Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 117: What’s in a name?

The Restoration (when Charles was restored to the throne in 1660-1710) brought back the “cakes and ale” to English life, as the theatres were re-opened; this period of licentiousness and libertinism gave birth to the bawdy Resoration Coemdy, plays by the likes of Farquahar (The Beaux’ Strategem), William Congreve (The Way of the World), George Etherege (The Man of Mode) and Aphra Behn (The Rover) I actually directed a production of The Rover about fifteen years ago, but that’s not why I muse on this subject today.

Here’s some character names from those ribald Restoration plays: Sir John BRUTE,, Belinda BRACEGIRDLE, Lady FIDGET, Mrs SQUEAMISH, Mrs PINCHWIFE and Lady WISHFORT. In The Beaux’ Strategem, there is a servant called SCRUB, a highwayman called GIBBET, a daughter named CHERRY and a beau with the moniker of AIMWELL. How colourful and wonderful, characters with utilitarian names. When I was a mere boy, a favourite uncle of mine had a nickname for me, which was INK, rather appropriate today, don’t you think?

But let’s not stop there. Into the time machine and fast-forward two hundred years to the that British sitcom, which could give Restoration Comedies a run for their money when it comes to naughtyness, titillation and indecorous behaviour, any day of the week, Are You Being Served?

In and around the Ladies and Gents clothing departments of Grace Brothers, we could find the following characters: Mr HUMPphreys, Captain PeaCOCK and Mrs SLOCOMBE (pronounced “slowcum”).

Who could possibly forget Mrs Slocombe’s memorable quote, when removing a gas mask “What about this fog! My pussy’s been gasping all night.” Or this little gem from the camper-than-camp Mr Humphreys: “I had just bent down to tighten my nuts, and there was a double yellow line see? And next thing I knew, there was a policeman behind me. He put a sticker on my helmet and tried to clamp me.” Just in case you didn’t know, he was talking about skateboarding.

What about the 1968 film Carry On Up The Khyber? Kenneth Williams played THE KHASI OF KALABAR to Bernard Breslaw’s BUNGDIT DIN, the voluptuos actress that was Alexandra Dane played BUSTI and there were Indian characters called BURPA and RAMDIT DIN!!

I never intended todays writing to all be double-entendres of the lowest common denominator, but whilst you can take the boy out of seaside-picture-postcard England you can’t take.....well, you know the rest of it.

In my screenplay, The Comedians, I looked long and hard at the names of comedians I grew up with in the UK of the 1960’s in an effort to give the nine comedians of my script, names of their own that hopefully rang with the truth of a little authenticity: Clive Monk, Thomas Crush, Clifford Clifford, Roley Blanc, Leonard Wright, Eric “the hat” Robinson, Johnny, Ferina Marquetti and Golly Simpson. I studied the sixties and I studied comedians of the day at great length to ensure that the names of my characters would ring true. I must say that I love those names and the only regret that I do have, is that I didn’t get to use Dennis Cheshire, however, the name is not wasted.

Day #117 Tip: Create a Name Bank
Names and film titles are one of those things that if you don’t get them straight away, you can spend days and days going over alternatives. What I do now is to keep a file on my computer where I store names as and when I may come across them or come up with them.

A friend of mine had private nicknames for the two young sons of people we knew; he always quietly referred to them as Oink and Fish; slightly off, I know, but whjat great names to use one day? I’ve been hanging out to come up with two characters I can call Oink and Fish ever since. Likewise, one set of my godson and his brother’s grandparents go by the Danish titles for grandma and grandpa, which are Mormor and Fafa; I keep trying to convince the boys that they’ve got itv wrong and that they’re called Funny and Haha.....they’re not buying it though.

But Funny and Haha, Oink and Fish, and Dennis Cheshire are all in my names & film titles file, along with titles: The Sea of Showers, All Fell Silent, The Snow White Killings and The Guinea Pig Club.

I may not have characters for these names or films for these titles right now but I will one day, just you wait and see.

The Hungry Screenwriter

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