This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

A Cedric by any other name: a rant.

I've just read Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, and I've got a horrid feeling I've read it before, long ago, and didn't like it much then, either.

File:John Langford Pritchard as Ivanhoe in "Ivanhoe".jpg

Don't get me wrong, Ivanhoe has its exciting chapters and its interesting characters. On the other hand, it has such hefty wodges of dull description that I kept on wondering why on earth Sir Walter Scott didn't give up on the novel and make a film instead.*

The most annoying thing about Ivanhoe, however, are the names. 

I'm not the first to complain about the names in Ivanhoe. The Victorian historian E A Freeman poured scorn on the idea that 'English women...of the twelfth century bore the names of Rowena and Ulrica'. He wasn't too struck on the name Cedric, either - but then, who would be?

But it isn't the historical accuracy or otherwise of the names of Ivanhoe's characters that annoys me. What annoys me is, firstly, that the two female juvenile leads are called Rowena and Rebecca, which are far too similar for the reader (this reader, anyway) to keep a confident track of which is which.

The second thing is that the great hero Ivanhoe turns out half way through the book to have the Christian name Wilfred.

And, honestly, who can take him even slightly seriously after that?

On the plus side, the three mostly-doesn't-matter-which-is-which villains are clearly labelled with B names (for baddie, presumably): Bois-Guilbert, de Bracy, and Front-de-Boeuf. 

That does help, you know.

Person To Consider Today: how unalike can names get?

PS To be fair, AN Wilson says that Ivanhoe 'remains one of the most exciting stories in the language'. 

AN Wilson is an eminent scholar and biographer. I'm not convinced, though, that he's that much of an expert on excitement.

*That's a joke, okay? 

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