What’s in a Name?

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

December 22, 2016

nameA name shoulders many burdens. It’s a label that identifies, extends heritage and defines. It can reveal relations, gender or culture. A name can also be unexpected and break such traditions. To name a thing is to give it life.

Writers explored names and naming in this collection. What’s in a name and how does it matter to the story? As one writer pointed out, we name to connect. Read and connect.

The following are based on the December 15, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) explore the importance of a name within a story.


The Devil’s in the Detail by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why did you call me Penelope?’ Penny said, apropos of nothing.

Mary smiled. ‘We just liked the name.’

Paul laughed. ‘You mum had a fixation with Lady Penelope.’ When Penny looked blank, Paul, said, ‘Thunderbirds. Your grandma had a doll and gave it to mum.’

‘You named me after a doll? Susan got hers from her grandma and Ginny from some tennis player. At least they were real.’

Paul and Mary exchanged a look causing Penny to leave in a huff.

Later Penny watched old episodes on YouTube. Even though you saw the strings, Lady Penelope was rather cool.


Puppy Names (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Selling puppies became a town spectacle. Ike’s coffee buddies showed up to chaperone, making certain Ike’s pups went to good hunting homes. Danni didn’t care if they hunted. Everyone wanted the male, including this couple.

“He bites,” said Danni. On cue, Bubbie chomped the tender spot behind Greg’s knee, pinching the skin. Danni diverted Bubbie, smiling.

They bought one of the roan sisters. Trina suggested the name Maria, and Greg countered with Cooper or North. Len from the coffee klatch suggested Buckshot.

As the couple drove off, Danni turned to Len. “Seriously? You’d name one of these girls Buckshot?”


Sooner by Ann Edall-Robson

The little pup squirmed in his arms. The runt of the litter was his best friend. They did everything together. The Librarian would even let the dog come inside. Following him between the rows, looking for a book to take to their favourite spot where he would read out loud to his four footed partner.

Now, it was all a memory, except for the pictures on the mantel.

“What’s his name?”


“That’s an odd name.”

“Naw, he came by it honest. When he was a pup, he’d sooner pee on the floor than go outside. The name stuck.”


Doctor Morana by Norah Colvin

The community hall was abuzz. Everyone was outtalking the other, except Ms Penn who quietly recorded everything.

“I’m pretty cut up about it,” complained Mr Carver.

“He fired me,” moaned Mr Burns.

“Said I was just loafing around,” grumbled Mr Leaven.

“Could’ve floored me,” griped Mr Lay.

“He was fishing for something,” remarked Ms Salmon.

“Said he’d top me,” sprouted Ms Bean.

“Another nail in his coffin,” whined Mr Chips.

Ms Chalk took the stand. “It’s not just black or white. He knows why you all avoid him like, well … Give him a chance. He’s not his name.”


Author’s Note: Did you recognise them all: the journalist, the butcher, the fireman, the baker, the tiler, the fishmonger, the greengrocer, the carpenter, the teacher; and, of course, the one they’re all talking about: the new doctor.


My Michaela by Felicity Johns

“You said your name was Mike.”

She smiled, her eyes large and soft and beautiful. She pulled out her license and showed it to me.

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s Michaela.”

“What about everything else? How could you mislead me?” This is what heartbreak felt like. This tearing in the center of your body, like something enormous and very, very angry was trying to get out.

“Amy, I’m in love with you. Have been from the beginning. I’m sorry… everything I’ve ever said to you was truth. You’re the other half of my soul.”


The Throw Pillow by Elliott Lyngreen

A cigarette soft-pack between bandana and head, Thief solitarily footloose across rooftops; cut-off jeans, teeth in front –missing; consistently tapped the back-knot, then a smoke half-out –, an iron-worker laid-off from the bridge; never had covers to run to –and oh what incubus midnight reaches clutched this pillow, he claimed –for a softer gunshot; but he just squat with in corners –would rocket snorts tight-roping ridges, leaning over edges; while I crawled with all fours…. “Chances are…” always, he went, into tapping smokes; usually mentioning a tool he could turn over ‘real cheap’. . . .


