KATniss and KATsa... a coincidence?

Regular readers will know that I write in what I jokingly call the "kickass girl genre" -- action adventure with female protagonists that could beat you up. I often look to The Hunger Games and Graceling, two popular books with similar heroines, for inspiration and guidance. After spending some time with the books, you start noticing things.

For example, has anyone ever noticed that the main characters both have names starting with the syllable "Kat"? (Katniss and Katsa). Could be a coincidence, but I also wonder if there's something about the explosive sound of the letters "K" and "T" that conjure up an impression of forcefulness. Funny enough, my main character (conceived before I read either book) also has a "K" name -- Kyra.

Sound to meaning mapping in language has its supporters and detractors, but there have been some thought provoking results. Check out this interesting article from New Scientist for some more examples.


  1. I read The Hunger Games immediately after reading Graceling. For the first 100 pages, I kept calling Katniss "Katsa" in my head.

    Of note, there is an animated tv show* called "Avatar: The Last Airbender," and the main kickass girl character (there are many) is named "Katara."

    *which everyone should watch, by the way. It's basically an Asian-inspired Harry Potter with better characters, martial arts fight scenes, and lots of kickass ladies.

  2. oooo that's interesting! I've actually noticed that before, but I hadn't given it this much thought :)

    PS I love the name Kyra.

    Hope you're doing well <3

  3. Haha, one of my female characters is named Katie, and she definitely plays by her own rules.

  4. Laura - Thanks for dropping by!

    Becca - when I read graceling, I kept on hearing "Kyra" in my head :-)

    Sara -- Thanks! I like the name Kyra too. Although most people pronounce it "Keera", whereas I hear it as "K-EYE-RA"

    Jesse - Awesome :-) Although for some reason, Katie sounds sweeter to me. Maybe cuz I knew some sweet Katies in real life. Or because the middle T is less explosive? *shrug*

  5. Names carry cultural momentum. Lots of Emilys and Justins, not so many Gertrudes and Mildreds born in many decades. Among fiction writers, popular names may also 'carry' from one book to another, but the sound of the names also informs the character. Poets have sifted words in a similar way for eons. "K" names have a "Kapow!" connotation. That's my scientific opinion!

  6. I think it's definitely a thing. I think you once made a (guest?)post about front stressed and back stressed vowels making a difference in how attractive characters seemed. Same thing here.

    It's probably the same reason why 'slap' sounds less violent than 'smack', even though it's essentially the same thing.

    I read the article and I find this very fascinating. Now I wonder if the same parts of the brain would be active when someone sees a spiky object and when they hear the word 'kiki'. It would be interesting to see such results.

  7. Haha I totally noticed that when those books first arrived on the scene! And both their love interests have names starting with the "p" sound. I wonder if that's to contrast with the "k" sound, since the two syllables use different parts of the mouth to voice.

  8. The kickass girl in the Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series is Kate DeVries.

  9. and akira, she has a k in her name. But then again, there is Lisbeth, the most kick ass girl of them all, and she has no K.


  10. Helen – good point. Names can carry a lot of connotations about time period and culture.

    Jake – I'm guessing, that there will be some shared neurons between the two, but fMRI would be too weak to detect it

    Linda – I never noticed that about the love interest! And they do use different parts of the mouth, almost opposite parts of the mouth.

    deskwarrior -- did you like that book?

    Taylor -- maybe Lisbeth is so awesome she doesn't need a K :-)

  11. Livia, I've finished the first two (Airborn,Skybreaker); on my 12yr old daughter's recommendation. I enjoyed them, they are fast reads, 'swashbuckling' from start to finish, and though sometimes rather contrived, the 'science fantasy' aspects are fairly consistent.

    I'm going to recommend your blog to her when she gets back from camp -- I think she'd really enjoy the Hunger Games timeline chart, for instance. Can't adequately describe here how much she enjoys reading, esp series (h potter, airborn, percy jackson, hunger games, twilight, the ones with the cats, etc, etc).

    Right now I'm watching Mythbusters with my son, and I noticed that the kickass girl is named 'Kari' :-).

  12. The Hindi word "Khatra" means "danger." This post reminded me of that.

  13. Sorry, this is not related to the topic of your post, but I came across this paper that I thought would be right up your alley.
    "Neuroscience and Young Adult Fiction: A Recipe for Trouble?"

  14. Then there's katana, the deadly ninja weapon. =P

    Catastrophe and cataclysm both have this same sound as well. Those are also rather dangerous.

    And, of course, cat. Which can also be pretty frightening.

    - Cholisose