Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Milton Born With a Tooth"

The rather awesome traditions that accompany naming people among Native American societies is well-documented, even further than Kevin Costner's movie "Dances With Wolves". They are, of course, rich traditions, traditions that probably predate European surnames or whatever. They frequently produce names that are definitely awesome: evocative names like Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse or the awesome-name hoarder known as Chainbreaker, a/k/a Blacksnake. They are, however, on occasion giggle-worthy.

So it was in the 1990s when Canadian government insensitivity once again pitted armed Native resisters against RCMP officers over some silly short-sighted development plan that happened (oops) to damage, disrespect or eliminate a local aboriginal culture. This happens with ridiculous frequency in Canada. In this case, it was Alberta, it was a dam that would have flooded burial grounds, and it was an arrest for an activist named "Milton Born With a Tooth" (also written as "Milton Born-With-a-Tooth".

All due respect, etc., but just try to deny the awesomeness of that name. Go on, I dare you.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Butt Hole Road"

The phenomenon of place names (towns or roads) with inadvertently naughty names is one that's pretty well-documented online. Who out there doesn't know of that little town in northern Austria or the one in Newfoundland or whatever... It's a pot I won't dip into too frequently for the mere fact that it's too easy. You can easily find lists of rude toponyms, and for me merely to copy those lists would be dull and pointless.

But... you've got to love 'Butt Hole Road'. I love it oh so much for several reasons: First, 'butt' is pretty innocuous as a slang word anyway, and 'butt hole' is rather a euphemism for the genuine slang term, spelt differently as it is in the United States and the United Kindom, for the anus. Second, 'butt' is largely an American word anyway for the behind, so it's entirely possible that the residents of Conisbrough, Yorkshire only realised its inherent funniness years after Americans would have found it funny, had they known it existed. Third, even though the Wikipedia article talks about how the embarrassed residents of (the four houses located on) Butt Hole Road were so shamed by their street name (not to mention annoyed that delivery companies thought they were joking while giving addresses on the phone) that they coughed up £300 to have it changed to the rather blander "Archers Way", the Google Maps page still lists it by its good ol' name. Fourth, it's apparently just a few kilometres away from Scunthorpe, the awesomely-named town in England whose name causes all sorts of trouble with Internet obscenity filters because of the rather filthy word buried deep within... seek, and ye shall find.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009


There are some words whose inherent silliness gets lost to us as we repeatedly say them over the years. In effect, we get numbed to their inherent sillness. “Manhole” is certainly such a word. In case you happen to live under a rock or something, a manhole is a tunnel that goes from the road surface down to the sewers or whatever happens to be underneath the roads. Yes, it is a hole in the ground. Yes, it is designed for men to climb down (women are, I believe, allowed to use them). So 'manhole' is a very literal name for them. Charmingly so, I suppose.

Except for how silly and vaguely sexual the name is. Like, did nobody realise the snicker-potential of the name? Did nobody think it might evoke, say, the anus? Or was the word just coined in a different, tamer era?
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pitcairn Place Names

I have a fascination with Pitcairn. It just might be the coolest place in the world, and I'd love to go there sometime before I die. An autonomous nation dependent on the British crown, Pitcairn is about as remote as it gets. It's a single island in the Pacific. Population? 50. Fifty people, that is. Fifty people, one nation, one Google site (, for reasons I'll never understand. The whole place is too good to be true. The vast majority of the residents are the descendants of the Bounty mutineers, and pretty much the entire country was involved in a sex scandal a few years back. They have a full system of government, but with only fifty islanders... you tend to see the same names recurring again and again. They have their own language, Pitkern, which Wikipedia has a page about, including such selections as:
You gwen whihi up suppa? - Are you going to cook supper?
Ye like-a sum whettles? - Would you like some food?
Humuch shep corl ya? - How often do ships come here?

And to top off all of this awesomeness... there is the map of Pitcairn itself. It's not a big place, and since all fifty residents live in the 'capital', Adamstown, there's not much geography. But what there is is awesome by the acre. Sights around Pitcairn, important enough to show up on the map, include "Where Dan Fall", "Bitey-Bitey", "John Catch-a-Cow", "Oh Dear" and "Little George Coc'nuts". Just try to tell me that's not awesomeness in a nutshell.

