Sunfire Romance Novels
In the 80s, the world was lit by Sunfire!

The Name Game, Part 1

And now for a strange interlude…

When I was young, I wanted each girl’s name (i.e., the title) to be long and elegant. I was always annoyed at the Schurfranz titles because she chose the shortest, plainest names. Maybe she was trying to connect with modern girls, but I always thought that, for example, “Cassie” should have been “Cassandra” and “Josie” should be “Josephine.”

So I was thinking about this the other day and started to wonder if some of these names were even historically accurate. By looking up name origins and etymology, I was able to find some interesting facts:

  • While “Cassandra” was pretty much always in existence (from the time of Troy), “Cassie” didn’t become a popular shortened form until the 1880s. So “Cassie,” set in the 1700s, really should have been “Cassandra.”
  • “Megan” only became an established independent name in the middle of the 20th century, so “Megan,” set in 1867, really should have been “Margaret.”
  • “Julie,” the English derivative of “Julia,” has only been common since the early 20th century. Although it was mentioned in a document in 1813, it’s much more likely that “Julie,” set a few years after the Civil War, would have been “Julia.”
  • “Heather” didn’t become a common name until the late 19th Century…not the 16th or 17th Century. I can’t remember there being any special statement about Heather being named for the flower (like her parents were thinking outside the box), so I think Heather should have had a completely different name more common to the era.
  • “Merrie” was a bigger mystery than I would have thought. I would have pegged it as a shortened form of “Meredith,” which would have been my suggested title…but Meredith was more often a boy’s name in that time period. Turns out that “Merrie” was actually a derivative of “Mercy,” which WOULD have fit perfectly with the Pilgrims, but probably wouldn’t have made any sales. (Wasn’t Sabrina’s cousin named Mercy?) Maybe Schurfranz was just going for a more flamboyant spelling of “Mary.”

Then I realized that at least some of these names had to be the most popular between 1983 and 1986, and I was right.

  • Jessica as the #2 name in 1983, #1 in 1986.
  • Amanda was #3 in both years.
  • Nicole was #7 in both years.
  • Heather was #9 in both years. (The movie “Heathers,” incidentally, didn’t come out til 1988, while the book was copyright 1987.)
  • Elizabeth was #10 in both years.
  • Megan was #21 in ’83, but up to #11 by ’86.
  • Rachel was #20 in ’83 and #15 in ’86.
  • Danielle was #29 in ’83 and all the way up to #16 by ’86.
  • Laura was #23 in ’83 and #20 in ’86.

In conclusion, I have to believe they were (at least part of the time) going for the most popular names at the time the books were written, and fitting some historically if they could (for example, “Elizabeth” was a good fit for its time period). But I think Heather and Megan, at least, totally missed the mark.


One Response to “The Name Game, Part 1”

  1. I thought this too! Merrie was kinda weird to me I don’t think it would have been Mercy cuz she wasn’t a puritain/pilgrim just stowed away with them. I will have to think what else it could be short for, doubful anyone named their kids Marilyn at that time and I agree with your meredith assessment.

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