Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Spiky names and round names – Alex English

Shortly after writing last month's post on naming characters, I stumbled upon a fascinating psychological study looking into how people judge your personality based solely on the sound of your name. It all comes down to whether a name sounds 'round' or 'spiky'.

Kiki the cactus

If your name sounds 'round' you can be seen as adaptable, easy-going, friendly, sensitive and versatile, but also introverted. But if you have a spiky name people are more likely to assume you are aggressive, harsh, mean and sarcastic. On the bright side, you also might be considered to be more determined than somebody with a 'rounder' name.

So what makes a name round or spiky?

Ella the cat

Spiky names contain short, sharp sounds like K and T, technically known as 'voiceless stops', which are the sort of sounds you make by blocking airflow in your vocal cords. Round names have resonant  M or L sounds in them in them. So Kiki is 'spiky' but Ella is 'round'.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that there was no connection between peoples' names and their actual personalities, it’s just a case of names being perceived in a certain way. And in real life, we would thankfully have much more to go on than simply a name. However, this research did get me thinking about how I could apply it to naming characters.

My current heroine is called Echo, which puts her firmly in camp spiky with that hard K sound in the middle. Her gentler sidekick, Horace, is 'round' in both name and character. Chance? Or have I subconsciously named these characters according to the rules of sound?

I’m not sure, but as a spiky Alex I probably wouldn't tell you anyway!

How about you? Is your name rounded or spiky? How about those of your characters?

Alex English is a graduate of Bath Spa University's MA Writing for Young People. Her new middle-grade series SKY PIRATES launches in July 2020 with Simon & Schuster. 

Her picture books Yuck said the Yak, Pirates Don't Drive Diggers and Mine Mine Mine said the Porcupine are published by Maverick Arts Publishing. More of her picture books are forthcoming in 2021/2022.


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