Real-life people with Dickensian names

Somewhat brain-fried at the moment, so here’s the beginnings of a list I started keeping off to the side after marking the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens.

“Dickensian” names is a bit of a slippery category — something to do with meter, with allusions to King James or Victorian English, and with a delightful mix of concrete nouns and sheer whimsy. The standard I’m using here is extremely subjective — can I imagine a character in a Dickens story having that name?

Anyway, I’m not sure if all of the following names quite qualify as “Dickensian,” so please feel free to call for the removal of any names you think don’t belong. But more importantly, please feel free to suggest more names and to add to this only-just-beginning list:

  • Powers Boothe
  • Smedley Butler
  • Wiley Drake
  • Prudence Farrow
  • Rollie Fingers
  • Calista Flockhart
  • Orel Hershhiser
  • Phineas Hitchcock
  • Englebert Humperdink
  • Adoniram Judson
  • Winston Justice
  • Thaddeus Luckinbill
  • Aimee Semple McPherson
  • Stirling Mortlock
  • Thurman Munson
  • John Pertwee
  • Miles Poindexter
  • Phineas Quimby
  • Basil Rathbone
  • Orville Redenbacher
  • Branch Rickey
  • Patience Drake Roggensack
  • Rousas Rushdoony
  • Percy Sledge
  • Heathcliff Slocumb
  • Charity Wakefield

 

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  • P J Evans

    Yantis Gaines. Matchett Poynter. Herpalice Lowry (that first name is four syllables: the last ‘e’ is long).

  • Ethics Gradient

    Benedict Cumberbatch

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Thor Ravenscroft

  • http://harmfulguy.livejournal.com/ harmfulguy

     Do you mean Thurl Ravenscroft?

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Drat. Yes, misremembered it, googled to double-check, and didn’t scroll down far enough to see that google is full of people who made the same mistake.

  • Nequam

    Jamoche: Did you mean “Thurl Ravenscroft”, ie voice of Tony the Tiger among other things?

  • Tonio

    Also the singer of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

    Was J.K. Rowling inspired by Dickens in the names she uses for her characters? Her title character’s name is almost ordinary by comparison, which I suspect is the point. For me as an American reader, Dickens’ choice of names convey not just whimsy and Englishness but also a sense of otherworldliness. I get that from Rowlings’ names to some degree, and I also find the latter quality in the Hunger Games character names.

  • Dave Lartigue

    True fact: The actor who portrayed the third Doctor Who was, despite his name, neither pert nor wee.

  • guest

    This is hliarious…but now I want a one-sentence description of each character and how he/she fits into the plot of the story he/she is in….

  • http://www.bilgrimage.blogspot.com WDL

    How about Anastasia Micklethwaite?

    Or Timms R. Clapp?

  • Anonymous

    Jon Pertwee, neighbour, please! I know he was christened John, but then Englebert Humperdink was born Arnold Dorsey.

    I wonder if you could argue for the Dickensianism of some of the great West Indian cricketers: Conrad Cleophas Hunte; Alf Valentine; Garfield Sobers; Everton Weekes; Seymour Nurse…

  • Michael Cule

    I came across a lady called Mrs Whalebelly many years back. She insisted on it being pronounced ‘Wibberly’. You can see why she would.

    If I ever get one of my novels published it will probably contain that name. One of my role-playing campaigns already does.

  • http://www.bilgrimage.blogspot.com WDL

    Michael, you say, “I came across a lady called Mrs Whalebelly many years back. She insisted on it being pronounced ‘Wibberly’. You can see why she would.”

    The Death family in the Southern states of the U.S. have always been emphatic that their name should be pronounced “Day-arth.”

    And the Outlaws become positively livid when you don’t remember that their name is pronounced, “Oootla.”

  • Anonymous

    The Death family in the Southern states of the U.S. have always been emphatic that their name should be pronounced “Day-arth.”

