Anthroponyms Using For Creating An Ironic Beginning ("Napoleon Carts" By D. Rubina)


The article proposes a study of literary onyms as representatives of the ironic principle in artistic works of postmodernism. The subjects of study were anthroponyms in the novel “Napoleon Carts” by the famous contemporary writer Dina Rubina, which are an effective means of conveying irony. For a person living in the 21st century, an ironic perception of the world is familiar. For a long time, irony has not been perceived only as a mockery. Acquiring various forms, performing different functions, irony has not been an included element of the text for a long time; irony is a peculiar feature of modern man's thinking. Thus, irony gives additional meanings to the very structure of the text. To understand, comprehend and perceive a work of art, you need a multidimensional interpretation. We examined semantic, contextual, pragmatic aspects of the functioning of anthroponyms in a literary text, determined the functions of irony and the peculiarities of their implementation in the text under consideration, presented substantiated evidence that literary onyms in a literary text play not only a plot-forming role, but also affect the definition of the genre of a literary work. The analysis showed that onyms in this work act as an effective means of explicit and implicit irony, they realize not only the function of ridicule or criticism, but also the function of personality self-actualization, empathy, socialization, hidden argumentation.

Keywords: Anthroponym, irony, onomastics


Dina Rubina entered the literary world of Russia in the early 70s of the 20th century, when women's prose has just broke the new ground. Her works written in the 90s–2000s of the 20th century are the most popular ones. Novels and stories of the writer are complex and multifaceted: events take place not only in Russia, but also in Israel and Europe, her characters experience many events, retrospection of which opens up all multi-aspects of the plot. The prose of D. Rubina has been studied in sufficient detail in the literary aspect. However, the specificity of the linguistic means of her works requires more detailed consideration.

In this regard, the material of our research was the trilogy by D. Rubina “Napoleon Carts”, which includes three books: “Rowan Wedge”, “White Horses”, “Angel Horn”. These works cannot be unambiguously delimited by the framework of one genre. In our opinion, this is a synthesis that we would designate as a lovingly ironic detective story. We came to this conclusion as a result of the analysis of the role of onyms in the text by D. Rubina. The name in its secret surpasses the abilities of the “average” person who is outside the space in which one can understand this secret of the name and nomenclature. This explains the meaning of the orientation toward nominalism, toward walls that keep a secret meaning, which itself, however, requires a creative spirit (Toporov, 1998). That is why anthroponyms have engendered a particular interest of linguists for decades, as evidenced by numerous works on onomastics, which traditionally deal with the functioning and semantics of anthroponyms, including literary texts.

Problem Statement

Researchers who studied the problems of the onomastic space of a work of art (P. Florensky, D.S. Likhachev, A.F. Losev, S. Bulgakov, A.V. Superanskaya and others), emphasized that the choice of a name is never accidental: the author selects names, thinks of onyms, and represents names as code words of the novel. Many works of classical literature can be an illustration to this thesis (N.V. Gogol “The Inspector General”, “A Horse-Worthy Name” and “Chameleon” by A.P. Chekhov, etc.). As Likhachev (1968) noted, the anthroponymic world created by the writer, enters “the inner world of a work of art, the signs of which serve for a figurative reflection of reality and are connected with each other in a certain system, live in their own artistic time and space” (p. 77).

Research Questions

Understanding the role of proper names in the construction of the onomastic space of a novel is necessary for a complex study of their unique possibilities for expressing philosophical, cultural, historical meanings that contribute to a more accurate interpretation of the analyzed names.

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of the article is to analyze literary onyms as representatives of the ironic principle in the works of postmodernism on the example of D. Rubina's trilogy “Napoleon Carts”. The results make it possible to solve the problems of forming the onomastic space of a literary text, determine the principles of nomination of literary heroes, and highlight the functions of proper names in a literary text.

Research Methods

In modern onomastics, the contours of the object and the subject of research are clearly defined. The article develops terminological apparatus and classification of onyms in relation to the denotation; the processes of the formation of proper names; characterizes their role in the structure of the text. A wide range of problems facing onomastics has determined a number of methods for analyzing onomastic space.

The structural method focuses on the search for the internal organization of the onomastic space, which thereby assumes the contours of an ordered whole, system, and structure.

An important aspect of the study of anthroponymic vocabulary in the context of a work of art is the analysis of national culturally conditioned stereotypes associated with the author's naming of heroes. The choice of a name is a process that reflects the authors' linguocultural knowledge about the name, their point of view on how this name corresponds to the hero's social status, his character. (Vezhbitskaya, 1997, p. 404)

Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the extralinguistic conditions that influence the nomination, the so-called method of “trained introspection” proposed by A. Vezhbitskaya. In this vein, we adhere to the most common approach to understanding the role of onyms in the system of a literary text: literary anthroponyms should be considered in relation to the anthroponymic system of the period depicted in a work, the anthroponymic system, contemporary to an author, the style of the work, and a literary tradition of using names. Thus, artistic anthroponyms appear as signs that unite various systems.


