Omri and his brothers

I’m reading The Indian in the Cupboard to my three oldest boys, a book I haven’t read since I was little, and I remember very little about it. We’ve only gotten through the first chapter and of course, what I mostly stayed with me are the names of the three brothers:

Omri — the main character

Adiel and Gillon — his brothers

They’re unfamiliar to me — if I had to hazard a guess, I’d guess a Hebrew origin for Adiel, with the -el ending being so like Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Nathaniel, Samuel. Gillon strikes me as French maybe. Omri I had no clue about, nor how to pronounce it — I was saying AHM-ree in the my head, short O, the O like in hot. I asked my son how he would say it, since he’s read it before, and he said he thought it was OHM-ree, long O, the O like in home.

So of course I had to look the names up. Behindthename.com is my #1 go-to source for name meanings and origins, and it had no official entry for the brothers’ names! Only user-submitted entries, which may or may not be accurate:

Adiel is said to be “A Hebrew name meaning ‘ornament of God’ or ‘God is my ornament’. In the Old Testament, Adiel was the father of Azmaveth, who was treasurer under David and Solomon. Another bearer of this name in the Old Testament was a family head of the tribe of Simeon. In Ma’asseh Merkabah, Adiel is an angelic guard of the seventh heavenly hall.”

Gillon is only listed, with no info given.

Omri, however, had its own official entry: “Possibly means “life” or “servant” in Hebrew (or a related Semitic language). This was the name of a 9th-century BC military commander who became king of Israel. He appears in the Old Testament, where he is denounced as being wicked.”

In the comments, which again aren’t officially approved as accurate, the pronunciations OHM-ree and UM-ree are both given.

I’m interested in character-naming, and how authors choose the names they do — because they like them? Because they’re on their list of favorite names for children that they never got to use? Or because of the name’s meaning and connection with the character’s personality/role in the story? I’m kind of baffled by the choices here — they’re too unfamiliar to me to mean anything.

(Also, I admit that the name I really loved the most was Gillon, because of my recent post about Gil/Gilbert Blythe. I say it “GILL-en in my head — does that seem right? I kind of love it.)

Do any of you know any more about Omri, Gillon, and Adiel?

ETA: Given that the biblical Omri was “denounced as being wicked,” isn’t that a strange choice for a boy character? I don’t care as much about name meanings in real life, but for a literary character?

ETA2: My previous comment wasn’t entirely accurate — the biblical Omri “denounced as being wicked” is associated baggage, separate from the meaning. The meaning of “life” or “servant” is nice, and likely does have a tie-in with the book’s story.

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17 thoughts on “Omri and his brothers

  1. Name anachronisms really irritate me in books and movies. For instance, in Bride Wars (2009), one of the main (late 20’s/early 30’s age) characters is named Emma. Emma is, of course, super popular now and in twenty years would be the perfect name for a main character in a movie like that, but it’s so much less likely to meet a 20-30 year old Emma *now* given that it is only recently so popular. (I also think it’s super fascinating that companies purposefully choose to exhibit popular names on personalized products that they feature on a website or catalog, e.g., Pottery Barn Kids showing a bunch of personalized stuff with “Aiden/Aidan” on it.)

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    • Yes! I totally rely on Pottery Barn Kids and similar to tell me what names are the big new thing! And yes, I agree about the book/movie names … I’ll have to think of other good examples …

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    • Yeah, but I was born in 1978 and my name is Grace, which became popular 20-25 years later. And my sister was born in 1981 and is named Sophia, a name my mom occasionally expressed regret about using because it was SO unusual. Lo and behold, 30 years later, it became a phenomenon almost of Jennifer proportions. Jane Austen fans have always used the name Emma for their daughters. This particular “anachronism” doesn’t bother me at all.

      As to the Indian in the Cupboard characters that Kate mentions here, those are the real names of the author’s actual children. The author is Jewish and lived in Israel at the time the boys were born, in the 1960’s. They later relocated to London in the early 1970’s. The names don’t strike me as “off” at all if you know the history.

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    • It’s true! Emma was like #250-something in 1982. I was in my mid-20s before I met another (and she was 3). I’ve still only ever met 2 my age.

      Off-topic, sorry. 🙂

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  2. Those are the real names of the author’s children. The author is Jewish, and lived in Israel in the 1960’s when all three boys were born. They moved to London in the early 1970’s. The books were written to include her children in the story.

    (We are huge Indian in the Cupboard fans here.)

    (I personally say “OHM-ree”.)

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    • Ah! Thank you for this!!! My first thought was to look at the author’s name, to see if she was Jewish, but “Lynne Reid Banks” didn’t read Jewish to me. I probably should have googled it, huh? And London! Totally makes sense of some of the things they said, like “bin” instead of “garbage can.”

      Annnnnd … there’s all the info, right in the back of the book. Ah! All I can say is — I wanted to do a quick post because I had some other things to work on, so clearly didn’t do my research. Thanks Grace!! 🙂

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  3. I love this post and thread. I get the impression authors (especially of children’s lit – my favorite genre) often choose names that a) are familiar to them (they know a child with the name and it’s sort of a tribute b) they are “guilty pleasure” names… names you can get away with in a book, but might not use on your actual child (because so many fictional characters have unusual names) or c) names that somehow have symbolism or meaning related to the character or story (because writers think like that, haha). I also think they often try to find names that are sort of… catchy and memorable… perhaps to ti be competitive in the highly competitive world of publishing.

    Another “iiterary name genre” I’ve noticed are outdated names yet to circle back in popularity… characters like Arthur and Matilda come to mind (but it’s possible those names WERE popular when they were created, just not when I was reading them.. but they have circled back).

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  4. Growing up, we listened to the audiobook of Indian in the Cupboard, read by the author! I highly recommend it. The author pronounces it OHM-ree. I forget how she pronounces the other names, but I think for Adiel, the -i- and -e- are blended, so it’s more like Adyel.

    Another example of misnamed t.v./movie characters–Skyler in Breaking Bad! Seriously, that name didn’t exist until the 1990s, and the character would have been born in the 70s.

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