s h i f t e r d o t o r g

purveyors of fine-quality bunkum

In Good Company


A few weeks ago I had a bright idea – I’d form a company to focus on production of magic shows, and to advise on theatrical productions that use magic techniques. What better way to be involved with something I thoroughly enjoy without forcing people to pick cards in social settings? Simple, I thought.

The next stop was equally simple – come up with a name. I’ve always been a fan of the word ‘mountebank’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as ‘a person who deceives others’ (amongst other slightly less flattering things). Its origin in Italian as ‘montambanco’, or ‘one who climbs on a table’ is one I find charming.


Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

The word found peak popularity in about 1650, so the likelihood of others using the term in this context (or any context) seemed fairly low.

I wanted to formalise things and reserve the name with The Companies Office. What I didn’t know, though, was that because the proposed name contained the word ‘bank’, it was off limits.

This word,‘ the letter read, ‘is protected by s64 of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act 1989.‘ Well then.

New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian (Newspaper). Fellow settlers! the mountebank statesmen who so much amused you… their new constitution for New Zealand. [Poster]. February 3, 1851.. Ref: Eph-D-POLITICS-Wellington-1851-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

After studying the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act 1989, I entered into a discussion with the Reserve Bank, explaining the origin of the word and why I wanted to use it. Luckily, I was speaking with someone who enjoyed the heritage of the word. He did express an issue with the less flattering portions of the aforementioned OED definition, particularly the portion that read ‘in order to trick them out of their money’.

After some more back-and-forth, and promising that in no way would I enter into the banking industry, and altering the name enough to clarify things, the Reserve Bank approved the request. Back to the Companies Office I went.

Courtesy of Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.

So after all that, I’ve a name and nothing more. I still need to pull together the other aspects of things – like incorporation and projects, for instance. But there’s a name, and that’s a start.

Mountebank Entertainments Limited.

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