Let us turn to the consideration of anthroponyms in the novel by D. Rubina from the point of view of the implementation of the functions of irony. It is generally accepted that irony, ascribes to a phenomenon what it lacks, as if raises it, not only in order to more sharply emphasize the absence of properties attributed to the phenomenon. Thus, in irony, the lack of this phenomenon is perceived more sharply, is associated with its more essential properties, and gives rise to a contemptuous attitude towards it.

Irony, in addition to ridicule and criticism, realizes the following functions in a literary text: “1) strengthening the position of the speaker by refuting the position of the addressee; 2) preservation of the information content of the message; 3) prevention of excessive certainty and categorically expressed judgments; 4) intimization of interpersonal relationships between communicants; 5) settlement of agreements” (Prokofiev, 1988, p. 120). Varzonin (1994) notes the fulfillment of the function of self-actualization by irony, the ability of irony to give out a certain portrait of the personality. He proposed the term “ironic personality” and designated him for whom irony is “the usual verbal way of self-actualization”: “The ironic statements of this personality perform the following functions: 1) social – the transmission of true knowledge, opinions, interests; 2) empathic – aimed at achieving an emotional shift; 3) argumentative – for the speaker, the possibility of speech participation is limited, while the listener has the status of positional superiority” (Varzonin, 1994, p. 112).

At the beginning of the trilogy, we meet the colorful character Izyum, and we immediately get the impression that this is a nickname, because this hero, according to the author, does not have a passport, lives in a country house, and cannot really explain what he does. Only in the course of the narrative we understand that “this is a candied-confectionery name to which he got used to his life, and in the circle of friends and neighbors he responds to the simple, albeit dubious, “Izya”, given to him by his mother, an honored carriage driver of the Krasnopresnensky tram depot. She gave birth to Izyum from a relationship with a handsome Tatar. When she was asked to give the child a glorious name, which would also be familiar “to the Russian ear”, she chose Ishmael. After that, returning home from the registry office, she said that the frivolous dolly, who was sitting at the registration of names, made an understandable mistake: she, they say, was dragging raisins from the can with her left hand, while she wrote down the name of the baby with her right hand. That is, the mother said, studying the document, is also beautiful: Izyum, my sweet Izyum!” (Rubina, 2019). The name of the character in this case acts as an element of irony, creating an onymic oxymoron, since Izya's life was far from sweet. In this case, the function of self-actualization of the personality, an additional portrait characteristic of the hero, is realized. The patronymic of this character also becomes the subject of irony. In the author's remark, it was noted that his mother had the child from a handsome Tatar, but Almaz is not a traditional Tatar name and not even Sovietism (Dazdaperma, Oktyabrina, Lam). Thus, the author hints at the absence of a real father in Izi's life and his illegitimacy. Here irony appears in its purest form – mockery.

The anthroponym of the main character is also permeated with irony. From the first pages of the novel we meet Nadezhda or Petrovna. These onyms do not give any idea about the character of the character. The only thing that can be said is that the patronymic names are usually women who have reached 45 years, in a family or friendly environment. Only by the middle of the narrative, Nadezhda begins to “grow” with nicknames: first – “Ryumochka Khrystova”, which is given to her by a no less picturesque character of the antique dealer Borya-Candelabr. As with any nickname, there is a whole story behind this onym: “Once, at the beginning of our acquaintance, amazed at the innumerable riches of Borya's basement, she showed him how his grandmother overturned the first glass. Oh, it was a ritual! It was theater! And if anyone dared to pour only half, the grandmother indignantly exclaimed: “I'm your half-daughter, or what?! Pour full!”. So, ​​the glass was filled with liqueur, stood like a bride under the crown. And over her in different voices, the grandmother acted out a scene. First, a brisk child's voice:

  • Ryumochka Khrystova! Where are you from?
  • From Rostov! – Ryumochka responded affectionately and tenderly ... (Rubina, 2019).

This nickname, as well as the conversation above, represents a complex of irony’s functions: social – a reader learns the real history of Nadezhda's family; empathic – Borya-Candelabr has positive emotions for the main character, which become a friendship.

Only after we got acquainted with one of the nicknames, the author introduces the charachter officially: Nadezhda Petrovna Avdeeva, head of the modern Russian literature department of the largest publishing house in Russia (Rubina, 2019). The reader has already got a certain idea of ​​the personality of the main character, and this nomination, in comparison with the previous ones, is empty and soulless, realizing just the address, nominative function of a proper name.

