The Stuff of Which Names are Made: A Look at the Colorful and Eclectic Namecraft of Lord Dunsany


Names: A Journal of Onomastics

March 2012, vol. 60, n°1, pp.26-35

Departments: Languages & Cultures

Keywords: Dunsany Lord, Onomastics, Linguistic invention, Literary onomaturgy, Names in fantasy and weird fiction, Twentieth-century literature, Anglo-Irish literature

Lord Dunsany’s prolific namecraft provides a rich field for study, but poses difficulties for traditional approaches to names in literature, which typically seek out the hidden meanings or symbolisms of isolated names. An alterna- tive approach is to look for trends in the forms and substances of the author’s inventions as a whole. To this end, Émile Souriau’s threefold typology of neologisms proves useful. In the first category, Dunsany camou- flages pre-existing vocables of diverse origins. In the second, he employs anglicized versions of forms identified with foreign languages and nomen- clatures, though he does not introduce actual foreign sounds. In the third, he constructs names from morphological building blocks. Whether English or foreign, Dunsany divests his source materials of their original referents, yet retains traces of their idiomatic provenance. Colorful and eclectic, his inventions resonate within a mythopoetic encyclopedia of diverse literary, historical, and cultural traditions