Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A John Watson by any other name would . . . be quite different, really!

 Ah, John H. Watson. So many John Watsons out there, and so many Dr. Watsons, as any Google news search will let you know very quickly if you're searching for Watson news. John Watson comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and characters, and even Sherlockians are a lot more accepting of variations in their Watsons than their Sherlock Holmeses.

His name has a sort of "John Smith" common touch that helps make him the everyman who is easy to identify with as he narrates his surprise at the twists and turns of life with Sherlock Holmes. But have you ever stopped to wonder how different Watson would have been had Conan Doyle kept his original vision of the character and named him "Ormond Sacker."

Ormond Sacker is no John Watson.

Ormond Sacker is a weird little guy. He even sounds a bit rat-faced, and maybe more street-wise than John Watson. His Cockney girlfriend probably calls him "Ormy," and you don't grow up a "Sacker" without punching more than your share of folks.

While a name does not define us, names do influence who we become in subtle ways. If we could name one baby Ormond Sacker and on John Watson, and have them raised by identical parents, I'm betting they're going to be very different men once they grow to adulthood. The Victorian era was full of notable Watsons contributing to society, but has there ever been a famous Sacker?

Ormond Sacker might even be the most famous one, which is weird for a fictional character who doesn't appear in a single story. (Well, didn't appear . . . I'm sure Sherlock Holmes fans have fixed that at some point.) Unless "Orville Sacker" is more famous, thanks to The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes's Smarter Brother.

The word "sacker" means one who pillages, loots, and plunders, unless you're talking about American football or an HR firing specialist. "Ormond" hails back to an ancient Irish kingdom, a London children's hospital, or James Ormond an English/Irish/Scottish sea captain who worked for Spain to bring Franciscan settlers to Northern Florida. Ormond castles in both Scotland and Ireland are owned by families other than Ormonds. So "Ormond Sacker," literally sounds like one of the guys that came and took castles and kingdoms away from the original Ormond clan.

This guy isn't sitting around Baker Street, nursing a war wound. He either found a cunning way to avoid service altogether or was killed in Afghanistan for liking the fight a little too much. And if we start getting into what pairing him with a Sherrinford Holmes would look like . . . why hasn't anyone done a book of short stories about those two? What fun working out that alternate universe and how different its encounters with the familiar clients and villains would be!

Just by the names alone. And for the record, I'm not sure a Watson by any other name would smell as sweet. But I'll leave the debate on Watson's bathing habits to the experts. (Oh, you're out there, you little devils. You're not fooling anyone.)

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