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<   No. 5039   2023-08-24   >

Comic #5039

1 Higgs: Why do ye be not likin’ returnin’ to Jamaica, Miss Wendy?
2 Wendy: Me father be disapprovin’ of me decision to be becomin’ a pirate wench.
3 Higgs: But don’t yer surname be Wenchgood? It be a classic case o’ nominative determinism.
4 Wendy: Aye, but me father was determined I didn’t become a classic nominative case!

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If you want to talk about nominative determinism when it comes to pirates, look no further than Captain Hook.

(Don't believe the rumours that he changed his name from Captain Hand after that crocodile incident.)


Reader Rob writes:

Captain Hook isn't a case of nominative determinism in the novel, as it notes that "Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country in a blaze...."

So who was he? I have a favorite crackpot theory. There are a couple of clues in the novel: First, it is said in the text several times that Hook served as Blackbeard's bo'sun, and second that he "is the only man of whom Barbecue [or the Sea-Cook] was afraid."

As far as I know we don't know the name of Blackbeard's real-life bo'sun, but we do know the name of his second-in-command. That name was used by Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island as the most dangerous of the pirate mutineers serving under Long John Silver, who was posing as a ship's cook and went by the nickname "Barbecue." While Long John never appears particularly frightened of him, that pirate does become the biggest threat in the novel once Long John sees which way the wind is blowing and betrays his fellow mutineers.

So we have that Hook, under another name, was Blackbeard's bo'sun and that he was feared by Long John Silver, and we've got a pirate who in real life was Blackbeard's second-in-command and who in fiction played villain against Long John Silver. We also know that Stevenson's works were very influential on J.M. Barrie, and the two authors actually carried on a long correspondence, so Barrie was undoubtedly familiar with the character. It's not unreasonable to suppose that Barrie intended Hook to be this pirate under a new name.

That pirate's name? Israel Hands.

I rest my case.

(Of course, neither the real nor the fictional Israel Hands were known as gentlemanly dandies who attended Eton, nor is it clear why knowledge of that identity would "set the country in a blaze," but we'll ignore that for now.)

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