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Fleabody And Other Queer Names
by [?]

WHEN an English novelist does us the honor to introduce any of our countrymen into his fiction, he generally displays a commendable desire to present something typical in the way of names for his adopted characters–to give a dash of local color, as it were, with his nomenclature. His success is seldom commensurate to the desire. He falls into the error of appealing to his invention, instead of consulting some city directory, in which he would find more material than he could exhaust in ten centuries. Charles Reade might have secured in the pages of such a compendium a happier title than Fullalove for his Yankee sea-captain; though I doubt, on the whole, if Anthony Trollope could have discovered anything better than Olivia Q. Fleabody for the young woman from “the States” in his novel called “Is He Popenjoy?”

To christen a sprightly young female advocate of woman’s rights Olivia Q. Fleabody was very happy indeed; to be candid, it was much better than was usual with Mr. Trollope, whose understanding of American life and manners was not enlarged by extensive travel in this country. An English tourist’s preconceived idea of us is a thing he brings over with him on the steamer and carries home again intact; it is as much a part of his indispensable impedimenta as his hatbox. But Fleabody is excellent; it was probably suggested by Peabody, which may have struck Mr. Trollope as comical (just as Trollope strikes us as comical), or, at least, as not serious. What a capital name Veronica Trollope would be for a hoydenish young woman in a society novel! I fancy that all foreign names are odd to the alien. I remember that the signs above shop-doors in England and on the Continent used to amuse me often enough, when I was over there. It is a notable circumstance that extraordinary names never seem extraordinary to the persons bearing them. If a fellow-creature were branded Ebenezer Cuttlefish he would remain to the end of his days quite unconscious of anything out of the common.

I am aware that many of our American names are sufficiently queer; but English writers make merry over them, as if our most eccentric were not thrown into the shade by some of their own. No American, living or dead, can surpass the verbal infelicity of Knatchbull-Hugessen, for example–if the gentleman will forgive me for conscripting him. Quite as remarkable, in a grimly significant way, is the appellation of a British officer who was fighting the Boers in the Transvaal in the year of blessed memory 1899. This young soldier, who highly distinguished himself on the field, was known to his brothers-in-arms as Major Pine Coffin. I trust that the gallant major became a colonel later and is still alive. It would eclipse the gayety of nations to lose a man with a name like that.

Several years ago I read in the sober police reports of “The Pall Mall Gazette” an account of a young man named George F. Onions, who was arrested (it ought to have been by “a peeler”) for purloining money from his employers, Messrs. Joseph Pickles & Son, stuff merchants, of Bradford–des noms bien idylliques! What mortal could have a more ludicrous name than Onions, unless it were Pickles, or Pickled Onions? And then for Onions to rob Pickles! Could there be a more incredible coincidence? As a coincidence it is nearly sublime. No story-writer would dare to present that fact or those names in his fiction; neither would be accepted as possible. Meanwhile Olivia Q. Fleabody is ben trovato.