Ridiculous Character Names
When I was five, a film version of David Copperfield came on TV. I watched with keen attention, curious most of all to see how this ruined little wretch of a boy would one day grow up to make the Statue of Liberty disappear. There was nobody around at the age of five who could have corrected me and told me that there were in fact TWO David Copperfields in the world, as different from one another as any tatterdemalion guttersnipe and Las Vegas showman could possibly be.

And, truth be told, I thank them for this, because I can't think of any other probable origin for my obsession with outlandish and bizarre character names. Outlandish character names are undoubtedly one of the most essential aspects of Qualitye Lyterature.

The best character names I've seen are those that completely defy believability and get right to the heart of the matter. I've seen an arms dealer named Shot Weapon; does this not define perfection? I've seen a man of schismatic multiple personalities and allegiances called Skrem Divido; is this not the essence of poetry? I've personally worked with a Noel Christmas and a Moxie Pluck, and I've heard good things about the Cocaine Remedy of a close friend. Can names like these possibly cause any confusion?

This isn't naming a child. There's no worry about schoolyard bullying. All you have to worry about is stamping out the Jason Bournes in favor of the pseduo-biblical Ahabs, demolishing the John Everymen and building up the Humbert Humberts in their place.

In addition to making one look hiply detached and postmodern (as if you disdain all conventions, even naming conventions), these names become categories unto themselves, archetypes. They become nouns rather than proper nouns -- truly improper nouns, but ones that feel right, goddammit.

How many depressed teenagers would have offed themselves by now if not for the secret pride they felt when some stuffed shirt insultingly threw a "Holden Caulfield" at them? How would legions of sarcastic naysayers feel if, robbed of Sherlock, they found themselves without alliteration to support their venomous refrains? Would life be as fun without the opportunity to shake our fists at the naive among us and cry out dramatically, "You Chuzzlewit, you!"?

We need irony so strong that it destroys irony - Hiro Protagonist can give us this. The world NEEDS names like this - we can give them that.

Posted by harlock on Mon, 10 Mar 2008 05:00:45 -0400 -- permanent link

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