Names for the Rolling Stone

In Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones, there’s discussion of what to name the ship the family is purchasing, and a list of suggested names is assembled.

I realized some time ago that Susan B. Anthony being the only real name of a historical person might mean something; specifically, that the feminist content (Hazel’s rant about the glass ceiling for example) is not an accident.

This also lead me to thinking about the other names more, eventually. (At least two others are definite references to historic people, but not their actual names).

So, here are the names, and what I’ve found out about them.


A common naval ship name (Royal Navy and American), and also in Doc Smith’s Lensman universe.


The Jabberwock is a fearsome and fictional beast from Lewis Carroll. It was in Through the Looking Glass.

H. M. S. Pinafore

Title of (and ship in) one of the “big three” Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.

The Clunker

I don’t know any particular history for this name. It obviously suggests they don’t have high expectations of their ship.

Star Wagon

Again, I know no particular history for this. This seems much more optimistic than The Clunker.


Again, I don’t know the reference. There’s a piece of oil pipeline equipment, a logging sled, an infantry regiment (60th Infantry Regiment starting in 1942), and a brand of outdoor equipment, none of which look especially relevant. It does suggest aggressive forward movement, which fits.


Another name suggesting aggressive forward movement; Out far, and onward yet!” (from Rhysling / Heinlein’s poem The Green Hills of Earth).


Reference to early human flight, but with a tragic outcome. But they’re heading away from the sun, so maybe they’ll be safe.

Susan B. Anthony

Important feminist and suffragist.

Iron Duke

A nickname for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (probably most famous for winning the battle of Waterloo, which was the turning point in the Napoleonic wars).

Morning Star

Nickname for the planet Venus, and also for Lucifer.


Blows around at random in the wide open spaces, I guess.

Oom Paul

Nickname for Stephanus Johannes Paulus “Paul” Kruger, a 19th century South African politician. Seems strange that anybody in the family would want to name their ship after him, all things considered.

(This one I had to have pointed out to me, in a private Facebook group).


Yet more wanderers, though these often returned home (though they did sometimes colonize).