Sunday 3 July 2011

Naming Fleming's heroines

The leading lady of Jeffery Deaver's Carte Blanche is named Felicity Willing. Bond is amused by the name (chapter 42), and presumably the name was meant to amuse readers too. Sebastian Faulks' Devil May Care featured Scarlett Papava, which was a pun on the botanical name and colour of the opium poppy, one of the book's plot devices (and in case the reference was too obtuse, Scarlett's sister is called Poppy). In both cases, the authors devised exotic names for their heroines; names designed to raise a smile or smirk. A Times review of Carte Blanche claims that the character is named in the best Fleming tradition. Examination of the names Fleming gave his heroines, however, suggests that while many of the names are undoubtedly exotic, only a few are as suggestive as the names used in more recent literary efforts. What's more, Felicity Willing and Scarlett Papava and others are named more in the tradition of the film series than Fleming.

Fleming chose names that interested him. Some were named after things. Vesper Lynd, the heroine of Fleming's first novel, Casino Royale, was named after a cocktail that Fleming was served in Jamaica (not the same recipe as the cocktail he invents for the book). Both Solitaire (Live and Let Die) and Domino Vitali (Thunderball) were named after Caribbean birds. Gala Brand (Moonraker) was named after Galatea, the sea nymph of Greek mythology. Judy Havelock, who appears in the short story, 'For Your Eyes Only', was named after a havelock, a flap at the back of an army cap that protects the neck from the sun.

Other heroines were named after people Fleming knew. For Honeychile Rider, Pussy Galore and Vivienne Michel (who feature in Dr No, Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me respectively), Fleming took the names or nicknames of his friends and acquaintances. Kissy Suzuki, who appears in You Only Live Twice, was named after a masseuse or prostitute Fleming met in Japan.

Admittedly, Tiffany Case (Diamonds Are Forever), referring to a jewellery box provided by the New York store, was a play on words reasonably close in style to Scarlett Papava, and Mary Goodnight, Bond's secretary and leading lady of The Man with the Golden Gun, is on a par with Felicity Willing, but these are rare occurrences.

In contrast, names used for the films are more likely to have elements of sexual innuendo. For the first film, Dr No, Honeychile Rider is shortened to the far more suggestive Honey Ryder. In Goldfinger, Bond's response to Honor Blackman's introduction, 'I'm Pussy Galore', is 'I must be dreaming', emphasising the sexual connotation. In Moonraker, Gala Brand is replaced by Holly Goodhead. In the short story, the eponymous Octopussy is the name of an octopus, not Bond's love interest. And, although a villain rather than lover, GoldenEye's Xenia Onatopp's name raises Bond's eyebrow, if nothing else.

The advice for future continuation authors is clear. Look to the names of friends or interesting things, rather than the films, for inspiration of the names of the books' heroines.

Chancellor, H, 2005 James Bond: the man and his world, John Murray


  1. To do the Bond thing right, re: the women, it is iimportant to NOT get all feminist about it, when the intent is simpler and happier!

    I got into the Bond books in high school . I loved spystuff and had read all the Nancy Drew mysteries, but was growing up - unlike Nancy, I expected to marry happily and begat and stay happily married, so the sexier Bond ladies were NOT an insult to the feminist ideal but a helpful thing at that point in a maiden's life.

    My late husband was the love of my life and we both loved Bond - What can be a awkward time for a young lady was a breeze - and Bond helped.

    Time and age make the Bond thing fun again, and compared to the rough sex talk on the part of both men and women today, Bond's talk seems almost silly and quaint - old-fashioned, by comparison.

    If some of the talk is necessary to normal development, Bond's is BETTER. As is the way he communicates happy pleasure in it all, rather than today's tattoo-ed and thug-style of it where it is more about power than pleausre.

    I am so glad i am older and my men friends a LOT nicer than that, or I am sure I'd be concerned about me a lot.

    Bond forever !

  2. I agree that names with sexual innuendo seem to be more of a product of the films although I don't think that would have happened without Pussy Galore. Fleming has a lot to answer for on that one and I'm not surprised filmmakers and subsequent writers have carried on the theme.

  3. Hmmm, we have a penchant for made-up names, especially in action literature and in films like the Bond series. No harm in it, as far as we can see.

  4. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Much appreciated. I don't mind the suggestive names, really; people certainly remember the exotic names, and that's a factor in making a book or film memorable. I think you're right, Elle. Bond is almost comforting in this day and age, despite some of his attudes which are ripe for criticism in today's society. Definitely need more Bonds in the world.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.