Lethal White: The Cratylic Names

It has been a month since the publication of Lethal White, believe it or not! I am on my fourth reading, if you count listening to the audio-book as ‘reading,’ and, as with everything Rowling writes as ‘J. K.’ or ‘Robert Galbraith,’ the several depths at which the story works and its interior organization, the story scaffolding, only becomes clear after repeated visits. I look forward to sharing here what I’m learning in the coming month!

To mark the first anniversary of sorts of Lethal White‘s publication today, though, I am going to post my notes about Rowling’s Dickensian Cryptonyms specific to the fourth Strike novel, what Oxford’s Beatrice Groves calls ‘Cratylic Names’ (see her Literary Allusion in Harry Potter for more on this). They are only notes of a work in progress and I put them up to invite your comments, corrections, and complementary or contrarian insights.

I confess I especially hope for feedback from friends in the UK who will ‘hear’ associations that their relatively deaf American Cousins cannot, but this project of unwrapping the enigma of the Lethal White character names will need the input of all Serious Strikers. Please jump right in with your thoughts.

The 15 name list is alphabetical by surname – ‘Johnny Cash’ to ‘Della, Rhiannon, and Geraint Winn’ — and begins after the jump. See you over there.

Johnny Cash —

  • You may have missed the Man in Black on your hurried first reading of Lethal White, but he’s in there. 

Wading through knee-length grass, [Robin] peered one by one through the grimy windows [of Steda Cottage, the deserted Knight home on the Chiswell estate]. The rooms were thick with dust and empty. The only sign of any previous occupant was in the kitchen, where a filthy mug bearing a picture of Johnny Cash sat alone on a stained surface. (Lethal White, ch 43, p 370)

  • We’re supposed to think of the American singer but it’s not really the country music singer — but the villain of Tiger in the Smoke, Margery Allingham’s classic thriller and one of Rowling’s favorites. The psychopath in that book calls himself ‘Jack Havoc’ but his real name was Johnny Cash. Read about the influence of this story on Rowling at ‘The Origin and Meaning of Voldemort.’ 
  • It’s importance here is that Jack Knight, Billy and Jimmy’s father and called Jack o’Kent by the Chiswells (see below), is the twisted alcoholic and sadist haunting the entire story. Billy’s psychosis is a function of his horrific childhood alone with Jack and the black-mailing turns on Jack’s secret, sinister profession as gallows maker. The ‘Johnny Cash’ reference inside his house points to the evil of the man known as ‘Jack.’

Jasper Chiswell Minister of Culture, Murder Victim

  •  As a given name, Jasper is ‘treasurer’ from the Persian. As a stone, it is a type of quartz jewel, famous to the ancients as green and clear.
  • The only Jasper of note I could find was Sir Jasper More, a late 20th century Conservative Party politician — who in no wise resembles Jasper Chiswell.
  • ‘Chiswell’ is a fishing village on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, wuite the distance from OxfordshireChiswell Green in Hertfordshire is not much closer. The Chiswell family name first appears in Essex.
  • ‘The name was thought to have been derived from “the gravelly spring or stream” from the Old English “cis” + “wella” + “green”.’
  • The name, though, is pronouncedchisel,’ as in the bladed cutting tool. 
  • Kirvanna’s clubbing him with a hammer seems oddly appropriate in this light. What else to do with a chisel?
  • The combining the valuable stone first name and the tool surname suggests something of the jeweler’s craft in refining a gem for a setting in ring, necklace, or chalice.
  • Breaking the name down intochisand ‘well’ yields the Greek letter ‘X’ or ‘chi,’ and ‘well.’ That Billy Knight has a tic that is a sign-of-the-cross not done well and Izzy wears a plain cross in mourning for her father may be significant in this regard.
  • If we are correct in reading Lethal White as the story turn in a seven book series (and I think we are), then, especially because his death happens at the end of Part 1, the dead center of the central novel, I’m half-obliged to think the ‘chisel’ is something like a ‘cleaver’ that cuts the book and series in half, a chisel-wedge used in splitting wood.
  • I think the cratylic quality of this name is that the Minister of Culture was a hard, sharp, even stony man not to be messed with — and his central place in the book represents a turning point or splitting-off place.
Raphael Chiswell, ‘Raff’ Jasper Chiswell’s Bastard Son and Murderer
  • Raphael means ‘God is Healer’ or ‘God Has Healed.’ The archangel who stirs the pool of Bethesda is thought to be Raphael.
  • I’m guessing that Ornella Seraphin (see below) names him either for the archangel because of her last name or for the Renaissance painter Raphael, whose mistress was the daughter of a Francesco, because he was Italian (and dependent on patrons?). His having majored in ‘Art History’ and being alone in having recognized the potential Stubbs at Chiswell House speaks to his artist’s eye. That Francesca returns to Florence is another pointer to the painter.
  • ‘Raff’ means something completely alien to those sources, however. His standing in the Chiswell family couldn’t be clearer if you pronounce it as Robert Glenister does, with a short rather than a long ‘a.’ Check it out:

