I was recently watching the TV series Marple (2013) based on the stories of Agatha Christie and one episode A Caribbean Mystery had her on holiday on an island in that region. One evening she is seated for a lecture on tropical birds next to a dapper visitor from Jamaica who introduces himself to her as Ian Fleming. When she asks him what he does, he says that he is working on a novel but is stuck on finding a good name for his lead character. At that point, the ornithologist speaker begins his lecture by saying “Good evening, my name is Bond, James Bond.” Fleming quickly takes out his notebook and jots something down.
The Fleming character disappeared after that so it is clear that the writers inserted him into the show purely for that one joke but I was curious whether there was some truth to it and it turns out that there is.
The name James Bond came from that of the American ornithologist James Bond, a Caribbean bird expert and author of the definitive field guide Birds of the West Indies. Fleming, a keen birdwatcher himself, had a copy of Bond’s guide and he later explained to the ornithologist’s wife that “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born”.
On another occasion, Fleming said: “I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find, ‘James Bond’ was much better than something more interesting, like ‘Peregrine Carruthers’. Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure—an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department.”
That plain name, and the way it is said, has become iconic.