Author John


Have you ever wondered how authors come up with names for their protagonists, even when writing non-fiction, to give privacy to family members and friends? The rules of selection include matching the name to the era and ethnicity of the character, enabling consistency between the background of the story and the personality of the individual, knowing the name’s meaning and assuring that the first and last names flow together. Here are the explanations behind the names used in the three manuscripts.

  1. UNPLANNED. “Frances Mary” is the main protagonist and her pseudonym uses the names of two of her sisters and the lyrics of Ave Maria that she listened to as the baby was being born. “George Luckett” is created using the name of the British reigning monarch at the time of his birth, and the surname of Luckett is a play on the industry prevalent in the town in which he grew up in – Willenhall, famous for its manufacture of locks and keys. “Michael Fromm’s” first name is based on an American of Belgian extraction the author once knew in Sacramento, and the surname comes from a former work colleague of the author whose ancestry was Belgian.

    2. ABANDONED IN BERLIN. “Hilda’s” name is fiction. The protagonist did not want her identity published to protect the anonymity of her family. Also, the familiar name she was given by her parents was a traditional American name that was neither German nor Jewish. They feared future Antisemitism and used the name Nancy to recognize that the United States had allowed them to immigrate to America.

    3. SHE WORE A YELLOW DRESS. This novel uses a combination of real names, along with those that have been made up. “John” clearly is the author’s name, and since most of the dialogue is based on his memories, that designation seems appropriate. “Jean Louise” is a fictionalized name, but uses the name of character in another novel, known for her intelligence, stubbornness, and high ethics.  


My second edition of UNPLANNED adopts British English as its language whereas the first edition was written using American linguistics. One of the criticisms I received for the first edition was from someone who said she could not stand reading about her home county, Yorkshire, in American English. I thought that her comment was reasonable and so the latest version of UNPLANNED and SHE WORE A YELLOW DRESS are written using British English. ABANDONED IN BERLIN stays American since the couple it chronicles eventually settle as refugees in San Francisco during 1947.

I wonder if you have any preference and if you find it difficult to read something that uses different vocabulary, spellings, grammar and punctuation to that which you are used to? Alexa should provide a quick translation.

It can be difficult switching between the two languages. Additionally, there are different pronunciations for the same word such as process, leisure, dahlia, vase and schedule. My first embarrassment with the two languages was when I issued a list of household items that US expatriates of Bank of America could rent at company expense while living overseas. I included cooker, only to discover that Americans used the word stove, and that cooker was a separate kitchen cooking device. A stove where I was born described a portable cooking utensil used for camping.

Have you ever failed to communicate with someone because of a word you used that you assumed they would understand?

Not surprisingly, both languages originated from the same source. When the British arrived in America they brought with them their language but encountered animals and plants that they had never seen before. Thus they borrowed words from Native Americans to describe such things as raccoon, squash and moose. Then other Europeans arrived. The Spanish brought ranch, canyon, tobacco and stampede, the Dutch contributed coleslaw and cookies, the Germans supplied pretzels and the Italians pizza and pasta. French was already embedded in the English language but the French gave names to the First Native tribes such as the Sioux, Cheyenne and Iroquois.

Any other words whose origin you wish to research?

Some of the linguistic differences you will encounter:

  • British English uses “ise” not “ize”, and “our” not “or” at the end of words.
  • They swap their r’s and e’s so it is “centre” not “center”.
  • It is “programme” not “program”; the first word is derived from Latin; the other Greek.
  • There are many vocabulary difference; for example, trousers (pants), flat (apartment), lift (elevator), petrol (gas), lorry (truck), bonnet (hood of car), aubergine (eggplant), nappies (diapers).
  • Collective nouns are expressed differently; “the band in playing” (US) v. “the band are playing” (UK)
  • The US uses a comma before the serial “and”, whereas British English currently does not.

Can you add to this list?




  1. Which is the most common word used in English: ”e”.
  2. What is the only non-hyphenated English word with three consecutive double letters: “bookkeeping”; there are others like “sweet-toothed” but they require a hyphen.
  3. Which two English words end in “gry”: “angry” and “hungry”.
  4. What word is used to describe someone who is suspicious/fearful of the number 13: triskaidekaphobia.
  5. Which letter do more English words begin with: “s”
  6. Which sentence contains all 26 letters of the alphabet: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.
  7. What is the longest English word that does not use a vowel: “rhythm”.
  8. What is the dot over the letter “j” and “i” called: “superscript dot”.
  9. How many words are in the English language: in 2019 an estimated 1,005,366
  10. Name 5 words that are only expressed in the plural: for example, glasses, binoculars, trousers/pants, scissors, shears, jeans, pajamas.