1. Worthless material; trash, rubbish, refuse. Also occasionally: miscellaneous material, odds and ends. Now Scottish and English regional (chiefly northern).
2. People of the lowest social class considered collectively; disreputable or undesirable people.
3. With the: the most disreputable or the lowest element of a class, community, etc.; the common run of people; the rabble.
4. A base, worthless person; a member of the riff-raff.

Torquil D’ Amery — Sophia (‘Fizzy’) Chiswell’s Husband

  • Torquil is the anglicized version of a Scandanavian name meaning ‘Thor’s Cauldron.’ I kid you not.
  • D’Amery is an old money signifier in the UK because one of William the Conquerer’s Norman chieftains went by that name, which derives, not from the Latin for ‘love’ but from the old German for ‘bold warrior.’
  • Torquil is always called ‘Torks’ in the novel which suggests ‘torc,’ an ancient Gaullic or Briton necklace, or, more commonly, ‘torque,’ the word from mechanical physics for the twisting force that causes rotation.
  • Torks is something of a loser, no? As a financial adviser, he all but destroyed the Chiswell family fortune and he seems to be, if not a ‘kept man,’ than at least a hen-pecked husband. I think his noble name and fallen state are a transparency Rowling offers for British aristocracy in the postmodern era.
Peregrine/Pringle D’Amery — Jasper Chiswell’s Principal Heir
  • Peregrine is the name of Torks Sophia/Fizzy’s son and Jasper Chiswell’s principal heir; the family calls him ‘Pringle.’ Peregrine is a kind of falcon. Without the ‘e,’ though, the name is an alternate form of the word ‘pelerin,’ Old French for ‘pilgrim’ or ‘foreigner. ‘
  • And Pringle? The only association I have are bad memories of thirty some years ago of the worst tasting ‘potato chips’ ever. I hope there is something nicer or more challenging in the UK lexicography than that.
  • One curious note: in the prologue, Robin worries that Strike has left the Wedding Reception while her picture was being taken by Matt out with the swans. She has hopeful highs that he is still there somewhere and disspirited descents that she’s missed him. “While her inner self performed these peregrinations of expectation and dread, it was impossible to simulate the more conventional wedding day emotions whose absence, she knew, Matthew felt and resented” (pp 8-9). I confess, I felt confident that the word ‘peregrinations’ meant something like ‘Circling as a hawk does’ in keeping with peregrine falcon. Wrong.

Word Origin and History for peregrination, n., early 15c., from Old French peregrination “pilgrimage, long absence” (12c.) or directly from Latin peregrinationem (nominative peregrinatio) “a journey, a sojourn abroad,” noun of action from past participlestem of peregrinari “to journey or travel abroad,” figuratively “to roam about, wander,” from peregrinus “from foreign parts, foreigner,” from peregre (adv.) “abroad,” properly “from abroad, found outside Roman territory,”from per (see per) + agrilocative of ager field, territory, land, country” (see acre).

  •  Yes, I think Rowling/Galbraith uses the word at the start so we experience its echo when Raff uses his nephew’s real name near the finish (ch 58, p 517).
  • And I think the dimunition of a noble word for pilgrim to the most obscenely processed food (potato ‘chips’ in a tube?) is Rowling’s marker, as with all the nicknames among the Chiswell’s and Charlotte’s lot, of the degeneration of English nobility from anything like majesty or aristocracy to Tele-tubby idiocy. See ‘Torquil’ above.
  • That the name means ‘pilgrim’ as well, though, may offer Rowling’s more hopeful view of the children born to these latter day aristocrats, that they may turn out to be seekers — or birds of prey.

