I love the happy pairing of unlikely words.
My enjoyment of Brass Eye, which Jack finally got me to watch some 15 years past the shock factor sell-by-date, came mainly from the subtle off-ness of the production, and from the artifice of correspondents’ names.
Since noticing this facet of Chris Morris’ genius, Jack and I have played with similarly pleasing names, or pairs of words1.
I can’t quite vocalise why particular combinations – Matthew Grief, Gloria Swarm, Jebediah Vault – sound so funny. Something to do with ablaut reduplication (the order of vowels: I A O, or Ding Dang Dong), the usual order of adjectives, and/or hyperbaton (inverting the normal order of things), maybe?
Anyway, they are, somehow, very satisfying.
Often, the results of trying to find these names are trounced by coincidence. We torture one of our bookcases with a full Encyclopædia Brittania (9th edition, 1875-89), which Jack acquired in his early 20s for the price of a couple of pints. It’s bulky, musty and hopelessly subjective, but I have neither the heart nor the upper body strength to get rid of it.
Anyway, as well as being a great source of 19th Century vagary (the authors were, it seems, given more or less free rein in airing their prejudices against whichever region, person, event or object they were tasked with investigating), the beginning-end indicators2 on the spine of each volume are wonderfully eclectic, and they’ve thrown up some beauties:
Canon Cleves and Deacon Eldorado (notorious outlaw clergymen)
Bokhara Canoe (an unlikely item found on the Silk Road)
G. Götz (the fake CEO of a European shell company)
Infant Kant (a perceptive toddler)
Loo Memphis (an aging Southern belle)
Orne Phthisis (a stumbled-into-it protagonist)
Phylactery Proxy (a blasphemous plot device)
Ural Zymotic (a mad scientist)
If anyone has their own set of decrepit encyclopædia, please examine them for your next character list – or, indeed, send me some of your favourite pairings, so that I may pin them down like butterflies.
- Similarly inclined households might enjoy coming up with their own lists. You don’t have to tell your friends.
- If anyone knows the correct term for these, please let me know – I’m not sure where to start looking