This blog entry mentions in it.
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!"

First of all, it's not that surprising to find places in Quebec named "Saint-Someone-de-Something". They like their saints in Quebec. This particular one, however, has 'silliness' written all over it. Though there are a dozen groovy fake etymologies out there, based on all kinds of aboriginal languages, the simple fact is that the name probably comes from good old French, where 'haha' is apparently a word for 'unexpected obstacle on the way'.

So, Saint Louis of the unexpected obstacle in the way. Well, a big boulder in the road can test the patience of anyone, including saints, so I suppose that's all well and good. But what really matters is how somehow some stray punctuation turned the obstacle into a guffaw. Because (a) exclamation points in your community's name = awesome, and (b) belly laughs in your place name = double awesome. They seem to have crept in via cartographers unfamiliar with the 'obstacle' meaning of the word 'haha'. I suppose they saw the name "Saint-Louis-du-Haha" and thought, "these poor villagers have no idea how to punctuate onomatopoeia". Or perhaps not.

In other news: Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! is home to 1408 people, who are called 'louisien' or 'louisienne', the Louis in question is also shrouded in mystery, there is also a river, a lake and (most awesomely) a pyramid in Quebec named Ha! Ha!, the Wikipedia page for the town has pages in Hebrew, Welsh and Silesian, and, lastly, there is also a community called "Westward Ho!", avec exclamation point, in the UK.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Dingdong Dantes"

(Note that this picture is intentionally the most unflattering faux-sexy picture I could find).

Mr. Dingdong Dantes apparently was born into this world as Jose Sixto Raphael Gonzales Dantes III, a name which is also pretty damn cool (especially the 'Sixto' part – remind me to invent a soft drink or a board game and give it that name). He is apparently one of the Philippines' highest paid underwear models (with such fine work as the one shown above) and, in addition, acts in and directs movies, makes music, probably also works in architecture and has discovered a few of the elements on the periodic table. Whatever. What interests us here is that apparently he goes by the name 'Dingdong'. His Wikipedia page makes no indication that this is a rather unusual stage name, only mentioning that at one time he called himself Raphael Dantes. Which is a nice name, but apparently not as good as naming yourself after, alternately, the sound a bell makes, the song Dorothy sings when the Wicked Witch dies, or a chocolate cake-like product made by Hostess. Because that's good nomenclature.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Inky Mark"

Okay, politics. Canadian politics. Dude was a hotshot in the two parties that preceded the currently-governing Conservative Party of Canada. Not my personal brand of politics, but dude was a relatively decent proponent of those parties' particular brands of populist conservatism: so decent, in fact, that he abandoned ship to another conservative party before they united under one broad umbrella. I say 'was' - he's not dead, but he's quite sidelined politically. All that manoeuvring will get you nowhere, my mother used to say.

Beside the point. The point is that dude's name is Inky. Well, of a sort. Wikipedia tells me his name is 麥鼎鴻, or in Pinyin Mài Dǐnghóng, which is a pretty awesome name too. But in English he has an adjective for a first name and a first name for a surname, such that "Inky Mark" sounds like the nickname the schoolboys gave poor Mark Jones when his pen exploded on him one day. And that is truly awesome.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Working on a pooh theme here, I know... very mature. But Winnie-the-Pooh (Disney gets rid of the hyphens) is a series of books specifically targeted (in a way that, for example, mustard is not) to children. In other words, the most potty-humour-obsessed people out there. It would appear that the Pooh part of the name either comes from a swan named "Pooh" spotted in a zoo by A.A. Milne's son Christopher Robin or (as described in the first book) due to the fact that his arms were so stiff that when a fly landed on his nose, he had to blow it off. "Pooh", I suppose, is an attempt at onomatopoeia then.

