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Punny Name / Literature

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Punny Names in literature.

In General:

  • In Cats vs. Robots, the Great Feline Empire's top agent is "Pounce de Leon".
  • Every book labeled under the "Cozy Mystery" subgenre, especially those published under the Berkley Prime Crime label, have a specific theme and title pun to correspond with the themes.
  • The non-fiction book about The Peter Principle uses several Punny Names, often doubling as Meaningful Name, like these people who were promoted beyond their competence:
    • Jerry Attrick, head of the firm, who's too old to learn a new business
    • Cal Luss, who's Not Good with People
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    • Ann Jyna, who gets sick because of the stress brought by her new position
    • Hy Sterik, who can't cope with people who criticize his work
    • Mal Larky, who isn't the most ethical person in the world

By Author:

  • Peter David might be the king of punny names. Really, if you name the lead character in your fantasy novel series Sir Apropos of Nothing, you might want to check the novel for every single in-joke.
    • In one of his Star Trek: New Frontier novels, he reduces the engineering department (mostly human) to giggle fits over the new Bolian ensign named Pheytus (guess how it's pronounced). And then, when he eventually requests a transfer, he's replaced by an Ensign Newbourne...
    • In a Captain Mar-Vell comic, David introduced a clever fellow named Plaht, whose very useful invention was called the "Plaht Device"...
  • Lampshaded in a Peter De Vries novel in which Claire de Lune complains of her parents' decision on naming their daughter.
  • Lucifer Box in the novels by Mark Gatiss. The pun is clearer if you know that "lucifers" are old-fashioned British slang for matches. Lucifer has a sister called Pandora and a son called Christmas. Many of the other characters have similarly punny names if anything even more groan-inducing.
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  • A series of novels by Berkeley Gray featured a Gentleman Thief named Norman Conquest.
  • Professor Branestawm, in the books by Norman Hunter. Also his housekeeper Mrs. Flittersnoop, his military friend Colonel Deadshott, his naval friend Commander Hardaport, Dr. Mumpzanmeazles, Mr. Pryce-Rize the supermarket manager, etc., etc.
  • NisiOisiN, the Japanese light novel writer, loves this. For example, if you take a look at the Zaregoto series, you have Tomoe Emoto, Nanami Nanananami, Kasuga Kasugai... and much more. Even his pen name is a pun — it's a palindrome in English, but he normally writes it as an actual name in Japanese (西尾 維新, Nishio Ishin).
  • Tim Powers occasionally gives characters names that are puns on ecclesiastical Latin catchphrases, apparently just for the lulz. Examples include "Neal Obstadt", who appears in Last Call and Expiration Date, and "Libra Nosamalo", who appears in Three Days to Never.
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  • Thomas Pynchon loves this trope. One simple example: Wendell "Mucho" Maas, the husband of protagonist Oedipa Maas from The Crying of Lot 49. Those who know a bit of Spanish might be amused. There are other, more complicated puns as well.
  • Spider Robinson: oh, lord. His only Vietnamese character with a speaking role is gratuitously named Phuc My. Two different heroes in entirely separate stories are named Jim Balzac, apparently for no other reason than to give the maximum number of readers a chance to properly appreciate the immortal line, "I'm Jim Balzac. Balz to you." The story "Did You Hear The One?" is about a time-traveling con man and a young woman named Josie Bauer, German for "farmer"; the story ends with the implication that you've just read a tall tale about a traveling salesman and (Philip José) Farmer's daughter. Les Moore and Merry Glueham (pronounced "gloom") both hate their names, so when they marry they exchange surnames.
  • Victorian novelists often used punny names. Anthony Trollope was, perhaps, the master. Examples include Doctor Fillgrave and Captain Battleaxe.

By Work:

