Christopher Howse is a newspaper columnist who writes on various topics, but one of his articles caught my eye at the weekend. He was commenting on the fact that Pussy Galore is going to reappear in a ‘new’ James Bond novel. a sequel to Goldfinger written by Anthony Horowitz. I have mixed thoughts on writers doing sequels to past classics… but anyway, Howse was commenting on the apt names Fleming gave his characters. He mentioned the origins of some names, for example the evil Blofeld was named after cricket commentator henry Blofeld’s father; Goldfinger was a real person, but whereas the fictional Auric Goldfinger was the treasurer for SMERSH, the real Ernõ Goldfinger was an architect Fleming fell out with. Howse also comments on Evelyn Waugh’s campaign against a former teacher of his, by naming several unpleasant characters after him.
I have never used a real person’s name – or not knowingly, and in some books I tried to create names which no-one would really have, Tyche Kane for example and Deke Colefox. Dickens, of course is the master of names, and I wonder what people thought at the time of his more outlandish creations? Now they are considered classics, but present day writers who try to emulate him often miss the mark completely.
Howse finishes his column by remarking on real names which he considers strange… and maybe they are unusual but I am sure the owners of them are very proud! He quotes another writer, Geoffrey Madden, listing Trampleasure, Leatherbarrow, Ballhatchet, Wallcousins, Bullwinkle, Pitblado, Brownbea, Polyblank and Buttolph… I actually knew someone called Leatherbarrow, so it doesn’t strike me as odd at all… As for the other names, I’ve done a little research and the rarest is Wallcousins, but of Brownbea I can foind not a single record, so I think there must be a spelling error somewhere!