Regardless... 'pooh' also means 'human excrement'. And this it is a less-than-flattering name for a brown-coloured stuffed animal. I have no idea when 'pooh' entered the vernacular, but I acknowledge that certainly in 1926, when the series started, 'pooh' might not have meant, well, pooh. However, in 2009 it certainly does, and yet Disney continues to (very successfully) flog their scatologically-named toy animals. Strange how they've never tried to phase out the 'pooh' bit: in fact, Winnie-the-Pooh is sometimes known as 'Pooh Bear', which rather accentuates it.

"Winnie", incidentally, through a roundabout fashion comes from the city of Winnipeg. People from Winnipeg think this is a big deal. It rather isn't.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Grey Poupon"

Kraft makes this mustard. It's a kind of Dijon, which apparently means it has wine in it. I remember it best for the preposterous commercials featuring snooty people saying, "Pah-don me, do you have any Grey Poupon?"

Oh yes, that and its ridiculously silly name. I'm not too old for a little scatological humour, and calling your product "poop on" and expecting people not to go scatological is really asking too much.

Especially when your product is mustard. And mustard... well, have you ever changed a baby's diaper?

Mmmm... love those yummy condiments...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


This one follows on a bit from the "Fannie Mae" entry of a month or so ago. Like Fannie Mae, it's something entirely opaque (to me) to do with economics. it is, I understand, a Stock Market 'index' rather like Dow Jones. Its name comes from an acronym of "Financial Times" and "Stock Exchange". All of this is so-far-so-boring, and would die that way if it were merely pronounced "eff-tee-ess-ee", as it by all right should be. But instead, oh those wacky economists, they figure their being cutesy (or "CTSE") by pronouncing it "footsie", as in the game of playing with someone's foot under the dining room table. So that economists can, with a completely straight face, say "the footsie went up today" and presume (wrongly) that they don't sound like morons.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Emmanuelle Chriqui"

This awesome name belongs to a Montreal actress who is currently gaining fame from TV shows I've never seen and movies I've never seen. No matter, what matters is her incredibly awesome name.

It's not so much the soft-core "Emmanuelle" that appeals, though that is in and of itself an awesome name, so much as the spectacular surname, which is pronounced "shrieky". That is pretty awesome by itself: like Itchy and Scratchy, Shrieky sounds like a great name, perhaps for someone who is easily frightened. But 'Chriqui' is such a fabulously exotic spelling of it, that results from her Moroccan Jewish heritage. it is, apparently, an Arabic word spelt according to French phonetics. Very cool, no matter how you spell it. Though it probably decreases your fans' ability to Google you if they can't spell you... "Megan Fox" is, for example, rather more straight-forward.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Little Italy"

It was my wife that pointed this out, and if it hadn't been for her I'd have never thought of it. The Italian neighbourhoods that sprout up in cities across the North America are inevitably given the name "Little Italy", just as Chinese neighbourhoods are inevitably "Chinatown". Never a "Little China" or an "Italytown" to be had.

But this is, of course, not the point. The wonder of "Little Italy" is in the amazingly mellifluous sound of its name, particularly if you have a North American accent that softens the letter 't'. If so, what you are saying is approximately "lidda lidda lee", a dance of the tongue on the roof of the mouth far more satisfying than Nabokov's description of the feel of the name "Lolita" on the human mouth.

J. R. R. Tolkein has made famous the phrase 'cellar door'. Beautiful it is, but I think "Little Italy" has it beat, hands-down.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


'The Black Eyed Peas' is actually a pretty good name for a hip-hop group. It's also, I guess, a good name for a whatever-they-are-now group. I'm not a fan, but they have an interesting story. In particular, the story of Allan Pineda Lindo, who was born in the Philippines to a black American father and a Filipina mother, who farmed sweet potatoes with his family, who was adopted by an American 'foster parent', who joined the Black Eyed Peas in L.A. All good stuff that'll make a good documentary one day. Certainly 'keepin' it real' in a way that a lot more posturing hip hop artists couldn't even conceive of.