  • In The Adventures of Caterpillar Jones, E. Phil Snake and Nut E. Squirrel are obvious puns on the animals' species and disposition.
  • In Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, the character whom the protagonist, Newland Archer, marries is named May Welland, a marriage which we come to see "may well end" when Newland takes up with her cousin, Countess Olenska.
  • Anthony Horowitz has confirmed that since the Alex Rider series takes a lot of inspiration from Bond, several female characters have punny names (though since this is a young adult series, obviously teen-friendly ones). Sabina Pleasure ("it's been a pleasure") is the most notable; others include Fiona Friend ("phone a friend"), Tamara Knight ("tomorrow night"), and Diana Meacher ("dying to meet you").
    • It's not just females: the Big Bad of Stormbreaker, Herod Sayle, is a pun on "Harrods sale".
    • There's an unintentional one in Crocodile Tears, as jerkass journalist Harry Bulman is certainly a "horrible man". However, Horowitz named him after a friend of his son.
  • Animorphs, a portmanteau of Animal Morphers, was a name originally devised as a joke by Marco, reminiscent of the Justice League and other superhero team names. The kids more or less jokingly adopt the name but refer to themselves as "the Resistance" or something similar to outsiders. By the end of the war, their enemies begin seriously calling them Animorphs, and they begin calling themselves Animorphs seriously as well.
  • Artemis Fowl: Artemis is the author of several books within the work, but because he is only 14 years old, he often uses hilariously punny pseudonyms. For example, Violet Tsirblou ('violets are blue', romance novel author), Emmsey Squire ('mc square', as in e equals mc squared, submitted several articles to physics journals and the like), and C. Niall DeMencha ('senile dementia', same as before, but psychology journals).
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the last book- suddenly, everyone has one of these. Prime examples: Kolin Ozkopy, Salton Finnacre, and Yezwhi Khan.
  • In Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea, Sir Percy tells Lori he bought his Scottish castle after he left the oil business, and named it "Dundrillin Castle" on that account.
  • In the Bad Books, a Sequel Series to the Secret Series, the main protagonist Clay has a llama that he speaks to in Spanish as a pet of sorts, and which is named Como C. Llama. ("¿Como se llama?" is Spanish for "What is your name?")
  • The Berenstain Bears has the recurring professor Actual Factual character.
  • The main characters of Bored of the Rings are attacked, ambushed, assaulted and assailed by a terrifying monster called a Thesaurus. ("MAIM! Mangle, mutilate, crush! See harm.")
    • A monster of the same name can be found, encountered or happened upon in the card game Munchkin.
  • In Lawrence Block's The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams Carolyn grooms a terrier named Allison Wanda Land who has a litter mate named Trudy Logan Glassnote .
  • Loads of them in Candide, starting with Candide himself ("candid", due to him starting out as a quite honest wide eyed idealist) to his mentor Pangloss ("all tongue" in Greek) and lastly Pococurante ("caring little" in Italian).
  • Captain Underpants:
    • Ivana Gota de'Bafroom (although this is common in her country).
    • The nerd Melvin, who gets wedgied a lot.
    • Most of the teachers, including Mr. Meaner/Kenny B. Meaner (misdemeanor/can he be meaner), Ms. Ribble/Tara Ribble (miserable/terrible), Mr. Fyde/Morty Fyde (mystified/mortified), Miss Anthrope (misanthrope), Mr. Rected (misdirected), Miss Singerbrains (missing her brains), and Miss Dayken (mistaken).
  • The main heroine of The Casteel Series is named Heaven Leigh Casteel. Her brother Tom even affectionately call her 'Heavenly'.
  • In Catch-22, Major Major Major is an example of both this trope and a Meaningful Name; on joining the US Air Force, he's immediately promoted to Major Major Major Major.

