From The Off Beat Side Of My Brain...

Yes, we're into the dog days of summer - you might say the "Hot Dog Days" of summer here in the Northwest! - and the slower pace got me reflecting on several smaller and off beat things... such as, where does the phrase "dog days of summer" come from anyway?

Two random musings:

First, from the "truth is stranger than fiction" category, here's a sign I saw posted at the cash register of an ice cream shop in Ashland last week:

"Out of courtesy to others, please refrain from talking on your cell phone while ordering."

Huh? Who talks on their cell phone while ordering ice cream!?! I was so surprised at this sign that I asked the lady working there if that happens so frequently that they really needed to post a sign about it. She assured me it did. She said it often happens in the summer heat with a line running out the door, that just when a customer gets to the front of the line their phone rings and they usually take the call. With the popularity of Bluetooth headsets nowadays, the customer will often stand there facing the store employee, and speak in full voice to their caller while everyone behind them is waiting to order. That just strikes me as weird.


Second, I introduce my Charles Dickens Hall Of Name list!

Amy is in the midst of reading all of Dickens' works and watching many of the recent well-done films of his stories. On vacation last week we watched Little Dorrit, which I really enjoyed. That film got me reflecting on the many colorful and off beat characters in Dickens' stories, several of whom have hilarious names. My current favorites:

From Bleak House, Mr. Tulkinghorn, the sullen, sinister lawyer. His name befits the dark and ruthless character of a man who is only too willing to impale anyone who crosses him, without remorse. He makes my list along with his law clerk, Mr. Clamb who (appropriately) says very little.

Mr. Tulkinghorn

Also from Bleak House, Mr. Guppy, the young, jumpy (and ever-so-slightly creepy) lawyer who darts around kinda' fish-like trying to gulp down opportunity for personal advancement wherever he can find it. Guppy really is a very small fish trying to become a big one by swimming with other "big fish," but he's the only person (other than his mother) who doesn't realize that he'll always remain a little guppy. He even looks a bit slimy and fishy:

Mr. Guppy

From Martin Chuzzlewit... well, Martin Chuzzlewit! What a name. This is maybe the only entry on my list chosen purely for its creative and odd sound.

From the same story I'd include the sad, clueless, and unscrupulous distant relative of the Chuzzlewit family, Mr. Chevy Slyme. That one slides off the tongue so smoothly... Slyme is dense, easily manipulated, and without either morals or brains - kind of a pond scum character.

But above all from this story is the greedy, bumbling, pretentious poseur
Seth Pecksniff. That name does a fantastic job capturing its owner's (false) high moral airs, which don't really conceal the conniving, shameless way in which he takes advantage of everyone he meets. This name alone merits the Pulitzer Prize!


And finally, from my recent Little Dorrit viewing, I can't resist adding three more to my Dickens Hall of Names list. First is the edgy, gruff, touchy old manservant Jeremiah Flintwinch. While discussing this list on vacation my mother suggested Flintwinch as an addition, but I initially thought not. Yet the more I pondered how his name fits his mean, harsh, short-fused character the more I realized that mom is right. I should know by now: always listen to your mother! Thanks for a good suggestion mom.

Jeremiah Flintwinch

Also making my list from from Little Dorrit is Edmund Sparkler, who (quite appropriately) is a bubbly, vivacious -- and completely air-headed -- rich kid. Sparkler is an initial flash of expressive energy... and nothing else. Kinda' like those bubbles in your soda pop. They tickle your nose for a second, and then they're gone.

But the grand prize so far (I haven't read or watched all of Dicken's stuff yet) goes to... Mr. Tite Barnacle - a singularly brilliant name for a man who embodies the wasteful, bureaucratic red tape of his employer, the fictional Circumlocution Office. This government entity is a leech of a bureaucracy which pushes meaningless paper around at taxpayer expense for no reason other than to keep its own employees paid. Well named indeed!

As you can see, Dickens had a flair for not only odd or funny sounding names, but names which captured the key facets of many of his characters. And I thoroughly enjoy this rather eccentric bit of Dickens' writing talents!

Anyone care to add to my Dickens Hall of Names list?


Amy Guerino said...

Mr. Smallweed from Bleak House needs to be on your list. He is a hunched over, conniving schemer that is rooted to his chair!

Miss Haversham from Great Expectations is the other I would nominate. She is jilted on her wedding day and stops the clocks in her house and refuses to move on with her life...lives in her wedding dress, the dining room with the wedding cake is being eaten by maggots. She raises an orphan girl just to get back at the men. She is a sham to womanhood and revengeful towards what she couldn't have.

Matt Guerino said...


I also thought about Mr. Boythorn from Bleak House. How appropriately named: he is intense, bouyant, lovable and jovial like a boy. And he seems to make his living by insulting, opposing, and even suing Sir Dedlock - basically doing whatever he can to be a thorn in Dedlock's side!

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