As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I spend a good portion of my time researching unfamiliar topics and reading in a variety of genres. Over the past several years during these efforts, I’ve noticed an unsettling trend emerge – writers of books, movies, and TV shows creating a seedy and sad cast of characters named, um, “Tanya”.
First, researching a picture book I was writing in 2015, I found this gem: Presenting Tanya, the Ugly Duckling, whose description on Amazon states: “After being assigned the lead role in her spring dance recital of The Ugly Duckling, clumsy Tanya wonders if she will be able to live up to the part and truly be able to dance like a swan.”
Then, this popped up: The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 1 (light novel), wherein “high above the blood- and mud-soaked trenches, a young girl pits herself against army mages in high stakes aerial duels with bullets, spells, and bayonets. Her name is Tanya Degurechaff and she is the Devil of the Rhine…”
Next: the confusing Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Feline Chronic Kidney Disease… by author Helen Fitzsimons (huh?).
And now, I’ve discovered: Dancing is for Everyone, a picture book for (oh-so-impressionable) children, whose plot is described as such: “An alligator dancing ballet? When the reptile takes her place at the barre, Mrs. Iraina and her dancers are very surprised. But since they can’t communicate with the alligator–and she is able to follow along–they just decide to name her Tanya and let her stay. (Would YOU say no to a 450-pound alligator?).”
450 pounds? Hmmph!
Now, I want to blame this Tanya hate-fest on the notorious Tonya Harding. I mean, who can forget this face:
Or this one:
And of course, the new movie I, Tonya serves to bring even greater attention to the frizz-haired bad-girl ice skater of the early 90’s.
But then I also found this 1976, uh, quality comedy:
HBO’s Hung, starring Jane Adams as Tanya Skagle, pimp.
And, who can forget the over-sexed Tanya on Mamma Mia!?
Notice the spelling? I soon realized that “Tanya” and “Tonya” exist on different planes.
And I did what I do best: research.
- On namestatistics.com, I discovered that Tonya is the 209th most popular girls’ name in the U.S., while Tanya lags behind at 237th.
- “Tonya” and “Tanya” are both Russian names, but the former means Praiseworthy and the latter is usually listed as a Roman clan name.
- Tonya is rarely mispronounced as Tony-a, whereas Tanya is often mispronounced (or pronounced differently) as Tan-ya.
Yeah, yeah, I discovered other things too, but you get the idea. And now that I’ve brought this important issue out into the open, I wanted to beg, implore, and plead with writers in all genres to P-L-E-A-S-E (with double cherries on top) get those creative juices flowing in the character naming department. Don’t fall into the I’ll-just-name-the-crazy-lady-Tanya trap! Branch out a bit. Mix it up. Try, say, “Tonya” for your next freaky female. NO! Just Kidding. Try Olive or Becca or Carly instead.
Meanwhile, I’ll be downtown filling out some forms. Starting today, I plan to answer to the oh-so-lovely name of Tania.