Vanessa Ekwensi Metropolitan Policewoman, Robin’s Best Friend in London

  • I’m going to assume that the surname is a hat tip to the Nigerian author, Cyprian Ekwensi.
  • ‘Vanessa’ is a name invented by Jonathan Swift, believe it or don’t. A combination of name pieces, it is in essence meaningless however euphonic.
  • Among famous persons named ‘Vanessa,’ the only one I thought of possible interest was Virginia Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell, the Bloomsbury Group painter.
  • The name, however, when coupled to her race points to the police officer’s critical importance to the series because of its central place in Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire (and other books). The ‘black Vanessa,’ as commonly Vanessa Atalanta or ‘Red Admirable,’ is the “old friend” of the poet John Shade, a butterfly who appears throughout the poem and Kinbote commentary (and even has an entry in the index); VVN scholar Brian Boyd argues cogently in his book on Pale Fire (ch 9) that the ‘black Vanessa’ is the incarnation of the Shades’ dead daughter Hazel, transformed from wood moth to brilliant butterfly, who inspires Shade to write his poem and tries to warn him about his imminent death.
  • That Rowling is aware of playing with this connection is evident in chapter 18 of Lethal White when Robin takes a call from Strike out on the porch. She escapes from Matt by saying “It’s Vanessa” when she sees the call is from Strike and the conversation is bracketed by her observation of a moth trying to get inside. Thinking about the moth after hanging up on Strike, she has an insight about something her therapist had said and “makes a decision.” She had thought about the moth, “Idiot. It’s better out here” but opens the French windows and lets the moth in; she lies to Matt about Vanessa, who accepts her story about the policewoman wanting her Chanel sunglasses back. (ch 18, pp 162-165).
  • The ‘black Vanessa’ on that same porch earlier had tried to tell Strike why Robin had stayed with Matt (“Blame sea-bourne bacteria”) but in the end balks at spelling it out for him. She is the dynamic duo’s means to the Met’s forensic report on Jasper Chiswell, however, and is Robin’s place of refuge when she leaves Matt at last.
  • Pale Fire is perhaps the greatest puzzle novel ever written and getting the ‘Black Vanessa’s role in it may be the key to its deepest levels of meaning. That Rowling, a Nabokov serious reader, embeds a black woman named Vanessa in Lethal White all but guarantees we’re not seeing what is really going on in the background of this novel, i.e., that Charlotte’s ‘dinner’ with Strike and Matt’s break-up with Robin are layered with story openings rather than finales.
Lady Patricia Fleeetwood — Jasper Chiswell’s First Wife
  • ‘Patricia’ is a common name (second most common in the US in 1990) but comes from the Latin word for nobility, a higher social status. In Lethal White, she divorces Chiswell because of his affair with Ornella Serafin and does well in the separation, money wise (we’re told this was because her family was wealthy enough to afford excellent legal representation).
  • Fleetwood means “woods with a stream.” The town in Lancashire was named for its founder rather than for woods or stream. The town in Pennsylvania built the luxury cars for Cadillac that have given the name its upscale cache.
  • Lady Patricia Fleetwood is a transparency for a rich, upper class woman.
‘Flick’ Perdue — 
  • As I’ve said, I’ve read and listened to the book three times and cannot think of an instance in which this character is called anything but ‘Flick.’ It is a nickname for women named ‘Felicity,’ which is derived from the Latin word for ‘happiness’ (think ‘Felix Felicis’). [Update: See addendum 1 in comment boxes — her last name is ‘Purdue,’ “for God.”]
  • There is a ‘Verity Pulham(truth-house by the pool) with whom Venetia Hall is confused by Della Winn, but no ‘Felicity.’
  • Egad, is there a less happy woman in Lethal White than the confused Flick, used and abused by both Raphael Chiswell and Jimmy Knight?
  • The word ‘flick,’ of course, means to toss thoughtlessly away, disposal without a care about what happens to the trash (matches, cigarette butts). Ouch.
  • Flick is one of five women in Lethal White who sport red hair: Coco, Strike’s one night stand to assauge his grief over Robin’s honeymoon, Matt’s boss, Jemima, Robin, and Kinvara Hanratty. The boss is described as “red-headed” (p 10) And I think we are supposed to assume that she, Robin, and Kinvarra are so without the use of dyes. The other two, one nighter Coco and the sad Flick, have “tomato-red hair” (Coco, p 32) and the “same bright red shade as Coco’s” (Flick, p 64). I’m open to suggestions about what this hair-coloring-in-common means for women we’re not supposed to like, Robin aside, especially in light of the author’s having returned ‘to her roots’ and a red dye for her hair. I’m guessing that Robin’s strawberry blonde hair is not supposed to be thought of as ‘red,’ at least not like Coco, Kinvara, or Flick’s.
Kinvara Hanratty — 
  • Kinvara is a seaport village in southwestern Ireland. It means “head of the sea.”
  • We’re not given Kinvara’s maiden name before ch 36, p 291, and it is only repeated after this by Izzy — probably because it’s a strong pointer both to her being a murderer and to the gallows subplot. James Hanratty was a murderer and rapist, one of the last men to be executed by hanging in the UK.
  • Reading his story, James Hanratty seems more like Billy Knight than Kinvara; his case was really only closed with conclusive DNA evidence in 2002, forty years after his execution.
Billy/Jimmy Knight —
  • Billy and Jimmy are, of course, diminutives, usually affectionate, for William and James. That neither boy is ever called by the proper name suggests a lack of social standing or ‘class,’ in Jimmy’s case probably deliberate to take on a plebian patina. Billy’s mental illness makes the juvenile form understandable.
  • ‘Knight’ is another word for ‘equestrian,’ the vassal-more-than-a-serf who rides a horse. That the Knights worked in something like a feudal relationship with those who lived in the Chiswell House or manor and that they grew up in the shadow of the White Horse (and held meetings in London at the White Horse Inn) makes this appropriate.

