What’s in a name?

Tuesday: Repost day….over to the man with the big nose…..

Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn.

Whenever I hear that phrase, one scene from one film jostles its way to the surface of my mind: it’s that Steve Martin take on Cyrano De Bergerac’s ‘Roxanne’.

Cyrano, alias quick-witted Fire Chief CD Bales, has earned withering scorn from his Roxanne.He’s written love letters to her, purporting to be someone else. She fell in love with his words, but has ended up falling into bed with the wrong man because of the fire chief’s duplicity.

Furious, she orders him out of her house.

He walks up and down on one of those beautiful wide American porches in the balmy dusk, shouting “Ten more seconds and I’m leaving!”

The door, unceremoniously shut moments before, flies open. “What did you say?” she fires out.

CD repeats his ultimatum, and disgusted, she flounces back into the house, slamming the door.

And now he realises: she thought she’d heard different words.

“Wait a minute,” he says, “what did you think I said?”

She replies: “Urmore Sessions, by Slieving”.

“Well what does that mean?”, he rejoins, perplexed at this wild card.

“I don’t know”, replies Roxanne testily. “That’s why I came out.”

We love it, because it is just how my husband Phil or I would think. Either of us would be prepared to shelve a thunderous row for Slieving or any of his colleagues.

It appears our offspring have inherited our penchant for funny names .

Today we took our usual spin round our neighbourhood forest. The children chortled and gurgled at the sight the dog chasing pheasants. The creatures flapped up out of the undergrowth, for all the world like barely airborne ponderous dowagers, momentarily discomfited by a mutt who wouldn’t know what to do if he ever got one.

By the time we headed back towards home, Β the kids were in hysterics. They were in a merry frame of mind, and then I said, let’s go the forbidden way.

Our main track up into the forest is closed for works. But it’s nearly finished. I suggested taking the route anyway: the workmen had all gone home and it was quite safe. Felix declined: he does not like breaking rules. I insisted and, ever obedient, he finally followed us down the gully.

Careful Felix, Maddie said wickedly, John Blunt will get you.


It’s just a joke, Maddie explained, giggling uncontrollably, John Blunt. It’s no-one, it’s just funny.

And just to prove it, Felix was gurgling volubly at the thought of being got by this jocular gentleman.

So I started the grown up stuff. Who is he? Do you know him? Is he someone on television? Have you learnt about him in history? Has Daddy told you about him?

No, no, no, no and no.

So here I was, a middle class mother, trying not to think about the fact that I didn’t know who John Blunt was. Maddie and Felix are generous in their mirth. Everyone is invited to laugh along, and I was no exception.

But later, burning curiosity drew my fingers to the laptop keys in search of an answer from that 21st Century oracle, Google.

And these are the John Blunts I found.

There was a charming New Hampshire artist; a Californian estate agent; NBC Philadelphia has recently bid adieu to a presenter of that name; and John Blunt happens also to be a Freddie Mercury impersonator.

But there wasΒ no-one who might have inspired my children to giggle so.

I asked Maddie, just once more. Who thought of John Blunt?

And she said, Oh Mummy, it’s just a really funny name.

There have been many wonderful funny names through the ages. Some of my favourites are from that deeply affectionate portrait of Victorian everyman, Diary of a Nobody, by George and Weedon Grossmith.

What better name for our nobody than Pooter? Charles is the central character. His son is called William or Willie: but half way through the book the son acquires airs and graces, and chooses to call himself Lupin Pooter.

His best friends are Cummings and Gowing, of course. Cummings is always going and Gowing is always coming…but for me, no name is funnier than that chosen for the amateur thespian who is a leading light in the local amateur group, the Holloway Comedians.

His name is Mr. Burwin-Fosselton.

Why this should be funny I have absolutely no idea, but it is eminently grinworthy.

Funny names make the world go round. I could ramble on, from Monty Python’s Ron Vibentropf and Mr Bimmler, Β to Blackadder’s first world war superior, Captain Darling.

But you know, I might just wait to see what everyone else comes up with.


39 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. I enjoyed this but my mind is a blank! Not a good start to the day…

    My father used to use the word ‘Gubbins’ when he couldn’t remember someone’s name. (As in, ‘you know, the gubbinses who came to supper the other night’) I made a friend whose surname was in fact Gubbins. I told my parents about him and my father asked ‘but what’s his name?’ and couldn’t believe that he was indeed called Gubbins. He laughed for days. Actually, I’m smiling now I think about it.

    I have just ‘googled’ the word: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/gubbins

  2. I love the appropriate names. Mr Stat the auditor, Mr Payne the dentist.

    For giggles – one often wonders how people think up names and initials for children
    A friend Patsy, now married to Standing, is P Standing, my sister for a time was IM White.

    The Downes are a famous family, Ida, Ben and Niel of course.

