In the books, TV show, and radio show, Arthur Dent expresses surprise when hearing Slartibartfast say his name.

Was there a reason for this?

I don't remember Arthur expressing any surprise when hearing any other names.

  • 3
    You mean he was not surprised to hear names like Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox? Hm, you've got a point there. – Mr Lister Sep 19 '12 at 6:17
  • While I wouldn't be surprised with Ford Prefect, and would be mildly surprised at Zaphod Beeblebrox, Slartibartfast is quite an unusual name. – SaintWacko Sep 19 '12 at 13:23
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    I'll repeat my previous comment here where it's more visible (and still appropriate): according to HHGG: The Original Radio Scripts, Aurthur's reaction to learning Slartibartfast's name is annotated with the acting direction "(Trying not to laugh)". The question of why Slartibartfast's name was chosen has a bit of history to it (captured nicely in the top answers here), but Aurthur's reaction is primarily amusement -- at least, that was the intention in the original radio version. – apsillers Sep 20 '12 at 12:54
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    Arthur had known Ford Prefect somewhat before the start of the HHGG story, so we can't tell what he acted like when he's first heared the name. – b_jonas Sep 21 '12 at 12:35
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    His intended name was "Phartiphuckborlz". Unfortunately it wasn't considered fit for broadcast. – Django Reinhardt Mar 24 '14 at 12:17

It's supposed to sound rude. Adams wanted the character to have an ancient sadness about something, and eventually decided that the source of his sadness should be his name. So he tried to come up with a name that sounded extremely rude, but was still able to be broadcast. In the book of the original scripts, he notes that he started out with "PHARTIPHUCKBORLZ" (which is obviously not suitable for broadcast) and mucked around with the syllables until he ended up with Slartibartfast.

  • This is Douglas Adams actual explanation of the name, as described in the original scripts. – DJClayworth Mar 24 '14 at 13:22

I believe it was a joke played on the voice actors in the original radio show.
The character didn't mention his name for the better part of the broadcast, but everyone already knew it, because it was mentioned in every line of the script. So Simon Jones actually had to feign surprise when Richard Vernon said it out loud for the first time.

I got this from Neil Gaiman's book, Don't Panic, but I can't seem to find an online version of it, so I don't have a link.

I remembered wrong; what really happened is that it was done to annoy Geoffrey Perkins' secretary, because she had to type the name over and over. So this is not really the answer to the question and I feel you've accepted the wrong answer. See also apsillers' comment.

  • 1
    As I recall, it was a prank on the secretary - she had to type out his name every time he had a line, so Adams made it very long and made sure that it was only actually read out once or twice at the end of scene. – andrewsi Sep 19 '12 at 17:26
  • Ooh, that's quite possible. I really have to read the book again. – Mr Lister Sep 19 '12 at 18:01
  • @andrewsi I thought I heard that too, he made it long and almost unintelligible so that it would be difficult to type. – NominSim Sep 19 '12 at 23:27
  • But now you've accepted the wrong answer; David's was the better one. This Wikipedia page has the exact quote. – Mr Lister Sep 20 '12 at 14:11

I always thought he was stiffling a laugh rather than being suprised.

As you pointed out, after everything that has happened it would be odd that he was that suprised at a name like that.

  • 1
    As it happens, this is entirely correct: I looked through my copy of HHGG: The Original Radio Scripts, and Aurthur's reaction to learning Slartibartfast's name is annotated with the acting direction "(Trying not to laugh)". There is a lot more history behind why Slartibartfast's name was chosen (see the other answers), but Aurthur is supressing a laugh -- at least, that was the intention in the original radio version. – apsillers Sep 20 '12 at 12:46
  • Cool, thanks! Ahem ... OP!!!! waves hands OP!!!! – Stefan Sep 20 '12 at 12:48

I always took it as an incredulous reaction rather than a surprised one.

Apparently the character was named specifically to annoy one of the script duplicators in the typing pool (anyone else old enough to have seen one of those?!) who kept complaining about the odd names, and was called something far more fruity on the first draft of that episode - "Phartiphuckborlz".

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