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Characters' Names

GENE LEONARDI:

...I wonder about the use of the name "Bouncer". Here in the States the term "Bouncer" can be used to refer to a person of large muscular capacity and sometimes bellicose disposition who is available when needed to evacuate misbehaving individuals from convivial public gathering places. Do you folks "across the pond" use that term nowadays, and could it have been in use in the time of G and S?

Just wondering.

ANDREW CROWTHER:

These licensed hoodlums are indeed part of the British scene. One of the best-known plays of the British playwright John Godber is about them, and is inventively called Bouncers. But I doubt very much that they were known in Gilbert's day. I think Morton's "Mrs Bouncer" derives more from the Victorian slang word "bouncer", meaning a lie -- as explained in the following passage from Gilbert's Engaged:

Minnie: Now dear papa is the best and dearest papa in the whole world, but he has a lively imagination, and when he wants to accomplish his purpose, he does not hesitate to invent -- I am not quite sure of the word, but I think it is "bouncers".

Cheviot: You are quite right, the word is bouncers. Bouncers or bangers -- either will do....

MORGAN O'DAY:

Meredith Dixon writes, "Mr. Box refuses, and they're on the point of fighting a duel -- the unlucky survivor, presumably, to marry Penelope Ann -- when a letter arrives from the lady herself. She informs Mr. Cox that she has chosen to marry a third man, Mr. Knox." Am I the only person who, when reading this portion of Cox and Box,thinks of Dr. Seuss?

Characters' Military Service

DERRICK McCLURE:

Does anybody agree that Alan Styler's best recorded part is Cox, in the 1961 (?) DC recording with Donald Adams as Bouncer and Philip Potter (I think) as Box? Not only is his singing faultless, his characterization of the irascible ex-colonel is a delight....

CHRIS WEBSTER:

Box was played by Joseph Riordan in this recording.

I agree that Alan Styler WAS absolutely superb as Cox, but I think you are mixing up Cox with Bouncer in your final comment....

DERRICK McCLURE:

No, Chris, I'm not mixing them up - Bouncer was a sergeant, not a colonel. There's no further reference to Cox's military background, unlike Bouncer's, but the line "Good morning, Colonel Cox" surely shows that he has one. And Alan Styler certainly acts as if he had!

MICHAEL P. WALTERS:

I confess I had always assumed that this line of Bouncer's had nothing to do with any military background of Cox's, but was merely a legacy of Bouncer's own military background in which he saw everything in military terms and used gratuitous military salutations to everyone he knew well. It's an immature way to behave of course, but Bouncer behaves a bit like an overgrown schoolboy, I think.

IAN BOND:

I have to agree with Michael on this. In the original 'full-length' version of Cox and Box, Bouncer variously addresses Cox as Colonel, Captain, Brigadier, Private and just plain Mr. depending on how exasperated he is at the time. The strange thing is that he never addresses Box as anything other than Mr.

In the original Box and Cox, Mrs. Bouncer always addresses both men as Mr.

CHRIS WEBSTER:

Apologies, Derrick, for misunderstanding your original statement.

I must say that I had never thought this greeting really meant that Cox had any military background, but merely that Bouncer was continuing this pretend military world he had invented for himself after leaving the army.

Surely if Box had reached the position of a Colonel he would not be in his present social position to be working for someone else as shift worker. I really don't think that Cox did have any military connections.

SHELDON BROWN:

We actually know quite a bit about the military careers of both Cox and Box:

  • Each of them tried to enlist in the Life Guards, or Blues.
  • Each was rejected, one for being too short, the other for not being tall enough.
  • Each then entered the "marching line-o" of the infantry, only to have his discharge purchased by his lady-love.
  • Without a doubt, both of them held the rank of private.

IAN BOND:

This is quite true, but still does not explain why Bouncer insists on addressing Cox as either Colonel, Brigadier, Captain or Private, or why he never gives Box any title other than Mr. But then, as 'death expunges crime' even in a statutory duel, perhaps fake suicide wipes out military rank?

DERRICK McCLURE:

I may be wrong, but does the original cast list not identify the characters as "Colonel John James Cox" and "Private James John Box"? Bear in mind that they both have spent some time in the armed forces: one in the infantry and the other in the infantree. And though I haven't much experience of men as military as Bouncer, surely the last thing such a stalwart old warrior would do would be to give a civilian a military title if he hadn't earned it?...

DAVID DUFFEY:

But in both cases Penelope Ann bought them out. A colonel would merely have to "send in his papers"; moreover, unless disgraced, a colonel would manage rather better than a bed-sit and paid employment. But in my text, Bouncer graces Box with the title "captain", again, most unlikely.

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