Holden, Zooey & Esme: JD Salinger Names

by appellationmountain on October 26, 2012

J. D. Salinger

J. D. Salinger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tell me: which writer has had the biggest impact on modern baby names?  Jane Austen gets credit for boosting Emma and  her own first name.  The list of Shakespearean appellations is long.  In recent years, we’ve all talked about JK Rowling’s considerable talents naming the student body of Hogwarts and the rest of her fictional world.

But there’s another author who deserves credit for changing the landscape of modern baby names: the reclusive JD Salinger, author of one enduring novel and many favorite short stories.

Many of his creations come from the same complicated family tree.  And his characters aren’t known for living happily ever after.  And yet, they’re such powerful and compelling choices that parents have embraced them in recent years.

Here’s a look at the names from his work.

Salinger Names for Girls

BeatriceBeatrice already reads smart and sophisticated.  In Salinger’s writing, she’s the eldest of the Glass family daughters, lending her even more literary sheen.  The fact that she’s usually referred to as Boo Boo is something that we can quietly overlook.

Corinne – A young heiress from 1961 novella The Inverted Forest, and the kind of name that suits parents seeking the unusual, but not outlandish choice.

Elaine – From Arthurian legend to a Salinger short story.  His Elaine is a movie buff from the Bronx who decides against marriage.

Eloise – The main figure in Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, unhappy housewife Eloise Wengler is among the only Salinger characters to ever be portrayed on film.  Susan Hayward played Eloise in the movie adaptation, re-titled My Foolish Heart.

Esme - She’s thirteen year old British orphan wise beyond her years in For Esme – With Love and Squalor.

Franny - Another member of the Glass family, with a short story of her very own.  Spunky Franny is short for the demure Frances.

Ginnie – In our era of Sadie and Hattie, doesn’t Ginnie seem like she would make for an appealing choice?

Lois – She’s a disappointed former debutante.  If you’re choosing a fictional Lois to inspire a daughter’s name, you’d probably think of Lois Lane first.

Matilda – A solider’s little sister in a series of war stories, also called Mattie.

Muriel – She marries into Salinger’s Glass family, the self-absorbed wife of the ill-fated Seymour.

Phoebe – She’s Holden’s little sis in Catcher in the Rye, one of the few people Holden loves without reservation.

Ramona – Eloise’s young daughter in Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, and a bona fide starbaby choice.

Rhea – Muriel’s mom and Seymour’s mother-in-law … and a rather unpleasant character.  But she’s also an attractive pick from Greek myth.

Sally –  Holden’s companion in New York during Catcher in the Rye.  Also included in early pre-cursor to Cathcer, short-story Slight Rebellion Off Madison

Selena – From Just Before the War with the Eskimos, and a thoroughly pretty name.

Sybil – Sybil is a child playing on the beach, the one to whom Seymour Glass spins his tale of the gluttonous bananafish in the 1948 short story.

Viola - Another Holden sibling, mentioned in short story I’m Crazy.

Zooey – Yes, Zooey is a nickname for Franny’s brother, Zachary Glass.  But actress Zooey Deschanel put this name on the map for girls, as an elaborate alternative to the spare Greek Zoe.

Salinger Names for Boys

Franklin – From Just Before the War with the Eskimos, a surnamey name with a quirky vibe.

Holden – A complicated figure, the protagonist of Catcher in the Rye, and a synonym for teen angst.

Lane - He’s Franny’s date in her short story, though Lane proves to be rather pedestrian.

Lionel – Another member of the extended Glass clan, a child in Down at the Dinghy.

Salinger - Many of the author’s characters have a hint of autobiography about them, though none actually answer to Salinger.  But it could work as a given name, couldn’t it?

Seymour - The oldest of the Glass children, he returns from World War II a changed man.  His character is appealing, though his ending is sorrowful.

Teddy - In the final of the Nine Stories in Salinger’s 1953 collection, Teddy is a brilliant child aboard a cruise ship, chatting with a fellow passenger.  He seems to be quite wise, even eerily wise, beyond his years.  As with many of Salinger’s prodigies, this is not necessarily a plus.

Vincent – He’s a brother to Holden, from the short story This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise.

Waker - One of the less-known members of the Glass family, a Roman Catholic monk who never actually appears in the stories.

Walter – Another Glass brother, twin to Waker.

Are you a fan of JD Salinger?  Are any of these names on your shortlist – because of the stories, or not?  And are there any Salinger names I’ve overlooked?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

caroline November 5, 2012 at 5:31 PM

Wow! I have a Phoebe and we’ve considered Esme and knew of the Salinger connection, but Sybil and Ramona are also faves, and I didn’t realize they had a Salinger pedigree as well!

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Julie October 26, 2012 at 6:00 PM

I’ve never understood the attraction to Salinger’s characters, they’re all so morose and miserable.

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appellationmountain October 26, 2012 at 7:03 PM

They are! And yet the names are lovely …

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Julie October 27, 2012 at 11:02 PM

…so true.

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Jewel February 10, 2014 at 12:05 AM

No no, not Esme! She’s a bright, precocious, caring, and compassionate young girl. Wise beyond her years. I’m not unbiased – it’s my daughter’s name. :)

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Charlotte Vera October 26, 2012 at 5:26 PM

Ooh, the brief histories you provide beside the names make me want to look up Salinger’s works in my local library; although, come to think of it, I’m not sure a New Zealand library will carry anything other than Catcher in the Rye, the only Salinger work I’ve already read. It’s a great list of names — thanks for sharing!

Do you know if Corinne is pronounced the English or French way?

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Dellitt October 26, 2012 at 1:47 PM

I’ve never read Salinger, but based on his fine taste in names, maybe I should!

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