Aamir Mallik

  • ‘Aamir’ means “prince, ruler, commanderand “Populous, Full, Prosperous, Amply Settled, Civilized; Also Used To Refer To A Prince Or Ruler.” Are we meant to think ‘Emir’ when we hear ‘Aamir’?
  • ‘Mallik’can be an Anglicization of two different Arabic names: مَالِك, meaning “Owner”, and مَلِك, meaning ‘King’.”
  • The bad guy stand-in for Joseph Smith, Jr., in the Twilight books, the 19th century non-vampire who rapes Rosalie Hale in upstate New York and leaves her for dead, was named ‘Royce King, II.’ The Smith connections are that the Mormon Prophet’s first and only legal wife had Hale as her maiden name, the LDS revelation happens outside Rochester, and Smith was coronated ‘King of the World’ twice before his assassination. His name is a transparency for that last; ‘Royce’ from Roi, the French word for King, ‘King,’ and the ‘II’ just in case you missed it. Read Spotlight for the explanation of Twilight into the Latter-day Saint feminist parable and morality tale that it is.
  • ‘Aamir Mallik’ is a good guy, unlike Royce King, II, but his name is similar overkill, it seems. I did find an Amaal Malik, an Indian music celebrity, online, but there seems to be no connection.
  • My guess is that Rowling used these names as markers for what in the UK goes as ‘Asian’ and we in the US would think of as ‘Muslim,’ ‘Indian,’ or ‘Pakistani.’ Aamir is a troubled man of significant gifts — he is the only person to see through Robin’s disguise as ‘Venetia Hall,’ for instance — who is used by Christopher Steele and the Winns as an emotional plaything and tool. Is this a transparency in Rowling’s view for the debased standing of relatively noble immigrants from former holdings of the British empire? Maybe.
‘Jack o’Kent’ — Jack Knight, Billy and Jimmy’s Father
  • A list wouldn’t be complete without the nickname given to the sadistic alcoholic father of the Knight Brothers, Jack Knight, ‘namely,Jack o’Kent.’
  • Totally unknown in the US, at least to this American.
  • In Lethal White the dad with the nickname comes across as the worst of boogeymen. The legends, however, portray him as a wizard of sorts who repeatedly cheats the Devil. If only the Three Brothers had studied their Jack o’Kent tales!
  • The Johnny Cash (see above) mug on the table of his abandoned house points to Jack Knight being the Jack Havoc in the background of the novel’s action. Raphael tells Robin that Jasper Chiswell called him one night when drunk and rambled on about his being pursued by Jack o’Kent as a kind of judgment for their past. I think it’s an odd-on bet that Raphael made this up to support his contention that his father was suicidally unstable, but maybe not. Jack o”kent haunts the story-line; why not haunt the principal individual involved with the gallows making as well?
Ornella Serafin  — Italian Journalist, Raphael Chiswell’s Mother
  • ‘Ornella’ means ‘flowering ash tree’ and is derived from ‘aurum’ the Latin for gold.
  • I’m guessing that Rowling/Galbraith had Ornella Muti in mind when she chose this name. She is a great beauty, Italian, and her father was a journalist. Muti’s birth name, as an extra tie to Raphael, was Francesca.
  • Serafinbesides the London rock band (groupie!) is, when spelled with a ‘ph,’ a name derived from ‘Seraph, the highest order of angelic intelligences. Her being mother of a ‘Raphael’ should not be surprising — even if shortened to ‘Raff.’
Tom Turvey — Matt’s Best Friend, Sara Shadlock’s Fiancee
  • You gotta feel for the man whose best mate is Matt Cunliffe and who’s engaged to marry Sara Shadlock. But his name is a clue with respect to his function in the story.
