17

In the Czech translation of Pratchett's book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (which I read) the name of the cat is Mauric.

Also, there is a word from the translator at the beginning of the book, about how we should pronounce the name. One of the options is very similar to the probably most common name for cats in the Czech Republic Mourek [məʊrek].

On the other hand, Maurice is a regular English name, as I understood from browsing the web.

So I wonder, is the name Maurice also reference/parody to some often given cat name in English?

Why is he called Maurice?

26

I've yet to find any specific attribution, but presumably the name "Maurice the Cat" is a play on the famous ...

"Morris the Cat"

... the official 'spokescat' for a popular brand of catfood in Britain (and the colonies) and a household name in the 1970s.


It's inconceivable that a notorious cat-lover like Pratchett would have been unaware of this famous feline and in British English the two names are basically identical-sounding.

  • 3
    @Tim - As I said, I can't find a reference but it's a bit like calling your cat "Chairman Meow". It's a pretty obvious match if you get the allusion. – Valorum Mar 18 '18 at 19:34
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    It would probably make the connection clearer to us colonials to note that the traditional UK English pronunciation of Maurice is identical to Morris—in the US, it's typically given a more French pronunciation (roughly, more-EESE), so the connection is non-obvious. – 1006a Mar 18 '18 at 20:34
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    @Linkyu I can't speak to what's authentically French, just what sounds French to American ears; typically in the US, Morris is pronounced something like MORE-iss (stress on the first syllable, second syllable rhyming with "hiss"), and Maurice more like more-EESE or muh-REESE (stress on the second syllable, which rhymes with "geese"). Totally different names, not homophones. (Of course individuals with these names may have different preferences, but that's the general rule.) – 1006a Mar 18 '18 at 23:36
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    @Valorum most of the British English speaking people I grew up with would pronounce Morris and Maurice differently, though probably not to the same degree as the French - but that doesn't stop cat lovers (and ad-viewers of a certain generation) getting the joke (and Pratchett does this kind of oblique name/reference joke in so many other places - Cosmo/Cosimo for the heir of the major banking family is another example; Vetinari/Medici for the Patrician; Hrun/Thrud the Barbarian; Cohen/Conan/Khan; Fedecks) – HorusKol Mar 18 '18 at 23:58
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    Just to add to this, Maurice's rat entourage are all named after words they read from canned foods, so, out of world, having Maurice's name be a reference to a spokescat for a brand of cat food is thematically quite pleasing if true. – delinear Mar 19 '18 at 13:35
6

I don't think there's any specific reason why he chose "Maurice," but there's a tradition of giving pets and anthropomorphic animals names which are high-sounding, but uncommon in English. So you there are characters such as Reginald the Rat-King, Basil the Great Mouse Detective, Roderick, and Kirby. Among cats Sylvester, Garfield and Heathcliffe. And so forth. This is not a hard and fast rule by any means, but common enough that it would be natural for Pratchett to use it. (In one book Pratchett uses Gaspode for a dog.)

  • FWIW Gaspode was a recurring character appearing I think as early as Moving Pictures and being present during The Truth – Maciej Piechotka Mar 19 '18 at 8:26
6

It is likely that when the name Maurice was chosen Pratchett had not yet decided the character was a talking cat.

The book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents was published in 2001, but the title and core idea reference a throwaway gag in 1991’s Reaper Man.

Remember the rats last year? Seemed to be everywhere. Lord Vetinari wouldn’t listen to us, oh no. He paid that glib bugger in the red and yellow tights a thousand gold pieces to get rid of ‘em.’ ‘It worked, though,’ said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. ‘Of course it bloody worked,’ said the Dean. ‘It worked in Quirm and Sto Lat as well. He’d have got away with it in Pseudopolis as well if someone hadn’t recognised him. Mr so-called Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents!’

Based on this gag, Maurice appears to be some kind of travelling showman using his trained animals to pull off a con. The character was never mentioned again in the book, and it is unlikely he was fleshed out much further at the time, but the name was reused ten years later when Terry Pratchett wrote a book about this kind of Pied Piper scam.

  • From a retcon perspective, it would appear that the glib bugger in the tights was merely the front-man that the real Maurice used. – Valorum Mar 19 '18 at 18:42

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