Lit Kid: what’s in a name?

Junior Reader and I are nearing the end of our latest Atticus book. It’s been a lot of fun, in various ways, including recurring poo jokes, double crossings and much more.

But I have to say that I really sat up and took notice when one character was revealed to have an alter ego, going by the name of Edna Whelk.

Edna is a comedy name at the best of times. Think Edna Mode from The Incredibles (we frequently do here), Evil Edna from Willo the Wisp…great potential for scariness and (usually unintentional) humour combined.

Whelk is a great comedy word too, similar to spam perhaps in its impact: relatively undervalued (and now somewhat obscure) food, single syllable. (I’m sure lard could be used in a somewhat similar way.)

But Edna plus Whelk: genius.

I’m sure one of the reasons I like Manfred the Baddie is his name. Manfred isn’t a particularly well known name – I tend to think Manfred Mann, which doesn’t feel that scary – and less obvious for a villain.

(Manfred isn’t an out and out villain, and maybe the name helps us guess this too. But I shall refrain from further description – maybe one for my heroes and villains mini series.)

If you are thinking of names for not yet proven heroes, Hiccup seems a great choice. (And of course it is, in Cressida Cowell’s hands.)

It conjures up nervousness, a certain inability to control one’s body. Embarrassment. Add coming of age, being the son of the chief, and you can see why it works.

Combine with Horrendous and Haddock, plus the all-important ‘III’ (to show there have been others before him), and you have it all: history, expectations of intimidating others, a nod to the seafaring life.

It all adds up to ‘Viking’ – but not the Viking we, or his tribe, initially expect him to be.

There are plenty more wonderful character names out there: Geronimo Stilton, Paddington, Violet Elizabeth Bott. Particularly in books with comedic elements, the right names can set up part of the joke for you right away.

But meanwhile, if I want anyone to defend me against a scary cat, and a woman with poisoned hairpins, I’m calling Edna Whelk right away.

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