  • The book as a turning point in the series is beset with couples and pairings; Strike more than once refers to them (cf., ch 52, p 456, where he all but names the killers at the end of his mental list). Cormoran leaves out a few, most notably, I think, the pairs of swans at story’s start and finish and Charlotte’s fetal twins. All that to lead us to the definition of Tom or ‘Thomas,’ which is Aramaic for ‘twin.’
  • ‘Turvey’ in American street slang supposedly means “cool” or “awesome.” I’ve never heard it used that way. Turvy, in my experience, is to ‘topsy’ the way ‘raff’ is to ‘riff;’ you can’t think about the one without the other. ‘Topsy-turvy’ of course means turned upside down or out-of-whack.
  • The similarly alliterative ‘Tom Turvey,’ then, signals that Tom’s relationships are not in good order and that he is an agent or catalyst for change. Check out his comment to Robin at the House Warming party that she needs to watch Matt more closely: “So much f’ surveillance training. You wanna pay more attention at home, Rob” (ch 7, p 81). He much later blows up at Matt (and Sara?) at a dinner-in with the two couples where he says flat out, “And I’m not going to take it anymore.” Robin needs a stray text from Matt meant for Sara and an Earring to finally cotton on to Tom’s hints and turn her world ‘topsy-turvey.’
  • And there’s a simpler meaning to the name, right? ‘Tom Turvey’ sounds an awful lot like ‘Tom Turkey,’ and they are among the dumbest animals on planet earth, especially those bred for food. Again, a man with Matt and Sarah as his best friend and future wife may be losing his hair because there is nothing in the cranium in which it can take root.
Della Winn (nee Jones), Rhiannon, and Geraint Winn — 
  • Della is a form of Adela’ which means ‘noble.’ It’s a common or diminutive form, something like ‘Patty’ would be to ‘Patricia,’ which also means noble, high caste.
  • Geraint is a Welsh name that figures in Arthurian legend. Marital issues figure heavily in his tale, but nothing like Geraint Winn’s women problems.
  • ‘Winn’ does not mean anything like ‘winning’ or victorious; it is derived from ‘gwyn,’ the Welsh word for ‘white.’ Della’s yellow labrador is named ‘Gwyn.’
  • Both Della and Geraint claim humble backgrounds but their names suggest that Rowling/Galbraith thinks of them as plebian-pretenders who are in reality privileged.
  • Her married name is appropriate given Strike’s comment about the super-injunction she gets: “The whole world thinks Della’s whiter than white” (ch 36, p 291).
  • And Rhiannon, their daughter who commits suicide at age 16 because of her being drugged, photographed in the nude, and disgraced when the fotos were shared online by Freddie Chiswell and fencing ‘friends’? ‘Rhiannon’ is the heroine of Welsh legend, an equestrian goddess of sorts who first appears on a white horse (naturally!), whom Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac channeled for the song of the same name.
  • Rhiannon Winn makes me think of Hazel Shade, the suicide of Pale Fire, and how she haunts the John Shade poet thereafter and informs the story as the Black Vanessa. Rhiannon’s death and Geraint’s desire for revenge against the Chiswells is the cause of the blackmailing that brings Cormoran into the drama of Lethal White, and, as with almost every story Rowling has written, the roots are to be found in violence against women (cf., Ariana Dumbledore, Merope Gaunt, Eileen Prince-Snape, Terri Wheedon, Robin Ellacott, Leda Strike).

There is more! Prof Freeman will be sharing soon, I hope, her discovery of the meaning of a dog’s name in Lethal White which will blow your mind. But this list of 15 decrypted Dickensian names is a good start after only a month with the book in hand. Please let me know what you think in the comment boxes below!



