When Your Name Is An Adjective That Looks Like An Adverb

Today’s beholder of a funny name is testerosterone-filled trabadour Manly Wade Wellman. Technically, a troubadour is a composer or poet, while Wellman was an author of sci-fi and fantasy, but writing is writing, no?

Before we dig into the person that was Wellman, I’d like us to reflect on how his name contains both Manly and Man. And if, purely hypothetically, one were to drink three pints of Blue Moon and glance at his name, it might appear to say Manly Well-Made Man. His image does not betray his name.

As they say on Chat Stew, “So meaty!”

Wellman passed away 30 years ago this month, but during his nearly 83 years, his science fiction and fantasy stories appeared in such pulps as Astounding Stories, Startling StoriesUnknown and Strange StoriesHe was a contributor to the legendary Weird Tales, which published his fantasy and horror stories set in the Appalachian Mountains.

Wellman was born in 1903 in the deliciously-named village of Kamundongo in Portuguese West Africa, now Angola. His father was stationed as a medical officer and used his skills to restore the vision of a powerful chief, who promptly adopted little Manly as his own.

After mastering the native dialect, Wellman and his legit family headed to the USA, where he pursued virile activities such as football, for which he got a scholarship. For fun, he earned a law degree. But like his brother, Paul, the urge to put pen to paper overwhelmed him. One teacher remarked of Wellman’s story, “Back to the Beast,” “Your work is impossible!” And yet editor Farnsworth (yes, Farnsworth) Wright bought it and published it in Weird Tales, so it clearly was possible.

Soon he found a mate who published creepy stories in the very same magazine. During The Depression, he married horror writer Frances Obrist “Garfield” (her pen name) and moved to New York, where was he was known to always order wine with his lunch. In 1939, he moved to New Jersey and continued to write stories for comic books and pulps.

After his work Rebel Boast was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, he moved his family to North Carolina to be near the folksy backwoods people (wikipedia’s words, not mine) of whom he wrote. In keeping with his namesake, Confederate General Wade Hampton, he did more manly things like build a vacation cabin in the Smokies, next to his funny-named friend Obray Ramsey, where they would play mountain music and down illegally-distilled whiskey.

Though a successful writer, he supported himself by working on farms, in cotton gins, and as a bouncer in a dance hall. According to http://www.david-drake.com, he also worked as a reporter in Wichita, Kansas. On good terms with the police, Manly frequently accompanied them during operations.

One night Manly went along on a raid on a roadhouse. Several men were caught in the reception area when the police burst in. One of the cops handed Manly a heavy blackjack (a hand weapon typically consisting of a piece of leather-enclosed metal) and told him to hold the men there. The police went into the back of the building where the gambling equipment was.

After a minute or so, one of the men in the front said, “I’m going to get my coat and get out of here.”

“Stay where you are!” Manly said.

“The hell I will,” said the man as he lifted a sheepskin jacket hanging with other coats in an alcove. Manly slammed him across the side of the head with the blackjack. The man dropped like a stone, and the jacket thudded to the floor.

Manly, yes, but I like it, too.

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20 Responses to When Your Name Is An Adjective That Looks Like An Adverb

  1. Benson says:

    He was definitely a Manly Man. Was he also a lumber jack?

  2. Loved it. Especially the part where his name could be mis-read as “Manly Well-Made Man.” That made me laugh out loud.

    When I read the title to the post, I remembered a comment you made about names that looked like adverbs. Glad to see it culminated here with a treasure trove of a supporting cast . . . Farnsworth, etc. 🙂

  3. Arto says:

    I wonder if the wine lunches helped him think up all the weird tales and strange stories and such. Or was it the illegal whisky? Maybe I have it backwards – when you have such strange things in your head it’s better to have a little something to calm those thoughts down. When you don’t I guess you end up slamming someone with a blackjack.

    • kerbey says:

      This is a terrific comment, so nothing I add will do it justice. But I am XX chromosome, so we talk even when unwarranted. Either way, I can only imagine that both wine and whiskey are beneficial to most of us.

      • Arto says:

        I must agree with your closing line. Will continue experimenting with each. I will report back with results.

      • Dave says:

        That’s interesting… I’ve heard some rumblings that it’s the XY chromosome folks who do the unwarranted talking… with all the “mansplaining” and all that jazz. And yes, whiskey is beneficial! I can’t wait til my teetotaling days are over next week!

  4. Liz says:

    Where the heck did you come up with this one? What a character! Fun to know more about an author’s “real” life. So much is put into fiction and we rarely know from where it comes. Wine and whiskey, per Arto’s musings? Good to see you in action, Kerbey. Sorry to bail for so long. These bloggy friends can be so flaky, can’t they? 😉

    • kerbey says:

      Gosh, they sure can. But they are so fit that surely they could just jump back aboard, like a hobo on a cross-country train and chime in. 🙂 I THINK I came up w/ this one whilst doing a facebook birthday post for a friend and Wellman was one of the birthday boys, but I can’t be sure.

  5. wdydfae says:

    “. . . a muscle ripping, testosterone fueled paean to the masculine virtues . . .”
    “. . . Kerbey has made many a well made post in the past but this time she has made a post that is not only a well made post but a Manly Wade Wellman post . . .”
    “. . . a he-man of a post so alpha that even the elusive Liz can’t keep away . . .”

  6. Dave says:

    Wow. There are so many layers of fantastic to this story. Even just being adopted by a powerful West African chief is more adventure than most people can accomplish in a lifetime. Sounds splendid!

    And is this what I have to do to get Liz to show up? Totally screwing up the scheduling and double-booking a day, and then disappearing as they are posted. Hmm…. sometimes things happen in the most peculiar way!

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