(Note: This might be better suited for a different stack site, but since literature closed, I thought this was the closest related site).

I've recently been re-reading Great Expectations, and, in chapter 15, Pip introduces Dolge Orlick:

Now, Joe kept a journeyman at weekly wages whose name was Orlick. He pretended that his Christian name was Dolge - a clear impossibility - but he was a fellow of that obstinate disposition that I believe him to have been the prey of no delusion in this particular, but willfully to have imposed that name upon the village as an affront to its understanding.

I'm wondering why it's obvious that Dolge couldn't be a Christian name. Is this something about Victorian English that I'm missing?

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    I don't think this has anything to do with English; maybe Victorian customs. I think the idea is that no sane parent would name their child Dolge. And if a priest had to approve the name, this could have indeed been an impossibility. Dec 26, 2014 at 16:26
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    Dickens chose his names very carefully so they would say something about the character. Both Dolge and Orlick suggest some dirtiness and uncivilized habits.
    – Centaurus
    Dec 26, 2014 at 16:37
  • Completely unrelated: I just stumbled on your question here because I'm trying to do research on a man named Christian Dolge (he was the father of Alfred Dolge, a "benevolent" industrialist of the late 19th-century). Christian Dolge was a piano maker in Saxony who was sentenced to death for playing a part in the 1848 uprisings. That being said, I doubt Dickens had heard of him, and none of this has any bearing on Dolge as a first name.
    – DavidH
    Aug 26, 2016 at 16:48

2 Answers 2


My post-mortem mind-reading capability does not, inexplicably, include Charles Dickens, so as to the word-play involved here @user103188 makes some valuable observations that I won't be able to top. But just in case you were wondering, it is a clear impossibility that "Dolge" is a Christian name, because it isn't Samuel, George, William, or any of a large but finite number of names recognized in English as what we call "first names". At least at the time of Mr. Dickens.

And in light of Peter Shor's comment, I should expand this a bit.

A person's "Christian" name in Dickens' time was the name given to him or her at baptism in whatever Christian church he or she was christened into. No parish priest would have gone along with naming an infant "Dolge" at baptism (because the name doesn't appear in the Bible or is otherwise recognized as "Christian"). I haven't done an in-depth examination of all the baptismal records of Victorian England, but I seriously doubt that any names other than those of great conventionality would be found therein.

But anyone could choose whatever nickname he or she wanted to use -- as long as he or she could get others to go along with it, anyway. "Mxyzptlk", for example. Mr. Orlick, however, is claiming that his "Christian" name is "Dolge". Which as the narrator in the tale is pointing out, is clearly impossible.

Incidentally, I have an ancestor whose birth name was Toom-ya-nem, but who for convenience in dealing with Whites later took the "Christian" name "Joseph".

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    In the time of Mr. Dickens, people had all sorts of "first names" which were unconventional. I don't believe there was a finite list of permissible names the way there is in some countries. Dec 26, 2014 at 17:39
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    @PeterShor, I beg to differ, of course. There had to be a finite list of permissible first names. People just didn't have a baby and then approach the parish clergy for baptism and claim the child's name would be "Mxyzptlk". That being said, "Tim" isn't a Christian name, but "Timothy" is. You could claim anything at all as a nickname, and people did, but to claim your "Christian" name (i.e. the name you were given at baptism in Dickens' time) is "Dolge" is clearly impossible. He wasn't claiming it was his nickname, which is clearly possible, but he was claiming it as his "Christian" name. Dec 26, 2014 at 17:51
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    @CarSmack: Do you have an evidence that there a difference between baptismal name and first (and middle) name in England in the 19th century? And if there had been a finite list of approved first names, I very much doubt that "Chichester" would have been on it. Dec 26, 2014 at 19:46
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    @CarSmack there is a reason why they call the name by which a person is "christened" a Christian name. Someone of Jewish faith would not have a Christian name for that very reason, even if a nominally Christian name (such as Abraham) were chosen. They were a significantly more religious society back then. Nowadays we couldn't care less, but back then? They fought WARS over religious faith. <Shudder> And I say this as a very religious person. And it meant first name only. Surnames could be changed legally, but as far as I am aware, you were stuck with your Christian name. Dec 26, 2014 at 21:34
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    The whole point of this, @FrancisDavey, is that a "Christian" name in the Victorian era was a name under which one would be "christened". These were frequently biblical names, but often were not. "Victoria" was not biblical, either, yet this was her "Christian" name because that was the name she was baptized or christened with. "Dolge", as indicated by Dickens' narrator, was an invented name and as such clearly not a "Christian" name. I suppose I should add, "In his humble opinion." <Sigh> Can we dispense with trivial dispute over this? I think I have given the same answer 10 times by now. Dec 27, 2014 at 0:13

The point is made by Charles Dickens in Great Expectations, (ch. 17). It is a 'pretended Christian name' invented merely 'to affront mankind'.

In this novel wordplay is supremely important, so you have to imagine Dickens hearing Orlick pronouncing this nonsense name with a Kentish-Cockney intonation: with jutting jaw, puffed resentful cheeks, the sullen youth says something like 'Dodge', 'Forge', 'George'. After all, Estella, in chapter 8, is happy to say that the name Satis is 'Greek, or Latin, or Hebrew, or all three'.

  • If you're going to give interesting answers like this, and you plan to stick around, you might as well pick a "real" user name! :-) Dec 26, 2014 at 17:15
  • I accepted @Cyberherbalist's answer, just because I think it more clearly addressed the question I was asking. However, I really do appreciate this answer, as well, so I +1'ed it.
    – jwir3
    Dec 26, 2014 at 19:05
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    Is @Cyberherbalist any better or more "real" a user name than user103188 is? What are the pros and cons of staying with user103188? After all if user103188 sticks around awhile the name is quite recognizable. Must someone who gives interesting answers conform to another user's opinion regarding user names?
    – pazzo
    Dec 26, 2014 at 19:24
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    @CarSmack It's not particularly recognisable, no. Especially not if one of user103188's answers appears right next to answers by user103271 and user101936, for example. Why do we give our children names instead of just calling them Child 7,327,839,312 (etc.)? Same reason. Dec 26, 2014 at 19:33
  • There are several user#### names on SE that I find particularly recognizable simply based on the characteristics of their answer. Or simply by seeing such a username on a repetitive basis. I don't know, we used to memorize lots of phone numbers and find them particularly recognizable.
    – pazzo
    Dec 26, 2014 at 19:40

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