The nickname “Dylda” is first encountered in the speech of the protagonist Aristarkh. “Stashek was stunned, depressed and even offended by her height. Where she rushed, he thought in despair, this is necessary – twelve years, and the height is almost one meter seventy, such a dylda!" (Rubina, 2019). This is a very specific nickname, because dylda (a tall girl or a woman) "tall, awkward person", dyldit (to be such a girl) “stagger, wander around”. Usually explained from dyl “log”, dyls pl. “Stilts”. The latter also compares with the Polish dyl the m. “board, stump, log”, which, however, is borrowed from German “Diele” (Toporov, 1998). What is noteworthy is that Nadezhda herself was not offended by this nickname, which speaks of the implementation of the function of self-irony and acceptance of yourself as you are. In the course of the text, the author often nominates his charachter with this nickname, and not with her name. Along with Dylda in childhood, Aristarkh calls Nadezhda the Fiery Kid. This nickname combines both the external characteristics of the charachter (red hair) and internal (fearlessness, impetuosity, insolence), which harmoniously complement her image.

The metamorphoses with the anthroponyms of the main character do not end there. They change, reflecting the changes that occur to her. Nadezhda Petrovna Avdeeva, whom we met in the first part of the trilogy, turns out to be Nadezhda Petrovna Prokhorova in the second, although the reader already has the idea that the harachter is not married. Dina Rubina deliberately changes her last name after a painful break with her lover, and her spiritual rebirth is marked by a new nomination, which in turn enables the charachter to remain unrecognized.

But changing the surname does not change anything in the inner world of the charachter, secondary nominations are much more important for the reader. These nominations reflect the personal growth of the character to a greater extent. So, for example, calm, reasonable, unhurried Nadezhda “turned on Yakalna” and reincarnated. In general, the “switched on Yakalna” worked wonders: Nadezhda managed to solve a variety of issues within fifteen minutes (Rubina, 2019). There was also a quiet writer Nina, who painstakingly recorded the biography of Izyum. Inwardly calm, the regal image of Nadezhda with a red shock of hair on her head was embodied in this unusual onym for the main character. This is again ironic – to become what you are not is a function of self-realization, an opportunity to make a dream come true, but here the irony turns into sarcasm.

No less interesting are the changes that occur with the name of the protagonist Aristarkh. For the first time it is found in the speech of Nadezhda and forms a certain idea of ​​the character in the reader. And he twisted and twisted the scene at Nadezhda's, endlessly remembering how she pronounced this name: Aristarkh, – heavy as an artillery shell. She said it doomed, hopelessly ... even inconsolable. As if the person standing in front of her had died a long time ago (Rubina, 2019). The name and the protagonist are aptly described very well, as well as his predetermined fate. In this onym, one senses some kind of foreignness, unnaturalness, which is further explained by the nominative tradition that connects us with the history of the Aristarkh family. As Nadezhda is reincarnated in Nina, Aristarkh appears to us in the form of Sashka. “And this Sashok (by the way, what kind of manner – a serious man, he probably should be called Alexander, not otherwise? It would be nice to clarify), – he softened, praised the room, the house, and the dogs. He said that Izyum is very going along here” (Rubina, 2019). But in this case, changing the name is equivalent to changing the last name. It is dictated by the same motives: to hide, start a new life, remain unrecognized. Unlike the anthroponym Nadezhda, Aristarkh has no nicknames, but this function is replaced by the hypocorisation of a personal name. My mother called him Stashek, and in childhood he somehow dodged. I had to think what to do next. This is all the father: well, who gives a normal Soviet boy such an old-fashioned name – Aristarkh?! (Rubina, 2019). Aristarkh and Stashek – these onyms are contrary, representing completely opposite personalities. Aristarkh is monumental, sublime, pretentious creature, having nothing to do with a living person; and Stashek is emotional, touching and tender like a sparrow.

The onyms of the main characters, like their fates, reflect each other: in the case of Nadia, at the beginning of the narrative, only the name sounds, and then other nominations appear, which reveals the essence of the hero. From Stashek, the hero turns into Stakh, and then into Aristarkh Semyonovich Bugrov. But not only the name of the protagonist is associated with the transformation of his personality. The metamorphoses of the name of the protagonist are combined with various modifications of the anthroponym of the ancestor Aristarkh – Ari Bugerini – the only son of a fool of a respected Venetian doctor” or Aristarchus Beguero, who “broke up with his family, became a Frenchman, became Bouguereau (Rubina, 2019). Nominative obscurity erodes the image of the hero, preventing him from turning into a harmonious, self-sufficient person dominated by family rock. Irony is hidden in these nominal transformations. The protagonist will never become a brave, reckless Napoleonic soldier: despite the seeming dynamism, he is afraid to change anything in his life, he runs away from himself. No wonder the name Stakh rhymes very well with the word “fear”. He is only a semblance of his ancestor, a pitiful copy of him. Thus, “anthroponyms can be related to each other precisely in their “list”, “non-embodied” quality, and microsystems of two or more names can arise in the anthroponymicon, which are perceived by the bearers precisely as related to each other, somewhat similar” (Golikova, 2018, p. 150).

