“Said Conrad Cornelius O’Donald O’Dell, my very young friend who is learning to spell…”–Dr. Seuss (On Beyond Zebra)
It has been previously reported in these pages that this author’s interest in funny names began way back in middle school in the mid 1960’s with the creation of a list of the 50 wackiest names in baseball history.
This report was wrong. It’s true that my best friend of that era and I did create such a list. But my seminal interest in funny names lore predated even that, going way back to elementary school in the late 1950’s. My favorite book at that age, you see, was an amazing tome by one Theodore Seuss Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss.
I have often said that while others are encouraged to think outside the box, I have often found it downright difficult to think inside the box, and I’m pretty sure this habit started with the Seuss classic, On Beyond Zebra. And while an earlier post on this blog chronicled Charles Dickens as the greatest master of funny names in English Literature, Dr. Seuss deserves similar recognition in the milieu of children’s literature.
I could go on and on regarding any number of Seussian monikers, like Gertrude McFuzz, Ziggy Zozzfozzel or Gerald McBoing-Boing. But one book stands alone–On Beyond Zebra–as the absolute gold standard of funny names in children’s literature. In fact, it contained names so outre he invented new letters of the alphabet with which to spell them.In all 20 new creatures made this alphabet quorum, from YUZZ-A-MA-TUZZ to HIGH GARGEL-ORUM. For the most part they seemed and sounded quite dumbus, like FLUM is for FLUMMEL and WUM is for WUMBUS. What is my favorite? It’s darned hard to picker, from SNEE is for SNEEDLE to GLICK is for GLIKKER. And as sure and as shootin’ as I am a libra, my favorite kids book is still ON BEYOND ZEBRA.
And that, my friends, is how it is done. So visit my own blog if you want some more fun.
END NOTE: A few years ago there were so many hurricanes that the National Hurricane Center ran out of standard western alphabet letters to name them after, and had to go to Greek letters to designate the overflow. I actually emailed WCBS-New York News Radio 880 weatherman Craig Allen and suggested they use the Seuss letters instead. To my amazement, he took my tongue-in-cheek suggestion seriously and emailed back that I should send the suggestion to the Hurricane Center. I shot back that it was intended as a joke, and he should feel free to use it. I don’t know if he ever did, but a few days later Stephen Colbert made this very suggestion on the first Colbert Report. Coincidence? Maybe, but those New York media types travel in the same circles, so you never know!