22

In The Phantom Tollbooth, basically every name has a significance/pun. For example, Dr. Dischord - his name is 'Discord' with 'chord' - implying bad sounds. Or the DYNNE, or 'din'. And Chroma, with his colors. I even managed to figure out something for King Azaz (the wordy king) - it's from A to Z. But I was unable to figure out what Alec Bings's name was supposed to represent. He's the guy who can see through things:

"Simple," he said proudly. "I'm Alec Bings; I see through things. I can see whatever is inside, behind, around, covered by, or subsequent to anything else. In fact, the only thing I can't see is whatever happens to be right in front of my nose."
The Phantom Tollbooth, chapter 9

So... Does his name mean anything?

  • I don't know if Bings exists as a surname in the real world. In fiction, Boffer Bings is the first person narrator of the short story "Oil of Dog" by Ambrose Bierce. – user14111 Nov 12 '17 at 23:48
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It’s noted in The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth (which I highly recommend to any fan- it's a really lovely book) published by Knopf/Random House in 2011; on page 106, annotation 10 reads:

  1. “I’m Alec Bings”
    According to the author, this character’s curious name has no special significance apart from the fact that it rhymes with the remark spoken immediately following its first mention: “I see through things.”

The annotations were done by Leonard Marcus, and he interviewed Juster, Feiffer, and their wives for the content of the annotated edition, according to the acknowledgements page at the back of the book.

  • 9
    I'm glad to know there's some Rhyme and Reason to this ;) – nicodemus13 Apr 11 '17 at 23:41
  • 1
    Oh, I've wondered this for years and years, so thanks so much. Thanks also for letting me know about The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth - I can't imagine why I'd never heard of it before, but I'm going to go get one right away! – Kathleen Adams Jan 17 at 17:54

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