  1. Beatrice Groves says

    Thanks for this John – many interesting connections! And I look forward to confirmation of your Black Vanessa idea if Strike 5 fulfils your intriguing insight that ‘Charlotte’s ‘dinner’ with Strike and Matt’s break-up with Robin are layered with story openings rather than finales.’

    The Raphael/Raff point is great. Angels of light aren’t always the safest name choices for mere mortals – Shakespeare’s Angelo and Lucio (in Measure for Measure) – like Rowling’s Lucius – aren’t really good guys.

    Just possibly the fact that a ‘chisel’ is a tool might make think of Chiswell’s surname’s relevance: ‘tool’ is negative English slang for a man, both suggesting he’s unpleasant (‘a bit of a tool’) and (according the Urban Dictionary):
    1. tool
    One who lacks the mental capacity to know he is being used. A fool. A cretin. Characterized by low intelligence and/or self-steem.
    ‘That tool dosen’t even know she’s just using him.’

    And reading this I learnt the forgotten (by me, at least) fact that the butterfly known universally as the ‘red admiral’ is a corruption of its original name of ‘red admirable.’ Lovely.

  2. Addendum 1: Flick’s last name is Purdue (ch 51, p 455).

    The name Purdue was formed many centuries ago by the ancient Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. It was a name typically given to a person who was known for their habitual use of the oath pour Dieu, which is Old French meaning “for God.” This is a subset of the nickname type of name known as oath names.

  3. Addendum 2: More Red Heads

    Prince Harry is a red head, of course, and there is a male nurse at the psychiatric ward lockdown where Strike meets with Billy who has “bright red hair” (ch 56, p 493).

  4. Addendum 3: Sir Christopher Barrowclough-Burns

    Anyone want to try their hand on that one?

  5. Lesley Stevens says

    Wonderful comments John and Beatrice

    Just a few I say ‘Tomato’ you say ‘Tomayto’ thoughts below

    Jasper Chiswell — Minister of Culture, Murder Victim

    One thought that did occur to me about ‘ Chisel’ Is that it is not just carpenters who use a hammer and chisel but sculptors and more particularly wood carvers, possible this was a hint to the carving of the white horse visible in the photographs of the gallows being the clue that would give away their origin? Also for me, the affected pronunciation of the surname reminds me of the pronunciation of Chesil Beach in Dorset. There was a book ‘On Chesil Beach’ essentially about the failure of a marriage. I have been reading the review in the guardian about ‘ Chisel Beach’ ( I remembered the name of the book but have not read it , it was selected for the Booker prize short list in 2007) https://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/mar/25/fiction.ianmcewan apparently the author Ian McEwan ‘is very good at dissecting the true nature of relationships’ ! Interestingly when the book was adapted to a film the lead female character appears to have strawberry blond hair. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/may/19/on-chesil-beach-film-review-saoirse-ronan-billy-howle-ian-mcewan There are certainly a few relationships which are being dissected in LW.
    When I hear Jasper, I think of Jasper Conran OBE the English Designer son of Sir Terrance Conran. Archetypical English aristocratic name.

    Raphael Chiswell, ‘Raff’ —

    In my head I pronounce it as an elongated ‘Ray..ff’ not a staccato ‘Raff’ so to me, the name seems to suggest that he was raffish? As below. I associate raffish with old fashioned English Upper Class characters. A character description you might find in a P G Wodehouse.

    1. unconventional and slightly disreputable, especially in an attractive way.
    “his raffish air”

    Peregrine/Pringle D’Amery — Jasper Chiswell’s Principal Heir

    I too must confess of thinking of crisps! However, Pringle the Scottish knitted clothing company also comes to mind. It is a retailer of traditional sweaters i.e. the iconic ‘twin set and Pearls’ look for the English Upper Class. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pringle_of_Scotland Perhaps it is to make us think that here is the solid branch of the family tree rather than the illegitimate one.

    Flick’ Perdue —

    When I look at the word Perdue, I see Perdu the French for lost, and to me Flick is very lost.

    With regards to the tomato read hair link, it is such a statement, colour being so unnatural, that they ‘stand out’ which could be interpreted as ‘are exposed’ and therefore
    ‘ vulnerable’ leading to their being taken advantage of? In the same way as we understand that no good comes to Strike from his causal relationships, could it also be that we are to realise that no good comes to these women from their casual relationships . ( I am thinking of the reference to being used as a restaurant with a brothel) Perhaps the message is do not allow yourself to be used and treated like a ‘scarlet woman’. The opposite being Robin with her naturally rare and beautiful strawberry Blond hair is a woman who will not allow herself to be taken advantage of and constantly fights against being a ‘victim’ .

