Unless we decide to make a change as adults, most of us don’t have a say in what our names are. We rely on the thoughtfulness and judgment of our parents, and hopefully don’t wind up as the living embodiment of forced creativity (“Starburst Pear Walnut Salad”) or the first thing that pops into our parents’ heads (“Let’s Be More Careful Next Time”).
Similarly, literature’s great characters rely on their authors to endow them with monikers that will stand the test of time, enhance their stature, or reflect their essence. 60 years ago this month, one of literature and pop culture’s iconic characters—James Bond—was given life by Ian Fleming in the first 007 outing, Casino Royale. It is in this debut that the secret agent first identifies himself as “Bond… James Bond,” an introduction right up there with “Call me Ishmael” in the annals of memorable literary how-do-you-do’s. However, a 1952 early manuscript released to mark the book’s anniversary reveals that Fleming came close to dubbing 007 “Secretan… James Secretan,” possibly after a 19th Century Swiss philosopher he was fond of.
Luckily for us and for the Connerys, Craigs, Brosnans and Moores, et al. who have had to introduce themselves on screen, Fleming scratched out “Secretan” on the manuscript and wrote “Bond” in its place. We should be equally glad that Fleming didn’t go with these other possibilities for 007:
1. James Dean: When the brooding film icon hit it big with Rebel Without a Cause, the convergence of teen angst and international espionage would have been a disaster—though it would have been fun to hear Dean scream “You’re tearing me apart!” while being tortured by Goldfinger.
2. James Martinisbabesandguns: Fleming probably discarded this name as just a bit too on the nose.
3. James Mortgage-Backed Securities: It was between this and Bond when Fleming looked to his investment portfolio for inspiration.
4. Agent 7-11: Fleming ultimately went with 007 instead of with this code name, which came to him as he returned from picking up a pack of smokes and a grape Slurpee.
5. James Heinrich Aloysius Gügler: Again with the Swiss philosophers.
6. Jason Bourne: Convinced that it could never be the basis of a successful series of spy novels and blockbuster movie adaptations, Fleming sold the rights to this name to Robert Ludlum for a bottle of Hungarian vodka and a ride home.
Speaking of vodka, Fleming also made a good call when, at the last minute, he changed Bond’s original drink of choice (“Sex On The Beach, shaken, not stirred”).