Wampyr the Vampire.

The 1922 German film Nosferatu stole the story of Dracula and hoped to get away with it by changing the characters’ names, including that of the main character to Count Orlok. The Stoker estate successfully sued the production company for copyright infringement, leaving the company bankrupt and proving that a Dracula by any other name was … well, illegal. (Dracula has always been in the public domain in the United States, but in the United Kingdom and other countries the novel was under copyright until April 1962, fifty years after Stoker’s death.)

Dracula lends itself wonderfully to parodies. The Bugs Bunny cartoon Transylvania 6-5000 features Count Blood Count; Count Duckula is “a little bit Dracula, a little bit Daffy Duck”; Count Chocula has his own cereal; Count Floyd hosted SCTV’s Monster Chiller Horror Theater; and toddler favourite Count von Count lives on Sesame Street and helps his audience learn to count. “They call me the Count because I love to count things!  One friend from Sesame Street, plus one friend from Sesame Street, equals two friends from Sesame Street! Ah, ha, ha!”

In early tales, the starring vampires often had titles, including Sir Francis Varney in the 1847 serial Varney the Vampire, and Lord Ruthven in The Vampyre, 1918.

Anne Rice says her inspiration for the character Lestat de Lioncourt, star of the hugely popular Vampire Chronicles, came largely from her husband, poet and artist Stan Rice. The name Lestat is, or is meant to sound like, an old French name.

Angel, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was once one of the nastiest of the nasty.  He terrorized Europe in the 1700s as Angelus before being cursed with a soul, a punishment designed to make him suffer eternally for his past crimes. The name Angelus is obviously ironic, referencing the handsome demeanour hiding the monster within. As Angel entering the 21st century, the vampire with a soul spent all of his time helping others.

In modern times, vampire names have become less formal, allowing them to fit in with today’s society. The vampires in the recent Twilight series were born in the early 1900s and have simple names from that period: Edward, James, Victoria, etc.

And that brings us to the current American television series True Blood, which features a vampire lead character. Through the last couple of hundred years of vampire fiction we’ve gone from Counts to … Bill.

If your horse or other pet has expressed an interest in getting into character for Halloween, search on-line for vampire names for your dog, horse, etc. and a site will come up – no kidding – with suggestions such as Igor (faithful assistant) and Blade (Tomb of Dracula).

To discover your own vampire name, search for vampire name generators and you’ll find several sites. My vampire name is Karula Drifher. I like it.

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Vacation Notes

Many years ago when driving through a very small town in northern Ontario while on vacation with friends, we passed a gift shop called Charlotte’s Web. I have no idea what goods the little store offered and only a vague recollection of its location, but I’ve always remembered the name because as a child I loved the book Charlotte’s Web and reread it regularly. For over twenty years I’ve assumed that the shop owner’s name was Charlotte and imagined a charming store interior overflowing with unique and lovely giftware, an image based solely on my affection for the book the store was named after.

During my recent vacation, I attempted to take note of any interesting names or company mottos that struck me as clever or funny or memorable. My observation is that there wasn’t a lot to observe. My jottings didn’t fill the small piece of notepaper I kept folded in my camera case, partly because the establishments at Trump’s Taj Mahal hotel in Atlantic City have names that couldn’t be any simpler. The floral boutique is called Stem and the accessories store Accents. There are restaurants called Plate and Burger, and the candy store is called … wait for it … Candy. Located down the boardwalk is IT’SUGAR. Candy stores don’t have to worry about using fancy names to attract customers. After extensive research (keeping a bowl of candy on my desk at the office) I can confidently report that people have a sixth sense about sugar. If there are sweets within a mile of them, they’ll sniff them out. I guess that kudos should go to the owner of Nuts About You for adding a few superfluous words to the store’s name.

IT'SUGAR - The elephant in the photo is made of thousands of jelly beans.

IT'SUGAR - The elephant in the photo is made of hundreds of thousands of jelly beans.

The most interesting restaurant names I saw in our travels were Salad Too Grill, One Fish, Two Fish and a fondue restaurant called The Melting Pot – dip into something different. The bar/bistro on The Avenue of the Arts across the street from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia is named Standing O.

I also like the drycleaners called My-T-Fine Cleaners.

Manicurists are highly susceptible to state the obviousitis. Under the name of the shop on one window it said “We like to do your nails.” That’s reassuring. Do you suppose they’re making a dig at someone? Sure, you can go to the competition and have your nails done, but they won’t like doing them!

On the shop window in another town it said “specializing in long and short nails”. I would think that covers it, but I’ve never been to a manicurist – is there such a thing as medium nails?

As we sped by one building we just caught the words “we buy the old”. Hopefully they’re referring to people’s old books and household trinkets and not their grandparents.

For the sake of my research, I would have been willing to stay on vacation and carry on with my observations but, sadly, holiday time is over.



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What’s in a Boat Name?

It is a well-known superstition that changing the name of a boat brings bad luck, but I never knew why until I read an article on recently. “Naming something, anything, serves to give it life, an energy of its own – and a mind of its own. When a boat is named and christened, energetically, it has been enlivened, and from that point on must be treated with the same respect that we would a person.”

Huh. Well, I can understand why a boat would be upset at suddenly having its name changed without so much as the courtesy of a consultation. It does seem wise, no matter your beliefs, to give serious thought to your yacht’s original name since you’ll probably – hopefully – be spending a lot of time on it. And sailors do come up with some witty and humourous choices.

Some people choose to go with a boat moniker that includes their name or that of a loved one: For Pete’s Sake, Sam I Am, and Robin’s Nest.

Other names reflect the owner’s career. A dentist owns Tooth Fairy, two nuclear engineers –Isotope, a vintner – Cabernet and C:> Prompt belongs to, I assume, a computer programmer.

Sailing has been described as “the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while slowly going nowhere at great expense.” There are lots of names that reference the cost involved in keeping a boat: Soggy Dollars, Cash Flow, Time and Money, Colin’s Tuition, Moby Debt, and Last Nickel.

Some names reflect the brand of boat. I’ve seen several X-boats with interesting names: EXoteric, Xtra, Xtra, and XTC.

Many sailboats have names that express a sailing/water related play on words: Wake My Day, Keel-Joy, Sails Call, Sloop du Jour, Mast Confusion, Anchor Management, and Going Coastal. Just about every word combination imaginable has been made using wind (Windsage, Windwizard, Summer Wind, Wind Dancer), sea (Sea Spray, Sea La Vie, Sea Ya) and knot (Knot Too Shabby, Fraid Knot, O.Y. Knot), among plenty of others.

I read online of a couple who couldn’t reach an agreement on a good boat name, so they finally gave up arguing and went with Whatsitsname. And I love this name, no doubt arrived at in a fashion similar to the aforementioned: Something Witty and Original.

This one makes me laugh: Ship Happens, and its accompanying dinghy Piece of Ship.

And so does this one: Never Again II.

Carpe Diem is, reportedly, one of the most popular names for a sailboat: I prefer Seas the Day.

Also popular are boat monikers that reflect their owners’ delight at being away from the office: Saturday’s Child, Mental Floss, Five Fifteen, Knot ‘til Monday, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Sabbatical, and my favourite, knot@work.calm.

I appreciate a name that includes an amusing play on words, while other people put that name on their list of top ten stupid boat names. I guess all that really matters is whether the boat likes it.


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