Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Talking about the name, Annique

Excellent commenter mst3kharris brought up the point --

I'm curious: Annique's name is being spelled as Anneka. Was the spelling changed for the new edition? Also, does this mean I've been pronouncing Annique's name wrong all this time? I've always thought of it as like unique but with Ann.

I'm taking it out of the comment trail and posting it here because the answer got long.

Hi mst --

Oh dear. I didn't mean to be confusing.
I used 'Anneka' as a place-holder name for my heroine. A 'working name'. It's the name that made her real for me and it's still how I think of her.
But I knew I wasn't going to get away with using this name in the actual book,
because Anneka is not French.

It's kind of funny. About the first thing my editor said to me when we were talking and getting to know each other was, "You know you're going to have to change Anneka's name, don't you?"

"I know," says I.

Now, all along, I saw the Anneka character as having a baptismal name and having a nickname that she actually used on a day-to-day basic. I wanted both a 'core', original identity for her AND a nom-de-spy.

I liked 'Anne' as the baptismal name because, in exactly that form, it would work for a Frenchwoman or a Brit. Many names have different French/English forms.

So I started from there. From Anne.

'Anne' would have been called 'Annie' when she was very small. Her parents had to change this when they hit French soil, because 'Annie' doesn't sound French.

So they slid 'Annie' over to another common diminutive of Anne
-- Ahn EEK'

This name, under fifty different spellings, is common all across Europe. In Brittany, where they would have landed, it's spelled Annick. In France itself, Annique.

I used the French, (and more modern,) spelling of the name rather than the Celtic spelling, because I didn't want readers getting all distracted wondering why the heroine didn't have a French name, her being French and all.

Would the heroine have been known by a nickname?

I do think so. French baptismal names -- then and now -- are traditional and stuffy and generally involve being called after your great-aunt Eglantine-Claudette.
(Eglantine means 'needle'. Why would anyone name an innocent baby, 'needle'? Though I suppose it would be a good name for a junkie.)

But I digress.

So lots of folks in France operated under various sorts of 'use names', their names on the baptismal papers being truly awful, even by the elastic standards of the day, or else 'Marie' or 'Anne' which if you yelled it out in any deserted field would bring forth half a dozen women from toddler to granddam.

Moving on to the fretful topic of

In late C18, France spoke a dozen, mutally unintelligible dialects, which must have been interesting for all concerned.

'Annique' would be two syllables in Paris or in Brittany or Normandy -- pronounced exactly as you suggest. That's how Doyle would say it.

Somebody speaking the main sourthern dialect of French would make three syllables out of it, the southern types just generally adding the sound to the endings of words that north'rn folks chopped off.


  1. Anonymous11:22 PM

    Hm. My web research suggests that Eglantine also means a sweetbriar rose, which I assume is thorny. Nicer than needle.
    (Although, if it means sharp as a needle I suppose it could be a compliment on intelligence.)
    Anyway, its better than eggplant, which is what I somehow confusedly thought it meant.

    But this leaves me wondering how many of your characters start life with a temporary name? Adrian? Doyle? Gray? Jessamyn?

  2. Agree with anonymous above me. I've always thought of the name Eglantine as a reference to the plant.

    Anne from Montreal

  3. My only association is Keats's "pastoral eglantine," which now has a less cozy meaning for me. Very tricky of you, John!

  4. I think of the plant too. But apparently they both have the common Latin source.

    Middle English eglentin, from Old French eglantine, diminutive of aiglent, from Vulgar Latin *aculentum, from neuter of *aculentus, spiny, from Latin aculeus, spine, from acus, needle; see ak- in Indo-European roots.

  5. Adrian? Doyle? Gray? Jessamyn?

    I was lucky enough in all these cases to have working names that could go all the way into the book.

    I went through a couple or three versions before I settled on 'Doyle', but it was still early in writing the manuscript.

  6. I have rather conflated eglantine and eggplants myself.

    Now I will never get the pastoral eggplant out of my head.

  7. mst3kharris9:00 PM

    Thank you for answering my question!

    (On a side note, I would love to read a mock pastoral involving eggplants.)

    I was interested to read that "Annique" is an actual diminutive of Anne. (I do love languages where the diminutive is longer than the original name.) I had assumed that her parents constructed it from Annie Kate, noticing that "Annie K" sounds quite a bit like "Annique" minus the Ahn. It's probably better for it to have been an actual nickname, since anything really out there would be bad for one's cover, I think.

    It's one of the sharpest moments in the book for me, when Annique realizes that she can't even hold on to being Annique. I see why it's necessary, since it's one of the last steps severing her from France, but my heart breaks for her every time.

  8. Hi mst --

    The 'Annie Kate' part, I think, helped drive the nickname toward Annick/Annique instead of in some other direction.

    And I am very sorry to have made my poor Anneka suffer so much. No easy decisions for her.