Potty, Fartwell and Knob by Russell Ash

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Potty, Fartwell and Knob by Russell Ash

Category: Entertainment
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Paul Harrop
Reviewed by Paul Harrop
Summary: True examples of comical, malicious and simply unlucky appellations borne by fellow citizens through the centuries.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: October 2007
Publisher: Headline Book Publishing
ISBN: 978-0755316540

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If you've ever trawled aghast through the 'births' column of your local paper, pitying the kiddies lumbered with fanciful or illiterate names, take heart. It's not a new phenomenon. This book proves that idiocy, cruelty or carelessness has blighted the lives of thousands over the centuries - all because of a name.

Russell Ash has scoured parish registers, census returns and records offices to produce this compendium of bizarre monikers. A prolific author of everything from calendars to history books, Ash's stock-in-trade is the 'encyclopaedia of amazing facts'-type tome. This book may be slimmer than those, but is no less amazing.

You'll marvel at the sheer malice of the parents who sentenced Odious Heaton or Prickhead Whelan to a lifetime of derision. Maybe you will share the anguish of those - like the father who made recent headlines by naming his son Drew Peacock - who realised too late what they had done. This may have been the case with the parents of Claude Crabb or Phil Graves, but you can't help but suspect that a cruel sense of humour inspired many of the names listed here.

Then again, some people are just unlucky, born with unfortunate surnames: like Bottom, Fuck or worse (and there is worse, believe me). Many such names have disappeared or become bowdlerised over recent decades. Nevertheless Ash exploits the modern perspective on once popular, but now shunned, names - particularly, of course, Fanny.

As Ash points out, some of the names in registers or census returns are the result of mistranscriptions, illiteracy or mischief. But even taking that into account, the genuine names are a testament to linguistic folly and inventiveness.

In this respect, the book will appeal to some of those those who enjoyed the odd place names in Douglas Adams and John Lloyd's The Meaning of Liff. Though Potty, Fartwell and Knob does lack Liff's comic genius. After all, it is little more than a list, albeit one enlivened by authorial comment and the clever arrangement of the names.

Much of this goes unremarked. Like the fact that George Fatman was born in Broadbottom, or that Arthur Pint went on to become a brewer. This sort of oddity - or even the possibility of name-related determinism - is entertaining but, as its title suggests, the core of this book is the wealth of smut hidden in the parish records and graveyards of the nation.

If such puerile fun is your bag, don't peruse this book at the back of a classroom or during a memorial service for a beloved national statesman. The unexpected sight of a rude word or an awful pun among the listed names will produce snorts of illicit mirth.

Unlike the reviewer, who must read it from cover to cover, most readers will simply dip into this book. For those who enjoy the richness and absurdity of language, as well as the aforementioned innuendo, it will provide much harmless fun. But spare a thought for those who had to, and still do, carry these names to the grave.

Booklists.jpg Potty, Fartwell and Knob by Russell Ash is in the Top Ten Funniest Books.
Buy Potty, Fartwell and Knob by Russell Ash at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Potty, Fartwell and Knob by Russell Ash at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Potty, Fartwell and Knob by Russell Ash at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Potty, Fartwell and Knob by Russell Ash at Amazon.com.


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Zoë said:

A friend's husband is a paediatrician and tells fab horror stories of children called Channel (because the parents though that's how Coco spelt it) and Nokia (because her dad was a big fan of the phones). Sounds like they got off quite easy in the grand scheme of things considering the names in this book.

Paul said:

Excellent - I suppose it could have been worse: they could have spelt it 'Charnel'.