Ernest Squib considered himself to be a connoisseur of names. He collected names. Dickens was of course a treasure trove of collectable names. But he considered those names in his collection to be almost “cheating” because they were fictional like one he and a friend had created one day as scotch was being poured, Ezekial Smidgemore.  First came the caution to the pourer, “Easy!” then relenting with “Oh, maybe just a smidge more.”  But Squib felt that self-invented names and names invented by Charles Dickens, though amusing,  belonged in a separate category from real names. They were still all very fine names, of course, and he did have a subsection devoted entirely to Dickensian names, but Squib regarded them, in his own collection, as akin to the artist who uses a ruler to draw a straight line. The line is perfectly straight, but it presents no self-expression.

Ernest Squib’s name, itself, presented him with amusement, which he savoured. He often introduced himself as, “Mr. E. Squib,” and watched the person hearing his name carefully for a glimmer of recognition that “Mr. E.” phonemically becomes akin to the word, “mystery,” and that a “squib” is a short witty or sarcastic saying, among other meanings. It worked on all levels for Squib and he was regularly amused by it. Indeed, he had created it himself. Born Ernest Squibbler-Pence, he had put himself through the bureaucratic pains of changing his name to the much shorter Squib, as he was not amused by people constantly stumbling over his last name, often asking upon hearing it, if it really was “Scribbler-Pence,” as if he’d had a speech impediment that changed “r” sounds into “w” sounds. For a time, as he was pondering a name change, he thought he might find peace with being called Ernest Spence, but once he began to contemplate the fun he’d have with being, “Mystery Squib,” he couldn’t resist a nod to the secretly exotic within his breast.

Not only did he collect names in his “squibbler,” as he playfully called it, he also collected friends in part, on the basis of their names. Judge Wright was one such person. His last name alone, combined with the man’s jurist profession, was sufficient to arrest Mr. E. Squib’s attention. Squib playfully thought of Judge Wright as “Judge Right.” That’s what judges are supposed to be, “right,” thought Squib. But Judge Wright’s given names really sang in Squib’s ear. The Honourable Travis Theodore Wright might also be said as, “Travis T. Wright,” or more amusingly as “Travesty Right,” the “righter” of travesties. He who made travesties right again, like a millwright, or a playwright or a wheelwright did in their respective fields of endeavour.

But not all the names he collected were based on puns and phonemic curiosities. One of his prize names was attached to a very proud Austrian family. A modern day descendent of whom had shortened the family name to Zweck, from the ancestral version, Zweckvonzweckenburgfreunduunterspachliebenchriskindervogelundtierre. To anyone who had successfully goaded him into saying the name, Squib would often say, “Put that in your Funk and Wagnall’s,” as a humorous post-script to his long oration. As Squib understood it, the name roughly means, “Zweck-from-Zweckenburg, friend of the unfortunate, lover of Christ, children, birds and animals.” What a guy!

Advertisements