joss whedon

Joss Whedon has a penchant for naming characters by using the last half of their full first name. For instance, on Buffy the Vampire slayer Alexander Harris was XANDER. On Angel the series Winifred Burkle was FRED, and on Dollhouse Christopher Brink was TOPHER. Whedon didn’t use this method topher-brinkfor Firefly/Serenity, but he still had plenty of unique names there. And Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog had characters without full names, or only aliases so that doesn’t count, ha! Anyway,  it stands to reason that if Whedon creates something new in the future, he will use this naming formula. Can we predict the next winning name?

When using this simple formula, some names work, some don’t. A name has to be at least two syllables to even merit our consideration.

When it works: Michelle becomes ELLE.

When it fails: Jennifer becomes NIFER

The common suspects: Genevieve becomes EVE (common), Isabella becomes BELLA (common), Anthony becomes TONY (common), Abigail becomes Gail (common), Estella becomes STELLA

winifred burkleThe failed attempts: Jessica becomes ICA, Alice becomes LICE, Graham becomes HAM, Kourtney becomes NEY….

The more unique names that could work: Olivia becomes LIVIA, Madison becomes DISON (sounds like a vacuum cleaner, though), Jacob becomes COB (funny), Gavin becomes VIN (Diesel will be mad!), Natalie becomes TALIE, Alyssa becomes LYSSA

You may have come here hoping for some actual generator of names, but I don’t have Topher here to help me design one. However, you seem smart. I bet you could take the end of your name off all by yourself. No matter how dumb it is, go ahead and share it in the comments.

(Psst. Have you read my exclusive interview with Alyson Hannigan where she mentioned the apocalypse?)

The Importance of a Name

Joss Whedon seems to be very close attention to the effect of names of characters. On Buffy, the title character had a silly, girly name that would make her seem unlikely for the vampire slaying job she had. Fellow Slayer, Faith, seems pointedly named as she struggled with Faith in other’s and trust issues followed her around. Angel’s name came from Angelus. This is an ironic name for a murderer. Spike the vampire was named for his habit of torturing people with railroad spikes. Deeper meaning revealed that he may have been spurred to action by someone important insulting his poetry with the note that, “I’d rather have a railroad spike through my head than listen to that awful stuff.”. And these are just some examples from one Whedon show.

echo dollhouseAnother show of his with exceptionally notable names was the way in which the Dolls on Dollhouse were named with codenames based upon the NATO phonetic alphabet. You probably can recognize many in order  – Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta… And see, some of those names easily lend themselves to actual names. Such as Charlie.  Dollhouse codenames weren’t only simple names, they had the full spectrum. There was a Whiskey, November, Echo (a name filled with meaning in this show), Sierra and a Victor. There was probably a Romeo at some point, although I doubt the had someone named Hotel. And I really hope they had a Papa!

Why does Joss Whedon care about character names so much? Well, as a writer – he just plain should. But if you went into the psychology of his life, you could theorize it has something to do with his own name being so unique. To this day and with his fame, people still mispronounce his name as “Josh” which must be annoying as the land with no shrimp. But he picked that name, as he was born “Joseph Hill Whedon”. Joseph can become “Joe” easily, but add another S and it’s Joss! He and his wife Kai have two children named Arden and Squire.