    Also, Dori Duz, who does. Lampshaded in the book. Most of the characters in the book are either examples of this or Meaningful Name, for example, Lieutenant Scheissekopf ("shithead" in German) and Snowden, (I'm cold....I'm cold....)
  • In The Cat Who series of mysteries, the weatherman in Moose County is named Weatherby Goode. This is actually a subversion, however, since it turns out to be the self-given stage name of Joe Bunker.
  • Robert McCloskey's Centerburg Tales has a traveling salesman who calls himself Professor Atmos P. H. Ear.
  • Terry Pratchett's characters, especially those in the Discworld books, often straddle the line between this and Meaningful Name.
    • For instance, the book Pyramids partially takes place in the fictional country "Djelibeybi" (jelly baby). When he found out many Americans didn't get the joke, he invented another country in Klatch named Hersheba (Hershey bar) — which, unfortunately, Americans generally didn't get either, thanks to a case of No Pronunciation Guide and the punniest pronunciation being on the wrong end of Accent Depundent.
    • And then there's the capital city of Uberwald, Bad Schuschein.
      • The name of the region itself is a Bilingual Bonus pun: it's essentially the German form of what in Latin would be rendered "Transylvania".
    • Brutha, the main character in the religion-deconstructing Small Gods, has a very appropriate name for a zealous follower. Lampshaded by Inquisitor Vorbis, when he asks how funny it would be once Novice Brutha becomes "Brother Brutha", and then "Father Brutha". He settles on just making him "Deacon Brutha".
    • Ankh Morpork's Sator Square. It can take years to get that one.
    • Played with in Making Money. Topsy Lavish doesn't have a punny name now, but that's because she took her husband's name when she married. Her maiden name was Topsy Turvy.
    • Soul Music: The name of the raven who acts as translator for the Death of Rats is Quoth, and he refuses to say nevermore. Quoth the Raven was apparently named by a wizard who didn't have a sense of humor, and like other such people, prided himself on the sense of humor he hadn't got.
    • The city of the gods on top of Cori Celesti is called "Dunmanifestin", another joke that doesn't quite have the same impact west of the pond. Dunrovin ("done rovin'") is apparently a popular name for retirement communities, more so in the UK than in the US (though there are a few).
    • In the young-adult subseries featuring Tiffany Aching, the leader of the Nac Mac Feegle tribe is named Rob Anybody.
    • "Koom Valley", the site of (what was assumed to be) a major battle between dwarves and trolls. The Welsh word for valley is "cwm", which is roughly pronounced "koom".
    • The "rude mechanicals" in Lords and Ladies have names like Carter the Weaver, Weaver the Thatcher... and one of them contributing nothing but synonyms for backside to one conversation. Beware of Terry; there is always another joke. All in honour of A Midsummer Night's Dream, of course.
    • A couple of the lamest puns aren't really puns. There's an assassin called Edward D'eath and a reporter called William de Worde; these surnames are so silly because they are both real old names. "William de Worde" is a Meaningful Name because, like the historical Wynkyn de Worde, he's associated with the advent of the printing press.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe gives us Grandfather Paradox, leader of the Time Lord Cult of Faction Paradox.
  • Don Quixote: In a 17th Century pun, Quixote means "a piece of armor covering the thigh".
  • The Dr. Hippo books are a series of picture books about illnesses and conditions of young children featuring an anthropomorphic hippo named Dr. Hippo. The books are published by a company called Hippocratic Press and this is all a play on the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors, "First, do no harm."
  • Ella Minnow Pea has the eponymous protagonist, whose name sounds like the sequence of letters L-M-N-O-P.
  • The villain of S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series is an expert on the Norman feudal system, where one who was entitled to a coat of arms was known as an "armiger". His name is, of course, Norman Arminger.
  • The full list from The Father Luke Wolfe Trilogy: Cyber Nettick, Randy Jokes, Lyda Lott, Burger Hamm, Hairy Rabbitt, Molly Fied (but that’s pronounced FEYE-yed), Hugh Nohs, Ben Dover, Dana Poynt, Harry Ahrmpitt, Amos Keetoh, Jimmy de Lokk, Cary Meebak, Titus Canbee, Adam Upp, Hans Sendfete, Al Kaline, Gus Zundhite, Otto Mattick, Joe Veeyul, Clay Feeht, Elmer Skloo, Gerry Attrick, Todd Lingh, Chester Rytesyze, Mike Rowfoan, Barry Pye.
  • The title character of the Finnegan Zwake series. (If you don't get it, say it out loud.)
  • In Gil's All Fright Diner, the sheriff of the small town of Rockwood is named Kopp. His first name is Marshall. Sheriff Marshall Kopp, all words for a type of lawman.
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach has the evil Majotaur at the heart of the "Little Harmonic Labyrinth", and an ant colony named "Aunt Hillary".
  • Harry Potter
    • Placenames! The street that deals in Dark magic, Knockturn Alley, plus a Grimmauld Place where an ancestral home of dark wizards is, and a Privet Drive, where wizards are not welcome.
      • Also Diagon Alley is probably taken from the word "diagonally".
    • Several of the characters' names are puns, usually an obvious reference to their personality or another trait. Dolores Umbridge. Bellatrix Lestrange.
