Sunday, October 9, 2011

What's in a Name?

Today I realized something that, until now, had been lurking somewhere in the shallower waters of my subconscious. I realized that the very names CS Lewis and GK Chesterton (two authors I always associate together, which is hardly unnatural) seem to evoke the spiritual atmosphere of their bearers' works.

The name “Chesterton” makes me think of chestnuts, which makes me think of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost nipping at your nose-- all the innocence and the childish, rollicking fun of Christmas. Has anyone taken the words of Our Lord, “Unless you become as a little child, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven”, more to heart than Chesterton did? And has anyone loved Christmas more? Chesterton wrote floods about Christmas, but perhaps my favourite of his Christmassy passages is this one: “There is nothing really wrong with the whole modern world except that it does not fit in with Christmas. The modern world will have to fit in with Christmas or die.” I wouldn’t put it any less emphatically myself!

Not that Christmas exhausts the associations of chestnuts. I am also reminded of the Longfellow lines, “Under a spreading chestnut tree the village blacksmith stands”…a line of poetry so suffused with the homeliness, with the rugged virtues of the common man, that it was even quoted in the Beano comic once.

The first syllable of Chesterton makes me think of a man pushing out his chest, in the manner of a pugilist, which is very fitting considering the many bouts Chesterton fought with his intellectual opponents. The heart is located in the chest, and our author was all heart.

As for the initials GK, well, they are fine hearty initials. Gee! OK! Both Americanisms Chesterton would probably have despised (when used outside America, that is) but they still give his name a pleasantly emphatic ring.

As for CS Lewis, the sibillance of the name delights me. It makes me think of the rustle of fur coats as a little girl pushes her way through a wardrobe into another world. It has a crisp sound to it, too, which puts me in mind of crackling bonfires and autumnal leaves crinkling under your feet—which seems wonderfully appropriate to the bracing, hearty, strenuous atmosphere of Lewis’s writing.

So there!

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