Thursday, 18 December 2008


I used to be a smoker. Not, I hasten to add, a large receptacle full of glowing oak chips, designed to impart a delightful flavour and colour to trout or salmon. That would have been useful. I mean a smoker of cigarettes. But it didn’t end there; oh no. During my smoking career I tried pretty well everything. Ordinary cigarettes, roll-ups (with and without liquorice flavoured cigarette papers), cigars, cigarillos, black Russian fags, pipe tobacco smoked in rosewood pipes, in meerschaum pipes, and in long clay pipes that made me look either like Gandalf or some comic villager from a Thomas Hardy novel. The low point was Heath and Heather smoking mixture. Concocted from something called coltsfoot and other (legal) herbs, it stank like a bonfire.

Equally, it wasn’t unusual for me to try foreign cigarettes. I smoked Bisonte in Spain, Drava in Jugoslavia (the packet was made of brown paper with a picture of a toiling blacksmith on it), and the curiously-named N.E. Lunga in Italy. These latter were so appallingly dull that, on more than one occasion, I was forced to shout, ‘I can’t stand this N.E. Lunga!’

On the whole, my favourite foreign cigarettes were Gaulioses, which hail, of course, from France. When you lit up one of their Disques Bleues and took a lungful of thick smoke, which felt for all the world as if you were inhaling a lump of garlic and herb Christmas cake, you knew you were smoking a cigarette. This week, I noticed, predictably, that the French have handled the smoking ban in the same way they deal with pretty well all the legislation that comes out of the EU - they have ignored it, and continue to smoke in cafes, bars and restaurants. Although I no longer smoke, and welcome the smoke-free atmosphere that now pervades our pubs, I can’t help feeling a sneaky bit of admiration for the French.

This Gallic spirit, which could be characterized as ‘us against the rest of the world’, is nowhere better exemplified than in the Asterix cartoons. Created in 1959 by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, they follow the fortunes of Asterix, the plucky, moustachioed little Gaul, Obelix, his lumbering, menhir-delivering companion, and the rest of the inhabitants of their little Gaulish village as they resist the incursions of the Romans, led by Julius Caesar. Their village has a secret weapon in the war against Rome - a magic potion, prepared by resident druid Getafix (originally named Panoramix in the French version) that gives the Gauls temporary superhuman strength when fighting. It is Obelix’s constant regret that he is not allowed to drink the potion; his strength is permanent since he fell into a cauldron of the stuff as a baby. And I mustn’t forget Obelix’s little dog, Dogmatix (or Idéfix - meaning obsessed - in the French version).

If you’re new to Asterix, you’ve probably noticed something about the names. They are invariably a play on words. Asterix sounds like asterisk; Obelix is a play on obelisk; and Getafix…well, I’m not sure how The Youth of Today would interpret this one! Other villagers’ names are a pun based on their trade or attributes; Geriatrix is an old man, Unhygienix is the fishmonger, and Cacofonix is the rather unmusical village bard).

Of course, this is a game we can all play. Gaulish mens’ names end in an ‘x’; womens’ (generally, but not necessarily) in an ‘a’, and the name chosen should reflect the individual in some way. And Christmas is traditionally the time when people get together and play silly games.

C'mon! Let’s play!

Masochistix - A downtrodden villager who, curiously, is happy to be so.

Dominatrix - His wife who, not unsurprisingly, takes advantage of the situation.

Aviatrix - A young druidess with dreams of flying. When she can get hold of some of the magic potion, that is.

Backsacncrax - Owner of The Village Spa, a place of calm and relaxation.

Plucka - His wife, who takes an active role in the business.

Botox and Collagena - Their trainees.

Horlix - The village 'bike' (suggested by a person who claims to be my daughter).

Egomaniax - A self-obsessed Gaul.

Monomania - His rather dull wife .

Weetabix - A spelt farmer.

Goneballistix - A villager with a very short fuse.

Consiliata - His wife, who is constantly apologising for him.

Prefix and Suffix - Identical twins. One is always ridiculously early for everything, whilst the other is always terribly late.

Psychotix - the village axe-maniac. Every village needs at least one

Backtobasix - a putative politician, who believes in traditional Gaulish values.
Vitalstatistix watch out!

Panicattax - A terribly nervous Gaul; probably frightened by Romans at some time .

Starbux - Purveyor of an alternative potion to that made by Getafix, which he sells from a small tavern.

Insomniax - Starbux’s best customer.

Cantrelax - Starbux’s second best customer.

Macrobiotix - The village weirdo. No-one is quite sure why he consistently refuses to eat wild boar.

Fixeruppa - the village’s only handywoman.

