Naming Your Darlings

When writing humor, don’t be afraid to give your characters funny names. British authors tend to do this exceptionally well. In the below first example, Wodehouse’s use of Gussie Fink-Nottle is a character in his Jeeves & Wooster stories.

As for Gussie Fink-Nottle, many an experienced undertaker would have been deceived by his appearance and started embalming on sight. (P.G. Wodehouse)

Dickens was a master at assigning his characters memorable and often humorous names: Uriah Heep, Henrietta Boffin, Anne Chickenstalker, Canon Crisparkle, Volumnia Dedlock, Luke Honeythunder, Mortimer Lightwood, Charity Pecksniff, Wackford Squeers, and Prince Turveydrop, to name but a few.

Back to P.G. Wodehouse, who was no slouch when it came to naming characters: Percy Frobisher Pilbeam, Pongo Twistleton, Admiral George J. “Fruity” Biffen, Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, The Bishop of Godalming, Lady Hermione Wedge, Richard P. “Bingo” Little, Gwladys Pendlebury, Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, and Comrade Butt.

It’s not just British writers who assign their characters funny names. Here are a few from Damon Runyon: Apple Annie, Madame La Gimp, Harry the Horse, Sam the Gonoph. Humorous character names from Charles Portis include Ray Midge, Norwood Pratt, Professor Cezar Golescu, and of course Rooster Cogburn. And a few from Flannery O’Connor, such as Madame Zoleeda, Mr. Shiftlet, Mrs. Shortley, Lucynell Crater, Mr. Head, and Mrs. Hopewell.

What are your favorite funny character names (real or imaginary)?

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