    • Newt Scamander wrote Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. His name refers to the index of his book.
    • Fleur Delacour, the French champion in the Triwizard Tournament, combines this with Bilingual Bonus, having a name which is a pun in French. Fleur de la cour means "flower of the court", meaning "noblewoman".
    • And of course, Remus Lupin. Remus, one of two founders of Rome who was raised by WOLVES. Lupin. Lupine. Lupus. Wolf. WOLVES. WOLVES. WOLVES. The best part? Almost nobody caught on until it was outright said. In the same strain, Sirius Black turns into a great BLACK dog. Sirius is the DOG star (aka Alpha Canis Majoris, part of the constellation of the Great Dog). Also, the Muggle Prime Minister once mistook Sirius' name as "Serious" Black. Several fanfictions portray Sirius as enjoying the pun and other characters as unwittingly Tempting Fate by using the word "serious" in front of him. Some of them also give some sort of Hypocritical Humor by making Sirius hate it when others make the pun.
    • Dumbledore means Bumblebee in Old English. Dumbledore walks up and down the halls, humming to himself like a bee. Truthfully, it would be easier to name what character isn't this, especially the teachers. Binns: A bin is a trash can where you put rubbish. Most people see Binns' class as rubbish. Filius Flitwick, Flitwick as in "swish and flick" to levitate an object. Another blatantly obvious one is Pomona SPROUT. Three guesses what she teaches. Slughorn: students have used stewed Horned Slugs in their potions class.
  • The Evil Overlord in John Moore's Heroics for Beginners is called Lord Voltmeter. It's more of a Shallow Pun on "Lord Voldemort" than a meaningful name though, since he doesn't have electric powers. He is also referred to as "He Who Must Be Named", furthering the parody. Apparently, it's dangerous to use personal pronouns when referring to him.
  • The Hunger Games has Peeta Mellark, a baker. And of course Katniss, a great archer, is named after the Arrowhead plant.
  • The Kingdom Keepers has Fairlies, which are fairly human.
  • The Rapunzel character in the Lunar Chronicles is nicknamed Cress — which is a kind of edible, leafy garden plant, like rampion. Which is also known as rapunzel and is what the fairy tale character is named after.
  • Mary Poppins:
    • Topsy Turvy, the wife of Mary Poppins' cousin Arthur Turvy, a man cursed to do the opposite of what he wants from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM on the second Monday of every month.note 
    • Subverted for Mary Poppins' uncle Albert Wigg: Michael asks if he got that name from wearing a wig, but Mary Poppins answers, "He is called Mr. Wigg because Mr. Wigg is his name. And he doesn't wear one."
  • In The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, Constance sends Reynie a telepathic message with a call number for a library book to help him and the others find her. Sticky, who has memorized the card catalog, recognizes it as belonging to a book titled The Myth of ESP by "Perry Normal".
  • Newton's Wake by Ken MacLeod has a Scottish folk music duo called Winter and Calder. ("Calder" is pronounced the same as "caulder"; the Scots word for "colder"). They lampshade this in their Signature Song which has the line "I was Winter, he was Calder..."
  • Nina Tanleven: Nina "Nine" Tanleven (as in nine-ten-eleven), who has to explain it to at least one person in just about every book.
  • C. Daly King's Golden Age mystery Obelists Fly High, set on a plane, overloads the puns. The victim is a surgeon named Cutter, the overbearing preacher is Manly Bellowes, and one of the pilots is known as "Happy" Lannings.
  • Charley Bates from Oliver Twist is often referred to as "Master Bates". And yes, the word "masterbate" was in use in Charles Dickens's time.
  • Origami Yoda: Some of the origami likenesses of Star Wars characters have Punny Names, such as Darth Paper and Han Foldo.
  • Passport to Life City, a 1970 retelling of The Pilgrim's Progress, has a lot of these. For example:
    • Worldly Wiseman is renamed Guy Wise.
    • Legality is a fraudulent self-styled psychologist named Liegel.
    • Timorous is called Tim O'Rowse.
    • Talkative is called L. O. Quacious.
    • Faithful is renamed T. ("Rusty") Ness.
    • The lands around the courthouse and jail Doubting Castle has recast as are called the Township of DeSpare.
  • In the Penny Parker books, there's a character named Salt Sommers.
  • Just about every name in Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth. A literal watchdog named 'Tock' is just one example.
  • The 'fowl', avian director Owlfred from Project NRI. Even his beta name "Mephistowlpheles" carries the owl pun.
  • You would think that Relativity, being a superhero series, would have a lot of these (since that seems to be common in that genre), but so far the only character with a punny name is Kelly Green, and it doesn't even mean anything significant.
  • In The Satanic Verses, Salahuddin Chamchawala changes his name to the more manageable — for English ears — Saladin Chamcha. Unfortunately for him, chamcha is the Urdu word for "spoon" (hence Gibreel's nickname "Spoono"), and is also a slang term for "yes-man", for which other Indian characters, feeling that he has sold out his heritage, tease him mercilessly.
  • Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey has a character named Dorian. He's a Grey.
