Geek Trivia: What's the 'real' reason James Bond's gadget-maker is codenamed Q?

James Bond's gadgeteer Q is often assumed to be shorthand for Quartermaster, but the Q codename is actually a reference to real-life (and historically significant) spycraft.

James Bond returns to the big screen today in the new film Skyfall, the third installment in the franchise reboot that began with 2006's Casino Royale. While the press may be focusing on the high expectations of a Bond movie directed by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes, geeks are quietly celebrating the return of a kindred spirit to 007 continuity: the gadget-maker codenamed Q.

Like most recurring Bond characters, Q was inspired by several real persons that Bond creator Ian Fleming encountered during and after his time as a British intelligence operative during World War II. For example, when the character of Q first appears in Fleming's sixth Bond novel, Dr. No, he's identified as Major Boothroyd. He was named after Geoffrey Boothroyd, a British firearms expert who wrote to Fleming to criticize 007's choice and use of weaponry in Fleming's early novels.

Boothroyd wasn't personally identified as Q, however, but simply as a member of Q Branch. Q Branch predates the appearance of Boothroyd, showing up in the first Bond novel, Casino Royale. The two would not become directly synonymous until much later in the series.

Q Branch (and Q himself) is often assumed to be shorthand for Quartermaster, as Q provides Bond with much of his professional materiel. That's not entirely accurate, as the Q codename is a reference to another of Fleming's real-life (and historically significant) spycraft experiences.


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By Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...