    Whereas Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey pronounced it “Deeth”, rhyming with teeth.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    The Death family in the Southern states of the U.S. have always been emphatic that their name should be pronounced “Day-arth.”

    Then, there’s the old Two Ronnies sketch in which Ronnie Corbett tries alternative pronunciations of Ronnie Barker’s Dr. Death, only to have the Doctor say, “No, it’s Death.”

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Newt. Gingrich.

  • Anonymous

    I remember reading Al Franken, I don’t remember which book, but he felt the need to assure future generations that, yes, a man really existed with the name Newt Gingrich and he was really a figure in the world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Evans/100000619020207 David Evans

    I don’t think Dickens would have invented “Hershhiser”. It doesn’t roll nicely off the tongue – not to a Brit, anyway.

  • BrianK

    Thaddeus McCotter.

  • Michael Pullmann

    Tom Hiddleston.

  • Anonymous

    Rupert Grint and Imogen Stubbs.

  • Amaryllis

    Jane Smiley
    Kate Middleton
    Grace Darling
    George Romney
    Genevieve Tudor
    William Booth Taliaferro (pronounced Tolliver, of course!)
    also, Toby Tolliver

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I would say “Moon Bloodgood”, but that seems a little Over-the-top for Dickens.

  • Amath

    I would submit “Thurston Moore” myself. I think it’s got a Dickensian ring to it… First one I can think of. Sure there are many many others…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Edo-Owaki/1268185670 Edo Owaki

    What, this far and no Aldous Huxley yet?

  • Amaryllis

    Billy Boyd
    Charles Babbage
    Lucy Skeaping (now doesn’t she sound as if she ought to be a friend of the Skimpole sisters?)
     

  • arghous

    Ransom Love

  • Amaryllis

    Elijah Wood
    Carrie Underwood
    Stephen Hawking

    And that’s all from me, because now I have to go watch Great Expectations.

     

  • No-one

    Do any of the names on this list count?

    Cracked.com’s 9 Manliest Names In The World.

  • Anonymous

    NPR is a treasure trove of interesting names (it helps they have a list on their web site):

    Eleanor Beardsley
    Baxter Black
    Corey Flintoff
    David Folkenflik
    Brook Gladstone
    Peter Overby
    Daniel Pinkwater
    Will Shortz

  • Rikalous

    Aloisius Ratzinger was a good one, although the Joseph at the beginning didn’t fit. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    A hard-right conservative named Orson Swindle is just about perfect. 

  • http://harmfulguy.livejournal.com/ harmfulguy

    I think it should be pointed out that the Fighting Quaker’s full name was Smedley Darlington butler, just to make it even more Dickensian.

  • Tom

    I went to school with a girl who was an unusually tall and scary bully called:
    ‘Joy Tremble’

  • Amaryllis

    If not directly inspired, certainly within that tradition.

    Someday we should have a “Mark Twainian” name thread. Or  Edith Wharton.

    But while we’re still on Dickens:
    Ben Grubbs

    Also, I once knew a woman whose parents had named her Cherry. And then she married a man whose last name was Pitts.

    ETA: I believe Suzanne Collins has said that Katniss’s last name, “Everdeen” was a tribute to Thomas Hardy’s Bathsheba Everdene.

    Come to think of it, Hardy was no slouch at the “interesting British name” thing, either: Bathsheba Everdene, Tess Durbeyfield, Angel Clare, Gabriel Oak, Giles Winterbourne, Sue Bridehead, Diggory Venn, Eustacia Vye….

    And let’s not even get started on P. G. Wodehouse.

  • Anonymous

    Morgan Spurlock? (I had to google that to make sure I spelled it right.)

