What’s in a name? This week we look at the ten most unique and unusual character names we’ve come across and see whether a name ever reflects its owner.
1. Veruca Salt (CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Roald Dahl)
Veruca Salt is the most poisonous of Roald Dahl’s four ‘bad’ children in this well-loved tale of chocolate rivers, Oompa-Loopas and hopeful, sugar-sweet dreams. With her mink coat, pink tutu and golden curls, her looks belie the rotten heart beneath her butter-wouldn’t-melt exterior. Verucas are painful and salt is sharp – two sentiments that come together perfectly in this spoilt, selfish character.
2. Standish Treadwell (MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner)
The name Standish implies strength, persistence and standing your ground – exactly what our hero does in this magical novel about a brave boy who refuses to be ground down by the oppressive regime imposed by The Motherland. His unusual name matches his unusual features – two different coloured eyes that represent his unique personality; one brave enough to stand up for what he believes in, even when no-one else will.
3. Artemis Fowl (ARTEMIS FOWL by Eoin Colfer)
Fowl is a fitting surname for a criminal genius (wouldn’t Artemis Foul have been better…?) who conspires against fairies and holds one of their people ransom. Yet Artemis was also the name of an ancient Greek hero – a huntress and goddess commonly portrayed with her trusty bow and arrow. As Artemis progresses into a moral character through Colfer’s series, the image of him as a noble Greek god becomes easier to imagine, yet the implications of his surname remind us of his dark and devious past.
4.Clod Iremonger (HEAP HOUSE by Edward Carey)
Nowhere are names more important than in Heap House. The birth objects of Clod’s family call out to him with names like Mr Gurney, Percy Hotchkiss and Little Lil. Yet Clod is told that his family’s names are different to everyone else’s; ‘We Iremongers have different monikers, because we are different from the rest of them’, cementing the family’s status as outsiders – peculiar and separate from society. Iremongers possess names slightly different from the usual – Rosamund becomes Rosamud, Milton becomes Milcrumb, and Timothy becomes Timfy in Carey’s beautifully morbid tale of a family of junk collectors living in gloomy Victorian London.
5. Bellatrix Lestrange (HARRY POTTER by J.K Rowling)
We all know how utterly evil this wiley Deatheater is by now. With her masses of matted black curls, blood-red snarl and ghostly white skin, Bellatrix embodies all of the characteristics you’d expect in an evil witch. This twisted character possesses a fascination with destruction that means she truly lives up to her name – sly, devious and definitely a little bonkers, Bellatrix The Strange indeed.
6. Ebenezer Scrooge (A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens)
‘Bah, humbug!’ is a phrase used to describe a grumpy misery-guts, named after the most miserable character of them all, Ebenezer Scrooge. Greedy, selfish and cold, Ebenezer thankfully changes his ways after a visit from Dickens’s Ghosts of Christmas. Yet his miserly old ways live on today in the ultimate Christmas insult – ‘You Scrooge’.
7. Mr and Mrs Twit (THE TWITS by Roald Dahl)
Another Roald Dahl classic (and a childhood favourite of mine), with The Twits, what you see is what you get. These foolish pranksters spend their days playing cruel tricks on each other inside their brick house with no windows. Glass eyes, worms disguised as spaghetti and booby-trapped trees covered in glue all feature in this funny, wicked tale of marital hatred.
8. Katniss Everdeen (THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins)
The fact that Katniss is apparently named after an edible plant is perfectly fitting considering her natural adaptibility when plunged into the wilderness of The Hunger Games. Archery, climbing, fighting – this girl can do it all. She’s as quick and stealthy as a panther (Kat) and her surname rhymes with ‘evergreen’, which makes sense when we remember that in one scene she outlives her fellow gamers by hiding from them up a tree.
9. Wednesday Addams (THE ADDAMS FAMILY cartoons by Charles Addams)
It’s a little-known fact that before the classic film, The Addams Family originated on paper as a series of cartoons featured in The New Yorker. Wednesday Addams is said to be named after the saying, ‘Wednesday’s child is full of woe’ which is reflected in her sombre attitude, sallow complexion and black, witchy attire. Her brother Pugsley was depicted in the cartoons as a ‘diabolical, malevolent’ boy, but was re-imagined in movie-form as Wednesday’s chubby sidekick, presumably inheriting characteristics from the jolly little dog after which he was named.
10. Esme Squalor (A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS by Lemony Snicket)
Obsessed with trends, Esme only adopts the Baudelaire children because it is deemed ‘in’ by society’s style mavens. She then turns out to be dating their devious uncle, Count Olaf, (despite already being married) and proceeds to launch the children down an elevator shaft in signature murderous Olaf style. Considering her obsession with high-fashion, Esme’s surname is rather ironic. We can only assume that it represents the squalor going on beneath Esme’s superficial facade; like so many of Snicket’s ingeniously-thought up villains, there’s no doubt about it – her soul is squalid indeed.
What is your favourite unusual character name?