McWhirter Fotheringay - clergyman Maydig - What they signify

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fortifier

Senior Member
Persian
"The Man Who Could Work Miracles" by H. G. Wells, published in 1898 is a short story about a sceptic named "George McWhirter Fotheringay" who accidentally in "The Long Dragon" bar finds out he has power to work miracles, and next, through his way, a clergyman named "Mr. Maydig", who preaches at a chapel, begins to teach him and help him to use his power to do good stuff. I need to analyze the story so I would like to know if these three names have some special meaning or refer to something known to English people, because the story itself somehow suggests so, and also if "The Long Dragon" is a real bar:

"I must mention that he was a little man, and had eyes of a hot brown, very erect red hair, a moustache with ends that he twisted up, and freckles. His name was George McWhirter Fotheringay — not the sort of name by any means to lead to any expectation of miracles — and he was clerk at Gomshott’s."
 
  • fortifier

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Thank you very much, Owlman.

    I would like to know if others have any different opinion, especially maybe British people.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    George McWhirter Fotheringay: I can't think of any particular significance that 'George' and 'McWhirter' would have had in 1898. Anyone who remembered his history lessons ought to spot Fotheringhay [Castle], which is where Mary Queen of Scots was executed ~ but this wasn't exactly a hot topic of news in 1898:D Apart from that it seems a pretty unremarkable name.

    Maydig: I think HGW's made this one up. It sounds like the vicar can't afford to keep a sexton so occasionally may have to dig his own graves.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    The name sounds pretentious to me although that might be inverse snobbery. Double barrelled surnames were reckoned to be posh in my youth fifty years ago, suggesting the amalgamation of two noble families. Nowadays women often keep their family names in the surname when they marry. Anyway, Fotheringay is a fancy name.

    I don't know what to make of the McWhirter- possibly odd when mixed with what I suppose is a Norman French derived name
    The man's appearance is comical, perhaps written to be very comical, with red hair sticking up on end and he's got freckles. he sounds like a little boy so the name doesn't match the appearance. People with red hair have until recent years been teased, bullied and given nicknames based on their red hair, like 'Ginger' and 'Carrot'.

    The name Fotheringay is one of those which is pronounced very differently from what one might expect. In this case, it's pronounced 'fungey', from what I read, but don't ask me if that's pronounced like 'fungi'. There are a few names like this: a well-known one is Fiennes pronounced fines and the notorious Featherstonehaugh pronounced fanshaw, Beauchamp like beecham.
    So you have an ordinary sort of fellow, a 'clerk' somewhere, a lowly job, with a fancy name.

    I have no way of knowing how it all came across to the readers of the time. I don't find it amusing now and can't stand H G Wells. I suppose that part of the story is that George was an ordinary person with a very plain not attractive appearance, a ridiculous name and not the stuff from which miracle workers might be expected.
     

    fortifier

    Senior Member
    Persian
    The name Fotheringay is one of those which is pronounced very differently from what one might expect. In this case, it's pronounced 'fungey'
    Thank you Hermione Golightly; you helped me a lot. especially the part about pronunciation was really helpful.

    This pronunciation is standard British or a particular accent? or do you mean when pronounced quickly it sounds like "fungey"? because I need to pronounce the name correctly.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    The name Fotheringay is one of those which is pronounced very differently from what one might expect. In this case, it's pronounced 'fungey', from what I read, but don't ask me if that's pronounced like 'fungi'.
    Googling indicates that it's "fun-gee" (g as in get, not as in gel), which leaves the question of which syllable to stress.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    This pronunciation is standard British or a particular accent?
    It is the standard British (and universal) pronunciation. It is pronounced this way only in the surname, not in the place name (a village.)
     

    cando

    Senior Member
    English - British
    It is the standard British (and universal) pronunciation. It is pronounced this way only in the surname, not in the place name (a village.)
    It's the same as with some place names like Leicester ("lester"), Happisburgh ("haysbru"), Kirkudbright ("kerkoobriy") and others; they were originally pronounced closer to the spelling we still use, but constant usage, lazy diction, changing accents and - in the case of some surnames - probably affectation too, they have mutated and simplified. Words get worn down over time like pebbles on a beach.
     

    Silver_Biscuit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    It's the same as with some place names like Leicester ("lester"), Happisburgh ("haysbru"), Kirkudbright ("kerkoobriy") and others; they were originally pronounced closer to the spelling we still use, but constant usage, lazy diction, changing accents and - in the case of some surnames - probably affectation too, they have mutated and simplified. Words get worn down over time like pebbles on a beach.
    Indeed. I do commiserate with non-natives who have to learn all these ridiculous place/personal names. I actually also commiserate with natives. I surely can't be the only native who's tried to say one of these having seen it written down, and had to endure a look of withering scorn as you realise that, oh, it's not pronounced like it's written. Magdalen College was a particularly embarrassing one for me as a teenager. Fotheringay's a new one for me... Oh well, add it to the list!
     
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