Ford's original name is unknown. He was christened in an obscure Betelgeusian dialect spoken by the Praxibetels on Betelgeuse VII which were all (with the exception of Ford's father) wiped out by the "Great Hrung Disaster of Gal./Sid./Year 03758". Ford never learned to say his original name (and you thought you had things bad).
Ford was nicknamed 'Ix' in school, which in the language of Betelgeuse V means: “A boy who is not able satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven.”
The name 'Ford Prefect' was chosen by Ford after arriving on the Earth for being “nicely inconspicuous.” Obviously, he had skimped a bit on his preparatory research (Ford Prefect is the name of a car). He later traveled back in time to make ‘Ford’ his original name.
Ford is a roving researcher for the electronic book The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. He was one of the original group that started the guide, it seems.
Ford is the semi-cousin of Zaphod Beeblebrox. The radio series and BBC mini-series gives us some more information on that, when Zaphod introduces Ford to Trillian as his semi-cousin “who shares three of the same mothers as me.”
He's not conspicuously tall, and his features are “striking but not conspicuously handsome.” His hair is wiry, almost a ginger color, and brushed backwards from the temples. His skin “seemed to be pulled backwards from the nose.” He rarely blinked, and he usually did only when surprised. He always smiled a bit too wide and too much, giving people the impression that he was about to “go for their neck.”
Ford is capable of Pheromone Control, a technique he learned from some Ex-Pralite monks running a mind surfing resort in the hills of Hunian. He can also bend people’s will a bit, something he learned from an old drinking game.
Ford’s main interests in life are parties, dancing, having a good time, drinking, and drinking.
According to the last book, ‘Mostly Harmless,’ it says that Ford was opposed to any and all types of animal cruelty, except when it concerned geese. He seriously disliked them.
QUOTES AND ASSORTED FORD MOMENTS:
"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."
"One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in It's a nice day, or You're very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you all right?"
"If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working."
“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”
“I went mad for a while,' said Ford, 'did me no end of good.”
“Goosnargh,” said Ford Prefect, which was a special Betelgeusian word he used when he knew he should say something but didn't know what it should be.
“Looks like a fish, moves like a fish, steers like a cow.”
Ford on a Lazlar Lyricon
"I thought you must be dead...' he [Arthur] said simply.
'So did I for a while,' said Ford, 'and then I decided I was a lemon for a couple of weeks. I kept myself amused all that time jumping in and out of a gin and tonic.'
Arthur cleared his throat, and then did it again. 'Where,' he said 'did you...?'
'Find a gin and tonic?' said Ford brightly. 'I found a small lake that thought it was a gin and tonic, and jumped in and out of that. At least I think it thought it was a gin and tonic. I may,” he added with a grin that would have sent sane men scampering into the trees, “have been imagining it.”
“Ford was humming something. It was just one note repeated at intervals. He was hoping that somebody would ask him what he was humming, but nobody did. If anybody had asked him he would have said he was humming the first line of a Noel Coward song called 'Mad About the Boy' over and over again. It would than have been pointed out to him that he was singing one note, to which he would have replied that for reasons that he hoped would be apparent, he was omitting the 'about the boy' bit. He was annoyed that nobody asked”
“My doctor says that I have a malformed public duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fiber,' he muttered to himself, 'and that I am therefore excused from saving Universes.”
“Arthur nodded again and looked to Ford for help, but Ford was practicing being sullen and getting quite good at it.”
“An S.E.P.,' he said, “is something that we can't see, or don't see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem. That's what S.E.P. means. Somebody Else's Problem. The brain just edits it out; it's like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won't see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye.”
Here was something that Ford felt he could speak about with authority.
“Life,” he said, “is like a grapefruit.”
“Listen, bud," said Ford, "if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say 'That's terrible,' I would be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin. But I haven't and I am.”