Most of the charachters of the novel have a nickname; represent a deep meaning put by the author while describing the character, and also acts as the main element of the ironic beginning.

Consider the anthroponym of one of the secondary, but plot-significant characters – Vera Samoilovna Badaat, nicknamed Baobab. The official naming only gives an idea of ​​the nationality of a given character, but the nickname implements emotive and social functions, but there is no ridicule here. Varditz (2019) notes that “the additional properties of the name are most clearly manifested, ie, its cultural, confessional, social connotations. However, they can be consciously involved in periods of evolutionary development of language and culture” (p. 135). The nickname Baobab reflects the steadfastness of this woman, inflexibility in front of the difficulties that befell her. Vera Samoilovna Badaat (just like that; and of course, everyone except the members of the school orchestra called her Baobab) got off the train at Vyazniki station in 1954. It was a long time ago, even before Stashek was born. She was in kerzach, in a railway overcoat with spattered buttons; bushes of gray hair made their way through the rough lichens on the bald head (Rubina, 2019). Everything is clear: where did this woman come from, what she had to endure – and irony is not appropriate here.

The means of irony in D. Rubina's texts are not only nicknames, but also literary pseudonyms. One of these characters is Nadezhda's friend and fellow student. Martynas was a candidate of philological sciences, a very educated, cultured and secular person, who spoke a lot, smoothly and beautifully (Rubina, 2019). From old memory, Nadia called him Marty, which further emphasized his European origin. But the official naming realizes only the nominative and social functions and is not a means of irony. Interest in this regard is the pseudonym Svetlana Bezyskusnaya. Martynas ... decided to try his hand at writing erotic female prose, and at the same time chose the appropriate pseudonym: Svetlana Bezyskusnaya (Rubina, 2019). First, the gender component is ironic, which is opposite to the real gender of the author. So, a man tries to hide behind a female image, thereby realizing the established stereotype that women are intellectually lower than men, on the other hand, D. Rubina shows with this pseudonym that a woman is the driving force of modern society, on her shoulders not only family, but also a business in which she quite successfully exists and competes with men. The world turned upside down: if in the 19th century, in order to achieve success in the literary field, it was necessary to take a male pseudonym; for example, Georges Sand, behind which the talented French writer Amandine Aurora Lucille Dupin was hiding, Dudevant when she was married, then in the 21st century, a female pseudonym is a guarantee of popularity, especially when it comes to such a genre as a love-erotic novel.

It should be noted that the presented pseudonym is a metatextual guide that unequivocally draws parallels with the novel of the remarkable 20th century satirist M. A. Bulgakov “The Master and Margarita”, in which the pseudonym Ivan Bezdomny also acts as a means of expressing the ironic, even satirical principle in a literary text.


Thus, the conducted research convincingly proves the thesis put forward by us that the genre of the trilogy by D. Rubina “Napoleon Carts” can be characterized as a lovingly ironic detective story. Proper names in the novel act as an effective means of explicit and implicit irony, they realize not only the function of ridicule or criticism, but also the function of self-actualization of the personality, empathy, socialization, hidden argumentation. We also proved that literary onyms, being a stylistically significant and informatively loaded constant of a literary text, play a significant role in its perception, enhance its expressiveness and emotional expressiveness, and update a vast layer of extralinguistic information.


  • Golikova, D. M. (2018). Systemic connections of anthroponyms through the prism of anthroponymic derivatives. Quest. of onomast, 2, 139–161.

  • Likhachev, D. S. (1968). The inner world of a work of art. Quest. of literat., 8, 74–87.

  • Prokofiev, G. L. (1988). Irony as a pragmatic component of an utterance. Kiev.

  • Rubina, D. I. (2019). Napoleon Carts. Eksmo.

  • Toporov, V. N. (1998). Prehistory of literature among the Slavs: the experience of reconstruction: an introduction to the history of Slavic literature. Russ. State Univer. For The Human.

  • Varditz, V. (2019). Russian naming of the new time: socio-cultural and political-ideological mechanisms of anthroponymic shifts. Probl. of Onomast., 2, 132–136.

  • Varzonin, Y. N. (1994). Communicative acts with an attitude of irony. Tver.

  • Vezhbitskaya, A. (1997). Language. Culture, Cognition. Russ. dictionaries.

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17 May 2021

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Borisova, T. G., & Kuznetsova, T. B. (2021). Anthroponyms Using For Creating An Ironic Beginning ("Napoleon Carts" By D. Rubina). In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Knowledge, Man and Civilization - ISCKMC 2020, vol 107. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 223-229). European Publisher.