In the competition I asked people to tell me where the following names come from:
I received a lot of entries for such a worthless prize, and I am very grateful to all of you - especially as I had no knowledge that 'Braxton Hicks' was a Bristol Blues band, nor that Lola Vavoom was (apparently) investigated for mail fraud as early as 1997.
Anyway, here we go:
Name number 2: Bowden Cable
This is, as most of you correctly asserted, a form of sleeved cable. This was actually written up on my website, and I am amazed that people have actually read it. But there's more: Dawn Alexander and Cathy Gill both tell me that the name Bowden Cable derives from brakes and gear shifters usually activated by cable systems patterned by Frank Bowden, the founder of the Raleigh Bicycle Company. This I did not know. Dawn goes on to add:
"This name seems especially well suited for the Bowden Cable we came to know in The Eyre Affair, for despite a few reckless rides he took with Thursday (seemingly against his will most of the time), he had a disturbing habit of putting the brakes on at the worst possible times."
and Cathy agrees, adding:
"Since Bowden Cable makes rather half-hearted attempts to "apply the brakes" to some of Thursday's daring exploits, even to the extent of wishing to domesticate her (!), this name quite suits him."
However, that is not the end of the story as Kent Sutherland points out:
In the early days of the telegraph, when employees were often stationed at farm flung corners of the Empire, a Bowden Cable would be sent to signify acceptance of a recent command. Its name was a derivation of "Bow Down," as servants were often seeing kowtowing to their superiors. The original meaning was lost when the term came to refer a control cable where a wire moves within its plastic sleeve. Note that the concept of command has been retained.
You heard it here first. As we close the door on the Bowden saga, I let Gill Neal have the last word who tells me that:
" Although commonly thought of as strong steel cable in rubber sleeving this is really a very complicated knitting stitch that was first created by Xavier Bowden for conjuring wonderful patterns on garments for Dodos."
Name number 2: Braxton Hicks.
Okay, no-one got this wrong, either. Steve James:
" John Braxton Hicks was a doctor who gave his name to a type of practice contraction. You know something might be coming along but not quite yet. Not delivering what is required. Hesitant."
Which gives a good indication of Braxton's character. Wendy got this right too and gets a mention for the Defoe quote she attached to her email:
"The best of men cannot suspend their fate: The good die early, and the bad die late"
And Gill Neal says, or cries out, perhaps:
"AAAAAAAAAagggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh! Don't remind me!!!!!!!!!! This is the beginning of a beloved infant making it's presence felt. They do this to send you running or waddling for the phone shouting I'M IN LABOUR but then they smugly float around in the womb while the midwife explains the difference between practice labour pains and mindbending excruciating agony you will eventually endure so you will be able to tell the difference."
But Braxton Hicks is also a Bristol based soul band, says Patrick Harkin who also usefully points out that Dr John Braxton Hicks was himself named after his father, Mr Hicks. Interesting. But the band is not only in Bristol. Thomas Randklev tells me there is also a band in Delaware 'with a real hottie for a lead singer'.
But I leave it to Kent Sutherland to explain the little know real meaning:
"The collective name for the slightly slow and somewhat inbred inhabitants of Braxton West Virginia, as in "oh that lot, don't mind them, they're Braxton Hicks." Due to the inbreeding common in rural West Virginian communities, many of the Braxton Hicks suffer from slight twitches, this has led to a secondary definition of Braxton Hicks as being the contractions felt during mid-pregnancy."
Which curiously, isn't a million miles from Karina Santos' assertion that:
"A culturally distinct group of malcontents who inhabit the Hampshire village of Braxton. Descendents of confederate refugees from the American Civil War, their traditions include driving pick-up trucks and smoking corn cob pipes. Distinctive costumes consist of denim overalls and thermal underwear-as-outerwear for men and 'Daisy Duke' shorts and halter tops for women. Two of the most famous Braxton-based hicks are Skeeter and Cletus Jefferson Yokel-Woodhouse, hosts of the program "You and Your V-8: Debate!" on Garage Television."
And that's enough about Braxton Hicks.
Name number 3: Landen Park-Laine
Okay, now it's getting a little harder. Fewer people managed to get this one right. Landen Parke-Laine is named after... no, let Su Prothero answer:
"Landen Parke-Laine - what you do if you throw a 12 from Fenchurch Street Station."
Rosie Shaw asserts that landing on Park Lane "is better than landing on Mayfair, but worse than Old Kent Road", and Laura Miller adds a new meaning to the phrase thus:
"Land on Park Lane". Meaning "ending up in a good place". Apropos, since he does.
