Monday, September 24, 2012

In case you wondered …

… OUPblog — What’s in a literary name? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Every reader of Dickens has enjoyed some of his grotesque names, like Quilp, or Uncle Pumblechook. But that’s only the beginning of criticism. His familiar names – Oliver Twist and the rest – have often developed further associations as time has gone by. Many associate ‘Oliver Twist’ with asking for more, without perhaps reflecting that ‘twist’ is Cockney slang for ‘appetite’ – and already was so in Dickens’s time. Nabokov tells us what the variants of “Lolita” mean; but what about the many other names – the motels, the places, the school register? In literature, names are often doors to meaning, and words giving glimpses of the writer’s intentions.

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