His Name Remembered (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Nancy Jane shoveled dirt over her baby’s nameless grave. Her Pa retreated to the barn and more liquor. Hang up that suit first, she reminded him.

That man, that awful man who played his fiddle over the open grave, as if she wanted to share her sorrow uninvited. That man who hauled her father to the gravesite behind his horse all because Pa stole a suit in his drunken sorrow. Who did he think he was to name Pa a thief? He demanded Pa return the suit cleaned and mended. That man. Cobb McCanles.

She’d not forget his name.


Rider’s Shadow by Kerry E. B. Black

Rider refused to grow attached to the abandoned pup, though it trailed anywhere Rider went. No point loving another animal he’d never call his own. Best ignore the little black dog’s antics, comical though they may be, and get to work.

The pup slipped into the trough when Rider watered the mares. It tumbled into a hay pile when he fed the herd. It leapt at paddies when he pitched them for disposal, chewing happily when it caught its quarry. Where Rider went, the pup followed.

Before long, fellow stable hands named it Rider’s Shadow, and the name stuck.


The Reward is in the Name – a True Story by Gordon Le Pard

“Don’t you feel unappreciated?”

“No, why?”

“Everyone else has been rewarded, the fisherman has a new boat. The scientist has received plaudits from around the world. But you, who first realised it was strange, struggled to preserve it and get it to the one man who would recognise its importance, you have no reward.”

The middle aged woman shook her head and pointed at the name below the strange, four-legged fish – Latimeria. The journalist looked puzzled.

“Miss Latimer’s fish.” She translated, “For all time when the Coelacanth is mentioned I will be remembered, that is my reward.”


Lucky by Roger Shipp

The bedraggled, tri-legged mewed at my feet. I hoisted him onto the sofa pillow.

“Oh,” gasped Emily. “What happened?”

“Lucky?” I took my thumb and gently dug into the fur under his malformed neck.


“When I was six, he tackled a small bobcat on our family’s campout while I was playing by the campfire.”

As I stroked his back his three-quarter-tail flopped. “Lost his tail jumping the back of a brown bear when Sis and I were out fishing.”

Lucky rolled to have his belly attended.

“We’re lucky to have him.”

“Purrrrrrrrr” was all Lucky had to say.


That Female Pirate with an Axe by Sarah Brentyn

I thrive upon the open water. With freedom and fury, the violence inside me unleashed. Sword and pistol held steady. Stealing treasures of gold and those of blood. I fight with lethal force, kill without mercy.

Yet I ask mercy for the parasite in my belly. Fools give it. And I live. The child won’t.

After birth, I return to sea without regret.

A different name. They still know me. Breasts I will not hide, hair like flame. They respect me. Fear me. Know they will wake with an axe in their drunken skull should they cross me.


What’s in a Name by FloridaBorne

“Hey, baby,” he said, stroking my face. I stiffened at the touch of his calloused hand. “What’s your name?”
“Lovely night for a walk,” I replied.
“Lady, you’re in an alley. No one’s coming to your rescue,” he said, starting to unbutton my shirt.
I touched his pock-marked face, standing on my toes to lightly kiss the lips of a thing that smelled of old sweat. Men are so delusional. Slowly, I reached under my coat.
“Meet my friend, Destiny,” I said. My Glock pointed at his ribs, I squeezed the trigger. “It’s the last name you’ll ever hear.”


Such Dreadful Lies by Anne Goodwin

Matty stared into the picture, holding it so close her breath clouded the glass. She wiped it with the sleeve of her cardigan, but she still did not recognise the woman. But there must have been a connection or they would not have placed the photograph beside her bed.

A voice whispering in her head: Matilda told such dreadful lies … Matty had worked for years to dissociate herself from her mischief. The photograph tumbled from her hands, meeting the floor with a smack. Matilda escaped through the broken glass to ruin Matty’s reputation with deceit.