Karina Santos adds that:
"Dr. John Haigh from Sussex used a computer program to find that the best way to win the game is to land and develop the low rent orange squares in close proximity to jail"
but my brother and I figured that out years ago after realising that since the 'Go to Jail' square has to be the most visited (five ways in if you count a straight throw) then it follows that the next set but one must be the most visited development. Oh boy, how we fought! For American readers, I was thinking of changing the US name to 'Landen Boarde-Walke' which would have made the pun painful to all ears and not just us Brits, but thought he (Landen) might get confused having two names. Some people thought the name was an accented name. This is what Steve James wrote:
"Sloane speak for a posh street in London. This type of enposhening of place names is spreading Claam for Clapham, St Ockwell for Stockwell and Dargenham for Dagenham. I'm thinking of relocating to East Barné."
And Gill Neal adds:
"This translates into London Park Lane. Part of a London cabbies vocabulary put on for the benefit of American Tourists. Their preconceptions of any British subject is you are either cockney or you talk with a mouth full of marbles..."
Dick Van Dyke, you know not what you have done. Kent Sutherland again:
"Landen Parke Laine refers to the extraordinarily fine mohair wool that comes from the famous French estate Landen Parke. This "laine" (French for wool), is known for its warmth and durability."
Sounds like it could be true.
Name number 4: Lola Vavoom
This is a character who has been referred to but we have not yet met, although I have appropriated the Diana Dors statue in Swindon to be Ms Vavoom (Other than that, they are completely different) I made this up as an actress of some small talent made larger by a wild life and numerous husbands in a book called 'Nursery Crime' (1994) which is yet to be published. But wherefore the name? 'Montana Wildhack' was the name of the starlet kidnapped by the Tralfamadorians in 'Slaughterhouse-5' and I liked that name a lot; it's almost as good as 'Chad Palomino', the daytime male soap star turned film actor in 'Living in Oblivion' an excellent film by Steve Buscemi. 'Lola' is a name that seems to conjure up some sort of a vampish femme fatale, but I didn't know why. Cathy Gill did. She told me:
"The name of Lola has been associated with actresses and other "fast' women since the days of Lola Montez (1818-61) who was the kind of woman for whom the term "adventuress' might have been coined. Her exploits, both horizontal and vertical, became so firmly entrenched in the popular consciousness that the authors of "Damn Yankees' were able to use her name nearly a century later for their femme fatale..."
Rosie Shaw adds that: "Feather boas probably come into it somewhere." and Laura Miller pointed out that she's the one from the song "Lola" by the Kinks (you know, the one he met in Soho, walks like a woman, talks like a man).
The 'Vavoom' bit is really from the film 'The man with two brains'. When Dr Hrffhrffr (played by Steve Martin) is looking for a body to transfer the brain of his one true love Miss Melmehaee (played by Cissy Spacek from within a jar) he goes to a morgue to look at possible bodies. When he seems undecided, the morgue attendant asks him what is wrong with their stock.
"I don't know... I'm looking for something with a bit more... va-voom..."
But oddly, there have been two other independent usages of the name: as a character in a parody piece concerning chain E-Mails, says Laurie. P. Alessioand Jim Ellis, and also as the name of a character portrayed by actress Alexis Fields in an episode of the American situation comedy, "Moesha,". Since this came from the pen of Karina Santos I thought it might be a joke, but Helen Vardon confirmed it. What else? Steve James suggested that: "her name also gives away her other occupation. LoLA, or Library of Location Algorithms, points to her being an undercover SpecOp operative for spacial issues."
Questions about Lola raise all kind of comparisons, not least with cars. Karina Santos again:
"The automotive equivalent of Jessica Rabbit: the Jessica Volkswagen Rabbit. It's not bad, it's just assembled in Dusseldorf that way. A distinctively-styled leisure model, it was taken off the market in the late sixties because people complained about the glare from the 36-inch headlights. V. popular with able young men for the amount of 'junk in the trunk' that could be stored, despite the rather snug quarters within."
She then goes on to write unprintable comments about a famous Diva's daughter. Kent Sutherland doesn't let us down either and obviously has a vibrant imagination:
"An early precursor to the Hoover vacuum cleaner the Lola Vavoom was famous for its industrial strength sucking action. Happy clients were often heard to comment, "Lola Vavoom could suck a golfball through 15 feet of garden hose." They would then get a dreamy look in their eyes as they imagined that sort of efficiency gracing their domestic life."
