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So I'm writing a story and there is a character that is a male that I want to name Artemis. The reason, simply put, is that he has a sister with a name I really like that is TECHNICALLY a boy's name (the nickname however is sweet sounding and was the reason I chose the full name).

I wanted to go for a 'OMG, your brother has a girl's name and you have a boy's name' but I'm worried about using it because it isn't a common boy's name at all. In fact the only male called Artemis I've ever heard of is Artemis Fowl (Who is nothing like my character other than the fact that they'd have the same first name).

Is it alright for me to use it?

  • 9
    If it worked for Colfer (Artemis Fowl) why wouldn't it work for you? You can name your character Buhubu if it serves your story and doesn't alienate your reader. – Thomas Myron Nov 23 '17 at 21:14
  • Another very famous Artemis is Artemis Entreri from the Forgotten Realms. He's an assassin and the arch-nemesis of Drizzt Do'Urden. – fiend Mar 27 '18 at 13:27
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    One of Johnny Cash's most famous song is "A Boy Named Sue." – NomadMaker Mar 27 '18 at 18:58
  • And in the real world strange names abound. Don't forget the Zappa girl's feminine name, "Moon Unit." – NomadMaker Mar 27 '18 at 18:59
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    Another not-very famous Artemis was Artemis Gordon, who was James West's sidekick on Wild Wild West – DSKekaha Mar 27 '18 at 19:02
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It’s your story. You are free do whatever you’d like with names. I would say many readers, but not most, will be aware of the mythological twins Artemis and Apollo, and among those readers you will produce your intended shock factor.

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Yes, you can use Artemis; it is from Greek mythology and impossible to copyright as a name. The Greek for the male versions of this name are Artemas and Artemus, both are listed in The Character Naming Sourcebook (and mean "gift of Artemis"). You violate nothing by using a name already in the public domain.

I would avoid using the full name of a fictional character; Don't call a character "Clark Kent" or "Bruce Wayne" or "Harry Potter". The copyright owners of those characters might be able to claim damages if the name of your character helps you succeed commercially. But that is a combination: One cannot copyright "Clark", "Bruce", or "Harry", and cannot copyright the surnames "Kent", "Wayne", or "Potter", none of them are original combinations of letters used as names.

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It's not so uncommon for boys to have girl names and otherwise. As example I can give the example name "Kim". It can be both: A boys name, a girls name, a short form from "Kimberly".

It is completely up to you if the name matches or not. From my opinion Artemis is not a name that sounds like boy or girl and can match both

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    Actually, it is uncommon. There are a few names in English speaking cultures which are not bound to one gender, and it is a much more frequent occurence for a male name to become neutral or female over time than the other way round (or maybe there are even no examples for the other way round, I forget the details of the research I have read). Also, unusual names like "Navy" are used much more for girls than for boys. And it is more socially accepted to use "true" boy names for girls than the other way round. On the whole, parents and society are much more conservative with boy names. Of course – rumtscho Nov 23 '17 at 19:38
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    this is a descriptive summary of trends which are commonly observed, not a prescriptive set of rules for writers. But my point is that your answer is a bit too superficial (mixing up the cases of gender neutral names and gendered names given to the opposite gender) and misses important trends. The OP can still name the boy Artemis - here, it is actually helpful that it is not a common name in English. But not because it is "not so uncommon". – rumtscho Nov 23 '17 at 19:41
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You can name a male character "Sally" and a female character "Bruno" if you want to. It's not like there's a law against it.

But the question to ask yourself is not, "Am I allowed to do this?" but "Is it a good idea to do this?"

If there is some reason why this name is significant and the story won't work if the character has some other name, then of course do it.

But if it's just a matter of, "oh, this name popped into my head and I kind of like it", I'd say probably don't. Giving a male character a girl's name will be distracting to the reader. Readers may be confused if this character is a guy or a girl, or if this is the name of the guy-character or of some other girl-character. If no one in the story ever notices or comments on the odd name, it may seem unrealistic. Like if I knew a man named Sally in real life, I would be very surprised if he did NOT get jokes about his name and people being confused by it.

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There is no law against it, but I would discourage it. Personally, I would find that particular quirk distracting and immersion breaking. Unless the fact that this character has a feminine name is very important to the story, I don't think it's worth it.

This is actually one of the reasons I wasn't able to get into Artemis Fowl.

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My first thought was of the Johnny Cash song "A boy named Sue", and it sounds like you're already thinking of an interesting back story. There's also a nice opportunity to refer to him by a shortened version in earlier chapters and go for a dramatic revelation of the full name.

But the short answer here is that you're the writer and as long as you do it well, you can do anything you like.

Anything at all.

[Twitches cape over shoulder and walks away into the night with an indulgent but slightly disturbing chuckle.]

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