Thursday, February 10, 2011


If you put your right index finger on the letter 'k', your left index finger on the letter 'w' and your left middle finger on the letter 'a', and if you then proceed to tap on them more or less randomly, it turns out you might spell the name of a Native group indigenous to British Columbia. The Wikipedia page helpfully notes that in orthography it can be spelt as Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw or Kʷakʷəkəw̓akʷ, but then angrily points out that it's wrong to call them the Kwakiutl, because after all that word is only 75% unpronounceable, and the Kwakwaka'wakw were looking for 100%. To that end, some of the Kwakwaka'wakw nations are called Da'naxda'xw, Kwikwasut'inuxw and Gwat'sinuxw. On the other hand, as they are responsible for the purely rockin' smiling-house illustrated above, they win for awesome.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Cardinal Sin"

There are plenty of people walking around with puns for names. Many of them made punk music in the early eighties. But it's rarer to find someone who (a) came about the pun in their name quite naturally, and (b) carries a punning name that's genuinely funny.

So meet Jaime Sin, who died in 2005, but before that was famous not only for his high ranking within the Catholic Church and his importance to the politics of the Philippines but also for the awesome name that resulted from that position. As Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, he was known as 'Cardinal Sin'.

If you don't get the joke, while 'Sin' (or Xin or Shin) is not that uncommon a name in eastern Asia, the joke is that what we also call the 'seven deadly sins' are also called 'Cardinal Sins'. So gluttony, for example, is a Cardinal Sin. As is lust. As, of course, is this guy.

Cardinal Sin had a sense of humour about his name, referring to his official residence as 'the house of Sin'. He might also have taken water-off-a-duck's-back comfort in the knowledge that his efforts to topple the Marcos regime and bring democracy to his homeland would, ultimately, matter more than the odd giggle about his name.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Anus Language" and "Anal Language"

It's certainy funny that there's a language in the world called the "Anus Language", even if it's a critically endangered language spoken by only seventy people in Papua New Guinea. One is tempted to say, "come on now, let's not be immature here; it's probably pronounced to rhyme with 'caboose', and anyway it's a big ol' world with all kinds of different languages and names, and let's be grown-ups here'. But Wikipedia helpfully reminds us of the awesomeness buried below the surface with this helpful disambiguation:
Not to be confused with Anal language.
 Which, you see, is just way more awesome. It leads to an image of thousands of linguists feigning sombre respect while still subconsciously giggling like schoolkids. Anal Language, it would seem, is spoken in India and Myanmar by some 14,000 people. That's still a tiny number, though it's exponentially more than Anus Language. It turns out to be a 'Kuki-Chin-Naga Language', which of itself is more than a bit awesome.

So it would be a crime to end this entry without pointing out that, while only 70 people speak Anus Language and only 14,000 speak Anal Language, there are literally billions of humans out there who speak out of their ass every single day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Vital Cliche"

When you Google it, you do see reference to the boy's name 'Vital', which as I had suspected is pronounced "vee-TAL", like the hip-hop staple 'Cristal'. And since the web site of the Assemblée national du Québec lists the surname 'Cliche', whether belonging to this man or to his son Lucien or to his grandson David (all of whom were MNAs in Québec), sans accent ague, one must imagine that it's pronounce "cleesh".

So "vee-TAL cleesh" just sounds like any-old-person's name, quite concievable the name of a politician from Beauce, Québec in the first half of the 20th century, an elected MNA for the flash-in-the-pan Action libérale nationale party that was subsumed into the Union nationale of Maurice Duplessis. Not joining that party sealed the fate (obscurity) of this politician whose name isn`t all that cool until you look at it written on the printed page and pronounce it as two words, meaning a hackneyed phrase that is somehow essential or perhaps keeps people alive. That would be an awesome name, say for a book or a rock group.

Note: the picture that illustrates this article has nothing at all to do with MNAs from Québec. It was, however, no less irrelevant than any other picture I could find while Googling this most obscure of politicians.
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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Name-Change Petitions from 'The Smoking Gun'

Ah, The Smoking Gun. While Wikileaks has earned instant notoriety for declassifying government documents, The Smoking Gun has been plugging away at it for 13 years. Why haven't the governments of the world conspired to bring down TSG's founder - whoever that even is?

Well, Wikileaks might be interested in cables from foreign embassies and Iraq War documents, but TSG has devoted itself selflessly to celebrity mug shots and silly crime reports. Noble in its own way - and a lot less dangerous.

