What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
This is one of Shakespeare's most famous lines, but it often makes me wonder how much we actually believe it nowadays. Because of our knowledge of the world around us & the things & people in it, I think it would be hard for us to even want to sniff a rose if it were instead called "vomit," or even something less gross, like "red stick." Would we be able to truly idolize a person whose last name was Hitler, even if that person were to finally put an end to cancer or AIDS, or would our minds immediately jump to the other, more horrible person who first had that name?
The same is true when it comes to people's names, at least, for me. I've known quite a few men named Robert (in one iteration or another) in my life, & have even dated a couple of them. However, all but one of those experiences was bad, so somewhere in my twenties, I knew I wouldn't be able to date or even marry a "Robert" again, no matter how nice the guy might be. I also have preconceived notions about women named Brooke (not good), & James or Chris (both good), & I've known Jennifer's on both ends of the spectrum.
Another aspect of names that bugs me are adults who use a childish form of their names. For example, Bobby, or Danny, or even Jenny or Susie. All of those iterations bring to my mind someone younger than 13. When I hear of an adult going by one of those, I immediately think his/her maturity level isn't on par with their chronological age. It might be an unfair assumption, but I still make it.
That prejudice stems from my mother always treating me as an equal. Even when I was a little girl, she treated me as if I were 20 or 30 years old. She never talked down to me (or other children, for that matter), or used the baby talk, & it always grated on her when someone else did. I've taken those traits on myself, & have even gone so far as to think that putting an "ie" sound at the end of someone's name is talking down to them. When they do it to themselves, that's where my thoughts about their own maturity come into play.
These are all things that come into play when I set out to name the characters in my books. I haven't yet named a character any of the examples above, but when I do, I'm certain that these prejudices will creep into the characteristics of whomever I use that name for.
How about you? Do you have any automatic thoughts when you hear a certain name? Do you use those thoughts when creating your characters, or are you able to put them aside when doling out names?