Proving He Was Right by Michael

His story of aliens landing in his back yard and taking him on a voyage through the universe didn’t earn him any friends. Rather he was seen as a wacko and thereby avoided. He was determined to clear his name and prove the truth of his tale. He wrote journal articles complete with photographs he had taken. But no one would publish them. He became a laughing stock. Downcast but not beaten, he invited people to his house.

His wasn’t a house that stood out. That was the whole point for there they saw what proved he was right.


A Rose By Any Other Name by Chris Faulkner

As she lie among the strange flora of this unexplored world, shards of literature came to mind. “As I Lay Dying”, she whispered, “a fitting epitaph”. Moments earlier, she was strolling through the foliage taking samples. She knew the dangers and handled the samples carefully. However, she felt a sharp sting and found herself on the ground. Her fading eyesight glimpsed the spore that punctured her leg through her suit. A tentacle led back to the offending flower. Wryly, she thought: “A rose by any other name”. Her final gasping words: “I shall call you … The Rose of Death.”


Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

My name should have been Robert.

Unfortunately I threw a spanner in the works when I made my appearance in 1956 as I had the wrong plumbing, not that my parents didn’t love me.

A dilemma was then thrust upon them as Robert had been decided upon practically the moment I was conceived. Rather than instigate family arguments and accusations of favouritism, I was named after a character in the book Mum had been reading towards the end of her pregnancy.

Nothing fancy you understand and in later years, I was glad not to have been called after the horse.


Wordweaver by Jules Paige

Names are full of meaning. Most often mispronounced if they
are not common. Like Wainwright being a wagon wheel fixer.
There was a time when surnames didn’t exist. One was the
son or daughter of someone.

When surnames started out they were based on professions,
or sometimes the characteristics of an animal that the giver
hoped the receiver would accept or live up too.

There is a Native Peoples custom that a person’s name
changes a few times during their lifetime.

I believe I have always lived up to one I have given myself
since I started writing, Wordweaver.


Aurora is My Mother’s Name by Lady Lee Manila

Aurora is my mother’s name
Daybreak she came
Such a beauty
Out in the sea
Always with glee
Aurora for a lovely dawn
Beauty and brawn
Before sunrise
Her big brown eyes
Our special prize
The beginning of the twilight
Fairies and sprites
She’s magical
Life’s never dull
Life’s so blissful
Dawn came with musical silence
Not complain once
She’s so strong
Always with song
Loves a sing-along
Creating an aura of hope
She always cope
Always has been
Serves with a grin
And in our lives she’s the centre
Perfumed with myrrh
The love she gives
So superlative!


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  1. Norah

    What an amazing compilation, Charli. I think, of all the prompts, this one may have brought the greatest divergence in responses. Sometimes there are a few with similar themes. But these stories are all very different. I love the way you have organised them – makes for great reading. Thank you.

    • Charli Mills

      I thought the same thing. There was a thread of animals but I couldn’t find other threads, so instead I looked to see if I could string together stories in a different way. It’s terrific material to work with. Thanks for your fun contribution. I kept your Author’s Note because I think it adds to the word play in your flash.

      • Norah

        Thank you for keeping the note. I wasn’t sure how much sense it made – with or without! It was a great challenge. I wonder what people will do with the new one! 🙂

  2. A. E. Robson

    Wonderful stories. Reminds me of the name game song.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! It is rather like that!

  3. ladyleemanila

    Reblogged this on ladyleemanila and commented:
    What’s in a name? posts 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Lady Lee! <3

  4. Sherri

    As Norah said Charli, wonderful compilation…

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Sherri! Lots of interesting stories.

  5. floridaborne

    There are some really good ones in the compilation. It’s a lot of work for you to do this, and your efforts are greatly appreciated.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you! It’s a work of love to generate and compile literature in its rawest and briefest form.

      • floridaborne

        That’s how I feel about writing in general. Most people don’t understand that when we love what we do, we look forward to doing what most people would consider the hardest work.

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