  • JMichael

    The late Pete Postlethwaite
    Piper Perabo
    Archibald Leach (aka Cary Grant)
    Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali)
    Octavia Butler
    Giovanni Ribisi
    Chow Yun Fat
    McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters)
    Sigourney Weaver
    Egertus Bouchee (former student of mine, “EE-gert-us Booch-y”)
    Ishmael Odious Payne III (dated my aunt)
    Talbot Fernwood Broome (my grandad)
    Dovey Duncan (my great gran, “Dove-y”)
    Morgan Fairchild
    Bob Balaban
    Jeremy Swift
    Sean Biggerstaff (honestly, you could make one of these lists just from the casts of the Potter movies)
    Grover Norquist
    Barack Obama
    Dick Trickle (race car driver)
    Amy Winehouse
    Estes Kefauver
    Tiki Barber
    Plaxico Burress
    and the first name I thought of when reading this post (even though someone else quickly rectified it, it bears repeating) Benedict Cumberbatch.

  • Fran

     “Ishmael Odious Payne III” :D I thought I’d never hear a better name than Benedict Cumberbatch… and there were two people before him who had the same name!
    My mind is boggled.

  • http://twitter.com/eastmorton Daniel Carroll

    UK journalists
    James Delingpole
    Patience Wheatcroft

    English footballers
    Ashley Grimes
    Nobby Stiles
    Harry Redknapp

    Cricketers
    Curtley Ambrose
    Wesley Hall

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    There’s an Irish journalist called Paschal Sheehy. The spoof news shows call him Plastic Sheeting.

    TRiG.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    There’s an Irish journalist called Paschal Sheehy. The spoof news shows call him Plastic Sheeting.

    TRiG.

  • Wermhatt

    Stars of 28 Weeks Later Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleston.

  • Atgeyer

    Millard Filmore

  • Navigator

    Fred, you didn’t mention Powers Hapgood?  Of all places to be celebrated, I would think this blog, and this post, would be one of the most appropriate:

    “There had
    been some sort of dust-up on a picket line, and he had
    just testified about it in court. The judge had interrupted
    the proceedings to ask Powers Hapgood why, with all
    his social and economic and educational advantages,
    he had chosen to lead such a life. And Powers Hapgood
    replied, ”Why, because of the Sermon on the Mount,
    sir.””
    http://www.vonnegutweb.com/archives/arc_carlsandburgaward.html

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    I can only think of Dickensonian characters, like Paul Ryan…

  • SketchesbyBoze

    His full name is “Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch.” A name to rival Dumbledore’s!

  • P J Evans

    Bethia Mackerwithe.

  • P J Evans

    Odd Biggerstaff Saunders.

  • Anonymous

    Sterling Hitchcock, a baseball player should make it there. 

  • Anonymous

    Lookie what I found… “NFL players whose names sound vaguely Dickensian, and the characters they would be in an actual Dickens novel (2007-2008 regular season edition)” by Susan Shorn, courtesy of Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

  • Ethics Gradient

    Fans of Dickens’ names (or just of Dickens) may like the radio pastiche Bleak Expectations, and the TV equivalent The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff, with characters:
    Pip and Pippa Bin (he goes on to make his fortune by inventing the bin)
    Servewell
    Sourquill
    Harry Biscuit (guess what his father invented)
    Mr Gently Benevolent (full name Gently Lovely Kissy Nice-Nice Benevolent)
    Mr Skinflint Parsimonious
    Ripely Fecund and her father the Reverend Godly Fecund
    Miss Christmasham
    Dr Cure-Some-By-Chance
    Clans of Hardthrashers, Sternbeaters, Whackwallops and Grimpunches, all of whom are evil
    Flora Dies-Early
    Lovely Benevolent (née Malevolent)
    Miss Sweetly Delightful
    Jedrington and Conceptiva Secret-Past
    Malifax Skulkingworm
    Fearshiver
    Harmswell Grimstone
    Pusweasel
    Miss Primly Tightclench
    Mrs Grumblechoop
    Judge Harshmore Grimstone

  • http://www.bilgrimage.blogspot.com WDL

    Christopher and Pepperjack, just now seeing both of your responses to my comments about the surname Death.  Fascinating information from each of you.  

    That fine old surname seems rather to have died out, for some reason, don’t you find?


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