    Della Winn (nee Jones), Rhiannon, and Geraint Winn —

    With Della, I was drawn more to her disability than her name. The only blind Politician that came to mind for me was David Blunkett. Interestingly when I read a little about him, he states that ‘ looking back at his time in politics, he admitted: “I always wanted my own way, always wanted to go to the wire. That’s a good thing on occasions when you’re fighting for resources, but it can get up people’s noses a bit.”. A character trait of Della’s perhaps.



    “Pringle” could refer to a family in the Anne of Green Gables series -specifically, the fourth book. Anne Shirley (the main character) goes to Summerside because she has just been hired as a principal of a new school. The Pringle family (“the elite of Summerside society”) and spend most of the book shunning & irritating Anne because she got the job that they think should’ve gone to their cousin. Even though they are prone to fighting amongst themselves, they will close ranks against an outsider. Another family, the Taylor family, are cousins to the Pringle family and the 14-yr old son’s (the only son, presumably) name is Pringle Taylor.


    “Pringle” could refer to a family in the fourth Anne of Green Gables novel. When Anne goes to become principal of a school, the Pringle family tries to sabotage her at every turn because they think their cousin should have gotten the job. They are the “elite of Summerside” and are a large, sprawling family. A character says that they are prone to in-fighting, but close ranks against outsiders . Another family, the Taylors, are cousins to the Pringles, and the name of the youngest sibling (and presumably, only son) is Pringle Taylor.

  8. Wrote my thoughts before I saw the previous comment. Right on!

    Two thoughts on the name Peregrine/Pringle:

    Peregrin (no “E”) is the given name of Pippin, one of the four principle Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings. Peregrin is heir to become the “Thain” in the highest Hobbit aristocracy, the Took family. He’s the most mischievous and impulsive of the four hobbits (“Fool of a Took!” as Gandalf says), but has grown into a mature adult (for the most part) by the end of his trails and the book.

    “Pringle” is the surname of an old and wealthy family in Anne of Windy Poplars, the 4th book in the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery, a Canadian author. Anne of Windy Poplars was written in 1936, after the bulk of the Anne of Green Gables series, to please Montgomery’s publishers and the public. It is not her best work. It’s basically a collection of short stories woven into adult Anne’s life while she is principle of a high school in Summerside, Prince Edwards Island. (Which is a real town, but I don’t believe Montgomery had ever lived there or that there’s a connection to the real town and the story.)

    In the book, the biggest story line is of the wealthy, extended, and pseudo-aristocratic Pringle family almost costing Anne her job and driving her from town because she was picked over a less qualified candidate who happened to be a Pringle. The Pringles are nicknamed the “Royal Family” of Summerside. Anne is, of course, orphaned, had no extended family to take her in and lived with low class families as a pseudo servant until a “respectable” farming brother and sister adopted her (in the events in Anne of Green Gables.) She’s talented and has worked hard and managed to work her way through the education system to achieve a BA degree. The Pringle’s finally accept Anne after she finds out a family secret and they feel forced to accept her or risk possible exposure. Anne would never dream of doing this, as she’s pretty much perfect after book one. The family secret is found in an old diary and is very gritty. The secret is that a great-great uncle and apparent black sheep of the family was a sailor. He was shipwrecked and cannibalized an already fallen crewmember, but maybe not completely out of necessity. (And you thought the Anne books were saccharine.) Is it almost as random and grotesque as manufacturing gallows?

    I wouldn’t list Anne of Windy Poplars as exactly literature, but it’d be interesting to know if JKR ever read it. It does sound like a case upper class abuse. However, there is a teenage boy in the book whose is of Pringle descent, whose first name is Pringle (and last name is Taylor.) He is a mischievous but very likable character.

    I’d like to think that there’s a little bit of hope for Peregrine/Pringle Chiswell in not becoming a psycho/sociopath or a colonist (although to JKR, they may be the same thing.)

