Monday, March 5

Inspired By: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan at St. Lawrence University in New York, November 1963 via Joe Gratz

So there's this singer-songwriter guy, I don't know if you've heard of him — Bob Dylan? Bit of a namer himself, since he forsook his given surname (but Zimmerman's delightful!) in favor of one that comes off a little more hip and edgy. From an interview in Playboy magazine in March 1966:

Playboy: This comes under the category of setting the record straight: By the time you arrived in New York, you'd changed your name from Robert Zimmerman to Bob Dylan. Was it because of Dylan Thomas?  
Dylan: No. I haven't read that much of Dylan Thomas. It's a common thing to change your name. It isn't that incredible. Many people do it. People change their town, change their country. New appearance, new mannerisms. Some people have many names. I wouldn't pick a name unless I thought I was that person. Sometimes you are held back by your name. Sometimes there are advantages to having a certain name. Names are labels so we can refer to one another. But deep inside us we don't have a name. We have no name. I just chose that name and it stuck.  
Dylan: Well, that name changed me. I didn't sit around and think about it too much. That is who I felt I was.

Like a lot of namers, he knows the power of a name — how taking on a new one can change not just the way people see you, but how you see the world. And though I might disagree with the idea that we have no true name, I definitely see the beauty in the idea that we are all nameless. Sometimes names do serve as masks or labels in a way that needlessly separates people from one another, and choosing your own name can be a way to assert control over that. 

I've had this list of names from Dylan song titles on my desktop since I started Eponymia, and it seems like time to share them. He's absolutely one of my favorite poets and his songs are great places to draw inspiration of all sorts — I almost used Johanna for my daughter's middle name because of a Bob Dylan song — so there's something here for everyone, I'm sure.

Achilles ("Temporary Like Achilles") 
Albert ("Frankie & Albert")
Arthur ("Arthur McBride")  
Augustine ("I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine")  
Davey ("Blackjack Davey" and "Who Killed Davey Moore?") — I've never been a huge fan of David, but Davey/Davy just seems fun. I think it could be fresh and sweet on a girl, too, like this sweetheart blogger-kid
Dink ("Dink's Song") 
Emmett ("The Death of Emmett Till")
Hollis ("Ballad of Hollis Brown") — I'd love to see Hollis get some love
Homer ("Open the Door, Homer") 
Huck ("Huck's Tune")
Judas ("The Ballad of Frankie Lee & Judas Priest") — can't forgive him? Too bad, I think Judas is a great opportunity to use Jude as a nickname
Montgomery ("Tiny Montgomery") — this gets fairly regular use in British birth announcements, but is rare on this side of the pond
Percy ("Percy's Song") 
Quinn ("Quinn the Eskimo")
Ruben ("Ruben Remus")
Silvio ("Silvio")
Woody ("Song to Woody") — after Woody Guthrie, a huge influence musically and karmically for Dylan. Father of the original Arlo 

Alberta ("Alberta #1" and "Alberta #2") — I love feminine forms of Albert. French Alberte, longer Albertine, call her Bertie and you've got an adorable, unique old-lady  name 
Angelina ("Angelina" and "Farewell, Angelina") 
Canadee ("Canadee-i-o") — I've taken a bit of artistic license with this one, but doesn't Canadee seem like a perfect contestant on America's Next Top Model, or something?
Eden ("Gates of Eden") 
Delia ("Delia")
Hazel ("Hazel")
Isis ("Isis") — I dare you to listen to this song and not come away loving Isis
Jane ("Queen Jane Approximately")
Johanna ("Visions of Johanna") 
Lily and Rosemary ("Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts") — Jack and Jim are the boys from this song, but the girls got better names
Maggie ("Maggie's Farm") 
Ramona ("To Ramona")
Sara ("Sara") — this super-depressing song is about his wife, it's beautiful. It'll make you totally forget about Sarah-with-an-H 
Shenandoah ("Shenandoah") — for bold & daring namers only, a girl nicknamed Shen would be so cool

And just for a  bit of fun, enjoy this rather silly Bob Dylan tune. It's all about naming, of course, and it even inspired a children's book.


  1. Lovely list of names! My mum is a huge Dylan fan, so anything from a Bob Dylan song can be seen as being a name in her honor.I like Augustine,Montgomery,Hollis,Rosemary,and Ramona.

  2. Gorgeous collection of names - especially loving Percy, Augustine and Ramona.


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