The question never crossed my mind for even a second, but during a listless browsing of Thomas Cahill’s book, The Mysteries of the Middle Ages, I found out.
Amazingly, the name “Chuck E. Cheese” has its roots in 9th century France. It seems Charles the Bald, one of the early kings of France, was a big promoter of local agriculture. In particular he boosted the cheese industry, earning an everlasting place in the hearts of French dairymen. Indeed, cheese fanciers throughout Christendom sang his praises. Among those satisfied nibblers was Pope Adrian II who bestowed on Charles the title, “Emperator Caseoli.”
Charles’ name frequently appeared on coins and portraits abbreviated as “Carolus E. Caseoli” which, Americanized, becomes “Charles E. Cheese.”
Fast forward to 1984. Restauranteur Nolan Bushnell was in the middle of reorganizing his bankrupt “Showtime Pizza.” He needed a catchy new name. He just happened to pick up a used copy of Cahill’s book and saw the picture reproduced above. For some reason — he can’t explain it — his first thought was, “Chuck, you dirty rat!” The rest is dining history.