The Telegoons


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Spelling and Usage of "Telegoons"

Given that the the raison d'Ítre for this website is a certain television series that has "The Telegoons" etched on the film frame, is it still correct to say the Telegoons, or the Tele Goons? Well, the fact of the matter is that Tele Goons would have been more descriptive if The Telegoons had been just the televised Goon Show. But the Telegoons are much more than that. In the Goon Show (or is it The Goon Show?), goon is singular. Singular has other uses too, as in "Eccles the original Goon" (note the careful capitalization). Thus, we can talk about a Telegoon puppet; but talking about a Telegoons puppet is usually too much of a mouthful, and is at variance with prior Goon Show usage. Therefore, according to whim I will use Telegoon and/or Telegoons.

I will, however, try to use Telegoons, and avoid writing Tele Goons (previous usage on the BBC's own web site notwithstanding), because that is at variance with the films themselves. And whenever I want to be really formal about the name of the show, I may use the extended form The Telegoons, then again I may not. And little do they know that I know as much about this as the next fellow...

ECCLES:   Little does he know that I'm the next fellow!   (G.S. 5th Series, #10; T.G. 2nd Series, #2; The Booted Gorilla)

Spelling of Goon Names: A Consensus of Sorts

90%=Neddie Seagoon (used by Milligan in 1972, and appears in the majority of published sources), 10%=Neddy Seagoon (used by Milligan in 1969)
80%=Major Dennis Bloodnok (consistently used by Spike Milligan, and appears in many of the published scripts and in at least several original scripts), 
20%=Major Denis Bloodnok (sometimes used by Peter Sellers, and also appears in some of the published scripts, and the programme for the Last Goon Show of All.)
100%=Eccles (unanimous)
100%=Bluebottle (unanimous)
12% Gritpype-Thynne (TV Comic only)
100%=Moriarty (unanimous)
100%=Henry Crun (unanimous)
88%=Minnie Bannister,
12%=Minnie Banister

Various sources were consulted to try and determine the most popular spelling of the names of the Goon characters. Remembering, of course, that popularity is not necessarily a measure of correctness, the biggest difficulty is with Ned Seagoon's nick name, as to whether it is "Neddy" or "Neddie", and the second biggest is Major Bloodnok's first name, as to whether it is "Denis" or "Dennis". Popularity is measured by looking at all possible sources. Correctness, on the other hand, means restricting ourselves to sources that we have reason to believe were either written or typed by the Goons themselves, and especially Spike Milligan, as opposed to the typists in the BBC typing pool, for example. One problem is that such sources are relatively rare.

Neddy or Neddie?
Two different letters sent to Harry Secombe, and probably typed by Milligan, appear in The Book of the Goons (see Bibliography). The first, typed in 1969, uses "Neddy", and the second, typed in 1972, uses "Neddie". Without more sources we can't be sure if Spike Milligan himself was more consistent with one spelling or the other. Therefore, until such time as more evidence may be uncovered, I plan to use "Neddie".

Dennis or Denis?
In the foreword to The Goon Show Scripts (1972, see Bibliography), Peter Sellers uses the Denis spelling three times, which includes a fancy Gothic letterhead, "Denis Bloodnok & Partner (Deceased)", and signature, "Denis Bloodnok (Major)". A second letter, Mr. Crun's Injunction, written by Peter Sellers in 1974, appears in The Book of the Goons (see Bibliography), just ahead of the famous inter-Goonal Correspondence. This letter also uses the "Denis" spelling. The correspondence itself has an undated letter from Spike Milligan to Sellers ("Dennis"), and a letter from Sellers to Milligan (dated 1964 and signed "Dennis" above typed "Dennis Blooddnok, Major, Ret."). Another letter written by Sellers to Milligan a month later also uses "Dennis", as does a 1967 letter written by Sellers to Milligan, and signed by Henry Crun. A further letter from Milligan to Sellers, written in 1968, uses "Dennis". A 1968 letter from Sellers to Milligan, signed Kurt Krutchwarmer uses "Denise" (=Dennis written with a foreign accent?), while another written by Sellers a few months later uses "Dennis". A sketch of Major Bloodnok drawn by Milligan appears in The Lost Goon Shows (see Bibliography). It is captioned in Spike Milligan's own hand as "Dennis Bloodnok" (thanks to Tony Wills for the graphology, er...handwriting analysis). Comparison examples of Milligan's handwriting are fairly easy to come by. See, for example, the script for The Tree Maniac (ibid.), as well as The Great McGonagall Scrapbook (by Milligan & Hobbs, M. & J. Hobbs, London, 1975), and The Spike Milligan Letters (Norma Farnes, ed., Penguin, 1977).

To complicate matters, the programme for The Last Goon Show of All, broadcast 30th April 1972, uses "Denis". And although this programme is not written in the hand or typing finger of any of the Goons, the BBC clearly took a lot of care in its preparation. Nevertheless, the preference by Spike (and mostly also Peter) for "Dennis" is fairly clear, although to know for sure how consistent either spelling was, we'd have to view a lot more sources. Therefore, until such time as more evidence may be uncovered, I plan to use "Dennis". 

Sources consulted:
The Goons the Story (Norma Farnes, ed.) 1997
Spike Milligan: A Celebration (compiled by Roger Sawyer) 1995
The Lost Goon Shows (Milligan) 1987
The Goon Show Companion (Wilmut & Grafton) 1976
The Book of the Goons (Elizabeth Rose, ed.) 1974
More Goon Show Scripts (Milligan) 1973
The Goon Show Scripts (Milligan) 1972
TV Comic 1963/67
Spike's drawings (captioned by him) 1950s
Various original scripts 1954 - 1958

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