Pooh is an unusual choice of name
October 16, 2013 5:37 AM   Subscribe

"Pooh" seems to be a poor choice for a name, particularly for a childrens' book. I've read the Wikipedia page which mentions a swan, but would like to know more about it: where is this name is popular, and why didn't the editor of the first book suggest another name?
posted by devnull to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
According to the Canada Heritage Minute, the name Pooh was given to the bear by a child. So there's that. Maybe the name isn't popular anywhere, maybe it was just some random thing a kid came up with.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:44 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

'Pooh', at least in British English, is an exclamation that's been around (according to the OED) since the 16th century. It's used both as an expression of disgust at a bad smell, and as a more general expression of contempt or impatience. I'm pretty sure the word wasn't as closely associated with excrement at the time when Milne wrote the stories.

The name isn't popular anywhere, except as the name of the bear in the story. The fact that Milne's son chose the name is reason enough to assume that there's little or no logic to the choice.
posted by pipeski at 5:47 AM on October 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I assume you think "Pooh" is a poor choice of name because it sounds like poo as in excrement. Winnie the Pooh was written in 1926 in the UK; "poop" entered the slang lexicon around 1900 in the US and didn't evolve into "poo" on either side of the Atlantic until the 1960s. So basically, Winnie pre-dates poo.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:47 AM on October 16, 2013 [29 favorites]

I'm assuming you're noting the, uh, scatological implications. If so, it's worth noting there are dialect considerations--I say 'poop' not 'poo' and probably knew of Winnie the Pooh before I realised other people said 'poo'.
posted by hoyland at 5:48 AM on October 16, 2013

Pretty much came to say what everyone else said. Poo didn't have this connotation, if it even existed at all, and "Pooh pooh!" as in "She pooh-poohed the idea" may have been more common at the time, though I don't know for sure. And the bear's name came from a child about four or five years old, so kids come up with weird names for things all the time that make perfect sense to them.

As a present day example, my current four year old once asked me to sing The Sky Song. I asked him if he could sing it for me since I did not know The Sky Song. He looked at me in all seriousness and kinda quickly said, "Up in the sky!" and threw a toy he was holding into the sky. He repeated this several times. That was The Sky Song.

Kids have always been and continue to be weird.
posted by zizzle at 5:53 AM on October 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

From the wikipedia article:

"But his arms were so stiff ... they stayed up straight in the air for more than a week, and whenever a fly came and settled on his nose he had to blow it off. And I think – but I am not sure – that that is why he is always called Pooh"

"Pooh" is a "a 'vocal gesture' expressing the action of puffing anything away" [OED]." Not to be confused with poo.
posted by frobozz at 5:54 AM on October 16, 2013 [16 favorites]

Best answer: This reminds me somewhat of the Adrian Mole series character who hated euphemisms, and took a black marker to her child's copy so it would read 'Winnie the Shit'.
posted by mippy at 7:00 AM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also, if it helps any, he's not Winnie The Pooh. He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means? (I don't)
posted by Mchelly at 7:12 AM on October 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

See Winnipeg the Bear.
posted by No Robots at 8:32 AM on October 16, 2013

Wait 'til you hear about a game called "Pooh Sticks" that Winnie the Pooh plays.

In other words, "Pooh" only seems like an unusual choice for name, especially for a children's book, because you are unfamiliar with the English language.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:43 AM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

PuppetMcSockerson: "According to the Canada Heritage Minute, the name Pooh was given to the bear by a child."

I had heard that the name was given by A. A. Milne himself, and the boy did not call the toy "Winnie the Pooh".
posted by IAmBroom at 1:17 PM on October 16, 2013

Milne discusses the swan in the intro to When We Were Very Young.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:44 PM on October 16, 2013

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