Earlier today, whilst wandering through the echoing halls that are The Internet, I thought, ‘Let’s have a look at the Parc Asterix website. It’s a theme park, fairly near EuroDisney, and devoted to all things Gaulish. A good place for children from all over Europe to visit, you’d think, especially as you can buy Asterix books in just about every language, including Latin. And guess what? Unlike its American owned rival, it steadfastly refuses to provide site information in anything other than French!

Image copyright 1959 - Goscinny and Uderzo.


Queenie said...

Very clever post. I like it! I've never heard of Asterix. I will have to check it out.

Comedy Goddess said...

My name,if I am playing correctly, when I was a smoker, would have been Smoklotta.

I loved the French cigs!

chris hale said...

Hi Queenie, and thanks. The Asterix comic books and films have been popular in Europe for many years.

Apparently, there was a film released in 1994 entitled Asterix conquers America, but it may not have made it across The Pond!

chris hale said...

Hello CG! Yes, you have the hang of it.

You could also have been Expectorata. Or Puffa...

Madame DeFarge said...

Prolix - the talkative pub bore

Affadavix - the village lawyer

Harmonia - Mrs Mills

Ticksilix - coughs a lot

Apologia Pro Vita Sua - the self defence coach

Gorgonzola - the sturdy female stonemason

Intelligentsia - the village blue stocking

chris hale said...

MDF - Thank you for your excellent list. Being blessed as I am with pre-blognition, I knew you'd go for this one.

Toivoa ja Elämän said...

ooh i love asterix (:
hmmm can't think of a name for myself though... =/
i'll get back to you with one (:

chris hale said...

OK, Toivoa.

I'll be waiting right here...

Raph G. Neckmann said...

By Toutatis, I'll have to get my neck round this one!

Haven't time right now, but I do remember my favourite name from the books was Spurious Brontosaurus - was this in Asterix in Britain?

chris hale said...

Raph - Apparently the said S.B. appeared in Asterix in Spain.

I suppose you could adopt the cognomen Girafix (which sounds faintly Liverpudlian), or possibly Camelopardix! This latter sounds very grand - a bit like Vercingetorix.

Derrick said...

Chris! I have spent most of the 20 hours since you posted this trying to think of some other villagers but thought I'd be better off with Insomniax round at Starbux's. However, how about:

Logistix - the Quartermaster and his good friend
Ballistix - who's in charge of the arsenal

There's also Ergonomix - the town planner.

Apologies if any of these characters are already in Asterix. And I know they're a bit of a cheat because there are loads of words that just need the last letter tweaking!

I really like 'Expectorata'!!

WV - kingle: a little tiny monarch, or Kris Kringle's brother but not quite so much fun!

Derrick said...

Oops, didn't tick the flippin' box!

WV - podeco: picking up from WriteHistorian - the design on a chamberpot!

chris hale said...


I hope I'm not driving you bonkers or keeping you away from those customers.

This word verification stuff is starting to remind me of Call my Bluff. Except their words were real!

I like podeco - a kind of flushed version of Art Deco.

Derrick said...

I've left the customers "browsing".
Now, how about

Desiderata - she has a long Chrismtas wish list
Fritata - who runs the local omlette shop, and
Malodourata - who nobody has a good word for!

WV - eabat: over to you!

chris hale said...

Third person singular imperfect indicative active of Latin verb 'ea' - roughly translatable as He went thataway!

chris hale said...

Ah! Derrix! Should have said - more excellent characters from you for the cast. So far I have fought shy of Anthrax (rather unhealthy individual), Allodux (inexpensive Woman of the Night) and Pollux (unfortunate sufferer from Tourette's).

Derrick said...

er, Chris,

are you sure that Allodux is a woman?!

WV - chooti: Isn't that what Cary Grant was always saying?

Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

Allodux, might just have a, erm surprix extra trix.

chris hale said...

Derrick - well, it was a bit dark...

Rob - The penny has just dropped! I refer you to my reply to Derrick above!

Stevyn Colgan said...

Crix - you forgot Paysforsex, the kerb crawler.

And speaking of forgotten people, let's not forget Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge who provide the English translations of the books and are, therefore, responsible for many of the brilliant names (a particular favourite of mine is the Egyptian Ptenisnet!) And here's a bit of trivia (Trivia isn't a character) for you ...

Translator Anthea Bell’s father Adrian Bell (1901-1980) was the man who invented The Times newspaper’s famous cryptic crossword. Her son, Oliver Kamm, is a columnist for The Times. And her brother, Martin Bell OBE, was a BBC war corespondent before becoming an independent MP ('The Man in the White Suit', remember?)and ambassador for UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund).

So there you go. Great post as ever!

chris hale said...

Stevyn - Thanks as always for the trivia.

I was reading Asterix and the Great Crossing last night, and came across a Viking called Steptoanssen - just goes to show how many years these books have been around!