May 2nd, 2011

What’s in a name?

by Terri Libenson

MaidenName

Occasionally, someone will ask how I came up with The Pajama Diaries characters’ names. The characters were named very intentionally. First and foremost, I wanted short, quick names that don’t take up much space because, if you haven’t noticed, the strip can get texty. The only exception to this rule is “Perfectville.” Here are the brief explanations behind the rest:

Jill is my middle name. It’s short and punchy, like me. It’s more anonymous and less androgynous than Terri. And it still allows some association to seep through.

Rob is a nice, short name that has no real ties to anything. I could’ve used my husband’s perfectly fine middle name, Aaron, but in my opinion it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Just sayin.’

Amy is named after my closest friend. We grew up blocks from each other and unfortunately live far apart now. This is my way of paying tribute to our longtime friendship. Originally, I could’ve named the character “Samantha” (my older daughter’s middle name), but I think we see the obvious problem. And a shorter “Sam” would’ve been confusing, gender-wise. Especially in the early years when the character looked like a boy in drag.

Jess is simply my younger daughter’s shortened middle name, Jessica.

Lisa and Nanci are completely made up. “Lisa” is pretty common for my generation. “Nanci” is a slight nod at my older daughter, whose name is also spelled unconventionally.

Kaplan is the family’s surname. I like it because it’s obviously Jewish, but not overly stereotypical. I have a few friends with the last name, Kaplan, so it has a nice connotation.

Little-known fact: Jill’s maiden name is “Davidodavitz” (a takeoff on my husband’s old family name, “Davidowitz”). I originally came up with it for a comic strip gag, but I’ll be re-introducing it down the road (the above panel is a sneak peak).

So that’s it in a nutshell. One funny little tidbit: “Mike” was the main character’s name of an old comic strip I used to write. It also happens to be my husband’s name. I wrote the strip before I met him (insert eerie music here). Yeah, yeah, okay, but I think it’s uncanny.

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