Teratonymy: The Weird and Monstrous Names of H.P. Lovecraft


Names: A Journal of Onomastics

September 2010, vol. 58, n°3, pp.127-138

Departments: Languages & Cultures

Keywords: Literary onomastics, Linguistic invention, Hp lovecraft, Twentieth-century literature, American literature, Weird fiction, Horror fiction, Teratology

Lovecraft's teratonyms are monstrous inventions that estrange the sound patterns of English and obscure the kinds of meaning traditionally associated with literary onomastics. J.R.R. Tolkien's notion of linguistic style provides a useful concept to examine how these names play upon a distance from and proximity to English, so as to give rise to specific historical and cultural connotations. Some imitate the sounds and forms of foreign nomenclatures that hold “weird” connotations due to being linked in the popular imagination with kabbalism and decadent antiquity. Others introduce sounds-patterns that lie outside English phonetics or run contrary to the phonotactics of the language to result in anti-aesthetic constructions that are awkward to pronounce. In terms of sense, teratonyms invite comparison with the “esoteric” words discussed by Jean-Jacques Lecercle, as they diminish or obscure semantic content, while augmenting affective values and heightening the reader's awareness of the bodily production of speech