  9. The Irish village of Kinvara has…wait for it….an annual cuckoo festival!

  10. Beatrice Groves says

    Really enjoying these comments! I thought of Blunkett too, Lesley, and great break down of the Pringle connection, Rebecca.
    As no-one seems to have mentioned it yet, I just thought I’d pop back with ‘Pringle’ being an unprepossessing name from Harry Potter itself: the even-worse-than-Filch caretaker Apollyon Pringle. It is a name I’m particularly interested by because it is perhaps the neatest example of Rowling’s precision in naming. His first name of is the destroying angel in Revelation: ‘A king, the angel of the bottomless pit; whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek Apollyon; in Latin Exterminans’ (Rev 9.11). In the Hebrew Bible Abaddon is a place not a person and so Rowling is being very neat here – for, as she has said, that ‘Azkaban’ is a portmanteau name formed from the island prison Alcatraz and Hebrew version of Apollyon (‘Abaddon’). And so she has used the same name twice – the place version (Abaddon) for a place and the person version (Apollyon) for a person. Nice.

    I don’t know about any further evidence of Rowling reading the Anne books; but she is the right age to have devoured them (as I did ) and think the unpleasant Pringle link in HP is certainly a suggestive piece of corroborative evidence!

  11. Anne of Green Gables? There is no testimonial proof that Rowling has read and loved the Anne books — though Canadian Anne fans swear JKR is a professed Anne reader — but there are plenty of textual suggestions.




    Ah, I’m so glad other people thought of the Pringles in the Anne novels.

    I have always wondered if JKR had read the books, mainly because in the fourth book, Anne works with a Snape-like teacher called Katherine Brooke. Like Snape, she’s a sarcastic, mean teacher who is hated and feared by both her current & former students. Also, she has a dysfunctional background as well; her parents hated her & hated each other right up until they died, then, she was adopted by an abusive aunt & uncle (this sounds more like Harry’s situation) and so she developed a cold, cruel personality. And she’s also hinted to be talented in her chosen subject (poetry. I think?) like Snape.

  13. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Why no speaking one’s mind at the Lorelei and Nye follow-up?

    For a couple scraps…

    “I have never met a citizen of the UK in contrast who does not think that the NHS is the crowning glory of life in their homeland.” I am surprised… though, as you note, “Saying as much directly is taboo, especially for a so-called ‘center-left’ liberal in the UK”. Otherwise, try James Delingpole and the Rev. Dr. Jules Gomes, for two variously swingeing blogging examples I’ve encountered.

    I wonder what you would find with an eye on Colonel John Henry “Johnny” Bevan (probably not as much, I suspect…)?

    “That’s a lot of Wales” – is there even more of it, and does any of that directly or indirectly evoke the early Welsh poet whose name (I take it) he bears, Aneurin or Aneirin and his ‘Y Gododdin’ (including a reference to Arthur, which, as the Wikipediast puts it, ” if not an interpolation, would be the earliest known reference to that character”!), or even such works related to it as John James’s enjoyable Men went to Cattraeth (1969), or (noted by the Wikip., but not (yet?) directly known by me) “Rosemary Sutcliff’s young adult novel The Shining Company (1990), […] Richard J Denning’s 2010 novel, The Amber Treasure [,… and] Nicola Griffith’s novel Hild (2014)”?

  14. Pringle is a Scottish surname, originally Hoppringill apparently, and some people have misattributed it to mean ‘pilgrim’ – resulting in some backlash e.g “it has nothing to do with pilgrim” – http://www.jamespringle.co.uk/html/name_origin_-_errors.html.

    As a nickname, apparently the velodrome that was used for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is nicknamed the Pringle (and you can see why, looking at it – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Valley_VeloPark).

  15. Emma Chiswell says

    As a real life Chiswell it was a bit annoying that they pronounced my name wrong. It is Chis-well not Chisel. As I can pretty much name every other Chiswell in the phone book as family members I can categorically say that there is no other pronunciation.

    My family had a church based in Debden Essex. https://www.debdenchurch.org.uk/history/

  16. One thing I thought might be interesting. “Serafin” of course has the angel connection, but it’s not the only thing that comes to the mind of this particular Italian 🙂

    Most Italian surnames end in vowels. Surnames ending in consonants are very rare. JKR makes use of more classic, run of the mill Italian names in the rest of the series (Rossi, Conti, Ricci) and most of these are entirely unremarkable. So is there anything remarkable about Serafin? Well, Italian surnames ending in “n” (Serafin, Guidolin, Cattelan) come from one specific region of Italy. I figured it would add a nice touch to note that this region is Veneto – where Venice is.

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