  • Nearly all the characters in Robert Anton Wilson's Shrodinger's Cat Trilogy. Olympic runner Juan Tootreego, Polly Esther Doubleknit (daughter of Dacron Doubleknit), Natalie Drest, Markoff Chaney (called out in-universe as sounding like "Markoff Chain"), Bertha Van Ation, Marvin Gardens...
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch, we have Gard. In fact, the pun has two meanings and a twist. Hiziki Gard first appears as a Trill security officer, and jokingly comments on the coincidental translation of his phonetic name. Later, we learn that Gard is a unique symbiont whose hosts all serve the same role in Trill society- that of keeping watch for "corrupted" joinings and dealing with the monster that results. It is hinted that Gard's role is connected to Trill's history with Ancient Conspiracy the Kurlan parasites. Therefore, he is a "guard" of sorts for Trill society as well as using the cover of a literal security guard.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In The Thrawn Trilogy, the Hand of Thrawn Duology, and any other books in which Timothy Zahn writes Talon Karrde, Karrde picks quietly punny names for the ships in his organization. There's no overall theme, just names that can work as they first appear or as the phrases they sound like. The Wild Karrde, the Etherway, the Starry Ice, the Lastri's Ort, the Dawn Beat, the Amanda Fallow, the Uwana Buyer. Unfortunately, they may have been too quiet because when non-Zahn authors use Karrde and give him new ships, they tend to forget the puns. Some fans explain this away by saying they must be ships inherited from other smuggling organizations that Karrde's group absorbed.
    • Practically a requirement for Sith; Vader is the Dutch word for "father", in"Sidious", Tyranus, Maul, Malak (Arabic for "angel"), Revan (revanchism), Bane, and so forth.
    • Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor gives us the evil Lord Shadowspawn — or, as Luke realizes, "Lord Shadow's Pawn", meaning that there's someone else controlling him.
  • In Tai Pan the current governor of Hong Kong is a man named William Longstaff. His Chinese translators decide to have a jab at the round-eyed foreign devils by transcribing his surname into Chinese with the symbols for "gargantuan penis".
  • Tales of the Space South: Justin Time, whose name is played off for several idiom-based bad puns by the author/s.
  • Tales of the Sundered Lands: "Beagcnoc" is Celtic or Gaelic for "small hill". It is a very large mountain.
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall has the dreadfully boring Mr. Boarham; lampshaded by Helen, who states in her narration that she spells it "Bore'em."
  • In Michael Crichton's novel The Terminal Man, the eponymous character (who suffers from a form of psychomotor epilepsy) has his brain wired as the terminal of a computer in an attempt to cure this. Needless to say (this being Crichton), the attempt goes horribly wrong, and the man becomes terminal in the medical sense.
  • Thursday Next: Except for those characters borrowed from other works of fiction or the real world, the name of every character is some kind of pun. Notables:
    • The Literary detective Paige Turner.
    • Jack Schitt (and his half-brother, Brick Schitt-Hause).
    • Landen Parke-Laine (and his parents, Houson and Billden). (For Americans, the joke is that Park Lane is the name of what Brits call 'Park Place' in ''Monopoly.)
    • Fictional book: The Squire Of High Potternews.
    • The numerous pairs of SpecOps agents named things like Dedmen and Walken, or Nosmo and King.
  • In the German series TKKG you can find them quite often. For example the nuclear power plant "Fallaut" or "Scheich Ben Öhli" (Öl is oil in German).
  • Tunnels: Will Burrows and his father Dr. Burrows have a passion for archaeological digs.
  • In Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, the evil ghosts of Peter Quint haunts an English manor. Before his death, Quint was known for corrupting women, so perhaps it's no coincidence that his last name, Quint, is actually an antiquated word for the female genitalia (an arcane form of the word c* nt).
  • One of the The Ultra Violets' favourite hang-outs is Gellato Be Kidding Me, an ice-cream parlor in the Kitchen Sync district of Sync City.
  • A staple of the Usborne Puzzle Adventures. Just for starters, one of the books has a city called "Mare Vellos". The Brazilian translation takes the puns even further: the same book's protagonists were named Indy, Ana, and Dr. Jonas.
  • Victoria at one point features a crooked politician named Snidely Hokem.
  • Villains by Necessity:
    • Blackmail, named after his black armor, and Sir Pryse. Who are the same person. Surprise!
    • The names of the Six Lands: Trois, Dous, Ein, Kwartz, and Seicks.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Puns are common in Games Workshop products.
    • One of the worst comes from the novel Scourge the Heretic by Sandy Mitchell — one of the main characters is named Danuld Drake. The names are never used together.
    • He named an ice planet Simia Orichalcae — Canis Latinicus for "brass monkey".
    • In Brothers of the Snake, an Inquisitor investigating a Khornate cult nicknames their corn totem figures "Khorne dolls". Unfortunately, the pun flies way over the head of straightforward Space Marines.
  • Whateley Universe: Here: An attorney named "F. Yew Baddeley" (F. U. Badly).
  • There's a goth girl named Abby Normal in Christopher Moore's book You Suck, although her "daywalker" name is Allison Green.


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