To finish off and cast a veil over Ms Vavoom's life before the lawyers start calling me, a few snippets from Patrick Harkin who clearly holds shares in Google.com:
"Dixie "Vava" Voom is the Current President of the Strippers' Guild of Ankh Morpork (Motto: NVMQVAM VESTIMVS). President for life, Miss Voom is retired but still occasionally teaches. As she says 'It's not what you've got, but what you do with it.' The phrase "va va voom" is much older, and in recent times has even been subject of a "passing off" court case between Renault (the car manufacturers) and a Renault UK Limited v Derivative Risks Evaluation Management Limited (A fashion house. I'd never heard of them before, either.) Derivative Risks Evaluation Management Limited had registered the domain vavavoom.co.uk but never used it. Renault wanted it. Renault lost. One point for the little guys! 'Vavoom' was a character in the "Felix The Cat" cartoon series in the sixties, and is now a four-piece band based in Minneapolis. I'm sure Terry Thomas used "Va va voom!" as an expression of his approval of the appearance of young women in many films, though I can't name any off hand."
Me neither, but I agree with you. Onward to the final name!
Name number 5: Mycroft Next.
Julie Zhuo could not have put it more succinctly:
"Mycroft Next:: El hombre de Sherlock Holmes se llama Mycroft!! El tio de Thursday Next se llama Mycroft! ¿Coincidencia? No pienso que! "
And Thomas Randklev adds that:
Mycroft "Holmes" appeared in 2 of the Sherlock Holmes stories: "The Greek Interpreter" and "The Bruce-Partington Plans." As Sherlock's brother, he is about 7 years older than Sherlock and far superior in deduction and observation, but he is also lazy, fat, and seldom breaks out of his day-to-day habits.
Steve James disagrees. He has Mycroft in three Holmes stories, "The Greek Interpreter", "The Bruce-Partington Plans" and "The Final Problem." and is also mentioned in "The Empty House". Oo-er. Looks like their copies differ. What IS going on?
The name, as far as I know, was made up by Conan Doyle. 'DIBS Mycroft' is also the name, Dawn Alexander tells me, "of a high speed search engine that is touted as being able to "sniff out" relevant terms on suspect computers during search and seizure operations." It is also, Cathy Gill reports, the name Robert Heinlein uses for the omniscient computer in his novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.
Karina Santos tells me that:
"...Alan Mycroft (PhD Edinburgh, ScD Cambridge) authored such heady works as 1981's "Abstract Interpretation and Optimising Transformation of Applicative Programs" and 2000's "A Statically Allocated Parallel Functional Language." Also, his colleagues praise his top secret recipe for devilled kidneys. Whee. From the looks of it, he may actually *be* Thursday's uncle..."
And now to the Scottish meaning of 'my croft next.' Susan Wakefield wrote to me explaining that:
"It is an often heard phrase amongst those Scottish hill farmers who enjoy the type of dinner parties where each course is cooked and eaten at a different venue."
But collective consciousness being what it is, several others also picked up on this thread. Kent again:
"A croft is a small farm run by a tenant farmer. In times long gone, neighbours would be called upon to help with the harvest, as each field was finished their would be clamours of, "My croft next!" as each farmer tried to bring his crop in before the rains. Rural life being what it is, this soon was shortened to "Mycroft Next!" The term lost some popularity when Arthur Conan Doyle used Mycroft as the name of Sherlock Holme's intelligent if somewhat aloof brother..."
Laurie. P. Alessio called it: "An immoral, salacious invitation from a poor sleazy Scottish farmer." and Wendy suggested that: "perhaps as a result of the Scottish taking a leaf out of the Welsh Nationalist Party and burning English country cottages ergo - my croft next!"
Phew! Thanks for all of that, and I'm sorry I couldn't include everyone's contributions.
But who has won? Well, as the dodo always said in the caucus race, you have all won, but since I have no thimbles or comfits to give away, I will have to say that overall Karina Santos seems to have carried the Nextian Torch the furthest and gets the signed book. Kent Sutherland was very close, as was Cathy Gill whose long and thoughtful answers there is sadly no room for. Thanks too to Dawn Alexander who related her answers within the context of the book so well. For Kent, Cathy and Dawn, three runner-up prizes of tee-shirts to cherish for ever (unless they put them in the hot wash). Well done and thank you very much!
To see the results of my 'win a dodo roadsign' competition, click HERE!
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