Recently, I talked about Haruki Murakami's latest book, 1Q84, mentioning the names of two characters. One, Aomame, appealed to me immediately.
Leave it to Murakami to get to the meaning of a name right away. I started the book this weekend, and on page 4, he writes about the background of the offbeat name:
"'Aomame' was her real name. Her grandfather on her father's side came from some little mountain town or village in Fukushima Prefecture, where there were supposedly a number of people who bore the name, written with exactly the same characters as the word for "green peas" and pronounced with the same four syllables, 'Ah-oh-mah-meh" ...
Telling people her name was always a bother. As soon as the name left her lips, the other person looked puzzled or confused.
'Yes. Just like 'green peas'.'"She goes on:
"Some people would get the name of the plant wrong and call her 'Edamame' or 'Soramame,' whereupon she would gently correct them: 'No, I'm not soybeans or fava beans, just green peas. Pretty close though. Aomame.' How many times in her thirty years had she heard the same remarks, the same feeble jokes about her name? My life might have been totally different if I hadn't been born with this name. If I had had an ordinary name like Sato or Tanaka or Suzuki, I could have lived a slightly more relaxed life or looked at people with somewhat more forgiving eyes. Perhaps.""Green peas" seems like a perfectly noble meaning, don't you think? And it has such a pleasant look, written in English, and a cheerful sound. Somehow, I'm sure the story I'm about to read will make it even more appealing, annoying as Aomame herself finds it.