If you ignore the who-cares NFL connection, there's a great article here revealing people whose surnames or given names at birth have been so unfortunate (usually foreign names that just don't sound that great in the English language) that they've been forced to change them. I think it's great to be proud of your own name, whatever it is, but I can hardly blame these people for wanting a fresh start. Not that in each case I agree with the decisions they made, but who am I to judge?
  • In Chicago in 2005, a Mr. Fuk King Kwok decided to change his name to the slightly-less obscene 'Andy King Kwok'.
  • I get why New Yorker John Pearce Dick was upset about his not-uncommon name. His ultimate choice, however, 'John Dick Pearce' is no better at all. In fact, it's significantly worse.
  • Another New Yorker in 1996, the not-too-bad William Gerard Doody decided to become 'William Gerard Ryan', a blander name made up of first names.
  • Henry N. Schmuck and the whole family of Schmucks, in Manhattan all the way back in 1942, went for the more genereic 'Shelton' surname.
  • Again in New York but this time 1977, David William Queer decided to become 'David William Quist'.
  • Still in New York and now in 1995, Robert E. Suckey Jr. decided not to repeat his father's fate, taking instead the name 'Robert Salviotti'. One wonders if he had any Italian heritage or just liked the sound of it.
  • Poor Monica Katherine Pinas of Chicago didn't have that bad a name... until you try to pronounce it out loud, that is. In 2004, she decided enough was enough and went for the not-that-much-more-respectable 'Monica Katherine Star' instead.
  • Mary Jo Porn of Chicago had a great name. It's not merely that her surname is so prurient; it's how it clashes with her corn-fed first name. I don't think, say, 'Elizabeth Porn' or 'Alessandra Porn' would have been as bad. Anyway, she'd had enough and went for 'Mary Jo Tavormina' instead.
  • In New York in 1967, Vladimir Fuka and his wife Eva Fukova (which I actually think is a very nice name) got bored of the snickering. So because they were sick of having a name that was just a letter-change or two away from a sexually naughty word, they decided to become... 'Vladimir and Eva Hervert'. Sigh. Well, they were Czech. Perhaps they were yet to master English.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Poopó Lake" and "Lake Titicaca"

Why oh why do they deny us the awesomeness? Or rather, why do they only mete out half-full glasses of it? I want my cup of awesomeness to run over.

Now, there's no use in complaining about Lake Titicaca. The lake, located in the mountains of Bolivia, is a God-send to lovers of awesome names everywhere. A schoolyard word for breasts and a schoolyard word for human waste stuck together: it couldn't be more awesome if it was called Lake Boobycrap. No matter your age, once you've stopped giggling at the name 'Lake Titicaca', you've stopped smiling at life. I think people who actually live on the shore of Lake Titicaca periodically still giggle at it: that's right, even people who know no English can giggle at the name Lake Titicaca. Its awesomeness cuts across linguistic bounds.

But what I don't understand is how I've gone this far in life without ever noticing that Lake Titicaca is just a few hundred kilometres northwest of Poopó Lake. However it's pronounced, I know exactly how I would have pronounced it if I had known of its existence as, say, a ten-year-old. Having both a Lake Titicaca and a Poopó Lake in the same country? Just how gifted is Bolivia?

Eternally is the ten-year-old within me jealous.

Incidentally, the picture above, swiped from Wikipedia, is apparently salt crystals in a footprint near Poopó Lake. No clue why that happens. Apparently there's fishing there, which is great, because "Fishing in Poopó Lake" is apparently the name of the Bloodhound Gang's new album. You can also go canoeing in Poopó Lake, though you might want to bring an extra oar or two. After all, you wouldn't want to be stuck in Poopó Lake without a paddle...

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Michael Hardie Boys"

So this is what it's like being me. I keep a whole bunch of blogs. Well, 'keep' is a poor term. I'm a bit undisciplined about it, really. But I slog away at a bunch, nonetheless. And that being the case, happy coincidences can occur. Like the one blog I'm writing about democracy in Canada that gets to talking about a former governor-general of Canada. The page I'm reading (which was very likely Wikipedia) quotes a recent governor-general of New Zealand. Since, you know, governors-general have a lot in common, whatever Commonweath realm they're from (and I wrote that sentence only to use that cool plural form 'governors-general').

So big deal, right? Except that this fellow happens to be names Michael Hardie Boys. Or rather "The Right Honourable Sir Michael Hardie Boys GNZM, GCMG, QSO, KStJ", whose business cards must be A4 sheets of paper.

So how awesome a name is that? Let us count the ways. Well, there's just one way actually - the fact that his surname happens to also be the name of a successful series of young adult mysteries. Before I got bored of adding them up, I'd counted some three hundred written over the past, oh, century or so. They include such not-overly-awesome titles as: "The Missing Chums", "What Happened at Midnight", "The Twisted Claw", "The Melted Coins", "The Secret of Wildcat Swamp", "The Mystery of the Chinese Junk", "Mystery of the Whale Tattoo", "The Bombay Boomerang", and "The Clue of the Hissing Serpent". Yeah sure, the books are spelt "H-A-R-D-Y", the burger joint is spelt "H-A-R-D-E-E", and this gentleman is spelt "H-A-R-D-I-E". But what's a minor spelling discrepancy in the service of awesomeness?

Michael Hardie Boys, incidentally, was Governor-General from 1996 to 2001. He was then replaced by The Right Honourable Nancy Drew.

A-ho ho ho.
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