  3. In answer to the question, a heck of a lot, actually!
    Some women are really unlucky with husbands’ names. Two I have known, a Rose who married an Early, and a Wendy who married a House.
    Greatest humour for me lies in the bawdy, though. I had ass a business connection a Chinese gentleman with the name of W C Lu, who banked at the Chemical Bank in Flushing Meadows. True!

    The latter place always reminds me of W C Fields …

    1. Same here, colonialist . . . Your comment immediately brought to mind the pair of schoolmates my late mother used to chuckle about — the Pion girl who married the young man named Potts — a smile I’d not given thought to in many years. πŸ™‚

  4. Ahh, this post brought a smile as I crank the peddels inside (darn weather has turned on us). I dig that your children are creative enough (and clever) to play a bit of an adult name game! You may be in for a run as they get older.

    My faves with names, those that denote the person’s profession, aka, Jack Foote (and he indeed is a pediatrist.)

    Yours, I think a bit as I think your writing can be shrewd (but in a very very good way). ~

    1. I will confess something to you: I have much in common with Shakespeare’s shrewish antiheroine, Angela….thinking of you as that beautiful piece of NaNo writing develops…

  5. πŸ˜€ Much chuckling courtesy of you and your wonderful offspring, thank you dear Kate! My all time most bizarre name for a child – “Number 16 bus shelter”, courtesy of the current RWC champions – perhaps linked to where it was conceived ???? Abyssmal 😦

  6. An aunt worked for what was then called the American Telephone Co. Ma Bell. That’s not the funny name, however.

    My aunt’s job was an information operator.

    Back in the day when we dialed a rotary phone with a finger, or pencil stub, in the letter “O” for operator. When one didn’t know a phone number, they could dial the information operator. Imagine that. You got an actual human who looked up the number for you, for no charge. My aunt had a wicked sense of humotr. A family trait, I’m afraid. She worked the night shift and she got some funny inquiries, especially on weekends. The night in question was a regular week night, not too late. Someone dialed “O”, got my aunt, and asked for the phone number of Nick Let. My aunt turned to the L’s, ran her finger down the page, and there it was, last name first. Let, Nicholas P.

    1. πŸ˜€ I can see that would be an extremely interesting occupation, Penny. I would never be able to stop scanning for silly names…your tale had me longing for those old telephone dials…

  7. My father is the master of the funny name, and now I cannot recall a single one of them. He’s known, though, for inserting funny names into serious conversations – just saying the name – and then bursting out laughing. His laughter is always contagious, and people always forget to be serious. (One of his nicknames, reserved for a post later this week, is Tootie. Sometimes, I call him that instead of Dad.)

    I really love the image, Kate, of your forcing your child to do something wrong. πŸ™‚ A mother after my own heart.

    1. The alternative is a very long way round, and I loved to look at all the workmen’s stuff they had left behind. The very last thing which stayed behind – for an inordinately long time – was a portaloo….

      1. PS: You have met Tooty, below, haven’t you? Author of the colourful HamsterBritain series (now re-dubbed HamsterSapiens). A real-live demonstration of your father’s pet name.

  8. Names just pop into my head when I’m doing just about anything. They end up in my stories. My latest is Poncho Warmonger. I wonder what tale I can tell of him?

  9. I cannot help but remember the Captain Pugwash characters and their unfortunate names lol, loved the shows and books as a child, was only after I passed 30 that I finally sussed why people found the names so funny!

  10. I know there have been names that have sent me into fits of laughter from time to time, but for the life of me I can’t think of them right now. . .

  11. My own last name, “Nott,” has entertained my circle of acquaintance for as long as I can remember. My favorite witticism on it came in an email from one of my friends: “Miss Nott, and surely you shall hit.”

    I like to collect funny names out of my literary researches, too. Some of my favorites: Herman Harrell Horne and Fredson Bowers. Not funny for particular reasons, but funny all the same.

  12. I’m not entirely convinced that you’re being affectionate in poking fun at my great great grandfather’s name, which (you understand) I share. However, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. My own son, aware of his ancestor’s name, chose to re-name himself “Lupin” too, although he well knows I do not approve.

    I’ve actually written a diary of my own – The Diary of a Nobody in the 21st Century – which, once I read it back, appears to bear some very curious similarities to/parallels with the original. Oh, and being thoroughly modern (this surprises my friends) I also tweet regularly. (Carrie is very proud of me). I’m quite the “geek” to tell the truth.

    My twitter address is @charlespooter, and I’ve got a website – http://www.charlespooter.com. I have even put my book on Kindle (although I admit, I needed assistance from Nicholas in Norfolk who then passed it on to a Russian friend because it was too tricky for either of us to work out how to do it). The book is at http://www.tinyurl.3bm3u6k

    All the best,

    Charles Pooter

    1. Thank you Charles. Wonderful to hear from a descendant of a hero of mine, and to have your details, thank you! Needless to say I am following you in Twitter. Loved the sketches of the updated characters on your website – especially Daisy Mutlar πŸ˜€

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