This morning I discovered that I named a major character after a car.
"Aveo" is a human-descended alien living on the planet Kular in my recent novel Steal Across the Sky. "Aveo" is also a Chevrolet subcompact on sale in Rochester for $10,181 after rebates, 0% financing for 60 months, 34 mpg highway. Obviously I did not know this when I named my guy, since the last thing I want is for anyone reading about him to also be thinking about the General Motors bail-out. But that's the problem with character names; you can't check out everything.
Where do writers get character names? The phone book, often, or a subset of the phone book. (When I was writing PR for Xerox, everyone in all my stories was taken from the Xerox Employee Directory. None of them have noticed this.) But the phone book only supplies a few million suggestions. The writer still has to choose a name that fits the character's ethnic background, his generation, the specific circumstances, and his personality. "Buddy Steele," "Sunshine Jenson-Taylor," "Carlson McKenzie Adams III", and "Santino Arbaducci" all conjure up a different context in the reader's mind (especially if Carlson is a girl). A girl born in 1940 could easily be named "Janet" or "Angie," but one born in 2000 most likely was not. No female babies were named "Madison" before 1984, when the movie Splash was released.
But even after you've named your character appropriately, traps still spring up. If you've made up the name, what do the syllables mean in Spanish? In Russian? (It's especially bad if the syllables constitute an obscenity.) Have you named your protagonist after anyone who might sue (such as, for instance, your sister?) And finally, is the word a product name -- such as, for instance, a car?
My Aveo lives on a pre-industrial planet, without cars. I'd rather he wasn't associated, even tangentially with one. But it's too late now.