The Hunger Games Names: Katniss, Primrose, Rue, Peeta and Gale
Next Friday marks the opening of one of the most anticipated films of the year, and boy are we excited. The film adaptation for the best-selling book series The Hunger Games has been making headlines for months. For those of you nameophiles who haven't hopped on The Hunger Games bandwagon yet, you are in for a treat. Not only are the books filled with excitement, suspense and heart-wrenching story lines, they are also packed with original and interesting names.
The plot follows a 16-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen, played by Academy Award-nominee Jennifer Lawrence, who lives in a dystopian future in the poorest of twelve districts that make up what was once the United States. In order to save her younger sister, Katniss volunteers to compete in the annual Hunger Games, a brutal televised event where one boy tribute and one girl tribute from each of the twelve districts fight to the death, with only one victor.
A year ago we speculated on the possibility of The Hunger Games names making a splash like the Twilight characters' names did. However, where Stephenie Meyer was a master of style when choosing names for her characters with chic picks like Esme, Victoria, Jasper and Emmett for vampires born in many various generations past, Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins went for originality and symbolic representation. The books are set in a dystopian future far enough removed from our current reality, but just close enough that the names aren't too jarring.
We wonder if Collins isn't a nameophile herself, since she has taken a few modern naming trends and put a clever, futuristic twist on them. Many of the female names throughout the book are flower or nature inspired names, a modern rising trend. Katniss is an edible aquatic plant, known more commonly as Sagittaria or in Latin "of the arrow," which readers know is Katniss's weapon of choice as an expert archer. Katniss is not too far off from the popular Katherine or Katrina, all with the common nickname of Kat.
Another example is Primrose or "Prim," Katniss's little sister. Early in the first novel, Collins writes, "Prim's face is as fresh as a raindrop, as lovely as the primrose for which she was named." The name Primrose has never taken off, but with the ubiquity of Rose these days, particularly as a middle name, it will be interesting to see if the film will propel it to be a popular alternative. Prim is portrayed by Willow Shields in the film, who also has a nature-inspired name.
The names in Collins's series are also used to highlight the class divide in the story. In the richer districts, such as the Capitol, where fashion rules, food is plentiful and fighting in the Hunger Games is an honor, the names are similarly extravagant: Cashmere, Glimmer, Gloss and Brutus. Katniss's family and peers instead have nature inspired names, as they live off of the land and are focused on staying alive. An example of this is Rue, a tribute who Katniss befriends and whose district specializes in agriculture. Her name is derived from a medicinal evergreen shrub and also brings to mind the word rue, meaning sorrow or regret. As an established name in a sense, we could see this one becoming more popular, especially since it is reminiscent of another rising name trend - the old lady name. As a nickname for Ruth and the name of Golden Girls actress Rue McClanahan perhaps Rue will finally break the top-1000 most popular names.
The males in the book also follow a modern trend with their semi-androgynous names. Peeta, a baker's son and the male tribute from Katniss's district, is an original creation, pronounced like pita, as in the Middle Eastern bread. The name brings to mind Peter, but wouldn't seem out of place used as a girl's name. The other heartthrob in this series is Gale, Katniss's best friend and fellow hunter, whose name has been popular both as a boy's name and a girl's name.
What do you think of the names of The Hunger Games? Which ones are your favorites? Would you consider using any as names for your children? Which ones do you think will become more popular?