The Initial Problem

It’s sort of an unspoken rule that cartoon characters tend to have the middle initial J. It’s probably really not as common as you might think, but it does show up in quite a few unrelated cartoon franchises. In The Simpsons, it’s the middle initial of Homer, his parents, and his son. It was revealed in the tenth season episode “D’oh-in’ in the Wind” that Homer’s middle name is Jay, and that Abe had no idea that this was the case.

This might well mean that his J stands for something totally different, but considering how forgetful Grampa is, this isn’t necessarily the case. I’ve seen it suggested on the Internet that his middle name is Jebediah, the first name of the founder of Springfield, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t at all official. For Bart’s middle name, Nancy Cartwright’s suggestion of Jojo is generally accepted, but again it’s never been confirmed on the show itself. Aside from these characters, however, I can’t think of any others on the show who have been said to have the initial J. There are a few we specifically know don’t: Lisa Marie Simpson, Charles Montgomery Burns, Herschel Shmoikel Pinchas Yerucham Krustofski, Robert Underdunk Terwilliger,
Milhouse Mussolini Van Houten, Nelson Mandela Muntz, Cletus Delroy Spuckler. Similarly, Futurama has Philip J. Fry and Hubert J. Farnsworth, but also Bender Bending Rodriguez and John A. Zoidberg. I believe Matt Groening has said the prominence of this initial was in tribute to Jay Ward, who used it for his own characters Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose.

Not every use of the initial can be attributed to Ward, however, as Elmer J. Fudd was first established as having that name in 1956, three years prior to the beginning of Rocky & Bullwinkle.

And even though it’s a first initial instead of a middle one, I think we can also count J. Wellington Wimpy, who dates back to almost thirty years before Moose and Squirrel.

Wikipedia and the Popeye Wiki cite art teacher Wellington J. Reynolds and theater manager J. William Schuchert as likely sources for Wimpy’s full name. Michigan J. Frog first appeared in 1955 and wasn’t named until the 1970s, but Chuck Jones claims his middle initial was inspired by a different Jay, screenwriter Jay Cocks.

I know Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble were both given the middle initial J, but it wasn’t entirely consistent; other episodes said that Fred’s middle initial was W or F. Other quite prominent exceptions to the rule are Donald Fauntleroy Duck and Wile E. Coyote. A comic identified the Coyote’s middle name as Ethelbert, but this is in no way official.

I get the impression that the J’s are common mostly because, well, there really ARE several very common names that start with J, so it just sounds right.

This entry was posted in Cartoons, Comics, Futurama, Popeye, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Television, The Flintstones, The Simpsons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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