WHATSISNAME? by Joy Margetts
Recently I have been doing some research for a novel. I write historical fiction so I like to mention real people, real places and real events. Anything to help give my historical setting authenticity. It was while searching for some of these ‘real’ people – as in people whose names and deeds are recorded in history – that I came across some intriguing names. My books are set in medieval Wales so that does explain some of the unusual spellings and meanings I have come across.
The first that caught my interest was Gwenwynwyn ap Owain Cyfeiliog (d 1216). It bothered me because his first name sounded rather soft for someone who was regarded as quite a formidable ruler in his day. Too many ‘wyn’s for a start. And then my Welsh speaking son informed me that Gwenwyn means poison. Ah, makes more sense, I thought! Incidentally, he was the son of (ap) Owain Cyfeiliog who was apparently a poet as well as a ruler. I guess he named his son?!
My favourite find was Rhys Gryg, or in translation, Rhys the hoarse (d.1234) another minor Welsh prince. Sad that his memorable feature was that he had a husky voice. But then many other prominent figures of the past have been given nicknames to do with how they looked or behaved, nicknames that have stuck: Longshanks, Lionheart, Lackland.
haven’t ever met a ‘Jones the …’, but ‘Huw
Taxi’ drove my kids to school and ‘Dai Post’ delivered our mail!
So what if we decided to rename ourselves according to a physical attribution, a character trait, or indeed by occupation? I could be ‘Joy the Grey’, but that implies a level of wizardly wisdom I cannot claim to possess. More like ‘Joy the short-sighted’ as my reading glasses are now my constant companion. I could also be ‘Joy the Procrastinator’. Expert at that. As to my occupation, I could refer to myself as ‘Joy the Writer’, but in true Welsh tradition it would have to be contracted… so, ‘Joy laptop’ maybe?
Have you come across or used any magnificent names in your research or writing? What about if you retitled yourself according to the guidelines above? I’d love to hear those!
Joy Margetts has loved writing for as long as she can remember. A retired nurse, mother of two, and a new grandparent, she also has a lifelong interest in history. She makes her home on the beautiful North Wales coast.
Her debut novel 'The Healing', a work of historic fiction, was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. Joy has also self published a short novella, 'The Beloved' as both a companion to 'The Healing', and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available on Amazon Kindle. Her second full - length novel, 'The Pilgrim', was published by Instant Apostle in July 2022
More information on Joy and her writing, and her personal blog, can be found here www.joymargetts.com