Trout, the name

Another offshoot of my investigations into the playful sexual slang trouser trout ‘ penis’ (in a posting coming soon on this blog; another offshoot, also not really relevant to the sexual slang, appeared in my earlier posting today, “Gail Rubin”). This posting arose from my hope that Trouser Trout was attested somewhere as a man’s name. An actual man would have been too much to hope for; who names their son Trouser? But I’d hoped that someone would have chosen the name for a character in antic-sexy fiction or other artistic creation. Haven’t found that yet, but Trouser Trout has served as the name of various companies and their products, among them: a brewery, an Austin TX punk band, an underwear company (well, obviously), and the artist and musician Romanowski’s record label.

Then there’s Trout as the name of musical works.

And as a family name, for real people and for the enormously prolific but drastically underappreciated science fiction writer Kilgore Trout.

Like I said, offshoots.

Musical trout. From my 9/2/20 posting “Onomatopoeia and program music”:

A trout interludeFrom Wikipedia:

“Die Forelle” (German for “The Trout”), Op. 32, D 550. is a lied, or song, composed in early 1817 for solo voice and piano with music by the Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797–1828). Schubert chose to set the text of a poem by Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart, first published in the Schwäbischer Musenalmanach in 1783. The full poem tells the story of a trout being caught by a fisherman, but in its final stanza reveals its purpose as a moral piece warning young women to guard against young men. When Schubert set the poem to music, he removed the last verse, which contained the moral, changing the song’s focus and enabling it to be sung by male or female singers. Schubert produced six subsequent copies of the work, all with minor variations.

… The song was popular with contemporary audiences, which led to Schubert being commissioned to write a piece of chamber music based on the song. This commission resulted in the Trout Quintet (D. 667), in which a set of variations of “Die Forelle” are present in the fourth movement.

(But the whole thing is shimmeringly watery (and joyous). I’m not rational about the Trout Quintet; it’s one of my favorite pieces of music in the whole world, something that will give me pleasure on the darkest days, and I have four different recordings of it. The trout are cool, but frankly I would adore the work in complete ignorance of the fish, and without a descriptive title. It’s a masterpiece of chamber music, period.)

The family name Trout. On etymology, from the Dictionary of American Family Names (Oxford):

[on Trout] English: from Middle English trowte ‘trout’, hence a metonymic occupational name for a fisherman, or a nickname for someone supposedly resembling the fish. [or:] Altered spelling of German Traut.

[on Traut] German: from Middle High German trut ‘dear’, ‘beloved’, or from a short form of a personal name formed with the same word.

Wikipedia has an entry on the surname Trout, with a list of notable people with that name, among them:

Robert Trout (1909–2000), American [broadcast] journalist

From Wikipedia, on this Trout-by-choice:

Robert Trout (born Robert Albert Blondheim [he added the Trout name early on in his radio career]; October 15, 1909 – November 14, 2000) was an American broadcast news reporter who worked on radio before and during World War II for CBS News. He was regarded by some as the “Iron Man of Radio” for his ability to ad lib while on the air, as well as for his stamina, composure, and elocution.

I can almost summon up a memory of Bob Trout’s strong, calm announcer voice.

Kilgore. Fish-to-fish naming. From Wikipedia:

Kilgore Trout is a fictional character created by author Kurt Vonnegut. In Vonnegut’s work, Trout is a notably unsuccessful author of paperback science fiction novels.

“Trout” was inspired by the name of the author Theodore Sturgeon (Vonnegut’s colleague in the genre of science fiction — Vonnegut was amused by the notion of a person with the name of a fish, Sturgeon, hence Trout, although Trout’s consistent presence in Vonnegut’s works has also led critics to view him as the author’s own alter ego.

In a homage to Vonnegut, Kilgore Trout is also the titular author of the novel Venus on the Half-Shell (1975), written pseudonymously by Philip José Farmer.

(#1) Mating in space

… Kilgore Trout’s first appearance [was] in 1965’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

… Trout appears in several of Vonnegut’s books, but the character is deliberately inconsistent as Vonnegut habitually changes major details about his life and circumstances with each appearance. Trout is consistently presented as a prolific but unappreciated science-fiction writer; other details, including his general appearance, demeanor and his dates of birth and death, vary widely from novel to novel.

… Trout performs a variety of roles in Vonnegut’s works: he acts as a catalyst for the main characters in Breakfast of Champions, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and Slaughterhouse-Five, while in others, such as Jailbird and Timequake, Trout is an active character who is vital to the story. Trout is also described differently in several books; in Breakfast of Champions, he has, by the end, become something of a father figure, while in other novels, he seems to be something like Vonnegut in the early part of his career.

(#2) The imagination of Kilgort Vonnetrout

… Trout, who has supposedly written over 117 novels and over 2,000 short stories, is usually described as an unappreciated science fiction writer whose works are used only as filler material in pornographic magazines. However, he does have at least three fans: Eliot Rosewater and Billy Pilgrim [in Slaughterhouse-Five]— both Vonnegut characters — have a near-complete collection of Trout’s work or have read most of his work; in Galápagos, Leon Trotsky Trout goes on leave in Thailand and meets an unnamed Swedish doctor who is a fan of Kilgore Trout.

Of all Vonnegut’s works, the one that affected me most deeply by far was Slaughterhouse-Five, which I read when it came out in 1969, and then forced myself to go back immediately and re-read the section on the fire-bombing of Dresden, which re-ignited the despair and rage I experienced as a child on learning about the horrors of the Nazi death camps and then about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Vonnegut helped Ann Daingerfield Zwicky and me to further harden our opposition to the Vietnam War, opposition that had begun when we were still at MIT, five years earlier. (Then things got even worse in 1970.)

Wikipedia on the Vonnegut novel:

Slaughterhouse-Five, or, The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is a science fiction infused anti-war novel by Kurt Vonnegut, first published in 1969. It follows the life and experiences of Billy Pilgrim, from his early years to his time as an American soldier and chaplain’s assistant during World War II, to the post-war years, with Billy occasionally traveling through time. The text centers on Billy’s capture by the German Army and his survival of the Allied firebombing of Dresden as a prisoner of war, an experience which Vonnegut himself lived through as an American serviceman. The work has been called an example of “unmatched moral clarity” and “one of the most enduring antiwar novels of all time”.

Other events of 1969 that were especially notable for my household, beyond the demonstrations, sit-ins, and marches against the war that punctuated the year (and exploded in our world in 1970):

in January, Richard Nixon was sworn in as President of the United States and the Beatles gave their last public performance; in June, the Stonewall riots erupted in New York City (during my UIUC years, I came out as gay to most of those closest to me, but didn’t come out to the world in general until 1971); the summer brought a Linguistic Institute (international summer school) at UIUC, at which I ran a research seminar; in August, there was Woodstock, way off in New York, which we didn’t take part in because we were moving from Illinois (UIUC) to Ohio (OSU) that month, and in any case were now responsible adults with a 4-year-old child; in October, the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on the BBC (eventually providing us with much joy).


3 Responses to “Trout, the name”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Another Trout famous in certain circles (that is to say, fans of professional baseball) is Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, widely regarded as one of the best players currently active.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The Wikipedia list is pretty impressive. I just picked the one *I* recognized.

      Should I have reproduced the whole list as an appendix, rather than just giving the link?

      • Robert Coren Says:

        I didn’t intend to suggest that you should do anything. I was merely adding the one that I recognize.

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