|The Death of Safe Strength, with Grayman and Brightman at his side.|
When I was younger, I was entranced by some Native American names that were also plain-language words: names like "Ben Nighthorse Campbell" (the former Senator from Colorado). Google is helping me turn up other examples: "Creepingbear," "Lone Hill." The practice seems common to a number of nations and languages, and I presume that they are English translations of names that would have been common in languages that are now endangered or lost. There was a certain evocative beauty in having a part of your name lie so manifestly close to its signification. We all enjoy knowing the etymologies, the "real meanings," of our names (that George means "earth-worker," or that Jennifer is cognate with "Guinevere"). What if all that information lay on the surface of language? I love the way a name like "Nighthorse" turns something very familiar (namely, the words "night" and "horse") into something strange and beautiful.