And yet, the man has a damn stupid moniker. I get that "APL" is his initials, but it doesn't explain the '.de' (Germany?) or the 'ap' or the full stops in between or the all-lower-case or the question of how on earth you're supposed to pronounce it (it kind of looks like a url). In addition, is a pretty stupid name. But certainly trumps even that. Do people call him on a daily basis? Do they call him 'apl' for short? Do people confuse him with Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter?

Note: as of a month after this entry, I've noticed that almost half of the visits I get to this blog come from people googling "How to pronounce". Since the answer isn't really contained here, I'll have to add it - as best as I can. I can see a few websites that say that the first part is indeed as the fruit. So it makes sense for the third part to be a reduplication of that: app, as in there's an for that. That really only lives the second half, which could be 'day' as in 'midnight come and me wan go home' or 'dee' as in 'Dee Snyder'. So that leaves us with one of the two following pronunciations:


 Do with that what you will...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

'Dog Vomit Slime Mould'

I had the good luck to discover this charming species, Fuligo septica in taxonomical terms, when one of its less noxious but still unpleasant cousins sprouted up on my kitchen floor. Ick, and more ick.

A slime mould is a particular kind of mould that, well, is slimy. Apparently, hilariously, slime moulds can make their way through mazes and control robots - at least according to a creationist website I saw (if you ask yourself why i would be scouring creationist websites, you don't know how distressed I was by the thing on my kitchen floor). Mine was bright yellow and spongy. There is a kind of slime mould called 'scrambled eggs slime mould' because it apparently looks like scrambled eggs. Then, there's 'dog vomit slime mould' - which presumably looks like, well, you know - which takes vulgarity in nomenclature to a whole new level. Honestly, why is there no punk band out there calling themselved 'Dog Vomit Slime Mould'?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

'Colorado Brown Stain'

To make a long story short: somewhere in the United States (Colorado, I guess), way back in the day, it was discovered that kids had teeth that were stained brown in colour, and maybe even cracked and pitted, but had surprisingly few cavities. Through some miracle of warped logic, this was deemed a good thing and the kids were deemed lucky.

It turns out, to put the cart before the horse, that these kids were drinking water that was chock-full of fluoride. It didn’t take long before the government decided that kids everywhere should be as lucky as this bunch of Coloradans, so the fluoridation of water that is such an issue in “Dr. Strangelove” was born.

All because of a mystery condition that bore the spectacularly unlovely name “Colorado Brown Stain”.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

'Praise-God Barebone'

Ever heard of the Fifth Monarchists? No? Well, neither have I. Turns out they were around in the 17th century and figured that the Apocalypse was imminent: namely, 1666. Obviously, they had egg on their faces in 1667. But it makes me happy to think that millennialist nutbars have hundreds of years of predecessors to look back on. The Wandering Jew must be ecstatic about it.

Anyway, they had a minor role in English parliamentary history when Oliver Cromwell went a little nutty, creating a republic (a ‘commonwealth’) and playing around with different kinds of government before just becoming a straight dictator. His last attempt had the awesome name “Barebone’s Parliament” not because it was particularly cash-strapped but because one of the MPs had the awesome surname “Barebone”.

Even cooler: a Fifth Monarchist (who was republican…), Mr Barebone bore the arse-kicking given name “Praise-God”. Apparently ‘phrase names’ were all the rage then.

Still cooler yet: Apparently, he was maybe possibly christened as, dig it, Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebone. It’s just a pity they didn’t have birth certificates back then. Or “Hello! My Name is…” stickers.

Note: whether or not Praise-God himself bore that name, his son, an economist, certainly did. Way, I repeat, way cool.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

'Fannie Mae' and 'Freddie Mac'

Oh, those nutty economists. Just how nutty are those economists? Well, first they set-up two drearily-named organisations that do things that I’ll never understand but that involve money. These were the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Lone Mortgage Corporation. Perhaps as those names were tough to condense into 7-digit telephone numbers, they decided to give their acronyms cutesy pronunciations. So “FNMA” became “Fannie Mae”, which is better I guess than “Finn Ma”, what I would have come up with, and “FHLMC” became “Freddie Mac”, a stretch if I’ve ever heard one. I get the “Mac” bit, but “FHL” has pretty much nothing whatsoever to do with “Freddie”… perhaps they could have tried “Franhilda Mac”?

