Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Power of Jack

Warning: This is a repost of a guest blog, but still a good read the second time.

Marketers and comedians have long taken advantage of the powerful K sound. Crime writers have too, they just may not realize it. Think about the name Jack for protagonists. Jack Ryan, Jack Reacher, Jack Keller, Jack Taylor, Jack Davis, Jack Irish, and Jack Palms to name just a few. Then there’s Taylor Jackson and my own Detective Wade Jackson. Not to mention the Jakes (Jake Riley, Jake Riordan, Jake McRoyan).

The K sound is especially powerful at the end of word, which is why Jack and f**k are both so fun to say. Can you think of a comedian who can get through his/her material with saying f**k or jerk or some variation of jack (jackoff, jackass, jackshit)?

The X sound is really K with a little S on the end, so Alex is almost as popular with crime writers: Alex Cooper, Alex Cross, Alex Archer, Alex Delaware, Alex Duarte, Alex Bernier. And Cooper and Cross are both pronounced with the K sound. Then there’s Kinsey Milhone and Greg McKenzie, which has a trifecta of winning sounds: the double K sound and the popular Z. Marketers like Z almost as well as K.

There’s plenty of K sounds in other protags too: Lincoln Perry, Lucas Davenport, Elvis Cole, Joe Pike, John Cardinal, Michael Kowlaski, Vicky Bliss, and Jacqueline Kirby. Apologies to hundreds that I’ve likely missed.

In my recent novel, The Sex Club, which has both K and X sounds in the title, the main characters are Detective Jackson and Kera Kollmorgan. Jackson’s daughter’s name is Katie. In women’s fiction, Kate is the female equivalent of Jack—a short, powerful K name (Kate London, plus many others).

It’s not just me. Author Jack Getze has a protag named Austin Carr who encounters a bad guy named Max, whom he calls Creeper. In as single scene, he writes about Carr and Creeper as well as an AK-47, Alka-Seltzer, a stockbroker, an Escalade, a Caddy, and a Lincoln.

And another writer told me, “I had so many K names in my first book I had to change all but one.”

What is it about the K sound that we like so much? One amateur theory is that as babies, we all heard a lot of K words and noises: cootchie-coo, cutie-pie, cuddles, etc. But it could be that this is simply one of those things that is hard-wired into our brains from human experiences long ago. Whatever the reason, readers and writers like the sound K, so keep it coming.

4 comments:

Helen Ginger said...

You're right LJ. Certain sounds appeal to us in different ways. The K sound is harsh, sharp, crisp. Just saying it, as in a character name, gives you a certain feeling about the character (whether you're aware of it or not). Other sounds affect us too. Look at the word "love." The l and the v are smooth, almost making you want to elongate the sounds. And the "o" is a short vowel, really an "uh" sound.

Even saying that, if you've had an experience, good or bad, with a Jake or a Lovie, your impressions of them may affect your attitude toward a character with that name more than anything else.

I'm glad you brought up the K and the X sound. I'd never really thought about it.

©Hotbutton Press said...

And hubbo hates the name Jack because his mother wanted to name him that... after an old boyfriend! LOL. How weird is that? Now here's a useless fact-every man I've ever been interested in has had a K in his name. Weird, but true, so the hardwiring part may have some merit.

Dani
http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com

zhadi said...

K is to tough what a name ending with 'i' (Candi, Bambi, Barbie) is to bimbos and strippers!

I may go to hell for that one... :-)

hearwritenow said...

I hadn't thought of how popular certain sounds are, but, now that you've made me aware of it, I'm sure I'm going to be spotting this trend all over the place. Great post.