Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Ed Balls"

Ed Balls, secretary of state for children, schools and families and candidate in the ongoing UK general election for the Labour party in the new constituency of Morley and Outwood, has a cool name.

To look at the less interesting half of this story: politics, politics, yay politics. There's an election in the UK and it features this guy, a life-long Labour type who's been Gordon Brown's right hand man for almost as long as Gordon Brown has had a right hand. All that's good and current-events-y.

But let's talk about this man's name. It's not just that his surname means 'testicles', though that's impressive enough. 'Ball' itself is a not-unheard-of surname (viz. Hugo, for example), but that 's' is just all the more impressive. His father, naturally enough, was a Balls too - but still 'Michael Balls' just isn't as impressive as Ed's name. That's a hell of a name.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Okay, a little bit current, I realise. But in the midst of all the discussion of Iceland's first real attempt to make its presence known globally since Björk, not enough attention has been given (in my opinion) to just what an entirely awesome name the volcano in question has.

Let's work with it. Wikipedia rather helpfully points out that it's pronounced [ˈɛɪjaˌfjatlaˌjœːkʏtl̥], which certainly clears up any difficulty you might have. It certainly helps end confusion to know that there's two t sounds in the pronounciation, since there's, well, no t letters in the spelling.

Well, I'm sure Wikipedia feels our pain. They helpfully offer an audio of the pronunciation, in the very widely-understood '.ogg' format (sometimes Wikipedia tries to be deliberately obtuse). Here it is - knock yourself out.

What I hear is 'ay-va-lay-va-click'. Or, if it's not an audio error and is the actual pronunciation, 'ay-ay-va-lay-va-click'. Cool either way, and something I'd like to name my daughter. The teacher might have problems with that spelling, though.

Oh yeah, ava-lava... thanks for, like, destroying half of Europe...
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Diet of Worms"

When I was just a kid, and I heard the phrase 'Diet of Worms', it made me giggle. Later, when I was in university and doing a course in religous history, the name 'Diet of Worms' still, even in those musty halls of academia, made me giggle. And now here, all these years later, as a middle aged man, it still makes me giggle. it's good to know some things remain unchanging.

What on earth is the Diet of Worms? Well, it's nothing to do with eating worms (a la Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me) or with what worms eat. Woms, you see, is a city in Germany. And 'Diet' here apparently means 'Reichstag'. Let's call it 'meeting'. Or 'witchtrial'. Anyway, they all met in Worms to condemn Martin Luther as a heretic for damaging the doors to a church. Blah blah blah. Let's take a moment to consider Worms.

Worms was settled by the Celts as Borbetomagus, already a name cooler than anything you've come up with in your measly life so far. It means, I plaigiarise from Wikipedia, 'settlement in a watery area'. That mutated via Latin into 'Vormatia' (less cool), whence via German to 'Worms'. It's apparently the oldest city in Germany and part of the Nibelungenlied is set there.

And of course Martin Luther was hung out to dry here. The result of the Diet of Worms was the Edict of Worms, which should be almost as cool as the Diet, nomenclaturally, but sadly isn't.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Humpty Doo, Northern Territory"

Australian place names are notorious for their silliness - which, in fact, is possibly offensive. I suppose I should say that Aboriginal place names, or Anglicisations of Aboriginal place names, often have a kind of sing-song quality to the English-speaking ear that makes them seem comical. There are plenty of examples more famous than this one, like Wagga Wagga or Woolloomooloo, but I stumbled upon this quite by accident (while trying to figure out why Humpty Dumpty is depicted as an egg when the nursery rhyme says nothing of the sort). It has just a great sounding name to it, and I think some cartoon character ought to use it (with the meaning of 'oh my!' or 'yay!') as a catch phrase. You never know - it might catch on.
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