Oh well. Again, them wacky economists – what’re you gonna do? The thing is, though, that the FNMA and the FHLMC are so fond of their cutesy nicknames that they’ve actually rebranded themselves accordingly – ignoring the question of who would ever take a stuffed-shirt organisation seriously with a name that either is British English for ‘Vagina Possibly’ or sounds like the late Bernie Mac’s little brother.

No wonder they needed bailouts.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

'Country-singing Merles'

At first I wanted to nominate Merv Griffin, on the off chance that Mr. and Mrs. Griffin, some time back in the thirties or whatever, actually said, “Oh my God! It’s a boy! Let’s name him Merv!

It turns out, however, that the Griffin family brainstorm actually produced “Mervyn”, a name which, while assuredly weird, is much more name-like than “Merv”.So on it goes to the Merles of the world. It takes a strong man to have a name that rhymes not only with “pearl” but also with “squirrel”, but for some reason fully three country-and-western singers have drawled their ways through life with the name “Merle”. And none of them decided to adopt stage names. All three of them are really Merles. So here they are, in all their glory:

Merle Haggard, an all-round awesome name that tops up the “Merle” with an adjective that means tired and rundown, and apparently has albums called “Swinging Doors and the Bottle Let Me Down” – pinnacles of nomenclatural awesomeness.

Merle Kilgore, the one I’d never heard of, though apparently he co-wrote Johnny Cash’s awesome country ‘n’ mariachi hit “Ring of Fire”, for which he’d always have a place at my table if he weren’t dead. Kilgore is an impressive name too, being a combination of two features of horror movies or, back in the nineties, an exhortation to assassinate the vice-president.

Merle Travis, the one with the plainest name and, based on Wikipedia’s assertion that ‘his lyrics often discussed the exploitation of coal miners’, the biggest dork. And to win a dork-race among Merles, well that’s saying something.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

'Ougadougou, Burkina Faso'

Just how sexy a city name is that? Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to go to Ougadougou, just because I love it’s name so much. I mean, here is not only a kick-ass city name, but a kick-ass city name belonging to the capital of a country with a kick-ass country name.

Burkina Faso used to be called “Upper Volta”, which is kinda cute really. But it’s nowhere near as awesome as ‘Burkina Faso’, which apparently can be shortened to ‘Burkina’ in much the same way ‘Britney Spears’ can be just ‘Britney’. It’s that fab.

If you find yourself wondering whether a resident of Burkina Faso is a Burkinan or a Burkinite, both of which would be cool, the reality – Burkinabè – is simply way cooler. No idea how to pronounce it, but that grave accent where you’d expect an ague rocks my world.

When I was a kid, I figured it was pronounced “oo-ga-doo-goo” and always hoped that Hanna-Barbera would come out with a TV special called “Scooby-Doo in Ougadougou”. I was later a bit disappointed to learn it’s really “wah-ga-doo-goo”, vaguely like “wackadoo”, or in fact a bit like “cock-a-doodle-doo”. With time I’ve learnt to forgive les Burkinabè, however. And now I wouldn’t have my Ouagadougou any other way.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The world is filled with fun, exciting fruit. Few, however, have a name quite as awesome as ‘kumquat’. Apparently, it’s derived from the Chinese ‘金橘’, which means ‘golden orange’. An odd name, to say the least, as a kumquat is precisely the same colour as an orange is: namely, orange.

In other news, gold is kind of a shiny orange itself, really.

I’ve never eaten a kumquat. All that matters is its awesome name, which is formed from one naughty word and very nearly a second naughty word, but somehow isn’t that naughty sounding a word. It’s just a cool sounding word.

Wikipedia tells me that genetic mutation has created two new semi-kumquats called the ‘limequat’ and the ‘orangequat’. While lovely words themselves, they bring with them the hope that ‘quat’ will one day be a stand-alone word.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I don't really have any special reason for doing this blog. I'm just bored and friendless.