"Helen Highwater"

This was the name of a patient on Doc Martin the other day. The doctor said it so fast and in such an offhand manner that I barely caught it.

Have you ever noticed similar hidden jokes on DM (or any other show)? I’m not referring here to things like the name “Chief Standing Pat,” which were used constantly on Batman. They’d have to be much more subtle.

Yes, this was something I only just noticed in the last series of Doc Martin, but apparently has been going on for ages. I believe it’s the cast member Jessica Ransom, who plays Morwenna the receptionist, who makes them up for a giggle.

Dickens did this in his books.

It’s not exactly what you’re looking for, but you might like it anyway.

I was once writing a technical manual, and I needed a company name to use in an example. Now, in technical writing, you should never use names of actual people or characters, or companies, owing to intellectual property or libel issues–so, no using “Mickey Mouse,” “Daffy Duck,” “Clark Kent,” “George Clooney,” or similar, in examples. And you only use proprietary company names if they are relevant: “For optimal performance, use only General Motors parts.”

I needed a fictional company name that sounded like it could be plausible. It was a boring manual, but could I spice it up a bit with a joke company name? Well, some company names are two or more words (Glaxo Smith Kline, Wild Leitz, Mercedes-Benz), so could I do something that way? And I eventually came up with this:

“For optimal performance, use only Tahellen-Bach parts…”

Skimming through the DM cast list, I see “Shirley Knott” was the only one who had a speaking part.

“Tahellen-Bach” is good.

Back in college, I wrote a fake news caption using the Russian name “Kutchyurkokov” and posted the article on the bulletin board in the Political Science office. It hung there for six months without anyone getting the joke.

Martin Clunes - Doc Martin - has form. I saw him on a chat show where he admitted that he would try to sneak in different phrases where the dialogue allowed so it would be missed by the director.

One I remember he said was getting away with referring to a police chief Inspector several times as ‘Cheese Inspector’.

Some other Doc Martin patient names

Paul Mycock
Drew Peacock
Anita Bush
Dan Gleballs (I think we also met his wife, but it was just Mrs. Gleballs)
Ben Twilly
Noah Cant
Teresa Green

There was also a patient who was an elderly lady named Alice Cooper and a girl named Melanie Gibson. Alice Cooper was pretty clearly a joke, maybe Melanie Gibson wasn’t but I’m guessing it was.

Hmm… I was just searching my Doc Martin subtitles and couldn’t actually find Paul Mycock or Ben Twilly, although there was a Mr. Twilly. Well, either my subs are wrong or the internet is wrong. Or maybe they actually cut some of the naughtier names on the American version?

Also, my apologies to Mr. Gleebles for misspelling his name.

Thomas Pynchon did this all the time. A favorite of mine was “Bloody” Chiclitz.

From the schoolyard threat “Want a mouthful of bloodly Chicklets” Chicklets was a brand of chewing gum that consisted of squares with a hard shell, looking something like teeth

This is pretty ancient stuff. Consider the following line from Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s dictionary:

(Entry on “Story”) (1906)

So, there’s a teevee show named after a shoe?

What’d you say your name was?

Promise you won’t laugh? It’s Helen. Sounds like the kind of name someone would give to someone who looks as if they’d been to Hell and back, isn’t it? It’s prestigiously embarassing. Still, at least my surname isn’t Back. It’d be awful, wouldn’t it? Helen Back. My surname is Mucus.

Of course, The Simpsons is famous for using such names in the context of crank phone calls. But that’s not the same as dropping them in the course of normal conversation, and you have to be listening closely to catch the joke.

As a young kid I remember watching some British drama that had a character introduced as ‘Doctor Raymond Sleeker’. Later on it showed him going into his office with the sign ‘Dr R. Sleeker’ on the door.

Sounds like something they could have gotten away with on The Avengers (the one with John Steed and Emma Peel).

In Eureka, when Dr. Blake becomes head of Global Dynamics there’s a scene where she has to set up a seven digit PIN to access some top secret vault or something like that (It’s been a while since I watched it, so I don’t recall exactly what it was for). They show a closeup of the keypad as the old CEO enters his PIN, and Dr. Blake enters hers. If you pay attention as they press the keys, you can see that the old CEO’s PIN is 8675309.

I once met a real person named Anita Gnapp. Her parents were not native English speakers and didn’t understand the meaning. I told her it could have been worse; her surname could have been Mann.

I once had a student whose surname was “Vagina,” pronounced “VA-gee-na” with a hard “g.” When she handed me her registration slip, the only thing I could think of to say was “Are you sure your name’s spelled correctly?”

I later found out it was derived from the Ukrainian word for “scales” (i.e., what you use to weigh things; cf. German “Waage”).

That exact name–Helen Highwater–was used in* Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator*, Roald Dahl’s sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Part of the plot concerns an orbiting space hotel, and there’s a mention that a Texas millionaire named Orson Cart (heh), who’s just married an actress named Helen Highwater, is paying a fortune for the honeymoon suite.

I am a teacher and I had a girl with the last name Kitchen. Her mother’s name was Olga. To be fair, I guess mom married into the name.

Olga’s Kitchen - for those unaware of Olga’s Kitchen.