Wodger, of the "Purple Fawn," and Mr. Jaggers, the cobbler, who also sold old second-hand ordinary bicycles, were stretching a string of union-jacks and royal ensigns (which had originally celebrated the first Victorian Jubilee) across the road.

This sentence is from The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. In this scene, the village people are preparing for the Whit Monday festival(?). I can tell that Woder and Mr Jaggers are names of people and Mr. Jaggers is a cobbler, but what is Wodger’s ‘purple fawn’?

Would I be right to understand it as the name of a shop, with Wodger being thus the shopkeeper? As far as I know, a fawn is some kind of a deer, right? Is it clear to a native speaker what The Purple Fawn refers to?

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, tchrist, Chenmunka, FumbleFingers, Julie Carter Aug 19 '15 at 22:16

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about a literary name rather than English usage per se. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 14 '15 at 9:01
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    I disagree. There is clearly a convention in English (particularly British English) whereby an author may make reference to an animal and the reader understands it means a drinking establishment or hostelry. It is one of those quirks of English language and usage that this site is superbly qualified to document. – mikeagg Aug 14 '15 at 9:45
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    @EdwinAshworth Strongly disagree there. The fact that the name appears in a novel is entirely irrelevant here—it might as well have been in a newspaper article. The point of interest, and the crux of the question, is that it's clear to any native speaker what The Purple Fawn is, even though it's never explained. The fact that it's never explained and yet crystal-clear to any native speaker makes it very much a matter of established English language usage, rather than lit-crit. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 14 '15 at 12:50
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    @EdwinAshworth I still disagree with that. I've never read a word of the book, and I still immediate recognised it as a pub name, as did several other people here (though of course I don't know if they've read the book or not)—it's not so much about the name itself, but about the established convention behind the name. And we have plenty of questions about names (like the Ukraine vs. The Ukraine one, etc.), which are considered on topic. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 14 '15 at 13:40
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    The "Purple Fawn" would seem to be a humorous reference the common English pub name the "White Hart" (Wikipedia claims it is the fifth most common name). "Hart" is the archaic term for a mature stag. The "White Hart" name may be a reference to the mythical English folklore character of Herne the Hunter, who incidentally gets a mention in Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" – alephzero Aug 14 '15 at 21:47

It is more likely to be the name of an inn, which are frequently named after animals. Shops were generally not so named.

(In an age when few people were literate, English inns and public houses would often bear a sign with a distinctive image, often of an easily recognisable animal or object.)

A fawn is a young deer.

Note well: There is a clear and definite convention in English (particularly British English) whereby an author may make reference to an animal and the reader understands it means a drinking establishment or hostelry.

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    True, but off-topic. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 14 '15 at 9:02
  • I voted to close. But now I completely agree with Mike 100%. – Fattie Aug 14 '15 at 12:31
  • You could add that the naming convention is usually The [adjective] [animal]: nearly always singular, definite, and with the animal modified by an (often strange or ill-fitting) adjective. You wouldn't have a pub named “Horses”, for example, or “Ten Dogs”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 14 '15 at 12:53
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    That's not true. There is a pub in my home town called the Three Frogs. – mikeagg Aug 14 '15 at 13:23
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    @mikeagg All right, include numerals in the ‘adjective’ group. The ill-fittingness of the adjective is a recent addition, but it's become to widespread (and recent pub names so numerous compared to old ones) that it's still true to say it's often the case. Plus personally I've never seen a pub with a name of this type that was not definite, though I'm sure there are some here and there. All the examples you give are definite, too. So in general, yes, it is true. “The Three Frogs” works fine, but “Three Frogs” or “A Cat” are highly unusual. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 14 '15 at 13:45

Beyond following common naming principles, the other thing that identifies it as the name of an establishment - probably a pub or inn - is that it is capitalized as a proper name.

A purely descriptive sentence referencing a young deer of odd colouration would refer to a 'purple fawn', not the 'Purple Fawn'. The capitalization identifies it as a proper name, and hence identifying someone or some thing, and not a generic use of the word.

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